Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Spotlight - Stonehill Downs by Sarah Remy

Stonehill Downs
Author: Sarah Remy
Publisher: Harper Collins/Voyager
Pages: 400
Genre: Fantasy
Format: Paperback/Kindle/Nook

Stonehill Downs follows Mal, a powerful mage who functions as Lord Vocent, the king’s personal forensic scientist and detective.  Magic and murder are his calling.  Never have the two entangled in quite as terrifying a manner as on Stonehill Downs, where Avani, a Goddess-gifted outsider, has discovered a host of gruesome corpses reeking of supernatural malfeasance.  The investigation is haunted by ghosts of Mal’s past, and the two quickly learn that they must cast aside their secrets if they are to succeed in unearthing the pervading evil—before it’s unleashed from the boundaries of the Downs, straight into the heart of the kingdom.

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Book Excerpt:


Andrew struggled.

Mal held him down. The old man’s skin burned, and sweat turned his mottled flesh slick, but still he shuddered as if chilled. Where Mal’s long fingers encircled his wrists, bruises blossomed.

Perspiration dampened Mal’s own brow, running in rivulets along his nose and into the corners of his eyes, stinging. He didn’t move to wipe them away. All of his strength was focused on the man convulsing beneath his hands.

“Let him go, Mal.”

“No.” He refused to spare Siobahn a glance. He refused to acknowledge the disapproval he felt vibrating across the room.

“Malachi. You mustn’t keep him back. It’s too painful.”

“For him? Or for you?” He knew the words were unkind. He didn’t care.

The air moved as Siobahn shifted. The candles in the close room flickered, shedding plumes of smoke. Her breath stirred the hair on the back of his head.

Still, he wouldn’t look around.

The dying man twisted on silken bedclothes. His mouth gaped open, showing yellow teeth, and his eyes rolled in his skull.

Mal knew the old man was all but senseless, but he couldn’t help himself; he bent forward and peered into the wizened face.

“Andrew,” he whispered, willing the other man to hear.

“Mal.” Siobahn forced the issue, stepping away from the shadows and into his line of sight.

Her gown rustled. He could hear the soft pad of her slippers along the stone floor. She slid through the haze of incense, and set her palms flat on the edge of the bed, leaning across the mattress until he was forced to meet her gaze.

“Let him go,” she said again. This time she put just a touch of ice into the words.

Mal no longer took orders, not even from the young woman who had once been his wife. But she could still pierce him through with her deep blue eyes, and she knew it.

No matter how often he wished it otherwise, Siobahn never failed to move him. She knew that, also.

So he looked away from Andrew’s gaping mouth, and let her rake him with her gaze. She was angry, he saw, and disappointed. Maybe she was frightened, but she kept her smile sweet.

“You’re holding him back,” she warned. “Don’t make him struggle.”

“He might still be saved,” Mal argued, even though his heart knew better. Already the bitter tang of grief roughened the back of his throat.

Andrew was the last, and Mal didn’t want to be alone.

Siobahn lifted one hand from the mattress, and set it on Mal’s arm. His tendons quivered at her touch. Beneath his own fingers Andrew’s muscles convulsed in response. The ravaged body arched up off the bed, then snapped back onto the bedclothes.

Blooded scented the air; a trickle of the dark liquid stained Andrew’s chin. The old man had bitten through his tongue.

The violence of the struggle touched Mal at last. He flinched away from the bed, releasing frail bones. The moment his fingers left Andrew’s flesh, the old man convulsed again, as though plucked off the mattress by the hands of the gods. Mal heard bones in the tortured spine snap.

“He’s on his way,” Siobahn whispered, relieved.

Mal shuddered. The gods were never gentle with the ones they favored.

He bent over the bed, and took Andrew’s right hand in his own. There was no response. The old man was well and truly gone.

Mal stroked Andrew’s cooling palm with his thumb. Tears still scratched at the back of his throat. He forced them down, waited until he knew his eyes were dry, and then he reached over and wiped the blood from Andrew’s mouth with the edge of his sleeve.

The blood disappeared into the grain of the dark leather he wore. Mal studied the cuff, searching for a stain that didn’t show. Then he straightened his shoulders and set Andrew’s hand back onto the silks.

He turned from the canopied bed and stepped off the sleeping dais. The suite was gloomy, the air too thick. The smoke from the massive candles Andrew had so loved twined with the fumes of eastern incense.

Mal stumbled over the flagstones, intending to wrench open the windows. He wanted to breath in the night air, to clear away the headache lurking behind his eyes.

“Malachi,” Siobahn warned, just as his hand settled on the window latch. “Tradition. Renault would not be pleased …”

She broke off, sensing his silent fury.

She was correct. He almost lifted the latch anyway. If only he could get a taste of fresh air. He needed the breeze across his face to cool his growing rage. And Renault would never know.

He pulled his hand back from the latch and curled his fingers carefully behind his back. Standing alone in the hazy darkness, he could almost feel the chill of the night through the windowpane.

Glass was dearly bought. Only the king’s most beloved were lucky enough to have paned windows. Mal had glass in his own rooms, but not so much.

Andrew had been Renualt’s most beloved.

“And now he’s dead.” Mal forced himself to say it aloud. Briefly, he set his brow against one cool pane.

“You need to tell him,” Siobahn said from somewhere over his left shoulder. “You’ve already waited too long. Renault should have been here earlier. To order the windows covered and—”

This time he stopped her words with a snarl. He heard her teeth click as she bit back the rest of her lecture. He sighed. Again, she was correct. She almost always was.

“I’ll go to him now,” he allowed, turning away from his reflection in the glass.

Siobahn lingered over the bed, poised as though in mid grasp, her fingers still hovering over Andrew’s face. Mal followed the drift of her unnatural blue gaze to the glitter of yellow on the dead man’s thumb.

Now it was his turn to use the power of their connection, to twist her guilt into a weapon. He strode back across the room until he could pin her with his frown. She flinched beneath his stare. Her cheeks pinked soft rose in embarrassment or fear.

“I thought you had forgotten,” she said.

He loomed at her side, towering four full handspans above the crown of her head, and regarded the yellow stone in Andrew’s ring with distaste.

“And you hoped to remove it for me?” His laugh was bitter, his mouth hard.

“You know better.”

She stood in the soft gown she had worn on their wedding day and faced his fury with dignity.

He set his hands on her small shoulders and shook her once, gently, but with passion. Siobahn allowed his touch for a heartbeat. Then she slipped from under his grasp. Mal almost went after her, but something in her half smile stopped him.

He watched as she moved to stand before one of Andrew’s giant candelabras. The flames bowed, drawn by her very breath.

For an instant Mal heard as she did; the king’s heavy footsteps echoed between his ears, pounding with the headache behind his nose.

He swallowed hard, blinked the pain away, and lifted Andrew’s fingers.

The ring slid easily over a bony knuckle. The true gold was warm in Mal’s hand. The yellow jewel burst to life, sending a scattering of starbursts across dead man, bedclothes, and wall.

“The king!” she whispered, starbursts glittering in her hair. She let him hear again. Renault’s footfall almost punched holes in Mal’s tender skull.

He shoved Andrew’s ring into the small pouch he kept on his belt. Then he moved away from the canopy, standing where he could be seen from the massive wooden door Andrew never barred.

He could hear the march of booted feet in truth, now. It sounded as though Renault had gathered his entire guard.

“He knows,” Siobahn murmured from her place among the candles and smoke.


“He slept,” she replied. “He dreamed, as Andrew died. I sent him a vision.”

Mal heard regret in her admission. No doubt she feared he would be angry.

He was too exhausted to fume any longer, weighed by grief. He looked over his shoulder, thinking to reassure, but at that moment the footsteps rolled to a stop in the corridor outside Andrew’s suite. The heavy door slammed open, rattling the antechamber. 

A gust of cool air made the candles gutter and go out. Smoke wreathed the room. Mal’s eyes watered in response.

He blinked. When his vision cleared, Siobahn was gone, snuffed out along with Andrew’s pretty tapers.

Mal rubbed his throbbing brow. Then he set his shoulders, touched the pouch at his belt, and went to greet his king.


About the Author: 

In 1994 Sarah Remy earned a BA in English Literature and Creative Writing from Pomona College in California. Since then she’s been employed as a receptionist at a high-powered brokerage firm, managed a boutique bookstore, read television scripts for a small production company, and, more recently, worked playground duty at the local elementary school. 

When she’s not taking the service industry by storm, she’s writing fantasy and science fiction. Sarah likes her fantasy worlds gritty, her characters diverse and fallible, and she doesn’t believe every protagonist deserves a happy ending. 

Before joining the Harper Voyager family, she published with EDGE, Reuts, and Madison Place Press. 

Sarah lives in Washington State with plenty of animals and people, both. In her limited spare time she rides horses, rehabs her old home, and supervises a chaotic household. She can talk to you endlessly about Sherlock Holmes, World of Warcraft, and backyard chicken husbandry, and she’s been a member of one of Robin Hobb’s longest-running online fan clubs since 2002. 

Her latest is the fantasy novel, Stonehill Downs.

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