A first look into the finale of ‘The Shadow Game’ series
First off, I sincerely apologize for the events and cliffhangers at the end of King of Fools–and I am full of gratitude for the wonderful messages I have received from readers anxious to learn what else I could possibly put Enne and Levi through in the third book of The Shadow Game trilogy, Queen of Volts. Your concerns have all been noted.
Disclaimers aside, I am extremely excited to share this cover and sneak peak into the series’ final installment, and I hope you all are ready for one final, perilous game.
Release Date: September 1, 2020
Set in the so-called “City of Sin,” these three books–including Ace of Shades, King of Fools, and Queen of Volts–follow Enne Salta and Levi Glaisyer, a finishing schoolgirl and roguish card dealer, who must navigate the city’s criminal underbelly and blood-soaked history in a treacherous, impossible game for their lives.
My inspirations for this series were two-fold. First, as a teenager who’d came of age during the era of YA dystopians, I was intrigued by the idea of what came after a revolution. And so I decided to tell a story about the generation following a major political upheaval, who must grapple with its echoes even though it occurred before they were born. Second, I wanted to write a complex story with a sprawling morally gray cast, that centered complicated girls and a host of queer characters, and whose final plot twists would be the sort to make you want to go back and reread the beginning, because, suddenly, everything has been shed in a brand new light. I am absolutely thrilled with the paths this series has taken, and I hope you find the final installment as satisfying and exciting to read as I did to write!
And now… the cover!
I am completely ecstatic to share the cover at last. Some story behind its making: Kathleen Oudit and Mary Luna, the incredible in-house art director and designer at Inkyard, actually created the mock-up for this cover at the same time as the one for King of Fools. The chess pieces and checkerboard, the boardwalk and city skyline, the purple–these are elements we’ve known for a long time. But of course, it means something totally different to see all three finalized covers looking so glam and swanky together at last. This one is truly my favorite cover yet.
If you are a fan of The Shadow Game series and excited about the release of Queen of Volts, please consider pre-ordering your copy! They are the #1 way to support these books (and me!).
If you’d like to order a signed copy, please stay tuned! I am setting up a means to do so this month through my local indie. UK buy links are coming soon, as well.
Beware: Spoilers Ahead!
King of Fools left off in the aftermath of a brutal and bloody clash at St. Morse Casino that has devastated the gangs of North Side, and even with the notorious mafia donna Vianca Augustine dead, Enne and Levi are still surrounded by enemies on all sides. Bryce Balfour, the leader of a criminal temp agency known as the Orphan Guild, has set a terrible plan into motion: a magical game that, like the Shadow Game, is bound by rules of life or death. If Enne and Levi have any hopes of surviving, they need to stick together. But in the wake of a close friend’s death and the news of Enne being the last surviving Mizer now outed to the world, their most dangerous enemies could easily be each other.
Queen of Volts picks up one day after the epilogue of King of Fools, and–as I’ve revealed on a few of my socials–features an expanded cast of five narrators, including
Enne Scordata, aka “Séance”
finishing school dropout turned lord of an infamous girl gang
Levi Glaisyer, aka “Pup”
card dealer extraordinaire and street lord of a gang of swindlers
former blood gazer for the Orphan Guild reluctantly turned Enne’s second-in-command and closest friend
Jac Mardlin’s partner in their mission to destroy the Torren Family’s drug and casino empire
The only narrator I haven’t revealed is the final one, as they are the character to open Queen of Volts. And after much hinting, I am so excited to finally introduce them below in the excerpt of Queen of Volts‘s prologue. I hope you enjoy! Please, please beware, there are many King of Fools spoilers ahead.
Prologue content warnings: death. (For full Queen of Volts content warnings, please visit its page on my website.)
Queen of Volts
It was early morning when Harvey Gabbiano dug the grave.
Harvey didn’t like the cemeteries in the Deadman District, precisely because they were cemeteries. Most people didn’t know it, but there was a difference between a cemetery and a graveyard—graveyards were connected to a church. But the only place to find devotion in this neighborhood was at the bottom of a bottle.
This cemetery was a bleak, soulless plot of land, made bleaker by the drizzle that had soaked through Harvey’s clothes. Rusted industrial plaques marked each of the graves. There were no flowers anywhere, not even weeds, and the unkempt grass grew patchy and brown.
“It would’ve been easier if you’d burned it,” Bryce told him. He’d watched Harvey work all morning, but not once had he offered to help…or even to share his umbrella. Bryce didn’t see the point in helping with tasks he disapproved of, even if this task was important to Harvey.
“It’s holier to bury him,” Harvey repeated yet again. Even though Harvey was Faithful, he wouldn’t have gone to all this trouble had the deceased not been wearing a Creed of his own. He didn’t know many others who practiced the Faith anymore. “You don’t have to stay.”
“I’m staying. You’re funny, those superstitions of yours. I could use a laugh.”
Harvey didn’t know how Bryce could find humor in the situation. The November weather was cold. The cemetery was irreverent and depressing. The dead had not deserved to die.
But Bryce had come with him, and so, no matter the circumstances, Harvey couldn’t help but feel a little bit pleased.
“I’m not doing this to be funny,” Harvey grumbled, pressing his bulky leather boot against the blade of the shovel. The mud he lifted up glinted with the green shards of broken bottles.
Bryce rolled his eyes. “My mistake. You’re doing this to be decent.”
Harvey absolutely was doing it to be decent. To be good. Because Harvey might not have been the person who killed this man or any of the other hundred who’d perished two nights ago at the party in St. Morse Casino, but as long as he remained hopelessly in love with Bryce Balfour, he would always have blood on his hands.
It was hard not to glance at his friend as he worked. Harvey hated to look at him. But he didn’t need to—he had long ago memorized every agonizing detail of his face, his figure, his posture. Bryce could be absent and still be Harvey’s distraction.
Harvey hated himself for it.
The body made a thump when he pushed it into the hole.
Harvey straightened, his back aching from the hours of exertion, his fingers blistered even through his gloves. The rain had made the dried blood on the body and clothes run again, and the flattened brown grass it had been lying on moments before now flooded with red. Harvey watched as the water washed the blood away, and he murmured a silent prayer that the rain would do the same for his immortal soul.
“Harvey,” Bryce said sharply.
Harvey’s gaze shot toward him, and he flinched. Bryce hadn’t worn his colored contacts since that night at St. Morse, when he revealed himself to be a malison, someone with the talent to create curses known as shades, a talent the world feared but hadn’t believed to exist. And despite always knowing what Bryce truly was, Harvey wasn’t used to this adjustment. Bryce’s malison scarlet eyes were a reminder to Harvey of how low he had fallen.
But Harvey’s gaze didn’t stop there—of course it didn’t. It traveled across Bryce’s face, down concave cheekbones and lips chapped from kissing someone who wasn’t him. Down bony shoulders and a tall, skinny frame, over threadbare clothes and a black wool coat that draped shapelessly over him. Harvey lingered on the places he had kissed, on slender fingers and narrow hips and the smooth pale skin between. Those memories haunted him.
Bryce didn’t pay Harvey’s staring any attention. He never did. His concentration was focused on the card in his hand. He ran his thumb over its foiled gold back.
It was a Shadow Card, one of the cursed cards the Phoenix Club used to play the Shadow Game. Except it wasn’t. Shadow Cards were silver. This one belonged to a different game, one Bryce and his girlfriend Rebecca had devised themselves, one they had set in motion at St. Morse two nights prior. Harvey had helped them deliver golden cards to every designated “player” across New Reynes, and now all that remained was to wait for the star player to make a move.
“They’re here. I can feel it,” Bryce said hoarsely, squeezing the card so hard it bent.
By “they,” he meant the Bargainer. The City of Sin treated all of its legends with a sort of hallowed reverence, and this one was the oldest, most famous of them all: the wandering Devil who would bargain for anything. Bryce had been obsessed with the tale for years, ever since Rebecca had fallen sick. Despite every effort–ethical or otherwise–Rebecca wasn’t improving, and Bryce had convinced himself her last hope for a cure was the Bargainer’s power. It was why he’d murdered all those people at St. Morse—a desperate, ruthless attempt for the Bargainer’s attention.
I’d sell my soul, if that’s what it takes, Bryce had once told Harvey, back when his smiles weren’t so much like sneers, when he looked more like the boy Harvey used to love—the kinder version of himself, the one Harvey couldn’t manage to let go of. Though Harvey had never voiced his opinion, Bryce had lost his soul the moment he’d formulated this horrible plan.
They all had.
Harvey tried to ignore Bryce’s words. In the legend, the Bargainer approached people of their own choosing. The only way to summon them directly was through chaos. Surely Bryce couldn’t fathom attempting such evil, Harvey had once told himself. Surely he wouldn’t.
But he had, and since that night at St. Morse, the whole city seemed ablaze. The Scarhands, the largest gang in the seedy North Side, had crumbled, their lord executed. Séance, the notorious assassin of Chancellor Malcolm Semper, had been unmasked as both the last surviving Mizer and, shockingly, a seventeen-year-old girl from finishing school. Mafia donna Vianca Augustine had been shot dead, and her son had won his election. Luckluster Casino had burned, and the Torren Family empire along with it.
Thanks to Bryce, the City of Sin was in a state worse than chaos—it was in hell.
And now the Devil had returned home.
Even though Harvey was an accomplice in Bryce’s plans, the thought of all that had transpired–and all that was still left to unfold–filled him with dread. He tried to focus on the shovel and the dirt and the grave, on this one good thing, but his sins weighed heavy on his soul.
“Harvey,” Bryce snapped again. He never tolerated being ignored.
Harvey sighed. “How can you be certain the Bargainer is in New Reynes now?”
“I told you. I can feel it.”
At that moment, the rain began to fall harder, shifting from a drizzle into a downpour. Harvey’s brown corkscrew curls stuck against his fair skin, and he wiped the water from his eyes.
“Why haven’t they come to me yet?” Bryce rasped. “I’m the one who summoned them. I deserve my bargain.”
“The legends never mentioned whether the Bargainer was prompt,” Harvey pointed out.
Bryce’s lips formed a thin line. He trudged over to the grave. The body was now entirely covered with earth, but the hole was only half-filled. “That’s good enough. We should go back.”
“You can go. I’ll finish,” Harvey told him.
Bryce nodded and fiddled with his card anxiously. It was moments like these, when he looked so young and vulnerable, that made Harvey weak. Because even if Bryce Balfour had lost his soul, Harvey still kindled a hope that it could be found. That he could be the one to find it.
“Never mind,” Harvey murmured. “I’ll go with you.”
Harvey picked up his shovel, said a final prayer for Jac Mardlin and his unfinished, unmarked grave, and followed his friend home.