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Of Blood and Light
Publication date: April 30th 2023
Genres: Adult, Fantasy, Romance
Arthurian legend, bodice-ripping, and capybaras: welcome to Thule.
A girl with a secret . . .
In the back of an ambulance, River Greer counts each breath her little sister takes until the final one: Sage’s body is giving up, ravaged by a mysterious illness. The late-night rush to the ER, however, turns into a surreal nightmare when River is abducted and ferried across the universe to the fabled Thule: a world beyond worlds, where Victorian mores collide with magic and Arthurian legend.
. . . meets a knight on a mission to save his world.
There, his grace Hadrian Landevale of Caid is fighting losing battles of his own: to recover Isolde, his runaway wife, and against the blight that threatens the ichor, the source of all life on Thule. To add insult to injury, the captured fugitive Thule pathfinders just brought back from Earth is not his duchess but an eerie doppelgänger.
When it becomes clear that someone on Thule will go to any length to silence River, Hadrian offers his protection to this enchanting, obstinate stranger . . . whose secrets might be the key to saving Thule’s most precious treasure: the light in its blood.
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“I have a lot more questions than you,” I murmur, tracking the movements of a pair of lone figures across the lawn. A man in farm clothes and a woman wearing some sort of maid outfit carry buckets and packages from a carriage stationed on a gravel path. They mill around, seemingly unbothered by the fractured moon and massive misty planet looming over their heads.
By the time the two strangers disappear, I realize Hadrian is still supporting me, one arm curled over the front of my torso while the other rests around my waist. I cautiously pry myself from his hold. He lets go and takes a step back, allowing some salutary distance between us. “What is this place?”
“Thule,” he reasserts.
“I heard you the first time, but that’s not what I’m asking.” I stagger away from the windows, unable to tear my gaze from the foreign sky outside. “Are we in space?”
One of his eyebrows rises a fraction. “Miss Greer, everything is, by essence, in space.”
“Are we in space elsewhere than on Earth? Like . . . how far?” I urge, desperate for tangible facts to hold on to as I plummet down this rabbit hole.
He motions to the evil chair he used to trap me earlier. “You seem quite overtaxed; would you like to take a seat?”
I shake my head to signal I’m never sitting in that thing again. “How far?”
“We’re approximately two hundred and ninety light-years away from Earth.”
A tremor snakes up my legs; I grip one of the bedposts for support. “How is that . . . No. No. It’s not possible.”
“The paths connect our worlds, as they have since the very first breath of time. The Dekwenn Tīrr, through which Eliud ferried you, is one such path. That is how you came to be here.”
“But it only took a second!” I shriek, the chaos of my thoughts coalescing into something cold and dark. Was it truly a second, or have I been asleep in that bright void for years and lost everything?
“Time and space are quite altered within the paths,” he notes.
“What do you mean? How long have I been here?”
He pulls a gold pocket watch from his waistcoat, flicks it open, and checks the dial. “Slightly over six hours.”
My initial rush of relief becomes a leaden sensation in the pit of my stomach as I recall the twisted physics of Miller’s planet in Interstellar—where severe time dilation caused by a neighboring black hole turns every hour into seven years.
“How long has it been on Earth?” Please let it not be forty-two years. Please.
A crease forms between his eyebrows. “The same amount of time, one should expect.”
“Exactly the same? So six hours? A quarter of a day?”
“A tenth, rather,” he corrects. Seeing my face scrunch in confusion, then panic, he adds, “While I’ve never had the privilege of visiting Earth, it is my understanding that solar days there are quite short.”
One-tenth . . . I whip my neurons into action and do the math, the room spinning around me as I process this new level of weird. “Sixty hours. Your solar days last sixty hours.”
“Indeed. It is past midday—” He checks his watch again. “Precisely thirty-two o’clock.”
“Give or take a light-year.”
“As I’ve already explained to you, the rules of time and space do not apply within the paths. Nothing does, in truth,” he adds, like an afterthought.
The room is warm, but I’m trembling, freezing. “I can’t be here. Please let me go home. Take me back through one of those paths!”
The lines bracketing his mouth deepening as he turns to face me once more. “I cannot.”
His earlier conversation with Eliud rings back in my ears: under arrest for the illegal crossing of an unregistered path . . . crimes for which even the wife of a knight must be held accountable.
“You can’t because it’s forbidden even to you.”
A single nod from him. “All paths have been strictly regulated for centuries. Only pathfinders are permitted to cross them freely. Thule’s legislation on the matter is enforced with the greatest severity.”
Centuries. That might explain why Thule hasn’t yet caught up with Earth’s latest fashion and tech and, instead, appears suspended in this weird Victorian bubble. “How severe are we talking?”
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C. Monk grew up in a Franco-American family and rose to dubious fame with a romantic suspense series starring an OCD-ridden hitman and a wide array of strange and occasionally angry animals. These days she shares her writing time between high-octane adventures in the same vein and fantasy, her secret love (but with weird animals, too.)
In another life, she lived in Paris and Tokyo, and spent ten years in advertising, building rickety websites for M&A boutiques and hedge funds. All of that somehow landed her in Montréal, where she keeps a close watch on the squirrels and complains on a daily basis about the egregious number of Tim Hortons.