Updated: Jun 5, 2020
Author: Kate Pentecost Publisher: Disney-Hyperion Release Date: April 14th 2020
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
In this sweeping Dust Bowl-inspired fantasy, a ten-year game between Life and Death pits the walled Oklahoma city of Elysium-including a girl gang of witches and a demon who longs for humanity-against the supernatural in order to judge mankind.
When Sal is named Successor to Mother Morevna, a powerful witch and leader of Elysium, she jumps at the chance to prove herself to the town. Ever since she was a kid, Sal has been plagued by false visions of rain, and though people think she's a liar, she knows she's a leader. Even the arrival of enigmatic outsider Asa-a human-obsessed demon in disguise-doesn't shake her confidence in her ability. Until a terrible mistake results in both Sal and Asa's exile into the Desert of Dust and Steel.
Face-to-face with a brutal, unforgiving landscape, Sal and Asa join a gang of girls headed by another Elysium exile-and young witch herself-Olivia Rosales. In order to atone for their mistake, they create a cavalry of magic powered, scrap metal horses to save Elysium from the coming apocalypse. But Sal, Asa, and Olivia must do more than simply tip the scales in Elysium's favor-only by reinventing the rules can they beat the Life and Death at their own game.
This scene was from the original, pre-edited version of the book. Originally, Sal's mother was alive at the beginning of the book and died while she was exiled to the desert. However, my editors believed that it slowed the pacing of the 3rd act down far too much, so poor Myrtle Wilkerson had to die before the story began. This is the scene in which Sal mourns the loss of her mother after returning from exile in the Desert of Dust and Steel.
They buried Mama in the northern wall, four up from Papa. I sat there beside her name, looking out over the desert. Ten feet to my right, another grave was still damp, darker than the other, more recent ones. Mama’s part of the wall was dry. She had been dead long enough for her grave to dry.
Over the wall, the sun was setting, sending the sky into pinks and oranges with long streaks of purple. More like a painting of a sunset than a real sunset. Any other day I’d have thought it was blissful, marveled, maybe, that there was still beauty even here. But today, it was too quiet. Too serene. How did the world—this world—have the gall to be as beautiful as this when she was dead? Didn’t it know that it had killed her? Where was the howling wind? The lightning? Why didn’t the whole earth ache like I did? It wasn’t right. It wasn’t fair.
And a voice inside repeated, over and over, No one even told me.
I stood up on the top of the wall. My hands curled into fists. I reached into my pouch and pulled out a handful of powdered seashells, and as I threw them out over the wall with both hands I screamed. Screamed out the magic of hurt and pain and loss.
Lightning boomed down from the heavens miles away, veins of light down to the desert sand, and instead of letting it disappear into nothingness, I held it there with my hands. Pitiless, I held the lightning there, ten blinding columns of heat and loss and anger. White cracks in that beautiful painting sunset. When the magic drained me, burned my hands, I let the lightning go. And as I sank back down onto the wall by her name, I couldn’t help but hear how pitiful my weeping sounded. These weren’t the tears of someone who could call down lightning. These were the tears of a little girl. Just a little girl. That was all.
about the author
Kate Pentecost was born and raised on the Texas/Louisiana border, where ghosts and rural legends lurk in the pines and nothing is completely as it seems.
She holds an MFA in Writing for Children &Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She was recently nominated for a Rhysling award for her poem "Small Town Witches."
Her debut novel, Elysium Girls, is forthcoming from Disney Hyperion in 2020 in print and audio formats.
She is obsessed with the Romantic Poets and can be identified by the enormous tattoo of Percy Bysshe Shelley on her arm. She lives in Houston (H-Town, Space City, etc.)