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A Mortal Song
by Megan Crewe
Publisher: Another World Press
Release Date: September 13th 2016
by Megan Crewe
Publisher: Another World Press
Release Date: September 13th 2016
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Fantasy
Sora's life was full of magic—until she discovered it was all a lie.
Heir to Mt. Fuji's spirit kingdom, Sora yearns to finally take on the sacred kami duties. But just as she confronts her parents to make a plea, a ghostly army invades the mountain. Barely escaping with her life, Sora follows her mother's last instructions to a heart-wrenching discovery: she is a human changeling, raised as a decoy while her parents' true daughter remained safe but unaware in modern-day Tokyo. Her powers were only borrowed, never her own. Now, with the world's natural cycles falling into chaos and the ghosts plotting an even more deadly assault, it falls on her to train the unprepared kami princess.
As Sora struggles with her emerging human weaknesses and the draw of an unanticipated ally with secrets of his own, she vows to keep fighting for her loved ones and the world they once protected. But for one mortal girl to make a difference in this desperate war between the spirits, she may have to give up the only home she's ever known.
"Megan Crewe's A Mortal Song is engrossing from the first chapter. The world of the kami is beautifully fantastic and delicately drawn, and the switched-at-birth scenario made me instantly feel for both of these resilient, brave girls. A Mortal Song has lots of magic, lots of heart, and lots to love." -Kendare Blake, author of Three Dark Crowns.
Amazon paperback: http://amzn.to/2c7kwcO
Barnes & Noble (B&N): http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-mortal-song-megan-crewe/1124297644?ean=9780993980695
Direct Link to Megan's Post: http://megancrewe.com/song/soundtrack.html
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Like many authors, Megan Crewe finds writing about herself much more difficult than making things up. A few definite facts: she lives in Toronto, Canada with her husband and son (and does on occasion say "eh"), she tutors children and teens with special needs, and she's spent the last six years studying kung fu, so you should probably be nice to her. She has been making up stories about magic and spirits and other what ifs since before she knew how to write words on paper. These days the stories are just a lot longer.
Megan's first novel, GIVE UP THE GHOST, was shortlisted for the Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic. Her second, THE WAY WE FALL, was nominated for the White Pine Award and made the International Reading Association Young Adults' Choices List. Her Fallen World trilogy (THE WAY WE FALL, THE LIVES WE LOST, THE WORLDS WE MAKE) is now complete and she has a new trilogy forthcoming in October 2014, beginning with EARTH & SKY. Her books have been published in translation in several countries around the world. She has also published short stories in magazines such as On Spec and Brutarian Quarterly.
A Huge Japan-Themed prize:
The prize includes all of the following Japanese media and treats (all books in English translation and all DVDs with English subtitles):
Books: Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit by Nahoko Uehashi and Death Note Vol. 1 by Tsugumi Ohba
Anime series (DVD, complete collections): Cowboy Bebop and Princess Tutu
Anime movies (DVD): Grave of the Fireflies and Princess Mononoke
Live action movies (DVD): Battle Royale and Hana and Alice
3-month Japanese snack box subscription: WOWBOX (your choice of type)
A Mortal Song excerpt
I slept first while Takeo kept watch, both of us holding several birch bark ofuda in our sleeves. Or at least, I tried to sleep. When I closed my eyes I saw the mass of ghosts surging down the hallway and the guard I’d watched falling under their knives in my parents’ room. His form shifted into Mother’s, Father’s, their lips pressed tight to keep from crying out as the blades stabbed them again and again.
They would be that stoic. They wouldn’t want to give their captors the slightest bit of satisfaction while they bled and healed, bled and healed, feeling their energy ebbing, waiting for rescue.
When it was my watch, I stalked the edges of the clearing, fingering the rough edges of my ofuda. The scattered stars cast too faint a light to penetrate the forest’s shadows, but a ghost’s ki should glow brightly enough that I’d be able to spot it in the darkness if one came near.
Dawn was just touching the horizon when thin wings whirred by my ear. I glanced up, and my heart leapt. A metallic green dragonfly was hovering in front of me, her multifaceted eyes fixed on mine.
“Midori!” I said. “You got away! Did anyone escape with you? How did you find us?”
Midori extended a tendril of ki to me, and images flitted through my mind. I got the impression she had darted beneath the swing of a sword and through a gap in a net, and then bolted down the mountain. In one flash I glimpsed two figures racing ahead in the distance, the shimmer of ki making them briefly visible through the trees. Takeo and me. That particular image came with a trickle of relief at finding she wasn’t alone.
She’d followed us—only her.
Was every other kami who’d been in the palace for the celebration still trapped there?
I reached out to give Midori’s head a gentle stroke of welcome, but she circled me and dropped onto my hair. She tugged me as if urging me downward with an urgency that held none of her usual playfulness. “What?” I whispered as I crouched behind a cluster of bamboo plants. Her wings buzzed anxiously.
A moment later, twigs cracked under stomping feet. Several paces from our clearing, a group of hunched figures stalked through the forest in the faint dawn light. I squinted, trying to make out their faces. My hand jerked to the sword I’d borrowed from Takeo.
The nearest creature was easily eight feet tall, with bristly gray hair sprouting down its neck and across its hulking shoulders. Two immense fangs jutted from its upper jaw over its chin. The one just behind it was shorter and squat. Wide horns protruded from its shaggy mane and five scarlet eyes scattered its forehead. Their companions were similarly monstrous.
Ogres. I’d never seen them before—they were too wary of Mt. Fuji’s power to set foot there—but I’d heard enough tales. They might not be as powerful in their maliciousness as demons, but they enjoyed causing what harm they could. They were certainly no friends to the kami.
As I watched them pass, my spirits sank. They were heading in the direction Takeo and I had come from, toward the mountain. Maybe it was a coincidence. Or maybe they meant to join the demon and his ghosts while the mountain’s guardians were incapacitated.
When the last of the ogres had vanished from sight and hearing, I scrambled to Takeo’s side and grasped his shoulder to wake him. As I described what I’d seen, he leapt up, hefting his bow.
“They’re gone,” I said. “But I don’t know if more will come.”
“They might,” he agreed. “We should move now. I’ve rested enough.”
A smudge of dirt marked his cheek and stray pine needles clung to his uniform, but he looked as dauntless as ever. I squared my shoulders. At least I still had him.
Midori, my equally faithful companion, settled onto her usual spot on the back of my head. As we ran, my hair tumbled over my back. In the rising heat of the day, it stuck to the sweat dampening my neck. My ceremonial robe dragged at my arms and legs. The strap of my flute case dug into my shoulder, which had started to radiate a dull ache.
None of that would have affected me if I had slipped into the ethereal state, but except to avoid human eyes when crossing the highways, train tracks, and villages that broke the stretches of wooded land, I was using all the energy I had for speed. If we encountered more ogres or ghosts, I didn’t want to be as drained as I’d been last night. Even now, after sleeping, the flow of ki through my body felt muted, like a stream shrunk by dry weather. I thought of the mountain, of the warm thrum of its embrace, and had to blink hard to keep tears from forming.
If Takeo noticed, he didn’t let on. When he spoke, it was about Rin.
“What exactly have you heard about this sage?”
“Mainly that her advice is always difficult to follow,” I said, grateful for the distraction. “She used to let humans know about her, and they would go looking to get her advice. But she would just confuse them. She told a commander that the best time to strike was when darkness fell, so that night he sent his army into battle—and they were slaughtered. Because it turned out Sage Rin had meant they should take advantage of the eclipse two days later.”
Takeo grimaced. “I remember that story. We’ll have to hope she’s mellowed in her old age.”
Just after the sun had reached its peak, we crossed the ridge of a low mountain and looked down into a narrow valley. Below us, a waterfall burbled over pinkish-gray rock into a series of egg-shaped pools, shaded by stands of bright green bamboo. A delicate floral scent mixed with the crisp smell of cypress in the breeze. No roads cut through the forest below us, and no roofs showed through the trees.
“The valley of the doves,” Takeo said. “I don’t think we should draw too much attention to ourselves. We don’t know what else might be lurking.”
I eyed the forest. “I suppose it would make the most sense for Sage Rin to live near the bottom of the valley—close to the water and sheltered from the weather.”
We hurried down the steep incline into the thicker vegetation, grasping saplings and bushes to keep our balance. Leaves hissed against my robe. When we reached the waterfall, we walked along the slick stone around the pools. Seeing no sign of Rin or her home, we pushed deeper into the valley. The mountains rising on either side blocked the harshest of the sun’s rays, but the summer heat still hung over us. I was wiping my forehead with my sleeve when a tiny object flew through the air and pattered at my feet. Midori let out a spark of bemused consternation as a small face with a shock of red hair disappeared amid the branches of a nearby beech tree.
“A nut,” I said, nudging the object at my feet with my toes.
Takeo nodded. “Tree fairies like to play, but they don’t mean any harm. They’re simple, friendly creatures.”
I was about to ask Takeo whether the fairy might direct us to the sage when the ground beneath us shuddered. I stumbled backward into a cedar. Takeo grabbed its trunk as the earth swayed, shivered, and stilled.
“Just a small tremor,” he said.
A throat cleared behind us. “Small or not, the cause is what tells,” said a rusty voice.
I flinched and spun around, my hand dipping into my sleeve for my ofuda. My arm stilled when I saw the kami standing on the log beside us.
The short, pot-bellied woman studying us was so old that old hardly began to describe her. The sunlight seemed to shine right through her colorless hair, and the lines on her face ran so deep it was hard to make out which were wrinkles and which her mouth and nose. Her shoulders were stooped within the thin robe she wore, which, though scuffed, looked like silk. Shriveled toes clung to her leather sandals. She must have been thousands of years old., but her dark eyes glittered with a vitality completely at odds with her appearance, and the air around her rippled with ki. I didn’t have to ask her name.
“Sage Rin,” I said, and bowed. “It’s an honor.” The hem of my robe was splotched with dirt. I bowed lower, suddenly wishing I’d at least been able to wash before meeting with this most respected sage, obtuse or not. I couldn’t tell anymore, but I probably smelled. And not of cherry blossoms.
Takeo bowed too, his tanned face forming an expression of grave deference. When we straightened up, I knew which line was Rin’s mouth. It was curved into a smirk.
“I can see your purpose well enough,” she said, “though I hadn’t anticipated you arriving so soon.” She hopped down from the log and started to shuffle away from us.
We followed her along a path we’d missed, which wound tightly through the trees at the base of the slope. “Do you know what’s happened?” I asked when I couldn’t take the silence any longer. “My mother—Kasumi of Mt. Fuji—she told Takeo something about a prophecy and that you would be able to help.”
“I know very much and very little,” Rin said.
“But you know what we have to do to save the mountain?” I said. “To rescue my parents, and everyone else?”
“Hmmm,” she replied. “Possibly you have to do nothing at all.”
“But—” I caught myself, swallowing my impatience. This was Rin the Obtuse. We’d be lucky to get a clear answer out of her on her own terms.
She stopped at a huge cypress that looked as though it might have been as old as she was, and tapped her knuckles against the gnarled bark. A door swung open in the trunk.
Inside, the sage’s house looked like a pavilion, round-walled and high-ceilinged, with winding wooden steps leading up between its levels. Takeo and I padded after Rin to the second floor. There, she motioned for us to sit. A ceramic teapot was already set on the low table beside a single cup. The pot started to steam as she took another cup off a shelf and squatted down across from us.
“First, it is you who must talk,” she said. She poured the golden liquid into both cups, passing one to Takeo and keeping one for herself. Takeo frowned. I didn’t understand why she’d neglected me, but it was hard to be very bothered when we were so close to getting answers.
“We’ve come from the palace on Mt. Fuji,” I said. As I explained about the ghosts’ attack, the demon who apparently led them, and the ogres that had passed us in the morning, Rin sipped her tea.
“Ghosts and a demon,” she said when I’d finished. “Not what I would have guessed. But my guesses are far less accurate than my prophecies. And even a prophecy is far from fact.”
“Then the prophecy Her Highness mentioned, it was yours?” Takeo said. “You foresaw this attack?”
“I will share with you the same words I said to Kasumi and Hotaka years ago, after the vision came,” Rin said. “I have seen a darkness that rises up over the mountain, engulfing it and nearly devouring it.”
“The ghosts,” I murmured, remembering the dark wave of them in the hall.
“So it would seem,” Rin said. “I knew nothing other than it would be a force terrible enough to overwhelm even the sacred mountain as never before. But that is only the beginning.” She fell back into her reciting voice. “I have seen a powerful kami striking back against that darkness and driving it away. A young woman, bearing the three kami-blessed treasures of human imperial rule: the sword, the mirror, and the jewel. And the girl herself was a marvel, with more power than I’ve ever seen, air lifting her hair and fire in her eyes and water flowing through her movements and earth holding her firm. A kami born of the elements combined.”
“Like Mother and Father.” My grandparents on my mother’s side had affinities to air and water, and on my father’s side to earth and fire. Which would have passed from my parents on to me. Which meant that—
“So it is clear that a daughter of Mt. Fuji’s current rulers will save it in its time of greatest need,” Rin finished, folding her hands in her lap.
That had to be the reason they’d tried so hard for a child. Why Mother had sent Takeo here with me. So that I could make Rin’s vision come true.
“And that’s me,” I said, looking up at her. I really was going to save them. It had already been decided.
“You think you speak the truth,” Rin said, “when you know none of it?”
“What do you mean?” I said. “If there’s more, please tell me.”
“You have no place in this at all,” Rin replied, her wizened face implacable.
For a second, I could only blink at her. “But... everything you mentioned,” I said. “Those are my parents. I am their only child. How can the prophecy not be about me?”
“She is the daughter of Their Highnesses Kasumi and Hotaka,” Takeo said. “I can attest to that. I’ve known her since she was a child.”
“Yes,” Rin said. Her smirk returned. “You’ve known this girl. But this girl is not a child of Mt. Fuji. She is not even kami.”
Different mythos with interesting Japanese flair. Similar to an aname my daughter is watching.
I give this 4 out of 5 clouds.
I give this 4 out of 5 clouds.
This product or book may have been distributed for review; this in no way affects my opinions or reviews.