QSFer Brenna Gawain has a new queer fantasy book out (bi, gay, lesbian), book one in the Tenth Kingdom series: “A Cloak of Red.”
To escape her fate, she must join a hated enemy.
The first in a new series from the #1 bestselling fantasy world of Underrealm.
Theren has only recently left the Academy for Wizards, in full command of her magical powers. But all the spells in the nine kingdoms cannot save her from the fate she fears.
Theren’s patron, Imara, sees her as a possession — a toy to be paraded before other nobles as a symbol of strength. Theren would do nearly anything to escape such a life.
Her resolve is tested when she is offered a position with the Mystics: warriors who serve the High King and serve her ultimate justice. But Theren has suffered punishment and torture from the Mystics in the past, and joins them only with the utmost reluctance.
As war rages across the nation of Underrealm, Theren and her lover, Lilith, must navigate treacherous waters. She will have to make peace with the redcloaks who have harmed her, even as she makes war against the rebels who seek to overthrow the High King.
And deep in the traitorous kingdom of Dulmun, she will discover a plot that could bring everyone she loves to a bloody, violent death…
BEGIN A NEW, EPIC ADVENTURE IN A FANTASY WORLD YOU WON’T EVER WANT TO LEAVE.
Trigger Warnings: Both main characters suffer PTSD from having been captured and physically tortured in the past. Incidents of torture don’t occur in the text, but they are referenced in memory and traumatic flashbacks.
Theren rounded the final corner and then stopped dead in her tracks, breath freezing in her throat. Less than ten paces away, purposefully approaching the heavy wooden door that led to Lilith’s home, was the red cloak of a Mystic, worn by a stout blonde woman. Clearly it was this woman who had sent the guards to investigate the marketplace, while she went to speak with Lilith directly.
Every thought in Theren’s mind screamed of panic. Imaginary knives played along her skin like fingers of ice, and she could no longer control her limbs. What she was doing barely even registered with her, but in a desperate attempt to pull the Mystic’s attention away from Lilith’s door, she flung whatever was in her hand at the woman’s back. The bouquet of zinnias bounced harmlessly off the bright red cloak, and its wearer turned around to see what had hit her.
They locked eyes for a moment, Mystic and fugitive mage, and whatever the woman saw in Theren’s eyes, it led her to step away from Lilith’s apartments.
Theren fled, not even bothering to look back. Heavy footfalls let her know that the redcloak was following, which filled her with conflicting feelings of relief and terror. She was torn; if she escaped, the woman would no doubt return to Lilith’s home, but being captured was not an option, either.
“Stop! In the name of the King’s law!”
The words made Theren shudder, and she picked up her pace, ducking into the open door of a warehouse on instinct. She snaked through room after room, the thunder of her heartbeat not quite drowning out the sounds of continuing pursuit behind her. Though she was quite fit, the heavy cloak she had worn for her disguise amplified the heat immensely as she ran, and she could almost feel herself wilting. At this point, she thought distractedly, the best plan of action was to gain some distance on the Mystic somehow, and then double back to warn Lilith.
Rounding a corner, she skidded to a halt, confronted by a dead end. She cursed, looking around urgently for a way out, any way out. The only option seemed to be breaking through the walls or ceiling with her magic, so she tried to regain her breath as she gathered her will.
“If you looked at me and thought that I would be in any mood for games, girl, you were wrong.”
She swung around abruptly, not wanting to leave her back exposed, and saw the Mystic fully for the first time. Though slightly shorter than Theren, the woman was broad across the shoulders, and her arms were obviously muscular even under her chain mail. She had the golden-blonde hair and high cheekbones of a woman of Hedgemond, and she looked out of place, clutching a long, heavy spear and standing in full armor amid barrels of salted ham and sacks of vegetables.
Theren opened her mouth for a moment, but closed it again, bitterness stinging in her heart. What could she do? Tell this woman of her patron’s greed and conniving ways, and hope for “the King’s justice?” No, there was no point in words, not with the twice-damned Mystics.
Instead, she spat at the woman’s feet and pulled down on the roofing above her with her magic, creating an opening through which to leap upwards and escape. Before she could jump, though, the Mystic swung her spear in a wide arc. Theren moved to dodge, but the spear tip cut through a sack leaning against the wall and flicked its contents—heavy, blinding white flour—in the direction of Theren’s face, clouding her vision and filling her lungs.
She tried to wave some of it away, but the grit had gotten into her eyelashes and stung at her eyes, forcing them closed. Wildly she flailed her arms, reduced to panic by her inability to see; as a mindmage, Theren needed sight to be able to use her magic, and the lack of it left her practically helpless. The wild lashing of her fists, however, connected only with empty air. Before she could regain her senses, the butt of the Mystic’s spear caught her squarely in the stomach, and she doubled over in pain. The wind knocked out of her, she struggled feebly against her assailant, but it was to no avail. The woman wrapped something around Theren’s face and trussed her arms and legs, before lifting Theren across her shoulder like a prize stag at the end of a hunt.
Utterly helpless, she was carried through the city to whatever fate awaited her, wrapped in the folds of that hated red cloak.
Brenna Gawain was born on the same definitely extinct volcano where she still lives today. After spending years of being that child that brought books to family gatherings, everyone was apparently still somehow surprised when she made plans to try and make a career out of writing.
Brenna has a background in almost every kind of art imaginable, from classical music and theatre to writing for videogames and dance. She has studied information technology, archaeology and sound engineering at postgraduate levels, and her passion for writing is as broad as her interests in other fields, ranging from horror to fantasy to science fiction and back again.