Spotlight: Bursts of Fire by Susan Forest
Bursts of Fire begins an epic political fantasy of revenge, addictions, and redemption. In an empire where magic has become suspect, love and loyalty–for one’s lover, one’s family, one’s country–are tested. If Heaven desires the very earth be burned, what place can those below hope for, when the flames come for them?
To survive. To fight. To restore balance.
The Falkyn sisters bear a burden and a legacy. Their mother, the imperial magiel of the kingdom of Orumon, protects her people from the horrors of the afterlife by calling upon the Gods with a precious Prayer Stone. But war among the kingdoms has brought fire and destruction to their sheltered world. When a mad king’s desire to destroy the Prayer Stones shatters their family, the three girls are scattered to the wilderness, relying on their wits and powers they don’t yet master.
Assassin. Battle tactician. Magic wielder. Driven by different ambitions, Meg, Janat, and Rennika are destined to become all these and more. To reclaim their birth right, they must overcome doubtful loyalties within a rising rebellion; more, they must challenge a dogma-driven chancellor’s influence on the prince raised to inherit his father’s war: a prince struggling to unravel the mystery of his brother’s addiction to Heaven.
“We have a moment of time, Janat. Only a moment in which to act. Everything’s turned upside down. People are angry. They’re confused. Artem is distracted. This is our opportunity to put the
rule of law ahead of the whim of the king. And the Amber might be the only prayer stone other than his own that Artem hasn’t smashed. We must preserve the Amber. When Dwyn leaves, I’m going west.”
“But you could be hurt again.”
Why were Sulwyn and Janat sitting on the riverbank, alone?
Janat wasn’t even interested in politics, not like Meg.
“Why does it have to be you? To do this work?” Janat’s words were almost drowned by the rush of the river. Was she crying? Trying to stop him? Meg listened as hard as she could above the roar.
“King Ean, Janat.” Sulwyn spoke with quiet passion. “Under his rule, my grandfather earned enough to buy his serfdom from his master. My father became a trader. I had a future. Do you know what that meant to me?”
Meg would have gone on such a quest in a trice.
“I could have been someone of influence. One day, I might even have held property, or perhaps my sons, or my sons’ sons. Do you know? Some of the guildsmen in Archwood owned their own shops.”
Kyaju. He was right.
“If Artem’s Ruby becomes the only prayer stone left, will his magiel bring death tokens back from Heaven for everyone? Hmm?” Sulwyn asked. “Or only for his highborn allies? Will he condemn anyone who thinks differently from him—to wander for eternity when they die?”
“I know,” Janat conceded. “This fight is . . . who you are.”
Meg itched to do something. But she was a woman, stuck here, taking care of Janat and Rennika. Hiding out in a village in the middle of nowhere. Hiding the dissonance of her skin.
Sulwyn’s tone altered. “Do you know how long you and your sisters will stay here?”
“It would be wise for you not to stay in one place for too long,” Sulwyn advised.
Of course! Meg had been saying that since they arrived. But Janat wanted to stay—with Sulwyn.
These words. They were private.
Something had changed.
When had Sulwyn and Janat started excluding her?
“The people of Silvermeadow have been good to us,” Janat hedged.
Kyaju. A sour taste filled Meg’s mouth and she was suddenly hot. Janat was just turned sixteen. And what about Sulwyn? Twenty? Twenty-two?
Sulwyn’s voice kept on, melodic tones over the shush of the river.
“There are rumors that Talanda’s daughters escaped Archwood. It’s only a matter of time until King Artem finds out who you all are.”
Meg wanted to be anywhere but where she was.
Sulwyn spoke again. “Dwyn says Elsen is far from Artem’s war. It fell early in the war and is at peace, now.”
Maybe if she crept out the other side of the tree? But she’d rustle the bracken and they’d hear her.
“Would you . . . would you consider . . . coming with me?”
Go? With Sulwyn? A sting bloomed in Meg chest.
The words made Meg’s face burn, made her want to be anywhere but here.
“I thought I could take you somewhere safe, maybe a small village in Elsen, and I would come to you when I could. I know it’s a lot to ask—”
The river sounds rushed on, and Meg could hear nothing. She shifted. From her place she could see Sulwyn’s legs and a bit of Janat’s robe. If she stayed quiet long enough, they’d leave. Please, Gods, let them leave.
Neither of them spoke. No sound, only the boom of the river. Janat’s skirt stirred.
Meg could not help herself. She moved a branch to look.
Sulwyn held Janat close to him, indecently close. Her arms were about his neck, his face bent over hers, eyes closed, their lips fastened.
Meg’s stomach punched, her hand frozen to the branch, eyes unable to turn away. Janat—dear Janat—was only sixteen—
And Sulwyn. Meg had thought him better than that. To kiss a child—
Their lips parted. Janat looked deeply into the man’s face for a long time, her cheeks pink, contentment on her face. Sulwyn laid her on the grass on her back and leaning over her, traced the finger of his free hand along the edge of her cheek. He touched his nose to hers.
Meg drew back into the dusk beneath the spruce tree. This was wrong.
But . . . Janat and Sulwyn looked . . .
The sound of the river would mask Meg’s leaving. She crept to the far side of the bole and out from beneath its branches, and made her way by a long and circuitous route through the woods, back to the town, thinking long and hard as she did so.
Sulwyn . . . loved Janat.
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About the Author
Susan Forest is an award-winning author and editor of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. She has published over 25 short stories in Canadian and international publications. Bursts of Fire, the first in her seven-book series Addicted to Heaven, is not only a tale of rollicking adventure, but also an opportunity-one she appreciates-for an examination of the complex world of addictions. Susan loves to travel and has been known to dictate novels from the back of her husband’s motorcycle.