A little while back, the Guild of Dreams hosted a cover reveal for Steven Montano’s next book in his fantastic Skullborn Trilogy, and I know you’ve been holding your breath ever since. Probably your palms have been sweaty with anticipation and you’ve been logging into your Amazon account every couple of hours to see if Path of Bones has gone live yet.
Great news…the wait is over.
Before you scroll down to the purchase links, here’s a little something to whet your appetite!
Path of Bones
Return to the world of Malzaria in the highly anticipated sequel to the best-selling epic fantasy adventure City of Scars.
Hunted by Empires and crime lords alike, Ijanna Taivorkan and the young warrior Kath Cardrezhej make their north through the dire Bonelands, a twisted wastelands populated by unnatural terrors. Hoping to find the answers to her dark destiny and driven by a need to escape her fate, Ijanna won’t rest until she locates the last of the Skullborn.
Azander Dane, fallen Dawn Knight, pursues Ijanna in order to help her as a way for making amends for the crimes of his past. Aided by an exiled giant and gripped by a magical disease that is slowly driving him mad, Dane must brave the dangers of the Phage-controlled city of Kaldrak Iyresin order to reach the Dream Witch in time.
Beset at every turn by evil magic, powerful assassins and dark revelations, Dane and Ijanna will ultimately find themselves in the ruined city of Corinth, where ancient artifacts may hold the key to the world’s salavation…or to its untimely doom.
FROM CHAPTER 6
They made their journey in near silence.
Ijanna had never beheld a place so tainted and foul. The wind-blasted ruins of Gallador were dead lands, a black waste of dust and pestilence.
Steel clouds filled the sky like lost ships. Ijanna and Kath moved away from the River Black to avoid pirate vessels sailing out of Kaldrak Iyres, and traveled north along the eastern edge of the Razortooth. Dense black forests covered the mountains like fields of shadow.
Memory of what she’d lost turned her blood to ice, but Ijanna buried her fear and carried on.
The land was rough and bleak, all jagged hills and fields of razored thorns. They saw the ruined remnants of burned out buildings, and the few inhabited structures they came across were old forts or shanties used by refugees or slavers. They were deep in lawless territory, and Ijanna made clear to Kath there was only one rule in the Bonelands – stay alive, no matter the cost.
It was near dusk. The sky was muted orange and filled with ribbons of cloud. Everything glowed red as the sun set behind the knife-like peaks. There were few trails, but at least there was cover. Ijanna’s legs had started to cramp, but she wanted to make more progress before they had to camp for the night. The air smelled of something dead, and the black wind whistled like the voice of a dying man.
Kath, for his part, had been stoic and tight-lipped for the duration of their week-long journey across the unpleasant steppes, hacking his way through brambles that twisted like blades across the foothills. They’d be able to see Kaldrak Iyres within another day or two, but Ijanna had no intention of actually going there. She had enemies in the city, even more there than in Ebonmark, but avoiding it presented them with a problem, which Kath pointed out on those few occasions when he spoke to her: food in the region was scarce, and they’d soon need more of it. Bloodspeakers didn’t have the ability to conjure nourishment the way a Veilwarden could, and since there was little game to be found Ijanna couldn’t even use charms of beguiling to slow a deer or hawk down long enough for them to hunt game.
Voicing concern over their provisions was really the only conversation Kath had offered since leaving Ebonmark. Ijanna didn’t blame him – she’d taken him from his world and his family, all for a purpose he didn’t believe in and couldn’t understand.
How can he, when I hardly understand it myself?
She wanted to talk to him, to try and comfort him, but she didn’t know where to start. His mother had been stolen away from his family in much the same way that Ijanna had stolen him, and though she hated herself for it there was little she could do. The Veil had bonded them the moment Ijanna used her magic to heal Kath of the magical plague Serpentheart, and to deny him his Veil-driven purpose to protect her would kill him.
But it doesn’t have to be a death sentence, she thought. Talk to him. But every time she tried he just grunted and made clear he wasn’t interested in what she had to say.
So they pressed on, awkward and silent. They walked and camped and scanned their surroundings for any sign of enemies or pursuit, but there was rarely anything living in sight. The few pirates or scavengers they’d viewed had all been from afar, and aside from an occasional hawk or vole they hadn’t even seen any wildlife. Even insects seemed to avoid the Bonelands.
After another hour spent walking across uneven stones and climbing through brush Ijanna was thoroughly exhausted. Since Kath always followed her lead she tried to make good time, rising early and marching for as long as they could. She didn’t know what else to do. Direction had been burned into her mind since she was young, and her desire to find the other Skullborn – and possibly the answers to her questions about avoiding her suicidal destiny – had been reinforced by the thar’koon, those bizarre twin blades which guided her into the heart of the Bonelands. She felt close, so close, to escaping the fate foreseen by the mystics of Allaj Mohrter. They told her she’d heal the world through her sacrifice, and that the only way to prevent a terrible cataclysm was to end her own life and resurrect the Blood Queen. It was a well-guarded secret she imagined would be enough to bring the Empires of Jlantria and Den’nar to the walls of Allaj Mohrter looking for war if it ever got out.
Ijanna couldn’t accept that fate.
And yet that path felt right. It was difficult to doubt its validity, what with all of the signs, the prophecies and portents that had been shown to her time and again, the evidence of her power, the dreams, and the many forces who wanted to get their hands on her. She felt guilty for wanting to find another path for herself, guilty that many had already died in her attempts to elude her destiny, but she’d come too far to stop now.
She had to believe there was some way to be free of her curse. She was one of the most powerful Bloodspeakers to have ever lived, and unlike others of her kind she had a limitless reservoir of power. She would never wonder how many minutes of her life she’d just burned away creating some charm or illusion, never regret those spent seconds as she grew older, wondering what piece of magic she could have avoided just to give herself more time.
I have my own prison, she thought bitterly. I have a freedom no Bloodspeaker will ever know, yet it doesn’t matter, because in the end I’ll die just like the rest.
A sense of dread weighed heavy on her soul even now that she finally had the means to track down the last of her kind. What if Kala had no more information than she herself did? In many ways this gambit felt like it was her last hope. Ijanna had already tracked down the other Skullborn, and as a reward for her diligence she’d made a deadly enemy. If Kala couldn’t help her, all of Ijanna’s efforts would have been in vain.
But would that be so horrible? she asked herself. There are worse deaths than sacrificing yourself for the greater good. People die by the hundreds every day, murdered, starving, diseased. Your death would have purpose. Meaning.
It didn’t make her feel any better. Ijanna went to sleep every night in the grip of fear. Her nerves were frayed, and it wasn’t just because of the dangers of their surroundings or her desperate hope that Kath would survive his servitude.
Before long she’d finally have to accept the inevitable. She’d have to accept her fate.
I can’t. I’m not ready.
Check out the page on Goodreads!
City of Scars (Skullborn Trilogy #1)
It’s been three decades since the Blood Queen led her legions on a brutal campaign of conquest and destruction, and the Empires are still struggling to rebuild. Now, in the distant aftermath of the war, the real battle is about to begin.
Haunted by the crimes of his past, fallen knight Azander Dane ekes out a mercenary existence as he drifts from one city to the next. His latest job is to hunt down Ijanna Taivorkan, a powerful outlaw witch desperate to escape her destiny.
Dane and Ijanna find themselves in Ebonmark, the City of Scars, where deadly crime guilds and shadowy agents of the White Dragon Empire prepare for a brutal confrontation. Pursued by apocalypse cults, mad alchemists, exiled giants and werewolf gangs, Dane and Ijanna soon learn a deadly lesson – in Ebonmark, only the cruelest and most cunning can survive.
City of Scars is the first volume of The Skullborn Trilogy, an all new epic fantasy adventure from the author of BloodSkies .
Check out bloodskies.com for more!
Steven Montano is an author, accountant, and blogger, part human and part…well, we’re not entirely sure, but he sure does write a lot of books.
Steven is the author of the Skullborn novels (City of Scars, Path of Bones), the Blood Skies series (Blood Skies, Black Scars, Soulrazor, Crown of Ash, The Witch’s Eye and Chain of Shadows), Tales of a Blood Earth 1 and 2, Crucifix Point, and something black…. He’s currently hard at work on Blood Angel Rising, a paranormal action/horror/thriller; Vampire Down, the next installment of the Blood Skies series; and The Black Tower, the conclusion to The Skullborn trilogy.
He and his family live in Michigan, where even zombies fear to tread.
Visit Steven’s official website at http://www.stevenmontano.com