Rebecca Roanhorse’s blockbuster Between Earth and Sky fantasy trilogy—“inspired by the civilizations of the Pre-Columbian Americas and woven into a tale of celestial prophecies, political intrigue, and forbidden magic”—began with 2021's Black Sun, and continued in 2022 with Fevered Star. Conclusion Mirrored Heavens arrives next summer—but io9 has an exclusive first look at the cover and an excerpt to share today!
See the stunning full cover—cover illustration is by John Picacio; cover design is by John Vairo—below, and read an exclusive excerpt (note that it is cut from a not-final manuscript) from Mirrored Heavens.
by Rebecca Roanhorse
“There is another way,” Xiala murmured, and waded into the waves. She took a few deep breaths before she sank beneath the water. Here at the shoreline, the sea was calm and welcoming, and she greeted it as a relative. Unlike her earlier attempt at drowning, she only wanted it to speak to her, to ask it what it could see that she could not.
She opened her mouth, exhaled, and let the water hit her tongue. She did not swallow, only tasted. Salt and life, heavy in her mouth. And something else. Something bitter. She spit out the water, kicked up her feet, and dove to the bottom, not so far. She pressed her hands against the sandy floor. It was work to hold herself there, and she wished she had her net full of rocks.
She sought out the Mother’s tongue, the language of vibrations and reverberations. And she listened. For the smallest deviation, the barest confirmation in the movement of the waters. And the sea told her what she wished to know.
Satisfied, she rose. Water shed from her skin and hair as she made her way back to shore, her expression grim.
“Ships,” she confirmed, “and not Teek.”
“I have not seen someone speak to the sea in too long.” Tears gathered in Yaala’s eyes.
“Have the Teek lost the way of reading the waves along with their Song?” Xiala asked, caught between astonishment and dismay.
The wise women clicked, but Xiala didn’t care. She looked at Teanni, who nodded. Mother waters, it was worse than Xiala had imagined, and she had imagined terrible things.
“So it is not the queen, then,” Yaala said, disappointment weighting her shoulders.
“That I cannot tell. Only that they do not cut through the waves like a tidechaser, and that they sit heavy in the water.”
“Heavy? Merchant ships?” Alani asked, and a buzz of excitement rippled through the crowd.
“Could be a merchant ship laden with goods,” Xiala said. “Could be a ship full of people.”
“Maybe Queen Mahina has sent men back for us to make children,” Teanni said, repeating her previous prediction.
“I don’t think so,” Xiala said, but the idea had already caught hold, and the women practically vibrated with the possibility.
“We should have prepared a feast,” another woman said.
“Light the torches,” Yaala commanded. “We will guide them in.”
A cheer went up from the crowd.
“Better we wait,” Xiala said, but she was not heard over the rising voices, an air of celebration already kicking in. She leaned in to shout in Yaala’s ear. “Let me Sing the ships back,” she suggested. “Hold them at a distance until we know for sure.”
Yaala faced her, took Xiala’s hands in her own. “No, Xiala. Let them be happy. They need this.”
“We have no defenses. We are like minnows in a pond here. You said so yourself. Easy pickings.”
“Xiala.” Her voice was gentle, but there was an undertone of exasperation. “Please. Not everyone is your enemy.”
Xiala looked to Teanni, who was leaning into her wife and smiling. Even Alani was grinning. Yaala was right. The Teek needed something good, and perhaps she was overreacting, seeing danger where there was none. But she still couldn’t quite shake a sense of foreboding, and it shivered her shoulders like the first touch of winter.
Soon the shadowy forms of the vessels drew near. Unlike the Teek who stood on the beach under bright torches, the strangers’ ships were dark, no lanterns illuminating whoever was on board. Figures paced on the deck, but none called out a greeting to the waiting women.
In the deep twilight, Xiala counted at least four hulking canoes, Cuecolan if her eye for nautical detail served, although it was hard to tell in the dark. Four ships potentially holding fifty bodies each. That meant possibly two hundred sailors. Why would two hundred sailors come to Teek?
A breeze whispered across the beach and sent the torches dancing. Xiala could hear the creak of leather, the shifting of restless feet against wooden decks. Light flared to life on the nearest ship. She caught a glimpse of animal skins, painted faces, and light reflecting against obsidian-tipped spears.
“Not sailors, an army,” she murmured, and, as the realization sank in, “Move back!” and then “Run!” and, louder, “Run!”
But no one heard her over the cheering.
Yaala stepped forward in her queenly attire, crown on her head, arms wide. And behind her, the wise women smiled. And all around, an enthusiastic crowd of those who had come to greet their allies waited, expectant.
Xiala heard it before the others did, or perhaps she was the only one who recognized the sound for what it was.
The huff of an exhale, the whistle of a spear cutting through the air.
It struck Yaala through the stomach.
The regent queen gasped, shock rippling through her body.
Her hands clutched at the weapon protruding from her belly.
Her mouth worked, but no words came out. Only a red-tinged cough, blood spattering the sand.
Yaala toppled over dead just as the sky broke open, obsidian-tipped arrows raining down around her.
The arrows struck the wise women. They fell, shafts protruding from throats and chests. Xiala watched, stunned, as an arrow pierced the eye of the wise woman next to her.
A wail cut through the shocked silence. Someone at the edge of the circle of dead. Her cry was cut short by the thrust of a blade, as soldiers stormed the beach.
Xiala thought to Sing, but she did not think she could stop two hundred warriors even if she wished to, and she might kill Teek in the attempt.
So she did the only thing she could do.
Bodies fell around her; shrieks filled a night that quickly had begun to stink of death and betrayal.
Something hit her from behind.
She staggered, the impact throwing her to her knees.
Get up, Xiala. Get up!
She tried to stand.
But something struck her head, and this time when she fell, there was only darkness.
Excerpted from MIRRORED HEAVENS by Rebecca Roanhorse. Copyright © 2024. Reprinted by permission of Saga Press of Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.
Mirrored Heavens by Rebecca Roanhorse will be released July 4, 2024.
Correction: An earlier version of this post had the wrong publication date for Fevered Star. io9 regrets the error.
Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about the future of Doctor Who.
More from Gizmodo