Saturday, July 1, 2017

Bring It Backlist: Ravensblood

Posted by: Shawna Reppert

Today, for out Bring It Backlist feature, I give you a snippet of what I think of as the book that started it all: Ravensblood, the first book of the series of the same title. 


To set the stage, we are in a very alternate universe version of Portland, Oregon. It’s a world of impossible choices where sometimes death magic is the lesser of the evils. Let me introduce you to our main characters.


Corwyn Ravenscroft. Raven. Heir to an ancient family of dark mages, he holds the secret to recreating the Ravensblood, a legendary magical artifact of immense power.


Cassandra Greensdowne is a Guardian. Magical law enforcement for the elected council— and Raven’s former apprentice and lover. She is trying to live down her past. And then her past comes to the door, asking for her help.


As a youth, Raven wanted to be a Guardian but was rejected because of his ancestry. In his pride and anger, he had turned to William, the powerful dark mage of their time, But  Raven discovers that he does have a conscience. It’s rather inconvenient. He becomes a spy for the council that William wants to overthrow, with Cassandra as his contact. 


In this scene, Raven has just recently returned to William’s side after agreeing to his role as a spy. He must somehow keep Cassandra’s dubious trust in his sincerity without losing Williams’s.




William’s conviviality continued throughout the meal. Dinner was an excellent filet mignon, perfectly complimented by a velvety, dry red wine and finished with a bittersweet chocolate torte as dark as William’s soul. William chatted through the meal, seemingly inconsequential gossip about who was sleeping with whom, and which apprentices were sneaking peeks at their master’s private projects. Raven filed the information away for future use in cementing alliances, currying favor, and disadvantaging his opponents.


This was another gift William didn’t suspect Raven would use against him. No matter how Raven held himself, he could feel the Ravensblood against his ribs with each breath.


The after-dinner brandy flowed freely, though the distiller’s special reserve didn’t make it past the head table. William kept Raven’s glass full, and the conversation turned to comparisons of favorite liquors and distillers, preferred varietals and vintages and vintners.


By the time the clock struck midnight the crowd had thinned to about half its original size, and Raven felt pleasantly warm and mellow. As the last echoes of the twelfth clock chime died out, William tapped a knife against his glass for attention. The room fell silent.


“Let me introduce the star of tonight’s ceremony.” He nodded to two of his sycophants at a side table; they instantly rose and slipped out through a hall door.


William sat back down, smiling in satisfaction at the murmur of curiosity throughout the room. The man never tired of being the center of attention.


He leaned in to Raven. “This is my gift to you, my friend. It’s high time you lost your virginity.”


Raven choked on his brandy. Had William had finally lost his mind? “I have not been a virgin in any sense of the word for very many years.”


William waved his hand dismissively. “Carnal pleasures, yes. But there are areas of dark magic that you have yet to touch. To fulfill your full potential as my right hand, you cannot restrict yourself in this manner.”


This ‘gift’ would be a test, one he dared not fail.


“I appreciate any token of your favor, my lord. And I apologize if I have been in any way remiss in my service to you.”


William clapped him on the shoulder. “No apology needed, my friend. I understand that some paths are difficult to start down, no matter how fine the traveling. Now, I was fortunate. When it was time for me to take this step, my father was still alive. I decided the thing to do was to find someone you hated as much as your father.”


What was he on about? By the mention of William’s father, it couldn’t be good. William had killed the man, famously and spectacularly, in one of the most brutal rituals in the history of death magic.


Few people knew how well the bastard had deserved it.


He turned at sounds of a struggle from beyond the hall door. It burst open, and the two mages who had left moments before returned. They gripped between them a tall, wild-haired man who fought them with every step.


“Ten years ago, my friend, when you still thought you wanted to serve the light, the Guardians threw your applications back in your face, despite your vast qualifications, and you found your true home in the beauty and freedom of the dark. And the Guardians took this over you.” William gestured disdainfully at the prisoner. “Party-boy. Popular boy. Bully-boy, bane of your existence. And, of course, son of heroes of the light.”


He recognized the man now, though he hadn’t seen him since their General Academy days. Andrew Burns had made the lives of less popular students a living hell. He tormented with extra zeal the children of families known or rumored to be dark.


Andrew Burns, Cassandra’s cousin Andy, Ana’s nephew.


They must have some contact warding on him, hobbling his talent. Otherwise Andrew would have crisped his captors by now. Andrew glared at him with the same naked hatred and disgust he’d shown Raven back at school. Now, at least, Raven had earned that contempt.


“I know you, Raven,” William whispered in his ear. “You’re not the type to forgive and forget. You are so very like me, my old friend. I know how much you want him dead, how often you’ve thought of it, imagined what it would be like.”


Too true, every word of it— William knew him all too well. Flattering, the amount of thought given to William’s presentation. The reminder that Raven had once wanted to serve the light contained the subtle hint that his commitment to the dark was therefore suspect. And then William reminded him that the Guardians had rejected him, while William had welcomed him and given him a place of honor in his inner circle. And he had gone to the trouble of acquiring not just any Guardian, but the man that Raven hated most.


William could only be going one place with this. “I have killed for you before, my lord.”


William waived his hand dismissively. “From a distance. Poisons. Charm-traps. Even mage-fire and spell-lightning, satisfying as they are, have a certain remoteness. You have never felt the hot blood gush over your hands. You have never fed on death.”


William purred in his ear like he were trying to lure him to bed, not to the kill. “You cannot imagine the pleasure, the glory. Try it, and you can never turn back. You won’t want to.”


Two weeks ago Raven might not have hesitated. Before this moment he would have sworn to wanting Andrew dead, at least in the abstract. Even now he wouldn’t have mourned in the least if he had woken up tomorrow and learned that William had killed the bastard. But he didn’t want to have to explain to Ana and Cassandra what had happened to their golden boy. He did not want to give Andrew the satisfaction of being right about him.


And he had always found the prospect of death magic. . .distasteful, like cannibalism.


“I know that such things remind you of your father, and of how your mother died,” William said. “But if you allow yourself to be limited by bad memories, you are letting him win.”


His father would scarcely count as triumph a son who balked at killing. He understood William’s point, though. In his own twisted way, William was trying to help.


He looked at Andrew. The Guardian spat on the floor in Raven’s direction.


William tsked. “Such lovely manners these Guardians have.” He drew a sheathed knife from an inner pocket of his jacket and slid the knife across the table to Raven. “This is the blade that killed my father.”


“I am honored, my lord.” Part of him was— William had never shown another such favor.


Test or honor, or likely a bit of both. Raven could not refuse. More than status, his life was at stake if he refused William’s offer, and William would not grant him a clean death. And no matter what Raven did or did not do, Andrew Burns would not leave this room alive.


He took the knife, unsheathed it. The hilt in his hand tingled with dark power, hungry for blood, remembering the lives it had taken in William’s hands. The knife whispered in his mind yes, and some dark part of his soul answered oh, yes.




You can buy Ravensblood itself on Amazon in Kindle or trade paperback. Better yet, pick up the first three books of the series in an economical Kindle 'boxed set' and be ready for the upcoming release of the fourth book, Raven's Vow. While you're there, look for my other works on my Amazon author page.


For updates on this series and other works, plus other fun tidbits, check out my website at 


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