RELEASE DATE: 3/31/20
GENRE: YA / Paranormal / Steampunk
When the girl with the clockwork hand meets the boy with the beast heart, sparks fly in this poignant, adventure-filled debut.
Book 1 of the Steambound Trilogy. When Gabby’s hand turns to steam, her mom hires an engineer to build her a clockwork glove. It’s the last thing Gabby wants—if only she could be normal. But when her mom is attacked by something monstrous, normal is no longer an option. Now the only person she can turn to is a grizzled detective, who promises to help her become something … more.
Meanwhile, Kemple’s foster dad treats him like a slave. And the beatings are getting worse. So when a rebellious girl named Josephyn arrives—with a plan to escape to the city—he doesn’t hesitate. But there are creatures in Iron Bay whose slashes are worse than skin-deep. And as Kemple evolves into something inhuman, his search for a cure begins.
They are strangers in a city where carriages rattle, airships rumble, and where their own dark pasts continue to haunt them. Soon their paths will collide, and the girl who slays monsters will come face to face with the boy who is becoming a beast.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kyle Richardson lives in the suburban wilds of Canada with his adorable wife, their rambunctious son, and their adventurous daughter. He writes about shapeshifters, superheroes, and the occasional clockwork beast, moonlights as an editor at Meerkat Press, and has a terrible habit of saying the wrong thing at the most inopportune moments. His short fiction has appeared in places such as Love Hurts: A Speculative Fiction Anthology and Daily Science Fiction.
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The moment Brielle leaps out of the carriage, the instant she sees the boy’s pained eyes, Shaw’s voice blares in her head like a siren.
Not without planning it, first! You don’t know anything about this!
Maybe, just maybe, he was right. She’s never hunted an Aílouros that still looked human.
Is it murder if you kill a monster while it still has a face?
On the drive here, she didn’t consider this at all. What’s there to think about when it comes to slaying a beast? You track it down. Immobilize it. Then you rip out the thing’s ugly heart. It’s a simple, three-step process that she’s been following for years now. But never once has she needed to deal with a creature that hadn’t yet . . . changed.
Should she attack while it still looks like a person? Should she wait until it’s done?
If she plunges her clockwork glove into the thing’s chest now, will the heart inside still look human?
The questions fill her mind, twining around her thoughts, until her head feels stuffed with wool. So she doesn’t bother to think—she merely shouts the same words that she’s heard Shaw use so many times before: “Get on the ground!”
The boy winces, his face blanching in the glow of the carriage’s headlamps, and her gaze flicks over him, taking in every awful detail. Thick, tousled hair the color of dark soil—hair that looks like it hasn’t been washed for days; hard, narrow eyes with night-blue irises, his pupils as sharp as needlepoints; and an angular chin set firmly beneath a mouth that looks both tender and cruel. In another time, under different circumstances, she might even consider him handsome. Right now, though, everything about him bothers her. No, it’s worse than that—everything about him enrages her, from his stupid chalk-white shirt to his grime-covered pants, all the way down to his dumb, tattered shoes.
So what if it looks like life has dragged him through the mud? Is she supposed to feel sorry for him? He hasn’t had it worse than her, she can guarantee that much. And she isn’t the one with a monster in her blood.
She unlatches her satchel, scoops out her dart pistol, and aims it at him like she’s jabbing a sword. The cartridge glints through the slot in the barrel, the vial inside full of brown, syrupy poison, and he seems to understand the threat. His eyebrows lift. His body tenses. For a split second it looks like he’s about to speak. But then his face clouds and his expression changes—his eyes squeezing shut, his brow wrinkling, his features pulling tight. He doubles over and lets out an agonized howl, and Brielle tightens her grip around the gun, her fingertip brushing the trigger.
If there was ever a perfect moment to shoot, this would be it.
. . . But her finger refuses to move. It just stays there, frozen in place, as if her good hand has become a glove of its own, with its geared joints rusted shut. She grits her teeth and tries again, but this time her mind gets in the way, her thoughts pluming like smoke.
Why does it seem like the boy doesn’t want this? Why does it look like he’s struggling for control?
She keeps her eyes on him, her gaze steady and unblinking behind her dark lenses, while her mind swirls with doubt. Every Aílouros she’s encountered has been simple and primitive—their actions as predictable as rain from a cloudy sky. They hunt, they feed, and when cornered, they lash out in the most direct of ways: claws out, jaws open, those catlike ears pulled back against their skulls. They’re reactive animals at best, spurred on by the most basic of instincts. And they sure as heck don’t have a self-aware bone in their fur-covered bodies.
So why does the boy look like he’s fighting the change?
Shaw has reminded her, time and again, how the disease changes a person. How inhuman they become. How it rewires their brains until they want all that monstrous strength. Until that insatiable bloodlust becomes their defining trait.
But looking at the boy now, well . . . could Shaw have been wrong?
The boy drops to his knees and smacks his knuckles against the cobbles. His back tightens. His shoulder blades jut against his shirt. He angles his head and lets out a sound that’s halfway between a growl and a scream.
Brielle inhales sharply and tries to squeeze the trigger again.
But again, her finger won’t comply.
“Damn it,” she grumbles. What’s stopping her? It’s not like the poison will finish the boy off. She’s darted enough of these demons to know that all the serum does is stun them—stiffening those muscles, paralyzing the joints. Holding the creature in place just long enough for her to . . . finish the job.
But the more she eyes the boy, the more she sees it: his pain. His agony. A kind of suffering that looks so much more than physical. He looks the way she must’ve looked to Shaw the first time they met: broken, pitiful. Dangling at the frayed end of that existential rope.
It’s all the more reason to shoot him, isn’t it? To put him out of his misery? To end his suffering while he’s still at least somewhat human? She waits a moment longer, with the pistol aimed squarely at the boy’s heaving chest, as if the universe might give her a sign.
Instead the boy yells out again, his voice deep and guttural, and she watches with wide eyes as his fingernails stretch into long, yellowed points.
“Okay,” she mutters, “that’s enough of that.” This time when she squeezes the trigger, her finger bends without a hint of resistance.
The pistol fires with a metallic pop, knocking the handle back against her iron palm. A small cloud of steam and smoke swirl around the gun, and the dart whistles through the air like a poison-tipped bullet, straight for the boy’s throat.
One second, that’s all the dart needs to find its target. A thousand milliseconds from the gun’s barrel to the boy’s delicate skin. The tiniest fraction of a minute, just long enough for Brielle to tense and hold her breath.
Just as the dart is about to make contact, though, the boy yelps and lurches from a sudden twinge of pain—a lurch that moves his throat a few inches to the left—and those measly inches are enough to make all the difference.
The dart whizzes harmlessly past him and clatters pitifully to the darkened cobbles.
Brielle mutters a colorful curse. Compression guns are excellent for single shots, but they’re a terrible pain to reset. Which means there’s no time to reload. She jams the gun back into her satchel and thrashes her hand around inside the leather folds until her knuckles smack against a thick loop of copper chains. They feel extra sturdy tonight. Sturdy is good. Sturdy is reassuring. She yanks the links out and sweeps her clockwork glove against the outer coil until the grappling hook at the end of the chain snags on her wrist. Then she lunges forward, not because she wants things to be close and personal, but because there’s no other choice. The longer she waits, the less of a boy he’ll be—and the more of a monster he’ll become.
His eyes flick up to meet her goggles, and she can already see the changes in him: his pupils elongated, his jaw distended, the skin on his cheeks turning dark and splotchy. He parts his lips with a rasp and suddenly his teeth aren’t teeth anymore—now he’s got a mouth full of fangs.
Fangs, just like the ones that sank into Mom’s neck.
Brielle’s insides twitch in a cold, dark way, and she runs harder, closing the distance between herself and the boy as if she’s closing in on that pantry door all over again.
As if, this time, she can finally save Mom.