In Amparo Ortiz’s YA novel Blazewrath Games, dragons and their riders compete in an international sports tournament. We’re thrilled to share the cover and preview an excerpt from the sequel, Dragonblood Ring—arriving October 12th with Page Street Publishing.
In this sequel to Blazewrath Games after the Sire’s capture, teen athletes Lana Torres and Victoria Peralta travel to Puerto Rico with their former Blazewrath team. While Lana discovers her roots, nothing fills the void Blazewrath’s cancelation has left in Victoria. But it’s up to their team and the Bureau to protect their dragons.
But when reports of burning towns and kidnapped dragons dominate the news, Director Sandhar refuses to answer the girls’ questions. So they follow him into his Transport Charm into Le Parc Du Chasseurs.
In this French theme park, they find dragons forced to fight. When the Blazewrath World Cup ended, people turned to this illegal sport for wealth. So now, not only are the Sire’s followers looking to release him, the leader of this fighting ring wants Puerto Rico’s dragons to fight in Bloodbath too.
Amparo Ortiz is the author of Blazewrath Games (Page Street, 2020). She was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and currently lives on the island’s northeastern coast. Her short story comic, “What Remains in The Dark,” appears in the Eisner Award-winning anthology Puerto Rico Strong (Lion Forge, 2018), and SAVING CHUPIE, her middle grade graphic novel, comes out with HarperCollins in Winter 2022. She holds an M.A. in English and a B.A. in Psychology from the UPR’s Río Piedras campus. When she’s not teaching ESL to her college students, she’s teaching herself Korean, devouring as much young adult fiction as she can, and writing about Latinx characters in worlds both contemporary and fantastical.
Saving the world from a dragon supremacist should totally have better benefits.
I can handle the bodyguards. My former Blazewrath teammates and I have a humble total of fifteen—two per dragon steed, and a lone ranger for me. I can even handle how serious they are. Hours before our Transport from Dubai, Daga—the youngest Sol de Noche dragon—tried to play hide-and-seek with the two disapproving suits assigned to her. They also declined her belly rub request. The International Bureau of Magical Matters is officially immune to cuteness.
Our safe house is fine, too. There are worse things in life than living in a four-story manor hidden in Cayey—my hometown here in Puerto Rico. We’re secluded in the evergreen Sierra de Cayey, almost two thousand feet above sea level. If I stand on the house’s rooftop, I can see a decent chunk of La Cordillera Central, a mountain range that cuts right through the middle of the island from east to west. It’s a wondrous collection of treetops and winding rivers. More than a dozen municipalities are part of La Cordillera Central. Even though I haven’t visited them, I have a feeling the mountains look best in Cayey, but I might be biased.
The weather’s not so great, though. Today is August 17—summery midpoint of the rollercoaster ride that’s been my 2017 so far—and it’s pouring rain. We’ve had occasional lightning, too. I blame hurricane season. Local weather reports have about fourteen to nineteen tropical storms lined up for us next, with at least five potentially turning into hurricanes. Bless the invisible shield surrounding our house. We’re spoiled with dry clothes, cool air, and no frizz.
But we can’t freaking go anywhere.
I get it, okay? Dragon Knights are still searching for us. Those terrorists are desperate to free the Sire, that silver-scaled scumbag we trapped inside the Dark Island, which can only be accessed via the Sol de Noches’ magic. These restrictions are meant to protect us.
How am I supposed to stay put when I’m finally in Puerto Rico again after twelve years?
How can I reconnect with my roots if they’re still out of reach?
The house I grew up in—the house where I found the reason I was born—is a few miles south of this mountain. My requests for escorted visits have fallen on deaf ears. I can’t race down the pothole-ridden roads that lead to dragon caves I daydreamed about as a child. There’s no chance to see the island’s many wonders. I can’t eat my weight in lechón, bacalaítos, or pinchos at a restaurant. And I can’t visit the beach. I’m in Puerto Rico and I can’t. Visit. The beach.
“The families are arriving in thirty minutes,” says Agent Vogel. “Prepare accordingly.”
My personal bodyguard saunters onto the wooden porch, where I’ve been sulking alone on a rocking chair for the past three hours. Agent Vogel—a sixty-year-old German lady with a faux-hawk—looks out of place in her white linen Chanel suit. It’s the only thing she ever wears.
She’s clutching her Silver wand in both hands, which are covered with black leather gloves.
At least she’s brought me great news. Tonight, my friends and former Blazewrath teammates will be reunited with their families. I’m going to meet the people who supported their Blazewrath dreams.
The people who can also help me get out of this house.
If more of us corner our bodyguards, they’ll be pressured into contacting Director Sandhar, or even his right-hand woman, Agent Sienna Horowitz. I scan my phone for any new texts from her. My screen flashes my own words with a bunch of “Read” subtitles. It’s been like that ever since I left Dubai. Sure, they must be busy, especially if they’re catching Dragon Knights posing as bureau agents. But radio silence pushes my mind into drawing maps with dead ends and question marks. Are they okay? If so, why hasn’t Agent Horowitz replied?
Director Sandhar hasn’t even told the press we’re in Puerto Rico. We could be cloaked in Invisibility Charms like this house. We wouldn’t leave at the same time. Maybe it’s best for the dragons to stay, but we can totally go without causing a scene. I just need to feel like I’m back.
Above all, visiting my childhood home is the closure I need. Going back to where Papi taught me about my favorite sport—my purpose—is the last goodbye. Without it, I might successfully start a new life post-Blazewrath, but a piece of the puzzle will still be missing.
“Did you hear me?” Agent Vogel asks.
The sheer willpower it takes not to scream empties me of energy.
“How do I prepare? Is there a blood sacrifice I haven’t heard about?” I say through gritted teeth.
Agent Vogel is as excited as a dead squirrel. “Not tonight.”
“Wait. Did you just make a joke?” I check her pulse. “Vitals are suspiciously good.”
She lazily takes her arm away. “Do not touch me.”
“What about your head? Have you hit it with anything lately?”
“You could have a concussion.”
Normally, I’d crack a smile at my trolling. But this well-dressed lady is acting more like my jailer than an ally. I don’t know anything about Agent Vogel. What qualifies her to lead this special babysitting mission? Is she some badass bureau agent who’s racked up tons of arrests like
Horowitz? I doubt she’s ever been forced to hide on a mountain because Dragon Knights were trying to hurt her country’s dragons. She can’t possibly understand how I feel. From the way she’s motioning to the living room, I don’t think she cares.
“Do you miss Germany?” I tempt fate with a personal question. It might soften her up a bit. Maybe she also wishes she could go home.
Agent Vogel furrows her brow. “That’s irrelevant to my request.”
Hmm, her guard is up. Must be a yes.
“What do you miss the most?” I press on.
“None of that concerns our current pressing matters.”
“Do you have family there? Friends? Maybe even a whole life you had to leave behind?”
Her unblinking stare hardens into ice. “You mustn’t keep your friends waiting.”
I don’t care if she’s pissed. I’ve been pissed for the past four days. And it’s only going to get worse if she doesn’t cooperate. “Because if you ask me, I’d say I miss all of it. I’d pounce at the chance to go back to the place that made me who I am.” I shrug. “Wouldn’t you?”
For the first time since I’ve met her, Agent Vogel frowns. I blink three times in case I’m imagining things. Nope—she’s still frowning. And she’s gazing out to the sloping hills below.
Is it working? Did I make her crack?
Agent Vogel looks back at me. Her frown disappears. “I appreciate your sudden interest in my nostalgia, but I’m confident your friends will be more eager to indulge you.”
She waves to the glass door that separates the balcony and the living room.
The sky flashes a bright ivory. A thunderous clap soon follows.
And yet my crashing spirits ring even.
I almost cracked her tough exterior, though. If the others stick to the plan, Agent Vogel could be contacting Director Sandhar before the night ends.
There’s just one more person who still needs convincing.
“Good talk…” I push off the wooden rocking chair. I salute Agent Vogel, which always makes her sigh heavily, then make my way into a house I can never call mine.
Excerpted from Dragonblood Ring, copyright © 2021 by Amparo Ortiz.