Nice girls don’t steal magic. Nice girls don’t consort with crime bosses. If Eilanya wants to fly again, she can’t be nice anymore. #PitProm
Sixteen-year-old coffee heiress Eilanya Landon wants her magic back.
But her sister Calette—illusion prodigy, belle of every ball, and dirty lying magic-thief—has the audacity to die without telling Eilanya how she stole it. The only clue is a forbidden manual on magicianry discovered in a wall, leaving Eilanya determined to investigate where it came from, and find out how, exactly, one steals magic. Because if Calette did it, so can she.
Of course, it won’t be hers: her own magic died with Calette. But that’s just a technicality, right?
Off she larks to hunt down her sister’s secrets, when her poking around Cherryport—and her uncanny resemblance to Calette—draws the knife-edged attentions of the city’s grim underworld. To survive amongst flyer-assassins and smuggler-kings, she strikes a deal with a crime boss: masquerade as her sister the dread magician, in exchange for magic.
But playing Calette comes with the realization that the two of them are more similar than Eilanya wants to believe—they both turn deadly fast when something’s in their way. Eilanya has to decide if being able to fly again is really worth ripping away someone else’s magic, just like Calette did to her. And worse, if it’s worth wearing Calette’s face to do it—and even further blurring the line between them.
THE DEATH OF CALETTE LANDON is a 99,000-word dark YA fantasy set in a magical Gilded Age—think THE BEAUTIFUL ONES stumbling into SIX OF CROWS in a shady alley.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
First Ten Pages:
CHAPTER 1: IF YOU DON’T HAVE SOMETHING NICE TO SAY, DON’T SAY IT AT ALL
Eilanya stood at the church’s lectern and felt exactly nothing at all. The sun coming through the stained-glass windows painted her in shades of bright orange and aquamarine. The black-draped mourners hunched in the pews, like carrion birds waiting for another death.
“My name is Eilanya Landon,” she said.
They all knew that.
“Calette was my older sister.”
They all knew that too. She took a deep breath and went on:
“Besides being an accomplished illusorist, and a dutiful daughter to our dear mother and father, Calette was also my dearest friend. She touched the heart of everyone she knew, with her charm, grace, and warmth. My heart will be forevermore empty without her.”
Someone coughed, as if to say she wasn’t quite convincing enough.
“In one word, Calette was—“
Was that an error, peeking up at her from her hastily-scribbled speech? She almost laughed. She couldn’t have written--
The word tasted faintly of poison, but her mother, in the front row, looked pleased.
“Her virtues were countless,” Eilanya said, but ran out of virtues after only a minute or so. Hopefully nobody would notice that she’d only managed four for Calette: honesty (when it suited her), charm (because it suited her), caring (mostly for herself), and sincerity (with a delicate emphasis on the sin).
She could chatter on for days, if pressed, about how wonderful her sister had been, and none of it would ever come close to the truth. She filled the air with pretty words: joy, affection, prodigious. Hollow sentiments: she was taken too soon, she will find peace in Heaven. Invented anecdotes: she encouraged me to be a better person. It was the worst speech she’d ever given.
Calette would have scoffed through the whole thing. She was probably smirking, in the closed coffin up on the dais, beneath her white wreaths and cascading ribbons. She’d say, You liar, Lanya Landon.
Eilanya couldn’t go on. For Calette’s sake, she had to say something that was actually true.
She crumpled up her speech in a fist.
“And to conclude,” she said, “I would like to tell one story that I believe exemplifies my sister’s spirit. It is a memory that will stay with me until my own dying day.”
This wasn’t part of the approved speech, but her mother was still smiling.
“Last summer,” Eilanya said, “the cat had six kittens. Gray stripey things, mostly. Adorable, all of them, of course. But there was one white one, which my sister and I both wanted.”
Her mother was no longer smiling.
“Due to my sister’s generous spirit—which, erm, I’m sure we all remember so fondly—she allowed me to keep the kitten with little fuss. Now, this was highly unusual. You all may not have known this about Calette, but she was always planning how to get her way. And if she couldn’t have something she wanted, nobody else could have it either.”
Murmurs rose from the back pews. Her mother’s eyes had gone black with an involuntary illusion, and her brothers looked queasy. But nobody was stopping her yet.
“One day, she suggested we give my kitten a bath. We went out into the east garden, where there was a—“
“Stop,” her mother said.
The entire church looked at her sideways.
“You’ve finished,” she said.
Eilanya held her mother’s gaze for just a second. Still beetle-black. Not good. But the deep, willful part of herself that had started the story fully intended to finish it.
“There was a metal tub,” she said, “which we filled with water. My sister said—“
At once her mother rose from the pew, straight and dark in her mourning-gown. “I’m afraid you’ve run out of time, Eilanya.” Her voice was sweet, but her illusion-black eyes glinted with suppressed fury. “Do sit down.”
“I haven’t said what I wanted to say,” Eilanya said, though her voice was beginning to shake.
“You’ve said quite enough.”
“I haven’t finished!”
Her mother had hurled the name from her mouth as though it were something profane. It hung ugly in the air between them. The mourners, behind, froze in fascination.
“Sit down this instant,” Mrs. Landon said, voice tempered and reasonable once more. But when Eilanya didn’t move, she swept up the steps, seized her arm, and wrenched her down the steps. Eilanya tripped on the last one and nearly gasped as her mother jerked her up again.
“Let us all thank Miss Landon for her touching words,” the priest said, eyes flicking only briefly toward the front pew.
Voices rose in some invocation Eilanya didn’t hear. Her mother pried the balled-up speech from her hand and held it over the candle at the end of the pew. The paper caught fire and shriveled into nothing.
As they filed out through the solid darkwood doors of the church, Eilanya was all too aware of a buzzing in her ears. It filled her hearing, deafening, furious, like a swarm of huge flies. Someone said something to her, solemnly, and she could only nod in reply.
Eyes darted her way. Gloved hands lifted to mouths to hide whispers. Black lace parasols unfurled against the relentless Capprean sunshine.
The tide of mourners surged toward the open grave and left Eilanya behind.
She stood sweltering in the shade of the church, blinking back hot tears from her eyes. Not grief—rage.
Calette dead, and she was magicless still. She’d watched herself closely for two days and still there was nothing. The only thing she could feel flowing through herself was her own blood, in lethargic pulses at her temples and wrists.
There was something else at her wrist now too—her mother’s nails, digging in so sharply they might have pierced through her cuff and drawn blood.
The fans had come out amongst the mourners now, fluttering in front of faces, hiding the curious glances toward the delayed pair back by the doors.
So quietly Eilanya barely heard it, Mrs. Landon said, “Eilanya, are you feeling all right?”
Her mouth tasted like acid. She nodded.
“Then join the rest of us, please,” her mother said. “Or you may wait in the car.”
The coffin waited on the opposite side of the grave, shining, expectant. At any moment Calette could bound out of it, declare herself alive, and dig her sharp nails into Eilanya’s other hand. The world gave a sickening twist at the thought. It took some effort, but she managed to whisper, “I’ll wait in the car.”
Finally her mother released her hand. Without even a glance back, she took up her skirts and picked her way back across the grass, toward the waiting crowd. Eilanya shut herself in the car parked furthest from the cemetery, cranked the window down, and fanned her rising nausea away.
It was a full hour before the gathering scattered toward the cars, having sent Calette safely underground with prayers and chants and well-wishes. To Eilanya’s great relief, it was her brother Hartham who slid in next to her, followed by their brother Ailiam. Their parents had gone with the youngest, Rosbaigh; their sister Ennabel was back at home, still in the grip of a vidrosa delirium.
As the car lurched away into the sticky afternoon, Hartham leaned over to Eilanya. “Why’d you have to talk about the kitten?”
The rumble of the engine nearly masked his words, but they were crammed too close together for her to pretend she hadn’t heard him. She pretended anyway, turning her head pointedly to the jungle rolling past outside.
He elbowed her, quite hard. “Lanya, why do you have to keep bringing up that kitten? Couldn’t you have shut up about it for one day?”
He didn’t really want an answer; he was just trying to make her feel bad. But even though he was only a year younger than her, she never could take him seriously.
“Mamma’s going to be furious with you this evening,” he said, when Eilanya had ignored him long enough. “See if she isn’t.”
“I never said what actually happened,” she said. “Nobody can be angry with me.”
“That’s worse! Now they won’t know what to think. She could have beheaded it, she could have vivisected it, she could have gotten the foreman’s daughter to tie it into a tree so it would mewl and starve and you could only save it by flying up and untying—“
He yelped as Eilanya slammed an elbow into his side.
“You shouldn’t say such things about your own sister, Hart!”
Hartham shifted away from her. “You’re one to talk!”
She merely glared at him, and he turned the other way, toward Ailiam, who was staring out his window and hadn’t seemed to notice anything. Eilanya tried to stop the little tremors running through her body by sitting perfectly still. The coffee fields flashed past on the long drive up to the house.
Refreshments were an affair of hushed discomfort. Mrs. Landon circled the parlor, rearranging scores of overflowing vases and popping into conversations wherever they lagged. Eilanya, newly the oldest, had the dubious honor of fending off Riony Hallex, who seemed to have been assigned to pry about the kitten story. She prodded and poked at Eilanya, obviously thinking, being three years older and already engaged, that she was entitled to every bit of gossip.
“But why’d your mother stop you?” Riony said, for the fifth time. “It sounds like a wonderfully touching story. I do so love kittens.”
“I was taking too long,” Eilanya said, for the third time. “There was another service right after and we had to finish up.”
The doorbell clanged. She glanced toward the foyer but saw nobody.
“I don’t think it would have taken too long for you to finish it,” Riony said. “Have you still got the kitten? You have, haven’t you?”
Eilanya shook her head. “We gave them all away in the end. There were too many.”
Luckily, then, the Hallex matriarch materialized to pull Riony away. Riony said, “Oh, and Lanya, come over ours soon? Patricia’s just started flying and could use some help.”
The thought of having to watch somebody else fly put such a strong taste of jealousy in Eilanya’s mouth that she had difficulty replying politely, but she managed something bland as Riony whirled off.
Hartham sidled up to her. “That was the quickest I’ve ever seen anyone get rid of Riony Hallex,” he said. “Good work.”
“She’s implacable,” Eilanya said, fanning herself. “Hasn’t anyone answered the door?” The hush was curious. She followed Hartham’s gaze and found the entire party staring at the man in the archway.
Threads dangled from the cuffs of his shirt, in almost as much disarray as his hair, which looked as though he had tried to slick it forward rather than back. It drooped over purple-ringed eyes, nearly brushing his sharp, ruddy nose. His suit had gone out of fashion before Eilanya was born.
The girl at his side was as neat as her father was not, with her black hair done up perfectly, if a bit severely for her age, and skin the color of spoiled milk. Her eyebrows hovered high on her forehead, giving her an air of perpetual surprise. She was wearing yellow organdy and looked like a canary in a room full of vultures.
Mrs. Landon broke the tense tableau with a cheerful, “Ah, Parriam!” and drew them both into the room. Parriam Fasth kissed her on both cheeks and shouldered his way toward the coffee. His daughter Amajane spent a long, apologetic time with Mrs. Landon. Finally, little by little, everyone else in the room settled back into their previous conversations.
Eilanya and Hartham talked in circles around their mutual dislike of their uncle Parriam until Amajane sat down in the shell-pink armchair across from them.
“I am so sorry about your sister,” she said. Her gaze traveled to Eilanya’s hands and lingered. “Can I borrow your fan?”
Rude, Eilanya thought, but handed it over. Amajane fluttered it through the air faster than was polite.
“I must also give our apologies for missing the services,” she said. “We got the notice only yesterday as we’re staying in the city all summer and we did try to manage it but it’s such a long way and the train runs at such strange hours and I would have just come as soon as I heard and stayed the night with you but my father didn’t want me flying so far.”
“You weren’t much missed,” Hartham said. Eilanya gave him a disapproving look, but Amajane merely smiled, as though he’d said something polite.
“I’m still in shock,” she said. “I saw her not two weeks ago, at the end of school. She was perfectly—healthy.”
“Yes,” Hartham said, examining his fingernails.
“I’m sorry,” Amajane said. “I know how hard it is to lose a sibling, especially one you look up to. She was—so inspiring. She helped me more than she will ever know. It’s still difficult, of course, but at least she got me started and now things are better than they were.” She was staring at the parlor ceiling as though she’d never seen it before. Escaped wisps of hair fluttered with the movement of the fan.
“What are you talking about?” Eilanya said. “She helped you? With your schoolwork, do you mean?”
Amajane’s piercing laugh turned half the heads in the room, but she didn’t seem to notice. “No, not that,” she said. “It’s nothing. Nothing.”
“How’s your father?” Hartham said.
Parriam Fasth was hunched alone by the window, sipping his coffee with the determination of the chronically hungover.
“He’s fine,” Amajane said, as though asked about a distant cousin she hadn’t spoken to in years. “How’s yours?”
Hartham raised his eyebrows in imitation of hers. “He’s never been better.”
“Really? Where is he? I don’t see him.”
“Behind you talking to Little Lord Hallex,” Eilanya said.
Amajane craned her neck to determine that Mr. Landon was indeed crouched and speaking attentively to a small boy. She settled back into the armchair. “Well, isn’t he sad?”
“Excuse me?” Eilanya said.
“I should hope so,” Hartham said.
Amajane laughed again. “I only meant that he looks normal, that he doesn’t seem despondent or weepy. It’s refreshing. So often at funerals people can’t contain themselves.”
“You’ve been to more than we have, I suppose,” Hartham said.
Eilanya had a headache. It could have been caused by the mingled odors of so many different flowers, but more likely by the color of Amajane’s dress. She held out her hand. “My fan, please.”
“But I’m so sweaty—“
After a tense moment it settled back into her fingers, warm and slippery from Amajane’s grip. She laid it on the side table where Amajane couldn’t reach it. “If you’re going to be rude, Jane, you have no business being here.”
“I’m so very sorry,” Amajane said, horrified. “I didn’t mean—I just remember that at my mother’s funeral, everyone was so dour and unkind. It’s nice that people seem to be more cheerful here.”
“Yes, well, there’s a difference,” Eilanya said. “Calette died of vidrosa. Your mother shot herself.”
In a stroke of terrible luck, she spoke during a lull in the noise of the room. The silence stretched itself out; heads turned. She stayed sitting straight up with her chin held high, trying to pretend someone else had said it. Somewhere in the crowd, Riony Hallex murmured, “Oh no.”
Footsteps crunched over broken china; gasps rippled through the room. Parriam Fasth lurched across the floor toward her. A black coffee stain spread across his trouser leg. Skirts twitched away from him as he passed, but nobody moved to intervene—and he was on course to barrel straight into Eilanya. She half-rose, about to duck behind the sofa, or else about to open her mouth and protest that it hadn’t been her who’d said it, or she hadn’t meant anything by it, but he was still coming straight for her and she couldn’t move--
And then her father was there between them, holding up a hand. “Parriam,” he said, “why don’t we—”
Parriam struck him.
The party descended into chaos. Somehow three people roused themselves into action and wrestled Parriam out of the room, while somebody’s infant began to scream. Circles of guests tightened again to dissect the incident in loud whispers.
“I had no idea Joysa had—”
“But why would anyone say such a thing—”
“He’s a danger to society!”
“No manners, that girl, none—”
Eilanya sank back down onto the sofa, heart hammering. Hartham put a hand on her arm; she shrugged it off.
Amajane had not moved from her chair. Her face was even paler than normal.
“I’m sorry,” Eilanya said. “I thought you knew.”
“You’re a liar,” Amajane said, “and now you’ve upset my father. We came all the way up here to pay our respects to your sister, but if you’re going to spread horrible rumors, I think we’ll have to take our leave.”
Welcome to the final round of pitches!
Agents and Publishers,