The Black With inside look

A new Black Witch will rise…her powers vast beyond imagining. 

A Great Winged One will soon arise and cast his fearsome shadow upon the land. And just as Night slays Day, and Day slays Night, so also shall another Black Witch rise to meet him, her powers vast beyond imagining. 

So foretells the greatest prophecy of the Gardnerian mages. Carnissa Gardner, the last prophesied Black Witch, drove back the enemy forces and saved her people during the Realm War. Now a new evil is on the horizon, and her granddaughter, Elloren, is believed to be Carnissa's heir—but while she is the absolute image of her famous grandmother, Elloren is utterly devoid of power in a society that prizes magical ability above nearly all else. 

When she is granted the opportunity to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming an apothecary, Elloren is eager to join her brothers at the prestigious Verpax University and finally embrace a destiny of her own, free from the shadow of her grandmother's legacy. But she soon realizes that the university, which admits all manner of people—including the fire-wielding, winged Icarals, the sworn enemies of all Gardnerians—is an even more treacherous place for the granddaughter of the Black Witch.

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About Laurie Forest

Laurie Forest lives deep in the backwoods of Vermont where she sits in front of a wood stove drinking strong tea and dreaming up tales full of dryads, dragons and wands. THE BLACK WITCH (Out Now – Harlequin TEEN, Book One of The Black Witch Chronicles) is her first novel, and WANDFASTED (THE BLACK WITCH prequel, Out Now – Harlequin TEEN) is her first e-book novella. Coming in 2018 are THE IRON FLOWER (Sept. 2018 – Harlequin TEEN, Book Two of The Black Witch Chronicles) and LIGHT MAGE (Spring 2018 – Harlequin TEEN, e-book novella).

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Excerpt Tour:

Monday, August 13th: The Romance Dish
Tuesday, August 14th: From the TBR PIle
Wednesday, August 15th: Books a la Mode
Thursday, August 16th: A Holland Reads
Friday, August 17th: 100 Pages a Day
Monday, August 20th: Rockin’ & Reviewing
Tuesday, August 21st: Cheryl’s Book Nook
Wednesday, August 22nd: Books & Bindings
Thursday, August 23rd: Girls in Books
Friday, August 24th: A Dream Within a Dream
Monday, August 27th: Bewitched Bookworms
Tuesday, August 28th: What is That Book About

                                                                There’s an endless variety of shops, cafés and markets. And I’ve never seen so many Gardnerians together before, their uniformly dark garb lending an air of elegance and gravity to their appearance, the women’s black silken tunics set off by glittering gems. I know it says right in our holy book that we’re supposed to wear the colors of night to remember our long history of oppression, but it’s hard to keep such somber thoughts in mind as I look around. It’s all so wonderfully grand. I’m seized by a heady excitement, coupled with a desire to be part of it all. I glance down at my simple, dark brown woolen clothing and wonder what it would be like to wear something fine.

                                                                The carriage lurches, and we turn sharply to the right and make our way down a narrow, darker road, the buildings not as lovely as the ones on the main thoroughfare, the storefront windows mysteriously harder to see through, the lighting a moody red.

                                                                “I had my driver take a shortcut,” my aunt says by way of explanation as she flips through more Council papers, the golden lumenstone in the carriage lantern growing in brightness in response to the dark.

                                                                I marvel at the lumenstone’s rich, otherworldly light. Elfin lumenstone is incredibly expensive, the golden stone the rarest. I’ve only seen swampy green lumenstone in the Gaffneys’ outdoor lamps back home.

                                                                Aunt Vyvian lets out a sigh and pulls down one of the blinds. “This isn’t the best part of town, Elloren, but it will shave quite a bit of time off our journey. I suggest you close the window. It’s not an attractive area. Frankly, it should all be razed and rebuilt.”

                                                                I lean forward to close my open window and draw the blind as the carriage slows to a halt. It’s been a constant stop and go ever since we reached the city because of the heavy street traffic.

                                                                A split second before I’m about to pull the cord, something hits the window with a loud smack—a white bird’s wing, there and gone so fast, I swear I imagined it. I press my face to the window and try to locate the bird.

                                                                They’re not just birds, they’re Watchers! Sage’s words echo in my mind.

                                                                And that’s when I see her—a young woman only a few feet away from me.

                                                                She is, by far, the most beautiful person I’ve ever seen, even dressed as she is in a simple white tunic. Her long, silver hair sparkles like sun glinting off a waterfall and spills out over translucent skin so pale, it’s almost blue. She has a lithe, graceful figure, her legs folded together to one side, her weight supported by slender, alabaster arms.

                                                                But it’s her eyes that are the most riveting. They’re huge and gray as a stormy sea. And they’re filled with wild terror.

                                                                She’s in a cage. An actual, locked cage, only big enough for her to sit in, not stand, and it’s placed on a table. Two men stand staring at her while engaged in some private conversation. On the other side of the cage, two boys are poking at her side with a long, sharp stick, trying for a reaction.

                                                                She doesn’t seem to even register that they’re there. She’s looking straight at me, her eyes absolutely locked on to mine. Her look is one of such primal fear, I pull back from the sheer force of it, my heart beginning to pound against my chest.

                                                                The woman lunges forward, grabs fiercely at the bars in front of her and opens her mouth. My head jerks back in surprise as slender rows of silvery slits on both sides of the base of her neck fly open, her skin puffing out around them.

                                                                Holy Ancient One—she has gills!

                                                                The woman lets loose a high-pitched, earsplitting croak, the likes of which I have never heard before. I have no idea what she’s trying to scream, what’s happened to her voice, but still, her meaning is clear. She’s crying out for my help.

                                                                The men jump at the sound, put their hands over their ears and shoot her a look of annoyance. The boys laugh, perhaps thinking they provoked her cry. The boys push the stick into her once more, harder this time. Again, she doesn’t flinch. She just keeps her eyes locked on mine.

                                                                My eyes dart to the sign on the storefront above her. Pearls of the Ocean, it reads. Suddenly the carriage lurches forward, and she’s gone.

                                                                “Aunt Vyvian,” I cry, my voice strained and high-pitched, “there was a woman! With…gills! In a cage!” I point to the window on the side where she had been, my heart racing.

                                                                My aunt glances quickly in the direction of the window, her expression one of mild disgust. “Yes, Elloren,” she says, sighing. “It was hard to miss the screeching.”

                                                                “But, but…what…” I can barely get the words out.

                                                                “Selkies, Elloren, it’s a Selkie.” She cuts me off, clearly not wanting to discuss it further.

                                                                I’m stunned by her nonchalance. “She was in a cage!” I point again at the window, still not believing what I just saw.

                                                                “Not everything is how it appears on the surface, Elloren,” she says stiffly. “You’ll have to learn that if you’re going to be part of the wider world.” She peers over at me and studies my troubled face, perhaps seeing that a longer explanation is unavoidable. “They may look like humans, Elloren, but they aren’t.”

                                                                The very human-looking, terrified eyes of the young woman are burned into my mind. “What are they?” I ask, still shaken.

                                                                “They’re seals. Very fierce seals, at that.” My aunt pauses to lean back against the elaborately embroidered cushions. “Long ago, the Selkies were enchanted by a sea witch. Every full moon they come to shore somewhere on the coast, step out of their seal skin and emerge in human form. For many years they caused a great deal of havoc—attacking sailors, dismantling ships. It was terrible.”

                                                                “But she looked so frail.”

                                                                “Ah, it’s like I just said. Appearances can be deceiving. Selkies, in possession of their skins, are stronger than the strongest Mage, and like most seals, they are very dangerous predators.”

                                                                “And without their skins?”

                                                                “Very good, Elloren.” My aunt looks pleased. “You’ve gotten right to the heart of it. Without their skins, they can be easily controlled.”


                                                                “Because they lose their strength, and because they cannot transform back into seals without them. Without their skins, they cannot get back to the ocean. Being wild animals, no matter how long they are kept in human form, they desperately want to get back to their ocean home. They’re not human, Elloren. It’s only an illusion. Don’t let it trouble you.”

                                                                “But why was she in a cage?”

                                                                My aunt grimaces at my question, like she’s detected an unpleasant odor. “Some people like to keep them…as pets.”

                                                                I scrutinize her face. She’s not looking at me. She’s now glancing toward the window impatiently.

                                                                “She…she looked so terrified,” I say, upset.

                                                                My aunt’s expression softens. “Well, caged wild animals are never a pleasant sight. I am completely and utterly against the Selkie trade and am doing everything I can to wipe it out.” She pats my hand reassuringly.

                                                                I feel some measure of relief wash over me.

                                                                “There are better ways to deal with Selkies that are far more humane than keeping them in cages, forcing them to…act human,” she explains thoughtfully as she splays the fingers of one hand in front of herself and scrutinizes her lovely nails.

                                                                I’m so glad she feels this way. I know my brothers would agree. They’re staunchly against the abuse of animals. Rafe, especially, hates the sight of wild animals confined or shackled in cruel ways.

                                                                “So you’ll help her?” I press.

                                                                “Yes, yes, Elloren. Of course I will.” My aunt impatiently straightens her sleeve cuffs. “Once Marcus Vogel becomes High Mage, it will be possible to put an end to this sort of thing.”

                                                                I try to be consoled by this, but it’s all so troubling.

                                                                She sets her eyes on me. “But really, Elloren, I didn’t bring you here to talk about the local wildlife. There are so many more pleasant things to speak of.”

                                                                I nod silently as my aunt points out her favorite shops and historical landmarks, but the face of the Selkie stays fresh in my mind, and I can’t shake the chill I now feel for the rest of the ride.


Like what you read so far? Buy the book here, and don’t forget to pre-order book two in The Black Witch Chronicles, The Iron Flower, on sale next month!

Excerpted from The Black Witch by Laurie Forest, copyright 2017 by Laurie Forest. Reprinted with permission by HarperCollins Publishers.


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