The fate of a broken world hangs in the balance…
We’re excited to share an excerpt from Steelstriker, the riveting conclusion to Marie Lu’s Skyhunter duet—published by Roaring Brook Press.
As a Striker, Talin was taught loyalty is life. Loyalty to the Shield who watches your back, to the Strikers who risk their lives on the battlefield, and most of all, to Mara, which was once the last nation free from the Karensa Federation’s tyranny.
But Mara has fallen. And its destruction has unleashed Talin’s worst nightmare.
With her friends scattered by combat and her mother held captive by the Premier, Talin is forced to betray her fellow Strikers and her adopted homeland. She has no choice but to become the Federation’s most deadly war machine as their newest Skyhunter.
Red is no stranger to the cruelty of the Federation or the torture within its Skyhunter labs, but he knows this isn’t the end for Mara—or Talin. The link between them may be weak, but it could be Talin and Red’s only hope to salvage their past and safeguard their future.
I stand up, my wings still extended. At the sight, Adena backs away automatically, her expression wary. I may be their friend now, but it doesn’t mean they think of me that way. To the rest of this camp, I’m still a Karensan war machine, one that’s somehow gone rogue and ended up temporarily allied with them. No one forgives an enemy that easily. There will come a day, they must think, that I’ll turn on them again.
I step back, then gingerly try to move my wings. Immediately I wince— whatever Adena thinks she did to dull my pain, I can’t tell. But to my pleasant surprise, I’m at least able to fold them enough into a pair of narrow blades against my back, if not a complete and proper fit into their slots. I grit my teeth and extend them again. The pain lances through me like a ripple of heat. Still, my wings extend, casting their shadow on the forest floor beneath me until they can reach almost halfway open.
Not exactly perfect, no, but much better than before. What can I say? You take the little wins when you can.
I nod at Adena with a tentative smile. “Make sure you don’t ever fall into Federation hands, all right?” I tell her. “You’d make them a valuable ham.”
“A valuable what?”
I must have used the wrong Maran word. “Ham?” I try again.
Adena smiles wryly. “I think you mean soldier, but the words sound close enough.” She holds up a small metallic cylinder, then tucks it back in her belt. “You’ll just need to be able to move quickly enough to be a distraction tomorrow. Can you do it?”
At that, I give Adena a half smile. “I was literally created to be a
Adena laughs once at that. “You must have been a real pain in the ass before your transformation.”
I laugh, but as I follow her back to the campsite, her words linger in my mind. A real pain in the ass. It’s hard for me to remember anything about who I was before the Federation came for me and my life descended into fragments, years of torture. Before my mind bent under the weight of isolation and experimentation.
Who were you before that? I ask myself constantly. It’s a question I used to grapple with back in the glass chamber, something I forced myself to answer whenever I felt my grip on my sanity fading. I would ask myself this until my voice no longer sounded like my own, but like some second being that lived in my mind, talking to me because I had no one else. That other voice echoes through my head now.
Who were you before that?
Maybe you’ve lost him forever. You have vague memories of a boy chasing his sister through a garden, playing a game of hide- and- seek with his father. There are pieces of your life as a boy soldier, laughing and joking with your fellow troops. Memories of friends you once had. A girl named Lei Rand. A boy named Danna Wendrove. How you all would bet on which of you could perform some stunt, just to trade guard duties or long night shifts. Danna had come over frequently for dinner.
Lei once told you that you were too soft.
You live life, certain it will always stay this way, until it doesn’t.
You must have been happy back then, before the Federation took that from you.
Excerpted from Steelstriker, copyright © 2021 by Marie Lu.