13 December 2012

Excerpt Thursday: EMBERS OF HEAVEN by Alma Alexander

This week, we’re welcoming author Alma Alexander whose title EMBERS OF HEAVEN blends history and fantasy. Join us Sunday, when Alma will be here to talk about the novel and offer a  copy to a lucky winner. Here's the blurb:

Four hundred years after The Secrets of Jin-shei, the Syai Empire is on the brink of civil war. A new voice preaching equality promises hope for the downtrodden, but the ensuing people’s revolution brings terror, reeducation camps, and death to anyone embracing the old ways.

An outsider and a child of two worlds, Amais searches for the magical bond of jin-shei, the women’s oath, in her ancestral home of Syai, unaware that her quest will bring her to the very person who may destroy her and her family. And yet, she must face him, or all hope for Syai will be lost…

**An Excerpt from EMBERS OF HEAVEN**

Iloh himself waited in the courtyard.

For a moment, I did not recognise him - he would have been only forty two years old at the time, but he looked older, with prominent bags under his eyes as if he hadn't slept well for a long time. But the eyes themselves - ah, the eyes were the same, black and brilliant, and hungry.

 I stopped, staring at him. He stared right back.

"You haven't changed," he said at last, breaking the silence.

"Oh yes," I said quietly, "I have..."

"No, said Shou'min Iloh in the voice he usually must have reserved for proclamations, because it had the ring of because-I-say-so authority.  "You have not. Oh, I don't mean that you are still the child that you were when I first saw you - you're not that, not by a long way. 
But you... you are still the same. Only you would walk up to this place and assume that your name alone would get you taken straight  through to me. Of all the women I have ever known in my life, you remain the only one who doesn't know the meaning of fear."

I couldn't help it, I laughed. "I? I am afraid of everything..."

"Not of me," he said. "That has always been your hold on me. You have never knelt to me. Come."

I suppose I could have proved him wrong and refused what was fairly obviously a command, and one that he assumed would be obeyed - he had turned and walked away, and it was obvious he expected me to follow - but this was what I had come here for, after all. So I obeyed, and fell into step - not behind him, beside him. I saw him smile at that, but he didn't speak again until we were out of the open courtyard and into a quiet room which was apparently an inner sanctum - a desk, an office chair, a typewriter, a lamp, an iron bedstead, and not much else. He closed the door behind us.

"You look tired," I said, and oh, the place where that tenderness came from - the place I still carried within me after all those years - the shores of the ocean of yuan, of the fate that had first delivered me to him.  Xuan was my life and the practical sunlit hours of my days - but Iloh had always been the other half of me, the fevered dream of my nights, and nothing had changed there, nothing at all.

This was the man who had broken my family on the wheel of his ideals, who had fuelled the fire of the Rising, who had brought in the Army to quell it when it became inconvenient - a man who had never stopped looking for his Iron Bridge, feeding whatever he could into the furnace to create the New Man who would come to live in his dream and make it a glorious reality. But he was the heart of this country, for all that. And hearts notoriously do not waste time on practical things. They yearn. They want. They love, beyond hope and beyond reason.

Alma Alexander is the author of Secrets of Jin Shei and Embers of Heaven. Read Alma’s personal blog and access her articles at www.SFNovelists.com - on the 5th of every month - and www.Storytellersunplugged - on the 30th of every month.  Follow Alma on Twitter, become a fan on Facebook  and visit her Amazon page.