Monday, 3 February 2014

Book Spotlight & Excerpt ~ Walls of Stone (Grey Spaces, #1) by Jason McAnelly

Walls of Stone (Grey Spaces, #1)Walls of Stone

Genre: Fantasy 

Born into the squalor of the largest and most affluent city in all of Dlorwyn, the young orphan Jasmine is forced to fend for herself in the only way she knows how - by stealing from those who are better off. And though her unusual blood gives her an appearance that is considered bizarre to most, that same blood has gifted her with many talents above and beyond the capabilities of most humans. It is through these talents that she survives the dangers of the streets and how, ultimately, she rises to become the best at her trade. 
But the glory and riches of being the best roofrunner within the walled ghetto of the East-block do not provide the solution to every problem. As Jasmine makes her journey, she must learn who she can and cannot trust, discover the importance of those closest to her and search deeper for the answers of who and what she truly is. 
Joined by her protégé, a girl of eight whose sharp tongue and unruly demeanor are matched only by Jasmine’s own, and stalked from the shadows by a sorcerer lost in the throes of his own relentless power, the young rogue must quickly learn that in order to be the best you must be clever, you must draw blood and you must make unwelcome sacrifices.



Closing the shutters behind her, Jasmine scanned her surroundings, her sharp eyes adjusting instantly to the near complete blackness. The window let into the flat through the bedroom, just one of many rooms in the spacious quarters. A simple bit of research had provided an idea of the apartment’s layout, but did nothing to prepare the runner for the scene of excess that assailed her eyes. Never in her life had Jasmine stood inside a home that displayed such luxury.
            The over-large bed was stuffed with feathers as opposed to the dry straw that served most in her part of the city. Draped atop the massive cushion were white, silk sheets and thick, warm-looking comforters. A large armoire, crafted of dark, lustrous wood, stood at one wall, the doors of it ajar to reveal the luxuriant clothing that hung within. A man-sized mirror of the same wood stood at another wall, polished and bright and crafted of the strange, treated glass that only the artisans of the West knew the secrets of making. Nearby rested a small writing desk, the surface covered in paper and silver ink pots. A silk-cushioned, gold-painted chair accompanied it. The floor was made of wood but the majority of its surface was concealed beneath an ornately patterned rug of a design so elaborate that Jasmine couldn’t begin to guess its origins. Paintings of many styles adorned all four walls.
There were no rooms like that behind the walls that held her humble home. Jasmine was awestruck by the accumulation of so much wealth in such a small space.

One of these days, things like this will be mine too. I’ll have the bed big enough for two families, the silk clothing that shimmers in the light and lets everyone know you’re important. But I’ll keep mine safer than this dolt.  A collector of lovely things should think more when keeping them safe.
            Shaking off her daydream, Jasmine took stock of the room, seeking out the most likely hiding spot for the item she was sent to retrieve. The writing desk seemed the best place to begin the search. She shifted through papers and opened every drawer, but came up empty. Next she inspected the armoire. Jasmine turned out the pockets of every garment and, aside from a few spare coins (which found their way into her own pockets), discovered nothing. Bit by bit, she made a tour of the entire suite.
            The hallway boasted the same wealthy décor as the bedroom, as did the sitting room, the drawing room, the dining area and even the small toilet. Jasmine was incredulous at why someone would want to make a chamber pot out of perfectly good silver. In the drawing room sat another, larger desk with more papers scattered across it. Picking through them, she still found nothing. When she opened a drawer on the right side of the desk, however, her eyes lit up.
            Inside the drawer lay a neatly rolled bundle of papers, tied with a black silk ribbon and sealed with black wax. She lifted the bundle gently and examined the seal. The symbol of the Riyshindian Trader’s Guild was impressed upon it. From the description given by her employers, it was the prize of the night. The roll was tucked away neatly into a pouch at her side.
            Job is finished. The fat man should be out a bit longer though. Might as well have a peek around and see if there’s a bonus in it for me.
            Even as her eyes probed the shadowed room, Jasmine knew it was foolish to linger. Get in and get out was the safest way to play the game, but the seductive spectacle of wealth that surrounded her enticed her to stay. There were always things - small things, valuable things - that one could pilfer and pawn at the local fence to make a few extra silvers. As long as what she took wasn’t too unique or eye-catching, the chance of someone tracking them back to her was minimal, if not impossible. Jasmine began to open everything in sight, searching for portable treasures.
            Like a fool, the merchant had left a small pouch of coin - expense money, no doubt - sitting in one of the other desk drawers. Jasmine lifted the purse and rubbed it gently between her fingers, listening to the seductive and soothing sound of metal rasping against metal that came from within. Smiling, she deposited it into a pocket.
            The rest of what she managed to uncover was either too large to carry or unfencible and the runner scoffed at the idea of loading her pockets with the weighty, clanking tableware, silver or no. After twenty minutes of rifling the rooms, Jasmine decided it was time to leave. Her accomplice in the alley would no doubt already be cross with her for taking so long. If she dawdled any longer she ran the risk of not having the cover she needed in order to extricate herself from the building unnoticed. As Jasmine returned to the point of entry, the glimmer of metal paused her in mid-stride.
            Tucked away in a dark corner of the drawing room, atop a small table, a marble keeps board sat, complete with shining pieces plated in silver and gold. Jasmine had never been partial to the game of keeps, despite her love of winning. Once, some time ago, a friend had taught her the rules and tried to educate her on various strategies, but it didn’t take. The games dragged on for far too long to hold Jasmine’s attention and she would always lose interest half-way through.
            But her interest was certainly held now, eyes glued upon the shining knights, knaves, soldiers and walls. The king of each set was even topped with a small gem, a sapphire for the silver and ruby for the gold. She idly wondered if it was dedication or merely decadence that possessed the fat man to invest so much wealth in a silly game.
            Whatever your reasons, you’ll have to play a few pieces short now. I may not be able to fence them without getting a sideways look, but it’ll make an expert token of the night’s work.
            Still, even holding something so unique was akin to putting a mark on her head that spelled out her part in the crime. Not to mention that the weight of the pieces could affect her speed if she had to make a quick run.
            Just one souvenir won’t hurt… you don’t need to take the whole damn board, girl. Just one piece. Something to keep for yourself.
            The sound of nearby whispers awoke Jasmine from her musings. Whatever voice was attached to them wasn’t far off and if she wanted to take a souvenir she had to do it quickly. Without thinking, her hand snapped out and snatched the silver knave from the board, tucking it away into yet another of her seemingly endless supply of pockets.
            She cocked her ear to discern where the voice was coming from and realized that the whispers were gone. Replacing them, the sound of a key being clumsily cranked within a lock on the apartment’s front door. Jasmine raced toward the bedroom and her escape route but she was too slow. The door to the flat opened with a loud bang and arguing voices poured forth, down the hallway and into the drawing room where Jasmine now stood trapped. She looked about, searching out a place to hide or a means of escape as the voices drew closer.
            Another, smaller window in the drawing room caught her eye. It was barely over a foot wide, but Jasmine was small and quite flexible. She raced to the window, pulling the bar from its brackets and setting it to the side. As she opened the shutters, the arguing voices fell to silence, replaced in the next second by the return of the mad child’s piercing cry.
            Jasmine spun to see her mark and two of his gaudily garbed friends standing where the hallway met the drawing room. The fat man’s face was a mask of rage. His associates played the comedy to his tragedy, eyes wide and jaws slack with surprise, unwilling to believe that someone would have dared to violate the home of one of their own.
            A drunken slur roared from the merchant. “Thief! Stinking bitch of a thief! Guards! Guards!”
            Reaching up, Jasmine lifted her small frame through the window with ease. Once outside, she couldn’t resist a quick taunt, spinning on the window’s ledge and poking her face back through the hole.
            “Sorry to intrude on you and your buggering boyfriends, fat man, but I’m afraid you had something that now belongs to me. Now you boys get back to trading kisses and I’ll be on my way.”
            The men’s expressions swapped places, the merchant gone silent with shock and his partners now glaring daggers at the mocking rogue. Jasmine spun around one last time and leaped for the roof of the warehouse.

Jason McAnelly 
About the Author
I have been writing, in one form or another, for more than thirty years now, though this is my first attempt at publishing any of it. I hope to one day quit my day job so that I can write all day, every day. I plan on continuing to write until the second beat sounds and the Beast comes to claim my soul. I live in the Pacific Northwest because I enjoy the rain. I own a cranky old cat that pushes me around and treats me rudely when I don’t give in to her demands. I consume far too much coffee, smoke too many cigarettes and often drink more than I probably should.


1 comment:

  1. Looks like fun, light-hearted fantasy(?). You can tell the female lead has some charm, and I smell foreshadowing in this scene that belies the simplicity of the apparent premise.


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