Apr 08, Amanda G. Nellie and Co. The biggest and quite possibly the most important of issues is that I think the series may be aiming to please the young adult type of readers rather than a little younger, where I feel this series is perfect for. I have a sister of 15 years, and I personally feel that the writing style, the tone and the overall story would be much more tailored to a girl of her age, rather than that of my age, I had never considered a 3 year age gap to be a huge deal within the reading world, but with this series, I think it is.

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Morgan Goddess, how did I get here? I stumble left and right, struggling to walk. The air smells faintly of brackish water, algae, and fish. Where am I? How did I get here? Every cell in my body is begging to leave this beach.

I could take off into the lake or head into the woods that border the water. Anything to get off this rocky shore, where I feel so vulnerable, so alone. What lake is this? I glance over at the woods, and then a dark shadow appears over me. And getting bigger. My whole body goes rigid. Everything in me knows that this shadow means danger. Now I can see its source: a huge, dark-feathered hawk, flying just overhead, its vicious, golden eyes glowering.

Who are you? What do you want with me? But the hawk has caught sight of something else. As I watch, consumed with panic, the raptor tucks its wings to its sides and shoots down like an arrow.

Ten feet above the water it swings powerful legs forward and slashes at the choppy surface with curved razor claws. A moment later it spreads its wide, dark wings and beats the air, bringing itself upward slowly at first and then with increasing speed.

In its talons a large, speckled rainbow trout is twisting frantically, arching back like a bow in an attempt to drop free. The fear I feel is overwhelming, even though the hawk is gone. My whole body feels shaky, numb, as though I had just avoided death myself. Without understanding it, I know the hawk was after me. Is after me. I have to get off this beach! I run for the trees, the pebbles flaying my feet.

It takes a minute for my eyes to adjust to the shaded light. The ground is covered with pine needles, ground-hugging vines, weathered bits of leaves, all dry and crackly. Seuss forest. Large black ants swarm over the log, moving fast in a wavering line. Oh, Goddess, where am I? Without knowing that, I feel so alone and scared. What woods are these?

One thing is clear: I have to find my way out. A quick glance finds a slightly less overgrown section, and I head for it. I hold slim branches aside as I pass through, heading deeper into the woods.

Then I stand quit and unmoving in the woods and realize that all of my senses are prickling. There is magick here. More than the constant low hum of energy that most blood witches pick up on and then ignore as background noise.

This is magick being worked, being created, brought into being by design and effort and thought. My skin us tingling, my breathing faster. I concentrate, slow my heartbeat, remain perfectly still I ease my way through closely grown trees, step over fallen logs and thigh-high vines blocking the way.

I get ever closer to that elusive, irresistible vibration, the vibration of a blood witch pulling power out of air. Somehow I know, without a doubt, that a powerful blood witch is working this magick, and that she is a stranger to me, and that I could learn from her. My fingers begin to itch with anticipation-what can she teach me?

What can I show her of my powers? My chest fills with both pride and uncertainty: I know I am strong, unusually strong, and have impressed witches much more educated than I. I also know that my successes are sometimes flukes-that my abilities are unpredictable because I am untrained, uninitiated. I can feel it now, magick threading through the trees like a scent. These vibrations are strange to me-is this good magick being worked?

For a moment I hesitate. What if But I press on. I swallow and try to press forward, crashing clumsily through the trees and bushes, slapping the vines aside. This is it-soon, soon I will see the magick worker.

I will compare myself to her-she will be more trained and more knowledgeable, but I will be stronger. My throat is tight with excitement. Soon, soon, just another step As I feel myself falling, my muscles tense and I fling out my arms.

My wrist hits something hard with a startling smack. Wild-eyed, I jerk to a sitting position, not able to make sense of what I am seeing. Did I faint? Did the witch put some kind of spell on me? I was in my bedroom, at home. It was quite dark-not yet dawn, it seemed.

My bed felt soft and weirdly smooth beneath me since I was expecting the crunchy edges of leaves and twigs. Blinking, I looked around. It had been a dream. My heart was still racing. In the strange half-light of my bedroom I could still see the hawk above me, still see the glint of its razor- sharp claws as it grabbed the fish.

I pushed my damp hair off my face and reassured myself that none of that was real, that everything in my room was just as I had left it the night before.

Of course it was. An incredibly realistic, visceral, strong dream. Slowly I lay back down and flipped my pillow over to the cooler side. I lay blinking up at my ceiling, then glanced at my clock. I never wake up that early.

It was Saturday. No school. I could go back to sleep for hours if I wanted to. I tried to calm down, but I still felt anxious and headachy. I closed my eyes and deliberately relaxed, willing myself to release all tension and enter into a light meditation. Very quietly I whispered, "Everything is fine and bright. Day must follow every night. My power keeps me safe from harm. The Goddess holds me In her arms. But strange, with some frightening parts that I could hardly remember anymore.

When I opened my eyes again, I felt better, calmer. Instead, I lay on my bed and watched as my room slowly filled with the ever-brightening pink glow of dawn. By six it was definitely light out, and I heard birds chattering and the sounds of the occasional car going by our house.

The sounds of them going downstairs, talking softly, the rush of water as Mom filled the coffeemaker-it was the lullaby that finally eased me back to sleep.

I heard my younger sister, Mary K. Everything is fine, I told myself, stretching and yawning loudly. My family was all around me. I was safe in my bed. Later on I would see Hunter, and as usual, just the thought of my boyfriend-his short, white-blond hair, his fathomless green eyes, his intensely attractive English accent-made me shiver pleasantly.

Everything was calm and normal, an incredibly nice change when I considered what th e past several weeks had been like. Everything was okay.


Cate Tiernan



A circle of ashes



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Balefire Series


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