Terry Brooks is best known as a fantasy author—especially for his Shannara series, which just wrapped up in 2020 after 40 years’ worth of books (and a TV adaptation). But he’s got a brand-new fantasy series coming later this year, and io9 has your first look at the cover and an excerpt from Child of Light today.
First, here’s a description to give you some context and introduce the main character—a young woman who escapes a mysterious prison only to discover there just might be something rather unusual about herself.
At nineteen, Auris Afton Grieg has led an . . . unusual life. Since the age of fifteen, she has been trapped in a sinister prison. Why? She does not know. She has no memories of her past beyond the vaguest of impressions. All she knows is that she is about to age out of the children’s prison, and rumors say that the adult version is far, far worse. So she and some friends stage a desperate escape into the surrounding wastelands. And it is here that Auris’s journey of discovery begins, for she is rescued by an unusual stranger who claims to be Fae—a member of a magical race that Auris had thought to be no more than legend.
Odder still, he seems to think that she is one as well, although the two look nothing alike. But strangest of all, when he brings her to his wondrous homeland, she begins to suspect that he is right. Yet how could a woman who looks entirely human be a magical being herself?
Here’s the full cover; the jacket design and illustration are by Leo Nickolls.
And finally, the excerpt, which gives you a taste of the jailbreak that kicks off the action as Child of Light begins.
We go out of our cellblock in two groups—one of seven, one of eight—using lockpicks I have fashioned during the weeks of planning, opening all the doors we can to allow others to do what they want so long as they understand they are not to follow us. Some try anyway because they see it as their only chance, but JoJo discourages them as only JoJo can. What happens to them after that, I don’t know. I can’t stop to think about it because when you are on the run you don’t have time to think about anything but what’s going to happen if you are caught.
Once clear of the cells we take out the night guards who patrol the walkways—a process carried out by Tommy and Malik using makeshift knives one of our group has fashioned from stolen pieces of shop metal. Their efforts are quick and silent, and the blood on their clothes marks a rite of passage. We race down the stairs to the cellars and through the storage areas. The Goblins don’t see us; they don’t hear us. Guards standing watch outside the doors of the compounds have no idea yet what is happening inside. Why would they even think about it? You don’t think much about your animals once they are safely penned in for the night. You just lock them in and come back for them in the morning. Escape? To what end? Even if we get out, where will we go? We will be missed quickly enough during the morning count; we will be hunted down and brought back. Most will be made an example of. I have seen what that means; they assemble everyone to watch. It isn’t something you are likely to forget. It takes a long time to die when you are systematically dismembered. It serves as a useful deterrent to further escape attempts.
Except that sometimes even that isn’t enough. When survival means you live in a cage and are reduced to the life of an imprisoned animal, a chance at freedom is worth any risk.
The tunnel we crawl through is actually an old drainage pipe. It is only used during the flooding periods, and we aren’t in one now. Finding the pipe was a rare piece of luck. At first we figured we’d have to climb over or tunnel under the prison walls, using rope ladders for the former or endless digging for the latter. But Wince found the opening to the pipe by accident one day while mopping the cellar floors. It lay behind an iron lid fastened to the stone block wall, but he could tell the lid was meant to open and close and he figured out how to do it. Next time he was sent down he carried lockpicks concealed in the soles of his shoes. It took him only minutes to release the seal on the lid. Once he got that far he wriggled his way inside (being every bit as supple and stretchy as a desert cat) and found a hatch that opened into the pipe. Not long after that, he was moved from mopping floors to organizing storerooms, but he still risked everything to slip away and unseal the hatch, crawl inside, and follow it both ways, discovering that one direction took you to what appeared to be a very deep spill pit and the other to beyond the walls and a way out onto the wastelands.
It was Tommy who decided this is how we would escape. A grate seals the far end, but that is hardly enough to stop us if we can make a substance that will melt and break the lock. A big problem without access to chemical corrosives, but then Khoury surprised me by saying she could provide what we needed from the dissolvent she works with in the labs. What was left was to figure out when we would go and how we would survive once we were outside the walls. How big are the wastelands? How many miles would we have to walk to cross them? No one knows. We were all either born in prison or brought here from other places, and we don’t know where anything is. But Tommy found a way onto the roof one day on the pretense of checking for damage after a storm, and his report was deeply troubling. There is nothing but open ground and scrub brush for as far as the eye can see.
No one knows for sure what is out there. How are we supposed to stay alive knowing so little?
But Tommy had an answer for this just as he did for everything. He is the son of survivalists after all, and he knows how to stay alive in any environment. He knows where to find food and water. He knows how to hunt and camp and hide so we can’t be found—how to create a false trail and conceal his tracks. You can’t learn how to do all that unless you’ve done it, and he has. Unlike the rest save for me, he lived free until he was in his teens, when a Goblin patrol caught his family in the open and took them prisoner. Tommy was brought here. He doesn’t know what happened to his parents—he never saw them again—but Tommy is a survivor; we all know that. We chose him as our leader because he is our best chance for staying alive.
From the book Child of Light by Terry Brooks. Copyright © 2021 by Terry Brooks. Reprinted by arrangement with Del Rey Books, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved.
Terry Brooks’ Child of Light is out October 12; you can pre-order a copy here.
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