We’re thrilled to share an excerpt from Lakesedge, a lush, gothic fantasy from debut author Lyndall Clipstone about monsters and magic, set on the banks of a cursed lake—available September 28th from Henry Holt & Co.
When Violeta Graceling and her younger brother Arien arrive at the haunted Lakesedge estate, they expect to find a monster. Leta knows the terrifying rumors about Rowan Sylvanan, who drowned his entire family when he was a boy. But neither the estate nor the monster are what they seem.
As Leta falls for Rowan, she discovers he is bound to the Lord Under, the sinister death god lurking in the black waters of the lake. A creature to whom Leta is inexplicably drawn… Now, to save Rowan—and herself—Leta must confront the darkness in her past, including unraveling the mystery of her connection to the Lord Under.
We walk back to the village in silence. When we reach the square, the line of people has cleared away. Everyone else has given their tithes. I take our basket from the ground where I left it and go quickly toward the table. The silver-haired woman has gone. Arien and I are here alone.
The pines that flank the table are dark, with burnished light behind them. Then a shadow peels away from beneath the trees. It takes on the shape of a man. Stripes of variegated shade cut him—gray, black, gray, black—as he crosses the distance between us. I recognize him instantly.
Monster. My mouth shapes the word, but I don’t make a sound. He’s not a woods wolf. Not one of the fierce and terrible creatures from my stories, with claws and fangs and too many eyes.
The Monster of Lakesedge is a boy with long dark hair and a sharp, beautiful face. And somehow that makes all of this so much worse.
He’s young—older than me, but not by much. His hair is past his shoulders. The waves are swept back loosely, the top half tied up into a knot with a length of black cord. Even with the summer heat, he wears a heavy cloak draped across one shoulder. There are scars on his face. A scatter of jagged marks from his brow to his jaw.
He looks me up and down, his expression unreadable. “What do you offer?”
I feel his words like midwinter, cold and sharp. The light flickers, and for just a heartbeat, there’s something there at the corner of my vision.
I remember a long-ago voice in a frost-laden forest. The question it whispered close against my ear.
What will you offer me?
I bite my lip, hard, and pull myself back to the present. “Nothing. I—I don’t—”
Arien takes the basket from me and puts it onto the table. “Sour cherries. That’s our offering. And the altar, mended.”
The monster looks over to where Mother is packing away her paints. The wooden altar frame is glossed with new varnish. On the shelf below, the candles have been lit, bathing the icon in light.
I take hold of Arien’s arm, about to lead him away.
“Wait.” The monster’s boots crush against the ground. He steps closer. “Stay a moment.”
I move in front of Arien. Damp, tense sweat is slick on my palms, but I square my shoulders and meet the monster’s dark gaze evenly. “We don’t have anything else for you.”
“Oh?” There’s something feral in the way he moves, like a fox stalking a hare. “Oh, I think you do.”
“No, we don’t.”
The monster holds out his hands. He’s wearing black gloves, and the cuffs of his shirt are laced tightly all the way down his wrists. He motions to Arien, then waits expectantly. “Go on, show me.”
Arien lifts his own hands in an echo of the monster’s gesture. My brother’s fingers, burned clean last night by the altar candles, are now stained dark.
The monster flicks me a glance. “That isn’t quite nothing, is it?”
He turns back to Arien, and the feral look on his face intensifies. “Tell me: How did you get those marks?”
Arien looks at me helplessly. This is all my fault. I promised to protect him.
Fear and fury rise through me in a hot, wavery rush. I shove my way between them until I’m right up against the monster, the scuffed toes of my boots against his polished ones. “Our mother is a painter. They’re stains from the paint.”
He stares coldly down at me. He’s beautiful, but wrongness clings to him. It’s as cloying as the bittersweet scent of sugar in the kitchen last night. Between the laces of his shirt collar, I catch a glimpse of something dark on his throat. I watch, horrified, as all the veins along his neck turn vivid, like streaks of ink drawn under the surface of his skin.
Then I blink, and whatever I saw—whatever I thought I saw—is gone.
The monster’s mouth curves into a faint smile.
“I’m sorry.” He doesn’t sound sorry at all. “Clearly I was mistaken.”
All I want to do is grab Arien and run away, but I force myself to be still. I scrunch my fingers into the edges of my skirts. “You were.”
He takes off his gloves roughly and throws them onto the ground at Arien’s feet. “Keep them.”
He walks away without sparing either of us another glance, his newly bared hands shoved deep into the pockets of his cloak.
Arien bends down to pick up the gloves. He pulls them on quickly. No matter how hard I stare at him, he won’t look at me. Together, we go across the square to join the crowd that’s gathered at the altar. We kneel down and put our hands against the earth.
“Arien,” I murmur. “Before, in the forest— ”
“Please forget about it. About the forest. About leaving.” He turns his face toward the icon, the bank of golden candles. “About everything.”
We start to chant the summer litany. I close my eyes and press my fingers into the dirt. As the light washes over me, I try to lose myself in warmth and song. But all I can think is there might be nowhere in this world, now, where I can keep my brother safe.
Excerpted from Lakesedge, copyright © 2021 by Lyndall Clipstone.