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Burning Bridges

Burning Bridges

4.1 16
by Laura Anne Gilman

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Rediscover the world of the Retrievers and the Cosa Nostradamus, in book 4 of the popular series by Laura Anne Gilman.

Wren Valere used to be almost invisible. But now she’s not only being seen, she’s getting involved.

Recent attacks against nonhuman Fatae have escalated into hate crimes against magic users in


Rediscover the world of the Retrievers and the Cosa Nostradamus, in book 4 of the popular series by Laura Anne Gilman.

Wren Valere used to be almost invisible. But now she’s not only being seen, she’s getting involved.

Recent attacks against nonhuman Fatae have escalated into hate crimes against magic users in general—humans included. With the Mage Council distracted by internal power struggles, Wren reluctantly steps up as spokesperson for the fragilely united Fatae and lonejack communities.

And, because the cosmos deems her without enough complications, her partner-lover Sergei is drowning in his own problems. And she can’t help him—she’s the cause.

With lives on the line—including her own—Wren is going to have to break the lonejack credo, ditch her long-cherished invisibility and take a stand. But burning bridges can be deadly…

Originally published in 2007

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

At the start of Gilman's convoluted but diverting fourth Retrievers fantasy (after 2006's Bring It On), set in a near-future Manhattan, Wren Valere, a professional thief with magical "Talent," and her demon sidekick, P.B., discover the brutalized corpse of an angel. The gutted angel, or winged nonhuman "fatae," turns out to be just one casualty in a heated conflict between Nulls (humans without Talent) and the powerful human Talents, along with the fatae. Not only are bigoted human vigilantes going after supernaturals, but it appears the Silence, a covert organization that used to employee Wren's partner and lover, Sergei Didier, has become corrupted from within. Several Silence Talent operatives have gone missing, and Sergei is drawn back into the group's politics as a new truce falls apart. Though newcomers to the series might find the plot and multiple cabals a little confusing-with the spy stuff a little too derivative of TV's Aliasand not enough fey-Wren's can-do magic is highly appealing. (June)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

In the best of times, the Mage Council provides balance and protection for the various magic users and nonhumans now inhabiting the modern world. When a rash of attacks targeting New York's Fatae, both angelic and demonic, endangers the city's mage population, the council pressures human mage Wren Valere to bring the attackers to justice. Set in the same alternate Earth as Curse the Dark, Gilman's latest novel provides a view of magic and magical creatures that is anything but bright and shiny. Valere is a tough, resourceful heroine, a would-be loner who cares too much to truly walk alone. A strong addition to urban fantasy collections.

—Jackie Cassada

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A Retrievers Novel
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January 23, 6:25 p.m.

Fresh snow could make even the dingiest, most urban part of Manhattan into a magical place. The colors and noises all faded away, the city's usual frenetic pace slowing to a more studied waltz of snow falling, white against the bare black limbs of trees and outlines of buildings. Drifts pushed up against mail drop boxes, covered fire hydrants, and shut down traffic except for the unstoppable city buses and madman-driven taxi-cabs zipping through the night.

It might have been lovely, but Wren Valere wasn't paying attention to the scenery. She was a professional working her craft. Or trying to, anyway. Two new high-end locks had hit the market, supposedly proof against the "bump-and-enter" method, and she wanted to make sure she understood how they worked before she actually encountered one in the field, when time might be against her. In her particular profession, you didn't get many second chances, and Wren was pretty sure the past twelve months had used up all the ones she was going to get in a lifetime.

Sometimes, honestly, she didn't know what got into her. For a mind-her-own-business Retriever, she'd spent a hell of a lot of time muddling around in things she should have left alone. Curses and politics and meetings, for God's sake.

Never mind that she'd done it to save her own skin, after the Mage Council tried to use her and her partner, Sergei; never mind that she'd done it to help out her friends among the fatae, the nonhuman members of the Cosa Nostradamus. All of that might have made what happened inevitable, but none of it made it smart.

"Hey, Valere." The voice came from the other side of the room, about three feet to the right and a foot down. And speaking of fatae….

Wren Valere didn't sigh, but she wanted to.

Retrieval wasn't easy. She had studied her craft, learned from masters, and kept up-to-date on all the most recent developments, not only in her own field, but anything that might come in handy. In addition to mastering the current-magic that flowed from within her, she had trained her body, as well; toning and strengthening her muscles, increasing her lung capacity, maintaining her flexibility. She had forced mind and body into partnership, more than once spending hours waiting in a cramped, close situation, anticipating the perfect moment to move on a job. She knew all about patience. About focus. About dedication.

And that focus and dedication was being destroyed, not by a stubborn client, or impossible mark, or even the weight of the snow outside and what was happening in the city beyond, but by her companion.

She didn't bother looking in the direction of the voice, not wanting to encourage him.

"Valere," the voice said again. "What does this do?"

She looked, then, briefly. "Opens locks."

The room's other occupant—and the subject of her irritation—put the tool back down on the small table next to him and picked up another. "And this?"

She reached for patience, found it. "Opens a different kind of lock."

"And this one?"

Patience threw up its hands in disgust and fled the room. "It gets the gunk out from between my teeth. Damn it, P.B., will you please leave my kit alone? Those extremely delicate tools you're paw-handling cost me a fortune, and half of them are custom-made." She reached up from her cross-legged position on the floor, and snagged the instrument in question out of P.B.'s paws. A thin ceramic shape with a non-reflective black coating, it actually did look like something that might be found in a very trendy Goth's toothbrush holder, except that the fiberglass pick at the end was attuned to more delicate vibrations than enamel generally gave off.

"Sheesh. Someone's snappy." The short, white-furred demon settled on the padded bench under the room's single window and stared at her with his dark, dried-bloodred eyes. He wandered over to the corkboard that hung above her desk and tapped one curved black claw on a color pencil sketch tacked there. "This the bansidhe-horsie you been chasing? How long you been working that case?"

"Five years." She refused to look up from her notes, hoping against hope he would finally take the hint and go elsewhere.

P.B. snorted, a wet, vaguely disgusting noise his flattened snout of a nose seemed designed to make. "That's dedication. You get paid for any of that time?"

"Five years ago, yeah." It wasn't always about money. A lot of the time, it was about reputation. The Wren never gave up. Never left a job unfinished. No matter what.

Okay, maybe some of it was about money. Her mother had spent most of her life worrying about money: how much, never enough. Having money-savvy Sergei Didier become her manager when she was a teenager had given Wren the opportunity—and the education—she needed to change that. Over the years, her reputation—and her fees—had grown. If she was careful, and kept working, her savings would be enough to buy her apartment when it finally—inevitably—went co-op. More, Wren was now in the position of being able to have ego spur her to do things, rather than need.

Financial need, anyway.

The demon and the human were occupying the spare bedroom/library of Wren's East Village apartment, surrounded by three stacks of books, a scattering of papers, and the remains of two pizzas. The air was heavy with the scent of pepperoni, cheese, and a dry heat coming up through the building's ancient radiators, making her sinuses itch.

Ego had its own need in it, too. The bansidhe—Old Sally—was the one job Wren hadn't been able to close. Yet. Her clients—descendants of the original owner— had, she suspected, long since written off their initial deposit, but she couldn't let go.

No, the whereabouts of one taxidermied warhorse,

no matter that it was a portent of doom, didn't really matter a damn to her. But professional pride was involved. With her last dying breath, if need be, she was going to bring that damn sawdust-stuffed equine doom-sayer back in. Someday. When everything else got settled.

The thought made her laugh, bitterly. The Cosa was in the middle of a battle for survival against enemies it hadn't been able to identify, who were determined to wipe them out of the city. Her partner's former employers had screwed them over and left them to hang. The Mage Council was playing their usual we-know-nothing, did-nothing game with the rest of the Cosa. All in all, "settled" wasn't something Wren expected to see anytime soon.Although these past few weeks of the new year had been oddly if pleasantly calm: nobody had set a psi-bomb off anywhere near her; nobody had tried to bribe, threaten, hijack or otherwise annoy her or any of her friends; Sergei was off on a legitimate business trip for his gallery; and she was actually catching up on her filing, bill-paying, and her exercise routine. The entire city seemed to have come to a pause.Hell, the entire city had come to a pause, thanks to the weather."It's still snowing." P.B. had given up staring at her, now looking out the window, one white-furred, black-clawed paw pushing aside the dark green drape. His short muzzle, which—along with the plush white fur and rounded bearlike ears—had been the cause of his nickname of "Polar Bear," pressed up against the glass, his breath causing the window to fog over."It's been snowing for the past seven hours," Wren said as patiently as she could manage. "This isn't anews flash." After two months of winter, snow of any sort wasn't news.The constant curtain of white was making her stir-crazy, too, but she could live with it. Without the snow, Wren had no confidence that the agreement she helped broker—that the Eastern Mage Council and tristate lonejacks would sit down and shut up and play nice together, at least while they had murdering bigots out for their blood—would have held together longer than a week, much less the month-and-counting.It helped that attacks by those bigots who had been trying to "cleanse" Manhattan of anything supernatural had all but stopped. She didn't think they were gone, though. The threat of the Cosa finally working together, in however limited a fashion, wasn't enough to work that miracle, no matter what some of her fellow members might want to believe. No, it was far more likely that frostbite was a hell of a deterrent—as was the fact that their prospective victims were wisely staying inside, where it was warm.

No matter. She'd take whatever reason, if it gave them a breather.

P.B. turned away from the window and hopped down off the bench, kicking the pizza box with one clawed foot as he moved. "Hey. There's still a slice left."


"I'm full," he said, by his voice, borderline perturbed by that admission.

"You're full?" That got her to look up. She stood, creaking unpleasantly in the knees, and went over to look out the window, as well. "The Stomach that Digested Manhattan is full? Damn. There's the fourth horseman, riding past."

"Oh, shut up," he snarled, uncharacteristically. "I wanted kung pao chicken, remember? But you didn't want to order Chinese. For the first time ever, speaking of the end of the world."

Wren didn't snarl back at him, but only because she could feel current coil in her core, the power looking for an excuse to get funky. Control. She needed to maintain control. P.B. knew why she didn't want Chinese food. Or he should know, anyway. With Chinese food came Chinese fortune cookies. Fortune cookies, in this city, had an unpleasant tendency to be written by actual Seers. Sometimes, not knowing what was about to fall on your head was a blessing.

Wren counted backward from ten in English, then up again in Russian, the only thing she knew in that language except for a few useful swearwords. Stay calm, Valere. He was cranky. She was cranky. Stir-crazy didn't look good on either one of them.

This was the third day of snow this week, snowing hard since dawn the day before, and P.B. had been bunking with her for two days of it. She would have told him to go home, but Sergei had been caught out of town when the airports shut down, and she had been glad enough for the company at that point to tell the demon that he could stay as long as he liked.

Apparently, he liked overnight.

Besides. She had no idea what P.B's home was actually like, much less if it was currently livable. The law said landlords had to provide heat when it dropped below a certain temperature, but the demon was unlikely to call the tenant complaint hotline, much less appeal to a disciplinary board.

"We need to get out," she said. "Do something." Something other than eat and prod unruly paperwork, anyway. She wasn't able to focus properly on the lock schematics, so long as P.B. was restless.

"As you just pointed out, it's been snowing all day. There's, like, a foot of snow out there. This, in case you missed it, is a problem for me."

Wren turned and looked at the demon, all four feet of him standing upright and reaching. The vision of him lost in a snowbank, only the black tips of his claws and the black tip of his nose visible, made her laugh for the first time in days. She didn't think he would appreciate her sharing the image, though.

"Let's get out of here," she said again. "Come on."

It only took a few minutes for Wren to lace up her boots, pull on a sweater, and grab her heaviest coat out of the closet. The cold air was like a slap against her face, after the dry heat of her apartment, and she stuck out her tongue to catch a snowflake, just because she could.

P.B. promptly went out and measured himself against the nearest plowed-in snowbank, coming out about six inches the victor.

Her street hadn't been plowed in hours, and the sidewalks were impassible. They trudged through ankle-deep snow in the middle of the street, watching their breath crystallize in the night air.

Most of the population was safe indoors, watching out windows, catching updates on the television, or determinedly pretending that this latest storm Wasn't Happening. But a few equally snow-loving souls were out and about: Wren saw a couple of teenagers building a scraggly-looking snowman wearing a Yankees cap; a young gay couple walking slowly glove in glove; and at least three groups of kids, dashing about madly as though they had never seen snow before.

Maybe they hadn't, not on this scale. The Winter of Snows was a long time ago now, for all that she remembered it vividly, and the past few winters had been pretty dry.

Her brow furrowed under the wool watch cap as she thought about that. Was there anything potentially worrisome about that, other than from a drought perspective? No, after the heat wave of the summer past, it would make sense they'd be due for another extreme winter. No need to assume anything more sinister—or supernatural—than that.

Anyway, other than the occasional thunderstorming, lonejacks and Council both knew better than to mess with the weather. Mother Nature was a bigger badass than any ten Talents, and less predictable than your average blissed-out, neurotic, brain-fried wizzart.

Spring would come. Eventually. In the meantime, she should just be thankful for the peace and quiet the storms were bringing to a city that badly needed it. Having to layer blankets at night was a decent trade, for that.

All right, the rest of the city, unaware of what was going on, might not know that they needed it, but she did. Wren had been starting to feel worn decidedly thin by all the new demands on her: the endless Negotiating and Line-walking and Behaving when all she wanted to do was kick everyone out and lock the door behind them.

She was not good at playing with others. Not at all. In fact—

"Hey, Valere!" P.B. called.

Wren turned in the direction of his voice, and got a faceful of cold white powder smack on the left side of her face.

"Argh!" Tears came to her eyes, but she was grinning, ear to ear. Wiping away the stinging cold snow, she shot back, "You're dead meat, you polar bear wannabe!"

Bending down to scoop the snow into her fist, she whispered a soft incantation she had memorized as a kid, to melt the snow just enough for it to pack easily. But before she could do more than sight on the spot right between the demon's black-lashed eyes, his wide mouth grinning at her from over a snowbank almost as tall as he was, the soft shushing noise of falling snow was overridden by a deep, jagged scream.

"What the hell?" P.B. yelled, clapping furry paws over his rounded ears as though that would do anything to stop the sound.

Wren staggered and slipped in the snow, unable to mimic P.B.'s actions as the wave of current associated with that scream slapped into her like a windstorm, almost knocking her over. "Over there," she managed, forcing herself back up and forward. "It came from over there!"

Meet the Author

Laura Anne Gilman is the author of the popular Cosa Nostradamus books for Luna (the “Retrievers” and “Paranormal Scene Investigations” urban fantasy series), and the Nebula award-nominated The Vineart War trilogy from Pocket, as well as the YA trilogy GRAIL QUEST for Harper. Her first story collection is DRAGON VIRUS and she continues to write and sell short fiction in a variety of genres. Follow her at @LAGilman or www.lauraannegilman.net

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Burning Bridges 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
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I really enjoyed this book. I especially enjoyed having the character P.B. developed further. I truly think that this book is her best yet-while it is more than likely too complex to a newcomer, that is the price you pay for not reading a series from the beginning. There is a reason this book is part of a series! This book also has some great storylines that show Wren branching out and learning to make 'and keep' friends. Wren is learning to trust and Gilman is able to show that in a human way with a touch of comedy. This book shows a more feminine side to Wren. Gilman is breath of fresh air in the fantasy genere. Too many female fantasy authors have jumped on the band wagon of having their female protagonist become promiscuous, to say it nicely. Wren may not be a choir girl but she isn't cheap either.
harstan More than 1 year ago
The Cosa Nostradamus is the magical community consisting of three major groups the council of mages, the lone jacks who are independent operators, and the fatae, the non-human species. Wren is a Retriever, a thief who uses her talent magic to steal things that her clients want. Her lover Sergei is a null (no magical talent) who left the organization of the Silence, a group who protect humans from larger darker forces to become an entrepreneur.------------- Both are loners but in the present climate, Wren can no longer stay on the sidelines. For years the fae were attacked and the lone jacks did nothing and now a vigilante group founded by an unknown organization is killing lone jacks. The fatae and the lone jacks for the first time in history along with the council organize a truce to find out who the enemy is and neutralize them. When a target is killed, by nulls and those who have talent, the truce is broken and the council withdraws. However the fatrae and the lone jacks are united in their determination to strike out at the enemy while Wren and Sergei are lovers fearing every step they take will make matters worse. A confrontation is coming and when it happens it will change alliances.----------------- Laura Anne Gilman writes some of the best supernatural fantasy on the market today. BURNING BRIDGES is a fantastic urban fantasy thriller with loads of action, protagonists that are likeable and understandable and a conspiracy that hides in the shadows using disposable minions to further its aims. Wren is a strong willed person while Sergei is a tortured soul who is tugged between two opposing groups who have claims on his loyalties. Readers will await the next installment in this series to see how the coming war bears out.----------------- Harriet Klausner