Want to add a jolt of spine-tingling terror to your day? io9's got an exclusive except from Silver in the Bone, the latest from best-selling author Alexandra Bracken (The Darkest Minds) that’ll fit the bill quite nicely. The book is about a reluctant treasure hunter, and the scene features an encounter with... well, you’ll have to read on to see!
First up, here’s a summary of Silver in the Bone:
Tamsin Lark didn’t ask to be a Hollower. As a mortal with no magical talent, she was never meant to break into ancient crypts, or compete with sorceresses and Cunningfolk for the treasures inside. But after her thieving foster father disappeared without so much as a goodbye, it was the only way to keep herself—and her brother, Cabell—alive.
Ten years later, rumors are swirling that her guardian vanished with a powerful ring from Arthurian legend. A run-in with her rival Emrys ignites Tamsin’s hope that the ring could free Cabell from a curse that threatens both of them. But they aren’t the only ones who covet the ring.
As word spreads, greedy Hollowers start circling, and many would kill to have it for themselves. While Emrys is the last person Tamsin would choose to partner with, she needs all the help she can get to edge out her competitors in the race for the ring. Together, they dive headfirst into a vipers’ nest of dark magic, exposing a deadly secret with the power to awaken ghosts of the past and shatter her last hope of saving her brother. . . .
Here’s the full cover, making its media debut here on io9, followed by the shriek-worthy excerpt.
The group spread out as we made our way through the trees.
Neve was at my back, her wand clutched in her hand. Cabell fell in place beside me, retrieving my axe from where it had been tied to my traveling pack.
I felt hyperaware of each step I took, not just because of the grasping mud but also the faint jangle of my belongings.
“There should be villages scattered around the isle,” Neve whispered.
“Are there any other landmarks we can look for?” I asked as quietly as I could.
“There’s a tower at the center of Avalon,” Neve said. “That’s where its order of priestesses is said to reside. The nine sisters.”
Right. Right, I’d seen that mentioned in a handful of the Immortalities, though, as the years had gone on and the generations of sorceresses had grown more distant from their ancestral home, the details around the priestesses had become just as inaccurate as most fairy tales.
“I’m starting to think we’re the only ones here,” Cabell muttered. “At least the only ones still breathing.”
As he moved ahead of me, my stomach cramped with the fetid smell, but there was nothing in it to throw up. I didn’t see Cabell through the wall of pale air until I’d nearly collided with his back.
He was shaking.
“Tamsin,” Cabell breathed out, his lips barely moving. “Don’t move.”
My eyes slid left, following his line of sight, until, finally, I saw it too. A shifting shadow among the trees.
There was no moonlight to illuminate its form, but my sight had adjusted to the darkness, and even our distance couldn’t disguise the cold savagery of the creature tearing at the carcass of what had once been a horse.
It had the near shape of a man, but stretched and bent, its joints all harsh, unforgiving angles. The hairless limbs were overly long and spindly, the way a spider’s might be. For one terrible moment, I couldn’t tell if it was filthy rags or tattered flesh hanging from them.
What the hell is that?
Emrys and Neve came up behind us, their footsteps soft as they moved over the diseased lichen and unsteady ground. I held out both my arms, stopping them. Emrys sent me a questioning look, but I only pointed to his head lamp.
I knew the moment he saw the creature too. His body turned rigid. Holding his breath, he reached up slowly and clicked the light off.
The creature’s head shot up, blood and stringy muscle dripping from its mouth. Disgust and terror flooded my body, and any instincts I had to run, to fight, to do anything other than stand there vanished like breath in the air.
The creature’s face was sunken with decay, leaving a void of flesh and color, save for the white of its glowing eyes, and its bloodstained teeth. Teeth it had used to rip the flesh and muscle and innards of the horse away, reducing it to clean-picked bones in a pool of the animal’s own blood.
The creature rose, dropping the leg from its mouth. Its limbs unfolded like an insect’s, awakening some deep, primal fear in me. The mist rolled between us, but when it thinned again, the creature was gone.
“Where did it go?” Cabell whispered, breathing heavily.
“What the hell is that?” one of the Hollowers shouted. “What is it doing—?”
A piercing bark answered, not half as terrible as the ones that answered back from the darkness that surrounded us on all sides.
There was a soul-curdling scream. The Hollower’s head lamp beam vanished. Then another.
“Get back to the boats!” Septimus bellowed. “Now!”
Cabell and Neve rushed forward first, their feet slapping through puddles of water and sludge. Emrys stood stock-still, staring at the spot where the creature had been, rooted so firmly in place I had to grab his arm and yank with all my might to get him moving again.
Another head lamp gone. Another.
The mist swirled around us in chaotic patterns as the party rushed in every direction. I slammed into Neve, who had turned back at the water’s edge. I craned my neck around, following her terrified gaze.
A head, hairless and slick with sludge, rose from the putrid depths. Its eyes gleamed silver as they caught the light of a head lamp.
And then it wasn’t one, but many. The filmy water bubbled as they emerged from the dark depths and floated toward us.
Cabell grabbed my shoulder, drawing me closer to his side as he held out my axe. “What the hell do we do?”
I shook my head, choking on words that wouldn’t come. There was no way back to the barges. No way forward.
There was only the slick crackle of flesh rent from bone, and the helpless screams as one by one the lights vanished, and the mist devoured us whole.
Excerpt from Alexandra Bracken’s Silver in the Bone reprinted by permission of Knopf Books for Young Readers.
Alexandra Bracken’s Silver in the Bone will be released April 4; you can pre-order a copy here.
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