"Just wow! If all fantasy was this well written I would be a fan of the fantasy genre! [...] I cannot recommend this book highly enough and already I'm anxious for the next in the series!! [...] It is the classic tale of Good vs Evil but told in a cleverly written, marvelously detailed, surprisingly intriguinging manner. The writing is impeccable, the storyline is fascinating!" -Mackey, Goodreads
Release Date: October 3rd, 2017
The author of the acclaimed mystery The Unquiet Dead delivers her first fantasy novel—the opening installment in a thrilling quartet—a tale of religion, oppression, and political intrigue that radiates with heroism, wonder, and hope.
A dark power called the Talisman has risen in the land, born of ignorance and persecution. Led by a man known only known as the One-Eyed Preacher, it is a cruel and terrifying movement bent on world domination—a superstitious patriarchy that suppresses knowledge and subjugates women. And it is growing.
But there are those who fight the Talisman's spread, including the Companions of Hira, a diverse group of influential women whose power derives from the Claim—the magic inherent in the words of a sacred scripture. Foremost among them is Arian and her apprentice, Sinnia, skilled warriors who are knowledgeable in the Claim. This daring pair have long stalked Talisman slave-chains, searching for clues and weapons to help them battle their enemy’s oppressive ways. Now, they may have discovered a miraculous symbol of hope that can destroy the One-Eyed Preacher and his fervid followers: The Bloodprint, a dangerous text the Talisman has tried to erase from the world.
Finding The Bloodprint promises to be their most perilous undertaking yet, an arduous journey that will lead them deep into Talisman territory. Though they will be helped by allies—a loyal ex-slave and Arian’s former confidante and sword master—both Arian and Sinnia know that this mission may well be their last.
Did the Bloodprint represent deliverance or deception?
There were only three among them who would be able to read it, even if by some fortuitous working of fate, Arian was able to find it. Herself, Ash, and Ilea.
And why would the Black Khan help them? Solely for the sake of the Sacred Cloak?
She raised her eyes to his face.
“You do not seek the Bloodprint for yourself, Excellency? You were the one who thought to—intercept it.”
Thief, her eyes called him. And liar, as well.
“Rukh,” he reminded her.
She pretended to soften. “Rukh, then. You said you have proof of the Bloodprint. Are you able to read the Claim? Is it true you were schooled in the High Tongue?”
A glimmer of amusement in his eyes suggested he fully understood the things she hadn’t expressed, her private dismissal of his character.
“I’m not as fluent as the Companions of Hira.” He made a small bow to Ilea. “But neither am I ignorant.”
No, Arian thought. He wouldn’t be. And he’d evaded the more important question. She returned to it.
“You do not expect to retain the Bloodprint, if I am able to retrieve it?”
“If you are able to retrieve it, all of Khorasan will be at your feet.”
“That is not why I pursue it.”
It was important to her that she convince him of this, though she couldn’t have said why.
His eyes narrowed, as if he’d grown tired of her.
“A Companion who does not seek power, perhaps because she wields it so wholly.” There was a caustic note in his voice. “The Bloodprint doesn’t matter to me. I have taken the Cloak as payment, it will serve me well enough.”
His words challenged her to deny him.
Arian didn’t think twice.
“It isn’t a prize to be bartered.” She turned to Ilea, prepared to risk the High Companion’s wrath. “And the Cloak isn’t yours to cede. It belongs at Hira. We are its rightful guardians.”
An indefinable expression crossed Ilea’s face.
“It was the price I paid for the Black Khan’s counsel. A counsel we desperately need.” There was a bitter edge to her voice. “You’ve been away too long, in pursuit of your misguided quest. I’ve had other priorities at Hira.” She made an impatient gesture with her hand. “Either accept your Audacy, or refuse it. I will not countenance further debate.”
Why not? And then realization struck Arian. For all of her discouragement of Arian’s efforts with the slave-chains, Ilea had expected Arian to bring the Cloak to Hira. How else could she have known to make her bargain with Rukh?
She had known Arian would seek it. And she had meant to trade it away.
She was swamped by a feeling of grief. How had she and Ilea come to this point?
“Why do you look so betrayed? You chose to pursue the Cloak for your own ends. I understood it would serve a larger purpose.”
“What purpose?” Arian whispered.
“The defence of Hira. The defence your actions made necessary.”
“My actions?” Arian echoed the words without understanding their meaning.
Ilea’s response was cruel. She had found a way to strike back.
“Yes, your actions. Your unceasing war against the slave-chains has put the Citadel at risk. The One-Eyed Preacher brings his war to Hira. And when he comes, the Citadel will fall.”
Arian blanched at the words. Was the High Companion right? Had she brought destruction to the Citadel? When everything she treasured was at Hira?
“No,” she said, grief in her voice. “That cannot be true.”
The Black Khan murmured something to Ilea, and the waters of the All Ways resumed their careful dance. Ilea crossed her arms, pressing both hands to her circlets. She waited impatiently for Arian to mimic the gesture.
“This is not an Audacy to undertake only as it suits you. Our very survival is at stake—the lives of the Companions, the sanctity of the scriptorium, the Citadel itself. Will you accept this Audacy? Or does your courage forsake you at the outset of the war?”
This isn’t the outset.
I’ve been waging this war for a decade.
At too great a cost, she now realized. But Arian accepted the Audacy’s rites. The time for dissent had passed. She had no choice but to seek out the Bloodprint.
Or face the end of the world.
About the author:
Ausma Zehanat Khan is the author of The Unquiet Dead, published by St. Martin's Press/Minotaur Books, and winner of the Barry Award, the Arthur Ellis Award and the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award for Best First Novel. Her widely acclaimed second novel, The Language of Secrets, was published in 2016. Among the Ruins, her third mystery was published in February 2017. She is also at work on a fantasy series, to be published by Harper Voyager, beginning October 2017. The Bloodprint is Book One of the Khorasan Archives.
A frequent lecturer and commentator, Ms. Khan holds a Ph.D. in International Human Rights Law with a research specialization in military intervention and war crimes in the Balkans. Ms. Khan completed her LL.B. and LL.M. at the University of Ottawa, and her B.A. in English Literature & Sociology at the University of Toronto.
Formerly, she served as Editor in Chief of Muslim Girl magazine. The first magazine to address a target audience of young Muslim women, Muslim Girl re-shaped the conversation about Muslim women in North America. The magazine was the subject of two documentaries, and hundreds of national and international profiles and interviews, including CNN International, Current TV, and Al Jazeera "Everywoman".
Ms. Khan practiced immigration law in Toronto and has taught international human rights law at Northwestern University, as well as human rights and business law at York University. She is a long-time community activist and writer, and currently lives in Colorado with her husband.
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