Cover Reveal (and an Excerpt!): The Tree, by Na’amen Gobert Tilahun

The Tree

Exciting news, everyone: we’re finally ready to show you all the cover (and a bit of the interior) for The Treeby Na’amen Gobert Tilahun (@Naamenism)!

The sequel to The Root, and the next novel of the Wrath & Athenaeum, a compelling urban fantasy series set between modern-day San Francisco and an alternate dimension filled with gods and worlds of dark magic. The Tree is an epic urban fantasy with progressive themes, a diverse cast of characters, two fascinating settings in different dimensions, and enough badass action to keep anyone entranced.

Read on for a full description, a small sampling of the praise the series has received, and an excerpt: the entire thrilling first chapter, which starts the novel off with a bang.

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In Corpiliu, an alternate dimension to our own, a darkness grows, devouring whole cities as it spreads. Robbed of her greatest power, separated from her siblings and thrown among people she does not trust, Lil, a ’dant from the city of Zebub, must find a way to turn everything around, to trust in a power she knows nothing about.

Erik travels from San Francisco to Zebub, haunted by the ghost of his ex, still coming to terms with his true identity as a descendant of gods, and unsure how to fight the darkness that seems to have no weakness. As he pushes back against traditions meant to keep the true history of Corpiliu secret, he gains many enemies and few allies, and strange visions begin to make him question his own mind and place in the world.

Between Earth and Corpiliu, a war is developing on two fronts, one that might well mean the end of both dimensions. In The Tree, the dynamic follow-up to the exciting fantasy debut The Root, long-held secrets will be revealed, and long-trusted loyalties will be put to the test.

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And here’s some of the praise the novels of the Wrath & Athenaeum have received:

 

“Tilahun creates a fantasy world you’ll want to get lost in, and fills it with fascinating, diverse characters. This is a whole new exciting kind of portal fantasy.”
—Charlie Jane Anders, author of All the Birds in the Sky

“An intense, emotional ride that combines libraries, monsters, fallen angels, magical powers, and secret societies fighting an ancient war. This is catnip for my reading soul.”
—Kate Elliott, author of Cold Magic and Black Wolves

The Root is a grandiose feat of imagination and cross-dimensional storytelling . . . a story that’s firmly rooted in human drama, exploring themes such as the nature of race, celebrity, the media and society’s perceptions of sexual orientation, gender and class division . . . Tilahun has laid the foundations for a very promising trilogy.”
Starburst

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Here’s the excerpt—Chapter One of The Tree. 

MANHATTAN

MARIAN

“Do you see anything?”

“Give me a second, damn it.”

“Sorry, sorry. Just nervous.”

Marian sighed and glanced back to smile at Lester. It was his first mission as a full-fledged Agent. She couldn’t blame him.

Marian closed her left eye so she could see more clearly through her right, which was currently in the building across from them. She grunted as the eye rolled along the dusty floor. It was painful. That feeling of one bit of dirt in your eye? Multiply it by fifty and spread it over the circumference of the whole eye and you might have some idea. She had been trained for this, though—the pain was simply another thing to be dealt with.

She saw nothing of note as her eye rolled down a dark hallway. Then she spotted the small crack of light. She maneuvered her eye towards it and grunted as she squeezed it under the threshold.

“Bastard piece of shit,” Marian spat.

Lester chuckled but kept all other commentary to himself.

Marian’s eye rolled into a bright room that looked like an assembly line of Clive Barker’s nightmares. People hung limp in chains along the wall, their mouths melted shut, twisted, scarred masses of flesh and blood. Huge hooks pierced their arms and calves, dripped red life onto the floor.

She avoided the liquid as much as she could as she rolled forward. The room was cavernous; it looked as if a fourth of the building had been hollowed out to make it.

She heard something. All of her senses were linked into this tiny representative part of her. The sound resolved into speech; a language she recognized the rhythm of even though she could not understand it: one of the Ante dialects with intonations beyond the hope of any human throat. The notes of almost song rose high enough to make Marian wish she could plug her non-existent ears. Someone came around a corner and she slammed against the pillar, hiding in the small pool of shadows. The two beings that turned the corner were impossible to mistake for human. The first was huge, topping seven feet. It had two legs that bent three times, back-and-forth and back again, and then ended in cloven hooves. The torso was thick and covered in dark-black matted fur, and it had three arms, one emerging from the middle of its back. The arms were covered in the fur as well. They ended in hands with two pairs of opposing digits. There was no head, but Marian saw hints of facial features under the torso fur.

She knew of this Ante. It called itself Burning Metal because one of the first humans to touch its skin had burned off three of her fingers. Later she said it felt like burning metal. The Ante had taken that as its name and refused to answer to anything else. It was one of the leaders of Anoan and it was here in Manhattan without passing through a known gate or registering its presence with The Agency.

The Ante moving by Burning Metal’s side looked to be made of metal. It shone a bright silver that reflected the light. It was more appendages than body, with long, thin, jointed legs that resembled a crab’s, which exploded out of its core at every angle. Marian could see none of its main body, if it even had one. She thought it might actually be technology of some sort, but as the two beings moved past the pillar, she saw that the silver skin was rippling with scales. It passed close enough for her eye to break what she was seeing down to heat and light and aura and color and she sensed the life in the being. She had noticed that the Ante’s arms were moving but as it got close she could see that all of its limbs were busy taking notes. They were each paired off, one holding a small reflective surface that another limb tapped on.

This was not good. None of their queries of Anoan in recent weeks had elicited a response and here was a prominent member of its Ruling Courts walking through this house of horrors.

“Shit.” She whispered it, but only because her throat was suddenly too tight. Her mouth had lost all moisture and she could not make a louder sound.

“Lester, listen. You need to be ready to move,” she whispered.

“What?”

Marian opened her left eye and swayed at the double vision she was suffering. She took a deep breath and fought down the nausea.

Lester looked very young and nervous. She wanted to comfort him. This was supposed to be a milk-run to ease him into the job. New or not, though, they were both representatives of The Agency right now, and they would not fail. She would not let them.

“Just listen. Something really bad is happening. I need you to fly back to Headquarters, as quickly as possible, and report to Agent Andre.”

“But I’m not supposed to fly, especially at night.”

“Listen to me. That doesn’t matter right now. This is more important.”

Marian was distracted because her eye was still carefully following the pair of Antes and most of her attention was on not getting caught. The downside of her position in the building was that there were tables and shelves all about and she knew something was happening on them from the way the two Antes bent over them to observe but she had no way to see them from the floor.

“When I say, you will go to Agent Andre and you will tell her we have a Red Button Issue. Do you understand?”

Lester’s hands were shaking, but he swallowed, straightened his back and nodded.

“I understand. Focus on your other part. I will guard you and wait for your order.”

If his voice wavered a bit, Marian still smiled at his show of spine. She closed her left eye again and focused wholly on the building.

She passed into the next room, well behind the two Antes, but close enough to keep them in sight. There were piles all around her, some of metal bars and screws and odd silvered frames, but others looked disturbingly like hands and legs and other human parts. She was not close enough to discern whether they were actual meat or imitation but from a distance they looked all too real.

Too late she noticed the silence; the footsteps behind her had stopped. She rolled her vision around, only to see darkness and feel slick scales grabbing her up.

“Well, what do we have here?”

The english was liquid in a way that made her realize how ugly her own voice was.

“I believe it’s a little spy.” She was lifted toward the wall of hair; the heat of the closeness was unbearable and she cried out in surprise and pain.

“Hmm . . . a little eye to spy.”

Marian screamed as she was squeezed until she burst apart. All awareness of the inside of the building was now gone. She was back on the roof, her hand pressed over her empty socket, which had begun to steadily leak blood and fluid.

“Lester. Go. Now,” she gritted out.

To his credit, Lester hesitated only a second before lighting up. The flames that crawled across him had a sickly yellow tint that denoted his fear and nervousness. Once his body was completed engulfed, his flesh disappeared, and he was nothing but a roiling mass of fire floating in the air. The stars behind him were dimmed by his brightness.

She saw the outlines of the beings coming for her against his light.

“Now. Hurry!”

He shot straight into the air and she saw some dark, flying shapes turn to follow, but she knew they would never be able to catch him once he really got going. The other figures continued straight at her as she forced herself to her feet. Her sight was not the only thing Odin had blessed her with, but right now she would have killed for the mastery of sorcery that her mother had possessed, or the battle fever that had killed her cousin. What she did have though was her connection with Death.

She dove at the first shape, hand still covering her bleeding socket. As she moved, though, the bleeding slowed as the blood froze. Her body released steam into the air; the coldness of death now running through her veins. The first Antes screeched at her touch. The sound was so loud she staggered back in suprise.

Her movements were fast but not fluid. Her body jerked and cracked as she channeled the realm of Hel through her body. The world faded to the bright red of heat and the dark gray of cold. Whole rainbows of color bloomed where the two met. Her fists pounded into flesh that snapped like wood. She was grabbed by tentacles that slicked her upper arms with fire. She roared. Marian did not expect survival. She only wanted to give Lester enough time to get away.

“I will take care of her.” Suddenly bands of burning heat clapped onto her wrists. She did not scream but wanted to. Instead she bit her tongue until her mouth filled with blood. The world swam in her vision and she was facing the torso from inside the building. “This must be the rest of our little spy.”

Burning Metal was fearsome up close. She could see the cruel smile through the rough black fur. The air around him radiated with heat and something more sinister, a feeling that penetrated the cold of death. She screamed in his face. It was the call of a raven. A scream of defiance.

There was a flare of even greater heat and Marian was blown off of her feet and Burning Metal was the one screaming. The calls of the other Antes joined in. Calls of pain. Marian rolled onto her back, tilting her head to take in what was happening.

Lester had come back. He was burning white against the night, his fire almost incandescent. Even as she looked, her remaining eye watered and his image blurred.

“No.” She whispered it. The foolish fucking boy! She rolled over and rose to her feet. There were other forms surrounding them. She had to turn her head to take them all in. Ten figures in a loose circle around her, Lester, and Burning Metal. They were all crouched and cowering, holding onto burned limbs that glowed red in her sight. Lester at least had taken out the others but she could see that he was failing against Burning Metal. The fire of his body was wavering. He was unable to maintain the super-heated tempeture for long. She saw him struggle to lash out with his fire. He flared brighter, but only for a moment.

Marian knew she had to go. This was bigger than him; bigger than all of them. One of the Antes in the circle had fallen to the ground and now lay still; Lester must have hit something vital. She rose to her feet slowly but none of the others noticed or moved in her direction. They were all staring at Lester and Burning Metal. A fight that became more and more one-sided as she watched.

She dove for the non-moving Ante and it was only after she had tumbled over the edge of the roof that she heard one of the others cry out in warning.

Now it was time for the hardest trick; she had only ever done it a handful of times, and it had cost her dearly the last time. The cost didn’t matter, though—only getting the message through mattered.

Because of her other injuries, it was painful. She screamed as her body turned inside out, as her mind split down the middle again and again, smaller and smaller. One mouth crying out in pain became five, became fifteen, became thirty.

Marian forgot a lot. She forgot her human body. She forgot that she was falling. She forgot her fear, but she did not forget that she had a mission. An unkindness of ravens rose into the sky in a squawking, crying crowd. They did not like flying in the darkness of night but they had to. As they rose into the sky they heard a dying scream behind them.

The ravens did not know why the sound of it made them call out in unison. They only knew a pain tight in their chests, even as their heads were decidedly pointed away from the source.

END CHAPTER ONE

 

Pretty amazing, right? And that’s just the first chapter; the full novel only gets more intense.

So if you want to find out what happens to Marian, you should plan to pick up The Tree (and The Root, if you haven’t already).

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And, lastly, here’s the cover for The Root, just so you can see how much the characters have changed from the first book to the second.

TheRoot Updated Cover

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Don’t forget to check out Na’amen on Twitter and at his website, and keep checking back here for more cover reveals, excerpts, and other interesting content!

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