"Betrayal, friendship, family, it's all there. So much happens it left me shocked. What an ending! I absolutely loved it. [...] n astonishing must-read zombie series that's gripping as well as mesmerizing all at the same time. Very well done." - Alexia, Goodreads
The Unblessed Dead (#1)
When I was younger, my mother saved my settlement from the Unblessed Dead that would have killed us all. It cost her everything to reveal her necromancy and sent shockwaves through our stringent religious settlement. Convicted of heresy against our sacred Lost Texts, she died soon after.
Since then, I have worked hard to maintain my Pious Standing so that when I turn eighteen I will be selected by a suitable husband at the Bridal Auction.
As the large clock in town square ticks down to my eighteenth birthday, the dead have been appearing in my garden. If I’m discovered, I’ll face the Necromancer Trial just as my mother, oldest sister, and I did all those years ago. This time I fear I will not survive it.
To add to my worries, an enigmatic handsome young man has arrived in the settlement. Around him swirls a green aura only I can see. Is he here to help me? Or does he have more nefarious plans?
My name is Ilyse Nott, and I fear I am a necromancer.
If I am, my life is over.
The Man in the Garden
I awoke to discover a dead man standing in the garden.
Now I linger near my bedroom window watching him. Mist swirls around his emaciated figure, and obscures his mottled face, but I recognize him even in the gloom of the night.
I scurry across the rough wooden floor to my sister’s bed on the other side of our small room and shake her awake.
“Leave me alone, Ilyse,” she mutters beneath her blankets. She burrows deeper, leaving only the halo of her blond hair on the pillow.
“Carrie, Schoolmaster Simmons is in the garden,” I whisper.
Flipping the covers down, she glares at me. “Schoolmaster Simmons is dead.”
Returning her peeved look, I say, “I know he’s dead. But he’s still in our garden.”
Lifting herself onto her elbow, she stares at me, her eyes slowly filling with understanding. “Oh. Again?”
“We have to return him to the Perdition Sanctuary before Father discovers him. Hurry.”
My heart is beating so hard in my chest it feels like it will shatter my ribs. How many times will this happen before my father discovers one of the Beloved Dead in the garden staring at our bedroom window and my fate is sealed?
I grab my hooded robe from the hook on the wall near our bedroom door and shove my feet into my leather slippers. Behind me, I hear Carrie doing the same.
“Why does this keep happening?” Carrie’s frustration bleeds into her hushed voice.
“I don’t know.”
I can’t share my fears with her. If I tell her what I suspect, my younger sister will panic, and my father will certainly notice. She’s an awful liar.
Carrie lies on the floor next to her bed and stretches out on her stomach to pull her control pole free from its hiding place. I do the same, my fingers searching the edge of the bedframe until I find my rod, and dislodge it. Hiding the tools from our father is necessary since women aren’t allowed to interact with the Beloved Dead. We’d been forced to use tree branches to usher poor Matron Chao back to the Perdition Sanctuary. A traveling merchant had eagerly traded with me for the poles when I’d presented a basket full of fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs from our garden.
Carrie shrugs on her robe and pulls the hood over her head. “Are we the only ones dealing with them somehow getting out?”
“Maybe.” I twist my auburn hair into a bun at the nape of my neck and set the hood low over my forehead. “If others are dealing with the Beloved Dead escaping the Perdition Sanctuary, they’re not speaking about it openly.”
I shake my head. “We can’t risk our names being tarnished with scandal. My Bridal Auction is soon. Yours is in five years. We must be of Pious Standing to secure husbands.”
With a disgruntled look, Carrie hurries to the window. “Sometimes I tire of always being in Pious Standing.”
I flinch at her words. I’m much more cautious than my younger sister when it comes to criticizing the way of life in the Atonement Settlement. Over my seventeen years, I’ve witnessed the repercussions that come with falling out of Pious Standing. At four years younger, Carrie is sheltered by our father and aunt. Sometimes I wonder if that’s a wise choice on their part. My father fears that we’ll imitate our eldest sister’s rebellion and bolt in the middle of the night into the Deadlands beyond the walls of our settlement. He’s done his best to instill fear into our hearts and train us in the way of the Lost Texts, but despite his best endeavors, the world appears to conspire against us. If anyone sees the Beloved Dead in our garden, we’ll be suspected of being necromancers and put on trial.
Armed with my pole, I unlatch the locks on the top and the bottom of the lead glass. Carefully, I swing the heavy window panes outward so I can step over the sill and onto the grass. The mist stirs around my feet, cold and damp. Carrie follows in my wake, her fingers tight around her pole.
She rolls her eyes. “Like I’m not?”
The thick plastic loops at the end of the control poles swing back and forth as we approach Schoolmaster Simmons. My former mentor stands among the strawberries, his head cocked, staring at us with white, empty eyes as we approach. The sleeve of his tattered coat is folded and pinned over the stump of his arm. He was born in the Radiated Lands without a full arm on one side and with missing fingers on the other. Not one week dead, he still retains some semblance to the man he’d been in life.
I miss his gentle guidance in my studies and his encouragement to imagine a life beyond the Atonement Settlement. I’d been dreaming of our last conversation when I’d awakened to see him in the garden.
Is that why he stands in front of us now?
Have I summoned him without realizing what I was doing?
The Accused Dead (#2)
According to the Lost Texts, the sins of the mother are laid on the shoulders of her female children
My mother was a necromancer and the shadow of her conviction and death blots out my hard work to be considered Pious Standing in the very religious settlement where I live.
Though I’ve been exonerated through the Necromancer Trial, there are those who are convinced that I am a heretic, a devil-woman, someone who should be exiled, or worse, killed. I have to escape and my only hope is for Quade to win my hand at the Bridal Auction.
About the author:
Rhiannon Frater is the award-winning author of the As the World Dies zombie trilogy (Tor) as well as independent works such as The Last Bastion of the Living (declared the #1 Zombie Release of 2012 by Explorations Fantasy Blog and the #1 Zombie Novel of the Decade by B&N Book Blog). She was born and raised in Texas where she currently resides with her husband and furry children (a.k.a pets). She loves scary movies, sci-fi and horror shows, playing video games, cooking, dyeing her hair weird colors, and shopping for Betsey Johnson purses and shoes. She’s the co-host of the ZCast, a Z Nation Fan Podcast.