Hey all! Welcome to the first stop on the This Cursed Flame Blog Tour! I can’t wait for you to see all the bonus content leading up to the release on Saturday, and what better way to start than to share the first chapter with everyone?
But first, here’s the blurb!
Sometimes we put ourselves in the bottle…
Six years ago, Janan was transformed into a genie by an evil djinn, ripping her away from her home, her life, and her humanity. She has been on the run from him ever since. Worlds away, high school honors student Laurelin just wants to get into the chemistry program of her dreams.
When Laurelin discovers a crystal bottle that sucks her into the djinn realm, the girls find themselves working together to escape Janan’s creator and get Laurelin back home. But war is brewing in the djinn realm-a rebellion led by the same evil djinn they’ve been trying to escape. And he is determined to rule both the djinn and the human realms. As his creation, Janan is the one person standing in his way.
But to stop him, Janan must learn to overcome the fears he instilled in her and embrace her own dark magic while Laurelin must accept that some things are more important than an A+. Now, they will have to trust each other, and themselves, to stop the encroaching evil. Otherwise, both the human and djinn realms will fall to the tide of death and dark magic this war will unleash.
You can now pre-order this book on Amazon and any other major retailer! Also, if you prefer a paperback, those will be available through Amazon (insider hint: they’re gorgeous!) Also, be sure to head over to Facebook on Saturday for the Launch Party! (and your chance to win your own hand-painted genie bottle!)
And now, without further ado, the first chapter.
Chapter One: Janan
Fuego, Djinn Realm
Janan couldn’t breathe.
Tiny white dots floated in her vision as her heart pumped blood faster than her brain could use it. They obscured the beige and white masonry of the city, the multicolored throng pushing through the cobbled streets like strutting peacocks. All four types of djinn surrounded her: the ifrits with their fire magic, marids with their water magic, sila with their air magic, and ghul with their shapeshifting and electric magic.
And she stood here, alone in the crowd, unprotected, probably the only genie in the city. A half-breed of magic forever caught between worlds. Her human life still colored her memories, her behavior, but the djinn who had turned her into this had robbed her of her natural life.
And the djinn could tell, could sense her other-ness, as they gave her a wide berth or cast vicious looks in her direction. She thought eventually she would be used to it, but even an errand out to fetch groceries was enough to send her into a panic, even after six years.
She hurried to the side of the road, trying to hide herself from their prying eyes. Her breaths were shallow, and she wheezed as she tried to pull enough oxygen into her lungs. She could almost see his gaze everywhere she turned: the hate in that marid’s face, the same crimson tint in that ifrit’s skin. Like he was everywhere. Would she ever be free of this fear?
She drew her hood lower on her forehead and pulled her cloak tighter around her, trying to hide the raspberry color of her hair, a sure sign of her genie status, and her violet dress with the gold embroidery. She had loved it when her adopted father, Mahtab, brought it home for her birthday, but now it seemed like too much, too flashy, like it drew the attention of too many.
“Janan!” A voice rang out over the roar of a thousand voices.
Janan cringed, her head snapping toward the sound. Several nearby djinn craned their heads, also searching for the source of the voice. Her eyes landed on a small, beige feline with ebony spots. If she didn’t look directly at the animal, she could almost see the form of the woman beneath the spell.
“Safiyya!” Janan, still breathless with fear, pushed her way back through the people still separating them and knelt in front of her friend.
Safiyya of the House Grimalkin studied her face. “Everything okay?”
Janan almost laughed. No, everything was not okay. It hadn’t been for some time. Not since before, when she was still human, when she still belonged.
But he wasn’t here, at least not as far as she could tell. It was only her brain running away faster than reason, again, her terror resurfacing after months of dormancy.
Her terror had almost been gone when he returned only a few months ago, like an angry ghost from her past, wishing to exact some terrible vengeance on her for her very existence. Her Turning had been a mistake. And now it was a hurdle to him, to his plans, to the very future of the Realm.
At least that was what he had said. Right before attacking, driving her from her home to flee to Fuego with her adopted family. She had brought him down upon them, and now she saw him everywhere she turned.
“Yes, of course,” she found herself saying, rising to her feet and refusing to meet Safiyya’s bright emerald gaze.
She couldn’t tell her what was going on. Safiyya had her own problems. She was djinn, one of the shapeshifters, but she’d been stuck as an ocelot for as long as Janan had known her, much like the way Janan was stuck halfway between djinn and human. One day, maybe Safiyya would tell her what had happened, why she was stuck, but for now Janan didn’t see a reason to draw the cat into her imaginary nightmares. It was enough to share this unspoken bond.
Safiyya continued to study her, doubtful eyes traveling across the old scars marring Janan’s pale skin. There were no new injuries for her to see, but her friend’s gaze burned across her skin, and Janan tugged the cloak tighter still. If she kept pulling at it, soon she’d be a diamond from the pressure.
The cat dropped her gaze, returning her attention to the writhing mass of djinn in front of them. “Have you heard from the others yet?”
“No, nothing.” Janan touched the shining gem that hung around her neck, a simple piece of Torrebon technology carried by almost every djinn and genie in the Realm. It not only allowed them access to the human and djinn internets but also provided a simple means of communication with just a small spark of magic.
It was all the magic she could bear to use. She had almost convinced herself that if she didn’t use any genie magic at all, maybe she could be human again. Still seventeen, still awkward and scared, but human, with a family and a life and human problems. As it stood now, she didn’t really fit anywhere, and she felt the weight of it every time she set foot outside.
Safiyya nodded her head at the crowd, and they wove through the scores of temporary stalls lining the sidewalk for the weekly farmers’ market. Vendors on both sides hawked their wares: fabric bolts here, jewelry there, tiny carved statues from the ifrit city of Prinnyn, mechanical toys from the ghul city of Torrebos. The road had been blocked off from automobile traffic for the day, allowing the thousands of pedestrians to browse freely without fearing oncoming cars.
Janan tried to focus on the market and push her fear out of her mind. It was uncontrollable, arising unbidden and unwanted, but sometimes she could stuff it back down and ignore it for a while.
At least until the next memory took her.
Her bag bounced against her thigh as she walked. It held only a few coins and her single purchase of the day: a bright glass bottle to add to her collection. To her, it had become a joke, a way of coping with what she was. A genie collecting bottles. Some form of control over the prison of her existence. And this bottle had felt particularly special, but she couldn’t say why. Perhaps some subconscious ghost of memory. Heavens knew there were enough ghosts flitting around in her skull.
The sun was rising higher in the sky as the morning dragged on, but Janan still shivered with cold. He wasn’t here, she was sure of it—sure that her mind was just playing cruel tricks on her again—yet she couldn’t shake the way every djinn in a cloak, every turned back, every sideways glare made her feel like prey. What if he really was here, somewhere in this mass of bodies?
She glanced sideways at Safiyya. The ocelot was small, but she made a formidable foe. Surely Janan would be safe at her side.
Safiyya stopped walking and looked up at her expectantly.
“I’m sorry,” Janan said, blinking herself back to the present. “What did you say?”
“I just asked if you wanted a drink. I’m getting a bit thirsty.” They were stopped next to a vendor selling cold fruit drinks.
Safiyya rubbed her head against a picture of a lemon below the counter. “This one, please.”
Janan pointed to the lemon drink and a grape drink in the displayed pitchers, trading a silver coin for the two glasses. They walked a few steps away before she placed the lemonade on the sidewalk for Safiyya, out of the way of trampling feet, and sat down on the curb. Her own straw halfway to her mouth, she suddenly froze, feeling the pressure of a person standing just behind her.
Her heart began pounding all over again. Sweat shone on her pale skin, and she wheezed for breath, unable to take a sip of the refreshing drink. No longer thirsty, she set the glass down next to Safiyya and turned to face the presence, ready to run or strike if needed.
A man in a cloak stood hunched behind her, eyes bright yellow against his pale blue skin, even shaded as they were under the hood. They seemed to glow with their own light, like a harvest moon on an otherwise black night.
As she saw the man, her heart began to slow its furious pace, and she forced a shaky smile. “Mahtab.”
Her adoptive father stood with his arms full of packages from around the market, grinning a sharp-toothed smile. She crossed her arms and pressed her hands against her body, willing the shaking in her fingers to subside. Her adoptive mother, Irina, reached a hand down to help Janan to her feet.
Irina, Mahtab’s wife of nearly a century, was the opposite of him in every way. Where he was blue-skinned and stood with a permanent bend in his spine, she looked like she was cut from the finest alabaster, her hair fine-spun gold and her posture tall and proud.
Janan allowed herself to be drawn up next to them. “Is it time to go home?”
“Did you find everything on your list?” Irina asked.
Janan blushed with guilt. In truth, she’d forgotten about the list after the vendor with the bottles. She had been so distracted with the bottle that she had missed half of the family’s produce, still on her list.
“I’ll take that as a no,” Mahtab said. He studied her, quiet for a moment. “But perhaps we can drop you at home and finish the errands ourselves.”
Janan closed her eyes. He had seen her fear, had made the decision that she had done enough for the day. She would remain a burden, unable to fulfill her duty to their small family.
She opened her mouth, intending to say no, to say that she could push through and finish their trip, but no words left her mouth, and she nodded in defeat.
“All right, then,” Mahtab said, nodding back. His face was kind, but Janan couldn’t bear to meet his eyes.
They turned in the direction of home, a small apartment on the west side of the city, and began pushing their way through the crowds. She was buoyed by the presence of Mahtab and Irina, feeling her confidence replace her fear with every step they took. Maybe she could make it after all.
She opened her mouth to say so when a small trio of smug-looking djinn leered at her.
“Filthy genie,” one of them spat.
“Don’t worry,” another snarled. “They’ll be gone soon.”
Then Safiyya was at Janan’s side, baring her sharp teeth. “Keep walking,” she growled low in her throat.
The third djinn rolled her eyes before following her friends. Her sighed words were soft, meant only for Janan’s and Safiyya’s ears. “Genie sympathizers. Just as bad as the genies.”
Janan dropped her eyes to the sidewalk and trailed after Mahtab, already several yards ahead of her. Perhaps going home was for the best.
Want to read more? Check out the masterpost of stops on the blog tour, or go ahead an pre-order your copy today! Again, you can pre-order this book on Amazon and any other major retailer. And don’t forget about the Facebook Launch Party on Saturday!