A young adult fantasy series about an underachieving teen thrust into an MMO-like world of magical combat, where she must master her own genetic gifts while investigating her twin sister’s suspicious death.
Born without arcania in her blood, Adia has lived in the shadow of her magical twin her whole life until the day she accidentally inherits her spellcaster sister’s talents. Now she’s got the ability to save the lives of everybody she loves…if only she knew the first thing about how to use it.
Once she leaves Earth for the training academy in Arcania, there are plenty of people who could show her the ropes, including darkly passionate Grey, the top shield at the school, devil-may-care charmer Seger, a swashbuckling rogue with a talent for daggers, and Finola, the clever and empathic healer with a gift for keeping her team out of sickbay.
Better watch out for the spellcasting mage Delphine and her clique of breathtakingly beautiful pals, though. They’ll do anything to stop Adia from taking her twin sister’s place as an elite spellcaster at the top of the school pyramid.
With the battle between the Arcanae and the deadly Synelv heating up, Adia doesn’t have much time to learn how to use the magic that now flows through her bloodstream, earn a spot on a fighting team, and stop the ancient war between the forces of magic from spreading to Earth and destroying the loved ones she’s been forced to leave behind.
What’s Cool from Coliloquy: As Adia struggles to unlock the secrets of her new powers, she searches for answers about her sister’s last moments. What really happened to her twin? And what are the elders trying to cover up? Engaged readers will learn that seemingly inconsequential choices can change your perception—and your reality—in an instant.
I shifted my weight from one foot to the other. The guidance counselor’s mouth continued to move, blasting me with an endless wave of peppermint yuck. She wanted to help me, you see. Didn’t she always? The D grade in Algebra was my latest transgression. It was kind of a screw up, I admit. I’d meant to keep my average average by getting another C. Nothing more, nothing less. Just fly under the radar. That was the goal.
I sniffed once, for show, and hung my head then decided it was excessive and looked up at her again while trying not to think about how much she resembled a Hummel figurine with bad lipstick. Mrs. Rafferty, I want to help you. That brown sack dress might look great on the sort of model who gnaws at her own fingernails for breakfast, but on you? Yikes.
“I think maybe we should have a discussion with your parents.”
The words sliced through the lovely fog I’d cultivated in my brain—apathy, beautiful apathy—boring into my skull like an old-fashioned dental drill would a tooth. Sharp, deep. Impossible to ignore.
“That won’t be necessary,” I blurted. Mrs. Rafferty’s lips continued to flap about how I needed to “reach for the sky” while her fingers groped for another hit from that plastic bowl of pillow mints on her desk.
I would have lodged a more convincing protest against the idea of involving my parents were it not for the thread of purple-black smoke suddenly twisting through the air just to the right of a kiosk of self-help brochures sporting cheerful titles designed to prevent you from cutting your arms with razor blades or going too far with boys to get attention. Out of habit I looked at Mrs. Rafferty, quickly, to see if she noticed, even though I knew she hadn’t. She wouldn’t see anything at all. She took my glance as attention, however, and kept on about junior year being too late to recover from bad grades and how I needed to apply myself now, as a sophomore. From the corner of my eye I watched the smoke swirl, thin and stretch into a large oval.
Lara, is that you?
My sister didn’t answer my silent query. She never did. She was better than that. Better than me. Lara wasn’t just arcanic; she was considered extraordinary even among her own kind—which I wasn’t, despite being her twin. I could always sense something of what she was feeling, though, even if I was a genetic loser and had barely any arcania in me at all. I think the twin thing was the cause, because something in me had tracked Lara’s training in arcanic arts from the day she started. This was by far the darkest emotion I’d ever sensed from her.
“Adia Hawkins! You are not listening to me. There are consequences to your actions, you know.”
A roaring noise crashed down on my head like an ocean wave; the smoke in the air collapsed in on itself, grabbed at my heart and ripped at me from its pulsing center. I clutched wildly at my chest, feeling like I was about to be sucked down a bathtub drain. Then I slammed back in my chair with a gasp. The tension had abruptly ceased. The smoke vanished. I was left behind.
Mrs. Rafferty’s eyes narrowed to slits. “I am not amused by your dramatics, young lady. We will include your parents in further discussion.”
“That really won’t be necessary, Mrs. Rafferty,” I managed to say, fighting panic along with the aftermath of arcanic whiplash. I still wasn’t quite sure what had happened. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean anything.”
“Adia, we definitely have a problem,” Mrs. Rafferty announced, her fingertips idly brushing the sticky-looking receiver of her landline. Then her expression softened. “But there’s no problem in the world that can’t be solved with a little talking. I’m sure your parents want to know that you’re struggling. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about.”
Embarrassed? Not exactly. My parents already knew my struggles, and they were as unavailable for parent-counselor conferences now as ever, considering they lived on an entirely different plane of reality and only stopped by on rare occasions to check on me, sort of like solar eclipses or the way that disgusting puke-scented flower in Hawaii pops out of the ground every five years or something. Not that that’s how I felt about my parents. I’m just saying. It was a rare, rare thing to see them. I probably couldn’t even get them if I wanted. The Council would probably get fake parents and then—
“Please, Mrs. Rafferty,” I said, surprising myself as real tears filled my eyes. I cleared my throat. “Please don’t ask them to come in.”
Adia, pull your shit together!
Together my shit did stay, through another five minutes of a rambling, mixed-metaphor-strewn motivational speech involving ball sports and fighter pilots. I even managed a few more apologies. Unfortunately, at the end of it I still walked out with a parent-teacher conference summons. Hellfire and damnation seemed a more pleasant alternative, but Mrs. Rafferty hadn’t offered the option.
I crossed just beyond the school boundary to sit on the unofficial smokers bench, summons hanging limply from one hand. Minka Gross was sitting there in a cloud of smoke, fiddling with a massive new piercing in her ear that I was pretty sure would deform her lobe for the rest of her life. She flicked away her clove cigarette by way of greeting and we sat in companionable silence until I just had to ask, “You see anything lately?”
She exhaled slowly. “No.”
Minka wasn’t a huge conversationalist. Even had she been, we still probably wouldn’t have had a whole lot to chitchat about. She was black kohl eyeliner to my cherry Chapstick. But though neither my “normal” boyfriend Brandon nor my “normal” friends understood why I was nice to the biggest outcast in school—other than as some outsized humanitarian gesture to prevent her from getting suffocated by bullies in a locker room garbage can—I was. Because they didn’t know what I did. They didn’t have a clue about what we really were.
Minka and I had one very important thing in common. It was a connection that didn’t require we like the same clothes, music, or hobbies. It was that we were arcanic rejects, the Arcanae’s half-assed lessers, left on Earth to keep our genetic lameness from infecting anyone else while our talented peers, the true firebloods, took care of business. You’d be surprised what kind of bond simple inferiority can build. Even if that bond is never verbalized.
I put Mrs. Rafferty’s Parental Form of Doom down on the picnic table. Minka eyed it and raised an eyebrow.
“Did she give you the speech about basketball, marine biology or fighter pilots?” Her gaze quickly returned to the chipped black nail polish on her left hand.
“Mostly fighter pilots. A touch of basketball. A lot of ‘reach for the sky.’ You got marine biology?” I’d never heard that speech.
“Yeah. One where she talks about fish in the sea. Schools and the like. Very creative. ‘The world is your oyster’ and other pearls.” Minka grimaced at her own joke. “Very confusing. S’posed to be about teamwork and mingling. But, then, you probably won’t get that one ’cause you’re not an anti-social weirdo.”
“Nope. Just a pathetic underachiever. She doesn’t consider the remarkable consistency of my C-average a virtue.” I leaned back and stared up at the sky, felt the table edge cut into my back. “‘The sky’s the limit,’ I said, mimicking the counselor.
Minka snorted. She poked at the corner of Mrs. Rafferty’s letter, pushing it back toward me. “You’re gonna have to contact the Council. The parents thing is always a problem.”
“I know,” I snapped, more harshly than she deserved. Having someone else say it out loud made everything worse, and it didn’t help that the bangs of Minka’s dyed black hair blocked the view of most of her face. I couldn’t tell if she was on my side or not. Was anyone ever on my side? I got up from the table, shoved the form into my messenger bag and walked away. Screw you, Minka Gross. Watch me bother to defend you again when the stupid jocks start making fun of your name.
“I get straight A’s,” Minka blurted.
I froze, my back to her. This was the most personal thing she’d offered up in years. I mean, our shared situation as arcanic lessers had occasionally led to discussions about preventing discovery by normals, but we’d never—and I mean ever—talked about her life. Not real life.
I slowly turned, the way you do when you don’t want to spook an animal. Two red spots glowed in Minka’s cheeks, and she was breathing fast. “I get straight A’s,” she repeated.
I had the sense that the moment could slip away, that if I said the wrong thing she’d close up forever, but I had no idea where she was going. What she wanted. What she wanted us to share. “And…?”
In a voice that was a bare whisper she said, “And there’s no one to tell.”
We looked at each other. A lump formed in my throat and I reached out to her, my hand stretching across the table. She didn’t move, though, just stared at it. I slowly took her palm in mine and gave it a squeeze. A beat passed, and I couldn’t decide whether the look on Minka’s face meant she was going to stub her cigarette out on the top of my hand or squeeze back.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered. “I know…”
Just when I thought I’d been dismissed, Minka squeezed back. The moment lasted only a fraction of a second before she pulled away, but it happened. Then she tossed her head to make her hair cover her face and turned her back on me.
I walked toward the school on the verge of tears. It had been a strange moment. Nobody had it easy. Not Minka, not me, and not even Lara, though I sometimes selfishly wished my sister’s gifts had been given to me instead. I suddenly felt like a total bitch for thinking mean thoughts about Mrs. Rafferty’s tendency to walk around looking like a peasant from a Van Gogh painting, especially because she was actually rooting for me to improve myself. Usually her talks were just: would I please stop cutting class and passing notes to Brandon? Mrs. Rafferty seemed to think I had a meaningful future, and I should have been thankful that she cared. I just knew she was wrong.
Liz Maverick is the best-selling, award-winning author of thirteen novels. Liz and her books have been featured in USA Today, Cosmopolitan Magazine, The Chicago Sun-Times and more. Known for writing fast-paced, unique plots, she created the USA Today bestselling author continuity series Crimson City and wrote the Cosmopolitan Magazine Book Club Pick What a Girl Wants. Her science fiction romance novel Wired won the Prism award and was named a Top Book of the Year by Publishers Weekly. Stop by for a visit and a chat with Liz at @lizmaverick.
Author Q and A
Lisa: After years of success at writing adult romance, what made you want to tackle YA?
Liz: Every genre has its tropes, its patterns, its requirements. Romance novels right now have certain expectations that were starting to get in the way of how I wanted to tell a story. I still love romance novels, and my stories always have a lot of romantic hero/heroine couple stuff in them, but I really wanted to focus on more than just that type of relationship. The frenemies, the best friend you wish you could date, sibling rivalry, bromance, group dynamics—YA allows me to explore all of these in one series without hitting against the wall of genre expectation.
Lisa: What inspired you to write this story?
Liz: I wanted to write a series with a big ensemble cast and lots of complicated messy relationships. I wanted to explore the issues of what makes a family, what loyalty means when the chips are down, and at what point your friends are more important than the people you are related to. And I wanted to write about the different roles that people play on a team when they are fighting in a magic world and how those roles complicate love and friendship.
Lisa: I was incredibly moved by the first scene between Minka and Adia. It’s the type of depth that has been missing from a lot of YA recently. Was it a conscious choice? Or are the characters personal to you?
Liz: Yes, they are personal to me. Underneath the shiny, there’s got to be a core to a book that’s based in truth. When I read, I don’t just want to go on an adventure—I want to feel something real. I want to be able to say, “Wow, I totally get what that character’s feeling.” And not everybody is going to find the same thing relatable. That’s what I love about ensemble casts. If you build a great set of three-dimensional characters, every reader will find someone to relate to, someone to follow on the journey.
Lisa: For those of us who play games, there are obvious parallels to the type of teamwork pervasive in modern MMOs. Though I’m worried about poor Adia…low level mages are pretty screwed…
Liz: All of those hours of gaming had to count for something. See, it was productive! And yes, you should worry about Adia. Not enough armor. (Liz grins) You should worry about all of them! I guess those role-playing servers weren’t realistic enough for me—I had to create Arcania to bring the characters in my head to life.
Lisa: I know Adia is torn between Grey and Brandon, but Liz, I was just utterly taken with Seger. As in, mega-crush!!
Liz: (laughs) Don’t worry. You’ll be seeing more of Seger in the next three installments, and then we’re hoping to spend a LOT more time with him and Finola further down the road. Although, it remains to be seen whether Finola will get her man…
Lisa: What’s in store for Adia in upcoming episodes?
Liz: As Adia begins to get more comfortable with her new powers, she also must confront her own fears about self-worth and identity. Who is she? Who does she want to be? Would she go back to the “normal” world if she could? She also has a pretty major surprise coming down the pike. If she thought the transference rocked her world, she’s got another disruption, just as big, coming.
Lisa: Who will love this book?
Liz: Will you ever get to be with the one you’ve been crushing on? Will your friends stay your friends for the long haul? What’s the point of family if they’re not there for you when you need them? And, ahem, what’s the name of the hot rogue sitting half in shadows to your left? Familiar emotions and experiences, an immersive world, a cast of characters you wish could be your actual friends (and dates)…if you’re into that, you’ll enjoy the world of Arcania.