The final war for the nation of Crache has begun.
We’re thrilled to share an excerpt from Savage Crowns, the final installment in Matt Wallace’s Savage Rebellion fantasy trilogy about a utopian city with a dark secret—and the underdogs who will expose it or die trying—publishing with Gallery on June 13.
The final war for the nation of Crache has begun.
At the helm of the people’s rebellion is Evie, the Sparrow General. She has been captured by the Skrian, Crache’s vicious army, and is being brought back to the Capitol for punishment. But reinforcements are coming for her.
Dyeawan, who has climbed from street urchin to Crache’s highest seat of power through clever schemes and ruthless bloodshed, finds trouble on every front once she arrives. The rebellion approaches, and there are whispers of a martyr within the city who holds enough sway to stage a coup. If she doesn’t act quickly, her rule will be short-lived.
As the women who hold the nation’s future meet each other from different sides of the battlefield, will they be able to find a shared vision of Crache, or will they destroy each other first?
A birdcage. They have actually built a giant fucking birdcage and locked Evie inside of it.
A long time after waking, curled up at the bottom of the thing, she is still at a loss. Not by her capture or witnessing what may have been the fall of her rebellion, but by her prison. It’s entirely out of character for the Skrain. It’s out of character for any artifice of the Crachian machine, really. Crache isn’t much for flair or imagination. The symbol that adorns every Skrain banner, the sparse, simple shape of an ant, is well chosen. Crache is a nation of utility above all else. The long caravan currently slouching at a glacial rattle over the countryside has more than a few wagons fitted with cages; Evie can see them from her perch, the ants headed back to their colony. Constructing this ornate monstrosity especially for her (at least she surmises that as its purpose) instead of simply chucking her into a regular prison wagon like refuse is decidedly un-ant-like.
Yet here Evie sits, between tall wrought-iron bars wrapped around her to form a perfectly slim cylinder. There are a few flourishes of concentric circles and sculpted ants adorning the spaces between those bars, as well as the square pad on the cage door, from which hangs the largest key lock Evie has ever seen. The Skrain have lined the hard bottom of the cage with stale-smelling hay. She isn’t certain whether it’s for effect or for when she will inevitably have to piss inside this contraption.
Evie can only guess the whole “Sparrow General” persona must really be shaking up the status quo back in the Capitol, so much so they feel they have to lean into it to defeat the newly spun legend.
Not that she thinks of herself as a “legend,” of course.
Even if she did, her current status as a source of amusement for the Skrain foot soldiers constantly trudging past her is humbling, to say the least. They revel in treating her like a shaved monkey in a menagerie. She can only imagine what a welcome distraction it is from lugging their full armor kits along with spear and shield on foot through the wretched heat of the day.
If they’re not bending over and flipping up their tunic flaps to give her a view of a full moon, they are flashing their poorly groomed genitals at her. The accompanying verbal abuse is just as crude, if less imaginative.
“That’s a proper sparrow, that is!” one of the soldiers chuckles. “Bloody proper!”
What accent even is that? Evie wonders, digging a fist against her churning guts.
Their attempted humiliation of her isn’t as wrenching as Evie is certain they’d hoped. The motion is the worst part. The whole cage is constantly swinging from a hook arched behind the largest horse-drawn wagon in the Skrain caravan. It hasn’t stopped swaying and jostling her for hours. She’s felt like she’s been throwing up for at least half that time, but Evie is always intent on waiting until one or more of the soldiers rides or walks close enough to the cage for her to vomit through the bars onto them.
The only feeling strong enough to divert Evie ’s attention from her stomach is the searing pain in her left leg. The back of her calf muscle feels as though angry hornets are nesting there. She can’t contort herself to see how long or how deep the gash from the battle is, but it definitely feels deep and long enough. They haven’t yet given her any water to drink, let alone an excess to clean her wounds. Neither has a surgeon, or even a drunken Skrain field medic, so much as tended to a single scrape. They seem to have simply checked her armor for weapons and then tossed her into her current confines.
Perhaps, if she’s really lucky, the infection in her leg will kill her before they reach the Capitol. She knows that’s where they’re taking her. Her constant audience has made that clear enough. The whole Skrain army is very excited about the prospect of Evie being paraded inside her cage up and down the narrow streets of Crache’s greatest city, on display for the whole of the citizenry to see.
Evie doesn’t really want to die, of course. But the idea of that spectacle seems a pale alternative at the moment.
Mostly she just wishes she’d seen that lance coming, the one that slashed her calf and pierced her horse on the battlefield. If she’d avoided that single sharp edge, her horse wouldn’t have gone down, and even if the outcome of the battle had remained unchanged, her own fate might have been different, perhaps even cage-free. At the very least, she’d be more comfortable right now.
Excerpted from Savage Crowns, copyright © 2023 by Matt Wallace.