The ad in the newspaper says Alana is a witch.
She isn’t. She is something far more important… a Giftsnatcher, able to discern, identify, and steal the spiritual gifts of others. For years, she and her older sister have made a living selling them to paying clients. But when Lord Tremain wants her to bestow a particularly powerful gift on his grandson, for the first time in her life, Alana can’t. It doesn’t work.
Her quest to find a stronger gift, one able to penetrate Edgar’s broken defenses, leads her into the social circle of Dr. Joseph Bell, a leading Edinburgh physician whose true profession comes to light as dark forces close in around them. Her stable, predictable life is turned upside-down when an unseen nemesis lures her into a series of macabre events that force her to confront her fundamental beliefs about the nature of good and evil.
Illusions, family curses, blood magic, and the Ripper killings unfold in a chilling tale of magic, murder, and mayhem as Alana unravels the truth not only about Edgar, but also herself.
I can’t seem to escape
tackling controversial topics, in this book the idea of family curses,
although it’s changed from a more tangible and realistic curse (such as
alcoholism) into a fantastical idea.
This book rather wrote itself. I knew the twist toward the end going in, and that it would tie in the Ripper murders, but the rest unfurled with each passing week. I intended to use Dr. Bell from the start. He’s fascinating man, and was a fun character to write – a no-nonsense but very compassionate figure, devout in his faith and as remarkable for his observational skills as for his hidden talents.
Alana was a throwaway character in The Secret in Belfast, important for only a few chapters, to establish the Conclave and Richard’s role as their Influencer. But as I wrote those few pages about a remarkable woman with the incredible ability to “punish” those who use their gifts for evil, I knew she needed a novel and an entire back story of her own. Here, she has it, from the darkness in herself to her first meeting with Richard… although only observant readers will pick up on it.
The decision to bring in Alistair and Henoria, from Thornewicke, was made for two reasons: I couldn’t find a place for them in The Secret in Belfast, however much I wanted to, and my readers asked me to delve further into their marriage. Here, we have them a genuine couple for the first time, and find out a few more surprising secrets and nuances of the relationship between Guardians and Defenders.
In my usual tongue in cheek way, I’ve slipped in literary nods to some of my favorite books and films, and made hints toward characters and places that will be important in future books… which may just be set in a time period much further back than 1888 England. But then, that’s part of the fun of being a writer. Hopefully, it’s fun for you, as my reader, too
The ad in the newspaper says I am a witch.
Everyone who believes it comes in for a reading. They sit at the small round table in our parlor, place their hands in mine, and ask me for the power to accomplish all they desire. I bestow a gift upon them. It never lasts long, but it is effective enough to make them return for more.
Today, the rain interferes with our usual stream of clients. Large drops hit the street and run into the gutter. My sister is out, leaving me to the solitude of our front room. With the exception of the scarlet and black curtains, it is deceptively normal. I stare at the cards in front of me. Irina has more talent with them; to me, they are simply unconnected symbols.
“You will never learn how to read them if you don’t do it properly.”
I look up as our maid, Kasaria, enters the room. Her gypsy blood is strong, giving her dark skin and exotic features despite her advanced age. She pulls out a chair across from me and sits down. Nimble fingers shuffle the cards and fan them in a semi-circle on the table. “Tarot is an old kind of magic. You cannot choose the cards on impulse but must let them speak to you. You must sense them.”
“I sense nothing in them,” I answer. “These are cards, nothing more. There is no power in them, nothing for me to draw from. It is false, just as my sister’s séances are false, just as that mirror has a light behind it, to reflect ghosts in the room, just as that picture is on a wire so it levitates. Irina researches her clients, and chooses her cards according to the little bumps she has put in them with a needle. Her predictions are not genuine, but fabricated. Look, here, this bump means the Death card.”
I turn it up, its grotesque skeletal face leering at us. Kasaria frowns and turns it over again. “Your sister is ingenious in her deceptions but ignores her own potential. She chooses farce rather than devote time to learning the true craft. You possess the real gifts. Let the card choose you.” She moves her hand over them, drifting along until her brow furrows. Her thin fingers turn up one, then another, and another. The color drains from her face. “You must not see your clients tonight.”
“Lord Tremain is paying us a fortune for a private session,” I answer, unimpressed as I stare down at the painted cards. “I can assure you, not only will we see him and his grandson, we will put on a grand performance.”
Disapproval lurks behind her unflinching, eerie gaze. “The cards tell me that his presence in this house will threaten everything you have built. He is a grave danger to you. It is too great a risk.”
Pushing away the cards, I lean toward her. “What does it risk?”
“Your talent. Your life.” Her eyes return to mine. “Your soul.”
This sends a shiver up my spine, but I shake my head. “Nonsense. He is a client like any other, and you worry too much.”
“You don’t worry enough,” she counters, stacking the cards. “You have so much confidence in your ability to steal what gifts you need that you are not careful to protect the ones you have acquired. I promised your mother to look after you, to protect you from harm, but if you will not allow me to do that, I will take matters into my own hands. You are less important than the power you have accumulated.”
Gloom lurks in the space around us, the rain diminishing slightly. The gaslight flickers as, with deliberation, I ask softly, “Is that a threat?”
“It is a warning.” Kasaria rests her weathered fingers on the tabletop. “If you do not heed my advice, you may return one day to find me gone. I serve your mother, but I will not serve you if I am unwanted.”
Feeling cold under her penetrating gaze, I answer, “It is your right to leave, but it would not be prudent to take anything that isn’t yours.”
“Is it theft to steal from a thief?”
Lightning flashes in the distance and cold stirs in the air. Kasaria’s intensity fades and she reaches across the table to take my hand. “I do not mean to alarm you, child. Your mother told me to protect you, and if I could not do that, to protect the magic. Your sister uses it carelessly; its true purpose is not to give and take it in exchange for profit. In the wrong hands, it is dangerous. Lord Tremain is dangerous. Do not enter into business with him lightly. This card is a bad omen.”
Footsteps cross the front porch and the door opens. Irina enters, shaking water from her umbrella, a basket under her arm...