This Readathon in really the only one I try to participate in every year. While it hasn’t been around for a long time, I still love the fact that it’s a month long (thus not making me feel like it’s a struggle to find time to read for it). I also adore how relaxed the Readathon is – there’s no pressure to read a lot or even hit all the challenges in it. Instead, this Readathon (to me, at least) is a great reminder to diversify your reading tastes and that Asian authors are often brushed to the sidelines.
I didn’t do a phenomenal job at getting books done for the Readathon this year, but I got a couple of things reads. I tried things that I wouldn’t normally pick up, and that’s really all I can ask for. Without further ado, here’s my (very small) wrap up for the 2021 Asian Readathon. (And yes, I know that this Readathon concluded in May and that this post is no longer relevant. I still wanted to get it up, though.)
Read any book written by an Asian author.
Read any book featuring an Asian protagonist.
Read any book written by an Asian author in your favourite genre.
Read any non-fiction book written by an Asian Author.
Read any book written by an Asian author that’s not US centric.
Without further ado, here’s my reading stats for this month:
** For anyone who’s here for the first time, I’ve organized the books by Physical Books, eBooks, Audiobooks, Kindle Unlimited, and Library Books. **
Total books completed: 3
Total pages read: 1018 pages (avg. 339 pages per book)
So I guess I slacked a little bit more than I thought. Here I was thinking that I was only 7 months behind in my TBR posts only to realize that I’m actually 8 months behind. I should have realized that even though I’d posted in June it didn’t mean I’d wrapped up the month before. It was the start of the decline of my posting, after all.
Being 8 months ago, I don’t remember exactly what I was doing in May. I know I participated (very minorly this year) in the Asian Readathon. I know I went on probably a million walks with my adorable pup, Yzma.
Instead of talking your ear off about who knows what, I think I’ll let the books speak for themselves:
As always, here are some pictures of my pup, Yzma.
Or, check out my BookStagram account @PhantomOfTheLibrary1995 (which I will definitely be posting to as soon as I finish this dang move):
This month, I also participated in the Asian Readathon. The list of books below does not include the books I read specifically for this Readathon. A separate post has been created for those books (link below once post uploaded).
Without further ado, here are my reading stats for May:
For reference: Physical books, eBooks, AudioBooks, and Library books.
Genres: Fantasy; Young Adult; Fae; Paranormal; High Fantasy; Romance
Publication date: September 26, 2017
With a flick of her paintbrush, Isobel creates stunning portraits for a dangerous set of clients: the fair folk. These immortal creatures cannot bake bread or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and they trade valuable enchantments for Isobel’s paintings. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—Isobel makes a deadly mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes, a weakness that could cost him his throne, and even his life.
Furious, Rook spirits Isobel away to his kingdom to stand trial for her crime. But something is seriously amiss in his world, and they are attacked from every side. With Isobel and Rook depending upon each other for survival, their alliance blossoms into trust, perhaps even love . . . a forbidden emotion that would violate the fair folks’ ruthless laws, rendering both their lives forfeit. What force could Isobel’s paintings conjure that is powerful enough to defy the ancient malice of the fairy courts?
Isobel and Rook journey along a knife-edge in a lush world where beauty masks corruption and the cost of survival might be more frightening than death itself.
“Aha,” he added, straightening, “I’d nearly forgotten. We’ve had gossip in the spring court that the autumn prince is going to pay you a visit. Imagine that! I look forward to hearing whether he manages to sit through an entire session, or hares off after the Wild Hunt as soon as he’s arrived.”
I wasn’t able to school my expression at the news. I stood gaping at Gadfly until a puzzled smile crossed his lips and he extended his pale hand in my direction, perhaps trying to determine whether I’d died standing up, not an unreasonable concern, as to him humans no doubt seemed to expire at the slightest provocation.
“The autumn -” my voice come out rough. I closed my mouth and cleared my throat. “Are you quite certain? I was under the impression the autumn prince did not visit Whimsy. No one has seen him in hundreds…” Words failed me.
I enjoyed this story a lot more the second time around than I did the first. Looking back at my notes from the first time I read/listened to this story, it seems to me that my feelings were swayed on this story because I read/listened to it right after Sorcery of Thorns. I still maintain that Sorcery of Thorns is more my speed, but I truly did enjoy being in Isobel’s head. It doesn’t hurt that this time I read An Enchantment of Ravens before picking up Sorcery of Thorns again.
However, I do find that the story drags on a bit. By both looking at my notes from the first time I read this story and reading/listening to Sorcery of Thorns right after this story, I’m pretty sure I know what that is.
For a debut novel, this read was phenomenal. Absolutely outstanding – exactly what I want from a YA fantasy read. But Rogerson’s writing improved so much between this and her second book. The characters in this world are well rounded, but the characters in Sorcery of Thorns are just… more. I adore this world that Rogerson has created and the magic that it contains.
My issue during my original read through was the order in which I read these stories. I understand how these books won’t be for everyone – not everyone loves reading about fae trickery or people who work in libraries – but these books both cover topics I love. I’m thrilled that Rogerson’s writing improved between her debut novel and the second book she got published. I love truly do love them both. And now I know that the next time I read them, I should probably pick them up in the order that they were written for the best reading experience for myself personally. And you’d better believe that I’ll be picking these stories up again!
This journey book might not be for everyone, but if you’re looking for an enjoyable read where the intricacies of fae courts are explained and the desire for infinite life surpasses the desire for human craft of any kind, then you’d probably enjoy this read.
Hello again, friends! New year, new blog… right? (Okay, even I will admit that was lame.)
All (bad) jokes aside, I’m excited to get back to the grind. Here’s my first of many TBR posts of the 2022 year. This TBR post is a little different than my typical TBR posts. With the month already half over when this goes out, I’m going to include the stories that I’ve already read or have already started this month. While that might not be a crazy amount of stories, it differs from how I normally do things.
Sure I might have started some of these stories in December 2021, but the majority of these reads I started (and potentially finished already) in January 2022. That doesn’t mean I’ve read everything that’s going onto this list – far from it. I still expect to get a decent amount of reading done this month. This list includes 5 books that I’ve either started and haven’t finished yet, or reads that I want to start before the end of the month.
**For anyone who’s here for the first time, I’ve organized the books by Physical Books, eBooks, AudioBooks, Kindle Unlimited, and Library books. **
As always, I expect to deviate from the TBR a bit, but here are the books I look forward to choosing from this month:
It’s been a while since I’ve come on here. So hello! Happy New Year!
I hope everyone who finds this page is doing well. I can make a lot of excuses as to why I’ve disappeared from this blog for months on end, but it all comes down to this: something had to give, and the blog was it for me.
It can be hard trying to keep a balanced life, and often times things fall to the sidelines. As much as I adore reading and getting my thoughts on books out there, there were other things going on that took priority. I’m happy to be back and ready to start plugging away at books again!
My purpose of this post is two fold: 1. to jump back into the swing of things since my writing is a little bit rusty; and 2. as a quick catchup of the last couple of months.
This seems like a silly little thing to announce, but it’s important to me. It’s my way of confirming my intent to start posting again – both to myself and to anyone who might stumble across this blog. I’ve been gone from this blog longer than I’d meant to be which is making this post harder to write. For that, I apologize if this comes out a little more rambley than usual.
While I’ve been gone, life has certainly been chugging away. My cute little pup is now 2 1/2 years old – but still causing mayhem like she’s a 6 month old. If you’re ever looking into getting a hound, be warned that they’re puppies until they’re 3 are they’re needy for life!
Yzma continues to be the most spoiled dog in the world. She got an Advent Calendar (or two) in December that she absolutely adored. Daily walks, almost weekly trips to the dog park. She can quite often be found on the bed cuddling up with a toy or my good pillow. Sometimes, you can even find her cuddled up under a nice fuzzy blanket!
Since my sister and brother in law moved to the area, they’ve gotten me into climbing – more specifically, bouldering. We’ve also recently started learning auto-belay as a way to increase our repertoire of climbing skills. I’ve absolutely adored the chance to take my “monkey climbing” skills from my childhood and use them as a way to get exercise as an adult. There’s one thing the last couple of years have taught me, and that’s I actually enjoy finding excuses to get out of the house and exercise.
Sure I’ve been active my whole life – dance, gymnastics, soccer, fencing… – but I’d never really considered myself to be someone who exercises for the fun of it. I tried going to the gym regularly, but it just wasn’t doing it for me. Yoga and Zumba are fun from time to time, but they didn’t push me the same way climbing does. I enjoy being pushed past my capabilities. I enjoy the terror of missing a hold and falling down (safely, I promise!) onto the matt below.
Of course, going climbing has exhausted me physically since I’m still a beginner at it. This, too, has taken away from my energy to be able to sit down and write out the reviews I’ve come to love. So one of my goals for 2022 is to find a balance – a balance between spending all my spare time (okay, maybe 6 hours a week) at the climbing gym and spending some time sitting down and putting my thoughts into words. This post is my first attempt at that.
For part of the year, I got really into nail art. I’ve never really been the artistic one in my family – heck, most of my family is so incredibly artistic, I just can’t compare – but this turned into one of my outlets. I enjoyed sitting down for a couple hours once or twice a week, just focusing on getting my nails to be cute. I’ve never been the kind of person to get their nails done or paint them a solid colour at home. Yet I found it to be quite enjoyable.
Of course, this has fallen to the side since it’s extremely hard to keep pretty nails intact when you’re using your fingertips to hold onto a wall… That’s a trade I was happy to me, though. I enjoy climbing for hours more than painting my nails for hours. Sure I’ve gotten back into the habit of keeping my nails naked and short to help with climbing, but I still don’t regret spending so much time on my nails when I could do it all the time. Plus there’s nothing stopping me from painting my nails every now and again…. as long as I accept that the nails aren’t going to look pretty the second I step into the gym.
I’m also in the process of moving, which Yzma doesn’t know about yet. Soon enough she’ll be in a bigger house! The only downside for her? It’s got a smaller backyard than what she’s currently used to. I’m hoping that it being closer to her friends and the dog park she frequents will help make up for that. She’ll still be getting a minimum of two (very lengthy) walks a day, but Yzma’s going to have to make do with running up and down flights of stairs at home rather than running circles in the backyard.
For me, this move is a good thing. The new place is closer to my job, which is useful as I start going into the office more often. I’ll get to explore a whole new neighbourhood and organize a whole new house! While that may seem daunting to some, I’m looking forward to the extra storage space and making things look neat and organized. I’m already jumping for joy at the prospect of buying new storage containers and organizing a place from scratch.
And oh boy am I excited to get my books out of boxes! It seems like such a waste to me to have upwards of 400 books just sitting in my childhood closet, waiting for the space to be on display again. Not to mention how much easier it’ll be to find and retrieve the book I want to read when they’re not all hidden away. I might have spent three days going through my books to create an excel document as a way to keep track and “organize” my precious babies, but it’s not the same as being able to scan through the shelves to pick out a book that’s caught my eye.
Plans for the Blog
I couldn’t sit down and write out this post without mentioning my goals for the blog going forward. Because it’s clear that at least some changes need to be made at this point. I was very clearly putting too much strain on myself trying to keep up with everything that I had going on. So, without further ado, here’s my plans for the blog for the foreseeable future:
Two to three posts a week.
Catching up on my “monthly” Wrap Ups for 2021.
A minimum of one review of a book I read in 2021 a week.
Getting back into monthly TBRs.
Getting into Instagram posts.
First up, my upload schedule. My goal is to give myself more time to collect my thoughts after reading books. Also, more time overall to get things done in my life. This has led me to decide on a semi-regulated upload schedule. Starting February 1st, I plan on uploading a post every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
That isn’t to say nothing’s going to be posted until then – it will. In fact, I’ve already pre-written a couple of things to go up before the end of January 2022. I’m just not going to force myself to stick to the Monday, Wednesday, Friday routine until I can start it on a fresh month.
This also doesn’t mean I’ll never post outside of these three days of the week. I most certainly will be throwing in “bonus” blog posts from time to time. If you’re interested in being notified when I upload these random posts (if anyone is still here, of course), then I’d recommend following my “all things book related” twitter account @PhantomOfTheLi2 as an automatic notification goes out here every time I upload a post.
Second on the docket would be the “monthly” wrap ups I’m currently 7 months behind on. For the next 7 weeks, my Friday posts will be these monthly wrap ups. Yes, I’m incredibly late in making these. And yes, I’m probably the only person who cares about them. But I personally find them helpful to keep track of what I’ve read and what I’ve reviewed. So they’re here to stay. 😊
While this might be a strange decision to some, this doesn’t mean that I’ll be holding off on my currently monthly wrap ups until I’m caught up. While that might make sense – go straight from July 2021 to March 2022 since that’s how long it’d take me to catch up at the planned rate – it would feel like falling behind again if I did it this way. So, I instead plan on uploading the current monthly wrap ups at the end of each month like I should have been doing all along. January 2022’s monthly wrap up will be going up on Monday, January 31st, 2022 as it should be.
The third point I want to bring up is the rate at which I’ll be uploading review posts. Starting in February, there will be a minimum of 1 “review” post going up a week. I say a minimum of one as I don’t know how busy my life will be every week going forward. As it stands right now, I plan on having my Wednesday posts dedicated to a review of a book. Most likely, these will be books read in 2021 as I strive to catch up with what I’ve actually read over the last 7 months.
Yet there maintains the truth that if I were to only upload review posts on Wednesdays, I’d never catch up to where I am reading wise. Because of that, there will most likely be more than one review post a week.
By dedicating Wednesdays solely to review posts, this helps me schedule time to catch up to what I’ve already read. It also means that if I can take one afternoon to sit down and write out multiple reviews, I know when to schedule them to go live. Having a schedule in mind for this will help me organize my time and how I plan on getting posts out.
This also leaves Monday posts open as a wild card. Some weeks this post will be another review post. Other weeks, there’s the potential for it to be something else. Maybe I’ll join a readathon of some sort. Maybe I’ll write a post about upcoming books I’m looking forward to. Maybe it’ll be a promo post for a book that’s coming out. Heck, maybe it’ll be another rambley post like this one. By not dedicating this spot to any particular type of post, it leaves the spot open and more free.
The fourth thing I want to touch on is my monthly TBRs. I’ve decided that even though I tend to stray from them quite a bit, I kind of like them. They give me some structure in my reading goals. Sure I’m still likely to pick up a book that’s caught my eye if I feel like reading something spur of the moment. That’s never going to change. But these TBRs help narrow down what kind of books I’m in the mood for going into the month. Yes, that might change – it usually does. But boy do I ever find these TBRs useful.
Over the last seven months, I didn’t post any TBRs. Sometimes this meant that I’d get to the last week of the month and realize I hadn’t read anything. Other times it left me struggling to pick up a book because there were too many choices.
This isn’t me saying that I’ll be sticking to my TBRs religiously going forward. I honestly don’t think I have it in me to even try. But it is me saying that these TBRs are useful in their own way – even if that way is in a roundabout, fork in the road kind of way.
The fifth and final thing I want to touch on in this post is Instagram. I have an Instagram account dedicated solely to book related content (@PhantomOfTheLibrary1995). My only issue is that I’ve been awful at posting, well, anything. For a while I tried to make do with the space I had available in order to upload posts, but they just weren’t to the standards that I wanted. As of the timing of this post, I still don’t have the space to make the kind of content that I want to be posted on Instagram. But I will have the space soon enough.
Once I’ve moved – and have somewhat organized the new place – it’s my goal this year to start actively posting on Instagram. I’ll have the space and I have more than enough books to upload on a semi-regular basis. I’ll also be closer to the library system I have a library card at so will be able to pick up physical library books! (Right now I’ve been making do with electronic library books since my library card is for the city I work in, not the city I live in.)
So at least that’s one exciting thing that will be happening soon!
If you’ve made it this far, I’m impressed. Thank you for listening to my rambles! Here’s to a new year of new thoughts and new adventures. That’s it for now, but I look forward to seeing you in the next one.
Carole Gunn leads an unfulfilled life and knows it. She’s married to someone who may, or may not, be in New York on business and, to make things worse, the family’s deaf cat has been run over by an electric car.
But something has been changing in Carole’s mind. She’s decided to revisit places that hold special significance for her. She wants to better understand herself, and whether the person she is now is simply an older version of the person she once was.
Instead, she’s taken on an unlikely journey to confront her past, present and future.
Everyday Magic is an uplifting book filled with humour and poignancy, and reminds us that, while our pasts make us who we are, we can always change the course of our futures.
When Carole was little, she found a magic clearing in the woods near her home. She had been exploring, surrounded by oak, birch, and hazel trees, picking her way carefully between bramble and nettle. There was birdsong, squirrels darting across branches, and patterns of sunlight on the woodland floor. She had been looking for bilberries, and her hands were full of small black berries. She stopped to sit on an outcrop of rock by a wide stream that, in winter, could quickly become a torrent of brown water. In summer, it was comforting; in winter, treacherous. She ate her bilberries, the stream cascading over a small waterfall; the sound of water in her ears. It was summer and the stream bubbled crystal clear. The woodland rose in folds from the stream, and she climbed steadily upwards. Here, the trees crammed in on her; it was darker. When she looked up, she could only see sunlight trapped on leaves far above. It was a part of the old woodland that she’d never been to before, but she pushed on, feeling that she was on an adventure and might suddenly come across a gingerbread house or wizard’s cottage.
At the top of the hill she found herself in a small clearing. It was only a few yards across, framed with oak trees, and perfectly round. Sunlight from directly above made the clearing warm, and she stood at its centre, wondering if she was the first person to have ever discovered it. Each of the oak trees around the clearing seemed precisely set, each one a perfect distance from the next, and she walked around them, touching each one, wondering if someone had planted the oak trees, or if the clearing really was a magic place. She still sometimes believed in magic. Then she stood again at its centre, wondering at its symmetry and why a long-dead sorcerer might have planted the oak trees. Then, realising that the sorcerer might not be dead, and that she had walked uninvited into his private domain, she hurried away, not sure whether to be frightened or excited. It was a place she often went back to that summer, and on following summers, sometimes alone and sometimes with her little brother. They would sit in the centre of the woodland circle, eating bilberries, hoping to meet the sorcerer who had built the clearing. She wasn’t frightened of him anymore; the clearing was too peaceful to have been made by a bad wizard. It was their secret place, but mainly Carole’s, because she had found it. It was a comforting place: it was somewhere she would go if she was sad or angry about something, because the woodland circle and its shifting half-shadows offered calm and new perspectives. She could almost hear the trees speak to her, the wind in their branches making the leaves whisper, but so softly that she couldn’t understand. She would listen, eyes closed, the leaves rustling, but she never understood what they were saying. The circle of trees stood solid and immovable, dark and stoic, old and wise, and each one the colour of stone.
Charlie Laidlaw lives in East Lothian, one of the main settings for Everyday Magic. He has four other published novels: Being Alert!, The Space Between Time, The Things We Learn When We’re Dead and Love Potions and Other Calamities. Previously a journalist and defence intelligence analyst, Charlie now teaches Creative Writing in addition to his writing career.
Something I heard about Laidlaw’s writing was his ability to take the everyday and make it extraordinary. From this read alone, I can certainly tell that this is true. Need a little bit of magic in your normal life? Need to find a moment that can make you laugh? You can find that here.
I’m glad that I picked up this read and got to follow along with Carole’s journey. It’s not easy to break away from the norm, to put yourself ahead of what’s expected of you. Carole needed to some pretty big cajones to step away from the life she had grown comfortable in. To set away from what was expected of her and rediscover the path she took to become the person she is now.
While not everyone would enjoy revisiting the random places of their past, I absolutely adore this idea. If I didn’t currently live in my childhood house and drive a quaint 30 minutes to work at my alma mater, I’d be tempted to follow in her footsteps. As it is, Carole’s journey made me realize that I want to see more of the world, to have places that I’d one day like to go back and think of fondly.
What more can you want from a book than a realization, a drive to do something in your real life? I would definitely recommend this read to anyone who’s a fan of roadtrip novels. The mundane and everyday might seem tedious in your real life, but Carole’s story has a fascinating of making life seek extraordinary and thrilling.
Congratulations to author Kat Martin on the release of her latest novella, Come Midnight!
Publication Date: June 1st, 2021 (Today 🎉)
Genre: Suspense/ Thriller
Length: 84 Pages
A routine flight turns into a suspenseful race through the remote jungles of Honduras
When strangers Breanna Winters and Derek Stiles met on a flight to Colombia, they never imagined they would need to rely on each other for survival. Taken hostage by a group of radical environmental vigilantes, Bree worries her secret identity has been discovered—and her fears are confirmed when she learns a ransom request has been sent to her father. Though she’s the daughter of a prominent tech mogul, Bree’s wealth can’t guarantee her safety, so former Navy fighter pilot Derek pretends to be her fiancé in order to accompany her on a dangerous jungle trek led by the radicals. With chemistry building between the pair, a romance isn’t hard to fake, though they can’t let their attraction distract them. If Bree and Derek ever want to see civilization again, they’ll have to work together and rely on their wits to escape their captors.
New York Times Bestselling author Kat Martin, a graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara, currently resides in Missoula, Montana with Western-author husband, L. J. Martin. More than seventeen million copies of Kat’s books are in print, and she has been published in twenty foreign countries. Fifteen of her recent novels have taken top-ten spots on the New York Times Bestseller List, and her novel, BEYOND REASON, was recently optioned for a feature film.
Genres: Paranormal; Witches; Urban Fantasy; Young Adult
Publication date: March 29, 2021
The Witches of Vegas are back, and their lives will never be the same again.
A year has passed since The Witches of Vegas saved the city from the evil Wiccan vampire, Valeria. Since then, the show has hit an all-time high. So has the romance between teen witch Isis Rivera and teenage magician, Zack Galloway.
Things couldn’t be any better for them until Isis develops seizures that cause her power to spiral out of control. Fires and earthquakes are just the beginning of the chaos caused by the misfired witchcraft. Unable to find a cure, Isis’ family journeys to New Salem, a fabled village of witches which may or may not even exist. Meanwhile, Zack ends up face to face with the only being who may have a cure…Valeria. But does he dare pay her price?
Isis’ brown eyes connected with Zack’s. “You’re my soulmate, Zack Galloway. I want to be with you until the end of time. I’ve known that since the day we met.”
Zack’s lips stretched into a slight grin. “The day we met we were under a love spell by a legit wicked witch.”
I received a copy of this story in exchange for an honest review.
I absolutely adored the first book in this series, so it’s no surprise that I had to dive right in as soon as I could. Sure it might have taken me about a month to get this review out, but I can promise you that I read this story almost right away. And I enjoyed it immensely.
Isis and her coven underwent some crazy events in this story. While the base storyline of this story was simple and straightforward, the secondary plot lines took some turns that I didn’t see coming. I enjoy a story that can surprise me.
The characters were still fascinating and badass – especially Isis and Zack. Selena and Sacha showed that they were more powerful than even Isis thought, Sebastian even more dedicated to his family. The decisions they were able to make showed maturity and and bravery most people (myself included) can only reach through reading about other peoples’ bravery and maturity.
While I enjoyed the first book more than this one, I still enjoyed every second I was in this world. The ending of this story left me wondering where this story would go next, and my mind certainly started spinning. Personally, I think that when a book can keep my mind occupied even after I’ve read the last page, that’s a good read.
Welcome to the tour for this exciting new YA Sci-Fi/ Fantasy, Technopaladin: Clarity’s Edge by Elizabeth Corrigan! Read on for an exclusive excerpt and a chance to win a $25 US Amazon E-Gift Card!
Technopaladin: Clarity’s Edge
Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
Publication Date: May 17th, 2021
Genre: YA Sci-Fi/ Fantasy
Clarity’s paladin order forbids her from entering the Azure District, the one location in her high tech city that refuses paladin rule and technology. When she receives an illicit invitation to violate the prohibition, spurred on by rumors of suffering in the district, she passes through the crumbling brick entryway into no-man’s land. Within, she finds the residents lack not only the ocular implants and three dimensional computers she takes for granted, but also medicine to fight a disease infecting the children.
Clarity knows her order isn’t perfect—after all, they stole her from her parents when she was a small child to raise her with their values—but she cannot believe they know what’s going on in the Azure District. When she confronts the head of the order, he refuses to aid people who have rejected his help in the past, even the children. Unwilling to take no for an answer, Clarity enlists the help of the leader’s son Cass and takes matters into her own hands.
Desperate both to cure the children and keep her place in the order that is her only home, Clarity engages in increasingly questionable behavior—deleting official records, lying to her friends, and manipulating people who can help her. As the nefarious nature of her actions tarnishes the purity of her cause, she must determine what it truly means to be a paladin, in both name and action.
“Come on, Clarity!” Hope grabbed Clarity’s hand and dragged her down Londigium’s main thoroughfare. The bright glare of the morning sun glinted off the silver skyscrapers and made some of the light-up signs in the storefronts difficult to read. Nonetheless, Clarity could make out the image of a dress on the digital placard of Hope’s destination.
Clarity dodged to avoid running into some people going in the opposite direction from her. She tried to wrench her hand free of Hope’s grasp to give herself better maneuverability, figuring she could follow her friend’s gleaming, red-gold hair through the crowd, but Hope held tight. “Remind me again why we’re doing this? I don’t care about going to the gala, and I don’t see why I can’t just wear my official paladin armor.”
“I swear, for someone so invested in her career, you can be dense about the things you need to do to advance it.” Clarity’s other friend Zeal tossed her black braids over her shoulder as she gave Clarity a scathing glance. “You have two weeks left until the gala, and Hope has convinced Steady Threads to make an exception to their usual deadlines and take an order for your dress. Try to be a little grateful.”
“I’m a warrior.” Clarity cringed at the petulant tone in her voice but continued her line of argument anyway. “My job at the moment is just conducting training for the non-warrior paladins, but if and when I get promoted, I’m going to be a Citadel guard or a peacekeeper in the city. None of this has anything to do with looking pretty at a gala.”
“Do I have to remind you why you put that ‘if’ in there?” Zeal asked. “You beat out the Grand Conductor’s son during graduation trials for a position at the Citadel.” Zeal was right. Steadfastness Hughes ran the Order of the Amethyst Star, and he hated Clarity. “You need to go to the gala and do some networking among the other warriors to make yourself popular in other circles. Or at least look appropriate so as not give him an excuse to send you off to the boondocks and install his son in your place.”
“I know, I know. You’re right.” Clarity stumbled as Hope came to a sudden stop in front of the tailor’s shop. “I just feel more comfortable in my armor. The paladins already spent a lot of money getting us high-tech, retractable armor. I don’t see why they’re bothering to pay for dresses and tuxedos as well.”
“Because it would be ridiculous to try dancing at a ball with your armor clanking everywhere, and the purple microfiber bodysuits underneath are not nearly as flattering as you all think they are,” Hope said, her voice containing an uncharacteristic tartness. “Besides, don’t you want to look amazing enough that Valor regrets breaking up with you just because you beat him in that silly contest?”
“Don’t say that so loud.” Clarity glanced up and down the street, but no one she knew was nearby. “You guys are the only ones who know we broke up. Besides, I don’t think—”
Before Clarity could finish her sentence, a man ran into her, practically shoving her into the store’s forcefield window. She and her friends turned in sync to watch a man in a fine suit run past them, knocking the crowd aside to get through. Behind him came a pair of men in armor as shiny as Clarity’s own, sufficiently far behind that the recovering throng on the street would be an impediment. By the time the paladin peacekeeper she recognized as Diligence noticed her and called, “Stop that man!” Clarity was already racing after him as best she could.
The pursuant looked behind him and noticed a much closer paladin. With a curse, he tried to pick up speed, and when that failed, he turned a corner into what looked like a small alley. He must not know the city very well, Clarity thought. There’s an open air market on the other side of that building. He’s going to be easy to spot there.
Indeed, as she chased him between the skyscrapers, she could easily see his head bobbing amid the stalls. Realizing his mistake, he pushed over a table full of crates of apples, sending the green fruit rolling across the ground. Clarity didn’t miss a beat, leaping into the air above the overturned boxes and landing on her quarry in a tackle.
The crowd had erupted into shocked gasps at the chase, but as Clarity pulled the man to his feet and twisted his arms behind his back, the crowd burst into applause. She heard the word “Azurite” murmured a few times, so she glanced down at his chest and saw that he in fact wore the telltale diamond-shaped, blue patch that marked him as a resident of the city’s Azure District. Everyone knew the Azurites hated paladins and the order they represented so much that they refused paladin technology rather than follow paladin laws. Clarity had heard rumors that people in the walled-off part of the city lived in abject poverty, but the man standing in front of her looked well-fed and clothed.
Diligence and his partner jogged up behind Clarity. “Thanks for the assist,” Diligence said as he handcuffed the criminal. “We caught him trying to buy a slew of weapons on the black market. The dealer was smart enough to try to make a deal, but this idiot ran.”
Wow. Clarity had known she was chasing down a criminal, but she’d had no idea he was such a dangerous one.
“If you want paladin tech, all you have to do is submit to the laws of the city,” Diligence said to his prisoner. Then he turned to the farmer whose apple crates remained upside down on the ground. “If you file a report with the Citadel, the order will reimburse you for your damaged merchandise. We apologize for interfering with your business.”