Read an Excerpt From A Psalm of Storms and Silence

As the fabric holding Sonande together begins to tear, Malik and Karina once again find themselves torn between their duties and their desires…

We’re thrilled to share an excerpt from A Psalm of Storms and Silence, the second—and final—book in Roseanne A. Brown’s immersive fantasy duology inspired by West African folklore. A Psalm of Storms and Silence publishes November 2nd with Balzer + Bray.

Karina lost everything after a violent coup left her without her kingdom or her throne. Now the most wanted person in Sonande, her only hope of reclaiming what is rightfully hers lies in a divine power hidden in the long-lost city of her ancestors.

Meanwhile, the resurrection of Karina’s sister has spiraled the world into chaos, with disaster after disaster threatening the hard-won peace Malik has found as Farid’s apprentice. When they discover that Karina herself is the key to restoring balance, Malik must use his magic to lure her back to their side. But how do you regain the trust of someone you once tried to kill?

As the fabric holding Sonande together begins to tear, Malik and Karina once again find themselves torn between their duties and their desires. And when the fate of everything hangs on a single, horrifying choice, they each must decide what they value most—a power that could transform the world, or a love that could transform their lives.


 

 

In the center of a shining palace of alabaster and silver, on a crested hill deep in the heart of a golden desert, there was a boy. And in the center of this boy, there was a tree.

Of all the trees in the grove, this one was the most magnificent, its leaves reaching the highest and the lemons hanging from its branches the brightest yellow. Neither the tree nor the grove it stood in were real, but that was of little concern to Malik. For years he’d been convinced that his mind was a broken, barren place filled with nothing but the scars of his childhood; if it was capable of creating something this warm and full of life, then perhaps there was a chance he was not as broken as he’d been led to believe he was.

Yes, the lemon grove was perfect. Or it might have been, were it not for the snake.

“Foolish, stupid boy,” the Faceless King roared in a voice formed of jagged skies and crashing waves, dark magic and darker obsession, as he thrashed against the binding that held him tight to the tree at the center of the grove. “You cannot keep me here forever.”

Malik shuddered as the depths of the obosom’s wrath radiated through the connection they shared. Long ago, the Faceless King had been worshipped throughout the Odjubai Desert as Ɔwɔ, the embodiment of the once-mighty Gonyama River. At the height of his power, he’d possessed the strength to drown empires and remake kingdoms.

Now he was here, stuck inside the mind of a simple human boy who barely understood what magic was, let alone how to use it. The indignity of the whole situation seemed to upset the spirit more than anything else.

The Faceless King twisted against his bindings once more, and the part of Malik’s mind that the spirit occupied pushed sharply against his consciousness. It felt like being ripped in two from the inside out, and Malik fell to his hands and knees as he bit back a scream. This wasn’t real. As soon as he woke, this would be over.

But Malik’s hold over his mind was at its weakest when he was asleep, which was why the Faceless King had chosen now to make another escape attempt. As another wave of pain racked through his core, Malik reminded himself of all he had to lose if the obosom got free. The spirit also known as Idir, beloved of the ancient queen Bahia Alahari, held a vendetta against Ziran that only destruction could quell. If even a sliver of the obosom’s immense power slipped through the binding, he would flatten the entire city and every person Malik loved without hesitation.

All this wrath in the name of a wrong that had occurred a thousand years before any of them had been born. A wrong that had only been committed in response to the tyranny of Malik’s own ancestors, the Ulraji Tel-Ra.

Malik did not regret trapping the spirit inside his mind—but Great Mother help him, it hurt.

“You dare compare yourself to the ulraji of old?” asked Idir, and even though Malik had been sharing his mind with the spirit for nearly five days now, he still flinched at the sensation of Idir reading his thoughts. “Your powers are a mere fraction of theirs, and even they at their strongest would not have been able to hold me captive for long.”

Another wave of the Faceless King’s power pressed against Malik’s skull, sharp as a scalding iron. Surely this should have been enough to wake him, but Malik remained locked in the struggle with no way to call for help. Would anyone looking at him see his body convulse with the strain of what was happening inside, or only his sleeping face? If Idir killed him and took over his body, would anyone even know?

“Trapping me in here was a clever trick, but you misjudged one thing,” hissed Idir. “Just as all that I am has been revealed to you, so too has all that you are been laid bare before me—I know each twist and turn of your thoughts, all the dark corners of your mind that even you cannot face.” Though Malik had bound the Faceless King in his emaciated human form, the obosom had retained the serpentine eyes of his true body, and it was those eyes that leered down at Malik with a hatred thousands of years deep. “And that is why I know you are not strong enough to keep me here forever.”

Familiar tendrils of panic wormed their way into Malik’s gut. What if Idir was right? After all, what was Malik’s paltry understanding of ulraji magic against a spirit who had been revered as a god? Even with his storyweaving, what was he but painfully and ridiculously human? He couldn’t do this, he never should have done this, he was only delaying the inevitable, he was—

No. No.

Malik knew that if he followed that spiraling thread of anxiety, it would lead to him begging for Idir’s mercy like a coward. That was what the old him would have done.

However, the old him had died the moment he had plunged a dagger into his own heart on the last day of Solstasia. And the new Malik might not have been a god, but he was far from powerless.

“I don’t have to be strong,” said Malik, and even though every inch of his body screamed in protest, he forced himself to his feet. The words of his grandmother’s old grounding mantra filled him, pushing back against the onslaught of pain and uncertainty.

Breathe. Stay present. Stay here.

Malik lifted his head to meet the Faceless King’s challenging gaze with one of his own.

“I just have to be stronger than you.”

If the spirit had been angry before, it was nothing compared to the surge of pure rage that Malik’s words brought forth. The entire lemon grove reverberated with the Faceless King’s indignation, and Malik tried to grab one of the trees as an anchor, only for his hands to blister from the heat of it. The ground turned to ash beneath his feet, and then Malik was falling deep into a recess of his mind from which there would be no escape. He pushed with all he had against the ever-growing void beneath him, but he still could not force his body to wake.

And then through the swirling chaos came a golden light—a single thread of nkra, the basic element from which all magic flowed. Though there was no way to know where it led, Malik grabbed on to it, for it was the only thing to grab on to. The warm scent of the earth after a spring rain flooded his senses.

Karina’s scent.

The thought had barely crossed Malik’s mind before he was falling again, away from the lemon grove and even the Faceless King, into a corner of his mind tucked away from all the rest.

The sensation stopped. Slowly Malik opened his eyes to a world filled with… green.

His surroundings were hazy in the way that places in dreams often were, but what stood out to Malik was the lush vegetation all around him, unlike anything that could be found in the Odjubai. The throaty calls of turacos and other birds, mixed with children’s laughter, rang through the air, and the few squat mudbrick dwellings Malik could see had been painted in swirling geometric patterns from no culture that he recognized. He had never been here before, and yet somehow, deep in the core of everything Malik understood about himself, he knew this place.

The source of the laughter quickly made itself apparent as two girls ran past him, their faces blurred like paint running together on an artist’s palette.

“Faster, Khenu! The elders will make us chop firewood if we’re late again!” yelled the taller of the two girls, who ran by Malik with no indication that she’d seen him.

“I’m coming!” cried the smaller one—Khenu, apparently—and the quick, bird-like nature of her movements reminded Malik of his younger sister, Nadia. Khenu made it halfway across the path before she tripped over a tree root and went sprawling into the mud. She immediately burst into tears, and the bigger girl doubled back to help her with an exaggerated sigh.

“What kind of ulraji cries over a little fall?” teased the taller girl as she pulled her friend onto her back. Malik’s eyes widened—this tiny child was an ulraji? This must be a memory of the past then, for only in ancient times could such information be shared so freely. But whose memory was this—the Faceless King’s?

Malik took a step toward them, then froze as the scent of rain filled his nose once more. A buzz of energy that had nothing to do with his magic coursed through his veins as he glanced over his shoulder to see Karina standing beside him.

Her eyes remained on the two girls walking into the jungle, allowing Malik a moment to simply take her in. She seemed unharmed after her frantic, storm-fueled escape from Ziran several days before, her amber eyes bright and alert, her cloud of silver coils hidden beneath a green scarf wrapped around her head. Only when the girls were gone did the princess look his way, and though this was nothing more than a dream, the buzzing energy in Malik thrummed higher as her eyes swept over his face, lingering a moment too long on his lips and forcing him to recall the last time they had been alone together.

Five days since they had stood on the roof of the Sun Temple and shared the kiss that had undone him completely.

Five days since he had attempted to kill her to save his younger sister.

Five days since Karina had vanished from Ziran in a rush of wind and lightning as her older sister rose from the grave.

Such a short span of time, and yet the world as they knew it had rewritten itself completely. There was so much Malik wanted to say, explanations and apologies all crowding for space on his tongue. He took a step toward the princess, and then another when she did not move away.

“Karina,” he began, and that was all he managed to say before her fist collided with his jaw.

 

Excerpted from A Psalm of Storms and Silence, copyright © 2021 by Roseanne A. Brown.

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