Today we’re spotlighting The Bronzed Beasts by Roshani Chokshi!
Read on for more about Roshani, her book, and giveaway!
Meet Roshani Chokshi!
Roshani Chokshi is the author of commercial and critically acclaimed books for middle grade and young adult readers that draw on world mythology and folklore. Her work has been nominated for the Locus and Nebula awards, and has frequently appeared on Best of The Year lists from Barnes and Noble, Forbes, Buzzfeed and more. Her New York Times bestselling series include The Star-Touched Queen duology, The Gilded Wolves, and Aru Shah and The End of Time, which has been optioned for film by Paramount Pictures.
Meet The Bronzed Beasts!
In love they breathed. In destiny they believed. In the end, will divinity be their demise?
After Séverin’s seeming betrayal, the crew is fractured. Armed with only a handful of hints, Enrique, Laila, Hypnos and Zofia must find their way through the snarled, haunted waterways of Venice, Italy to locate Séverin.
Meanwhile, Séverin must balance the deranged whims of the Patriarch of the Fallen House and discover the location of a temple beneath a plague island where the Divine Lyre can be played and all that he desires will come to pass.
With only ten days until Laila expires, the crew will face plague pits and deadly masquerades, unearthly songs and the shining steps of a temple whose powers might offer divinity itself… but at a price they may not be willing to pay.
Returning to the dark and glamorous 19th century world of her New York Times instant bestseller, The Gilded Wolves, Roshani Chokshi dazzles us with the final riveting tale as full of mystery and danger as ever.
~ Excerpt ~
Venice, February 1890
éverin Montagnet-Alarie stared down at the man kneeling before him.
At his back, a cold wind wrinkled the surface of the dark, lac- quered lagoons of Venice, and the prow of a gondola beat mourn- fully against the shadowy dock. About thirty meters away stood a plain and pale wooden door, its entrance flanked on both sides by a dozen members of the Fallen House. They regarded Séverin in silence, their hands clasped before them, their faces obscured by white volto masks that covered everything but their eyes. Over their lips sat Mnemo bugs in the shape of golden honeybees, their metal wings whirring as they documented Séverin’s every move.
Ruslan, patriarch of the Fallen House, stood beside the kneel- ing man. He patted the man’s head as if he were a dog, and tugged playfully at the bindings gagging his mouth.
“You”—he said to the man, tapping the side of his head with his
golden Midas knife—“are the key to my apotheosis! Well, not the main key, but a necessary step. You see, I can’t get my front door open without you . . .” Ruslan stroked the man’s hair, the gleaming gold skin of his hand catching in the torchlight. “You should be flattered. How many can say they have paved the way to godhood for others, hmm?”
The kneeling man whimpered. Ruslan’s grin widened. Days ago, Séverin would have said the Midas Knife was the most fascinating object he had ever come across. It could rearrange human matter through an alchemy that seemed divine in its making, though—as Ruslan had proved—its use came at the price of sanity. It was ru- mored that the blade itself had been hewn from the topmost bricks of the Tower of Babel, whose fallen pieces had powered the art of Forging across the world.
But compared to the divine lyre clutched in Séverin’s hand, the Midas Knife was nothing.
“What do you think, Monsieur Montagnet-Alarie?” asked Rus- lan. “Don’t you agree this man should feel nothing but flattered? Awed, even?”
Beside the lined-up members of the Fallen House, Eva Yefre- movna, the blood and ice Forging artist, stiffened noticeably. Her wide, green eyes had not lost their feverish sheen in the twelve hours since they had left behind the Sleeping Palace on the frozen waters of Lake Baikal.
You must tread carefully.
Séverin’s last conversation with Delphine, the matriarch of House Kore, reared up in his thoughts. They had been crouched in the metal belly of a mechanical leviathan. On the hidden Mnemo panel, Séverin had watched as Ruslan advanced on his friends, slapping Laila across the face, cutting off Enrique’s ear. Ruslan was after something only Séverin could give: control over
the lyre. Played outside of its sacred temple, the lyre only brought ruin. Played within the sacred grounds . . . the lyre could tap into the powers of godhood.
By then, Séverin knew exactly where he needed to go to play the lyre: Poveglia. Plague Island.
He had heard of the island near Venice years ago. In the fif- teenth century, the island had built a hospital for those who fell ill during the plague epidemics, and it was said the ground was more skeleton than soil. Years ago, Séverin had nearly accepted an ac- quisition project on the island before Enrique had objected.
“The temple’s entrance is well hidden beneath Poveglia,” the matriarch had said to him the last, and final, time they had been together in the belly of the metal leviathan. “There are other en- trances to the temple scattered throughout the world, but their maps have been destroyed. Only this one remains, and Ruslan will know where to look for it.”
“My friends—” said Séverin, unable to tear his eyes from the screen.
“I will send them after you,” said the matriarch, grabbing his shoulders. “I have been planning for this ever since your mother begged me to protect you. They will have everything they need to come find you.”
It had taken Séverin a moment to understand.
“You know,” he’d said angrily. “You know where the map is to reach the temple beneath Poveglia, and you won’t tell me—”
“I can’t. It is too dangerous to speak aloud, and I have cam- ouflaged it even from the safe house,” said the matriarch. “If the others fail, you must find the answer from Ruslan. And once you do, you must find a way to be rid of him. He will do everything in his power to keep track of you.”
The matriarch had grabbed his chin, directing his gaze to the screen. Laila had crumpled to her knees, her hair falling across her face. Enrique lay sprawled out, bleeding on the ice. Zofia’s hands clutched at her dress, her grip white-knuckled. Even Hyp- nos, lying unconscious behind Séverin, would be destroyed if Ruslan succeeded. Something cold and inhuman coiled in Séver- in’s stomach.
“What will you do to protect them?” asked the matriarch.
Séverin stared at his family, lingering a moment longer than he needed to on Laila. Laila and her warm smile, her rose water and sugar-scented hair . . . her body that would cease to house her soul in ten days’ time. She’d never told him how little time was left and now—
The matriarch’s grip on his chin tightened. “What will you do to protect them?”
The question jolted through him. “Anything,” said Séverin.
Now, on the marble threshold outside Ruslan’s home, Séverin schooled his expression to blankness and regarded the kneeling man. He forced himself to answer Ruslan’s question. He didn’t know what the kneeling man had to do with Ruslan’s home, or how to enter it, which made his every word hold a strange balance.
“Indeed,” he said. “This man should be flattered.”
The kneeling man whimpered, and Séverin finally looked at him. On closer inspection, he was not a man at all, but a boy that looked to be in his late teens, perhaps only a few years younger than Séverin. He was pale, with blue eyes and dirty-blond hair. His limbs were skinny as a colt’s, and a flower poked out of the top button of his shirt. A lump rose in Séverin’s throat. The hair and eyes and flower . . . it was a flimsy echo, but for a moment, it was as if Tristan knelt at his feet.
“My father had a keen sense of understanding about the world,” said Ruslan.
The longer Séverin stared at the kneeling boy, the more he be- gan to suspect the uncanny resemblance to Tristan was no mistake. His fingers twitched to reach out to the boy, to untie his hands and throw him into the stinking water so he might escape whatever Ruslan planned.
“Most importantly,” said Ruslan. “My father knew that nothing was without sacrifice.”
Ruslan’s hand blurred forward so quickly that Séverin didn’t have time to react. Séverin bit down on his tongue, tasting blood. It was the only thing that kept him from lurching forward to catch the boy and break his fall. The boy’s eyes widened for an instant before he slumped forward. Blood pooled from his slashed throat, spreading slowly over the marble threshold. Ruslan stared down at him, the knife in his hand now glossed with crimson. Word- lessly, he handed the blade to one of his followers.
“Sacrifice was built into the very design of our ancestral home,” continued Ruslan casually. “Father always knew it was our destiny to become gods . . . and all gods require sacrifice. That is why he named it Casa D’Oro Rosso.”
House of Red Gold.
Before, the house had seemed pale and nondescript. But the touch of blood had changed it. What had once been a colorless mo- saic floor leading to the pale door, had begun to transform. As the blood seeped into the ground, the translucent stones shifted—a faint hue of crimson deepening to ruby. Cherry-dark garnet flecked the stones, haloed by patterns of pink quartz that formed a decorative geometric design. The color lazily bloomed outward until it hit the door. The white door blushed pink, swirls of dark gold crawling up from the marble and across the Forged wood that smoldered away,
revealing the gold and iron scrollwork of a grand entryway. In one smooth motion, the door swung open.
“I believe the inlay stonework is in a style called cosmatesque,” said Ruslan, gesturing at the threshold. “It’s beautiful, is it not?”
Séverin couldn’t stop staring at the body sprawled out on the dock, the blood steaming in the cold air. His palms turned damp, remembering the hot slip of Tristan’s blood on his skin when he’d held his brother’s body to his chest. The matriarch’s voice echoed in his head: He will test you before he trusts you.
Séverin swallowed hard, forcing his thoughts to Hypnos and Laila, Enrique and Zofia. They were counting on him to find the map to the temple beneath Poveglia. His instructions on the Mnemo bug he had left by an unconscious Laila had been clear: in three days’ time, they would meet at the appointed location in Venice. By then, they should have cracked the matriarch’s riddles and discovered where the map lay. If not, then it was up to him to find the answer. Once he had the answer, then he needed to figure out a way to be rid of Ruslan.
“It’s beautiful, yes,” said Séverin, arching an eyebrow. He wrin- kled his nose. “But the reek of blood hardly agrees with this stinking Venetian air. Come, let us go, before it puts us off our appetite. One day soon, we shall demand more elegant offerings than blood.”
Ruslan smiled, gesturing him inside.
Séverin’s hand twitched. He pressed his thumb against the hard, crystalline strings of the divine lyre. He still remembered what it felt like to touch those strings with a bloodied hand . . . as if the pulse of the universe had run through him. In his hand alone lay the gates of godhood.
And in a matter of days, Séverin Montagnet-Alarie would be a god.
From The Bronzed Beasts by Roshani Chokshi Copyright © 2021 by the author and printed by permission of Wednesday Books
The Bronzed Beasts
Author: Roshani Chokshi
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Publish Date: September 21st, 2021
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