Halflings (Halflings Series #1)by Heather Burch
Split. After being inexplicably targeted by an evil intent on harming her at any cost, seventeen-year-old Nikki finds herself under the watchful guardianship of three mysterious young men who call themselves halflings. Sworn to defend her, misfits Mace, Raven, and Vine battle to keep Nikki safe while hiding their deepest secret—and the wings that come with. A
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Split. After being inexplicably targeted by an evil intent on harming her at any cost, seventeen-year-old Nikki finds herself under the watchful guardianship of three mysterious young men who call themselves halflings. Sworn to defend her, misfits Mace, Raven, and Vine battle to keep Nikki safe while hiding their deepest secret—and the wings that come with. A growing attraction between Nikki and two of her protectors presents a whole other danger. While she risks a broken heart, Mace and Raven could lose everything, including their souls. As the mysteries behind the boys’ powers, as well as her role in a scientist’s dark plan, unfold, Nikki is faced with choices that will affect the future of an entire race of heavenly beings, as well as the precarious equilibrium of the earthly world.
'Burch has penned a great read with a beautiful and smart heroine, hot heroes and evil villains. You’ll be up late reading this paranormal romance, and you’ll be entranced by the end of the first chapter. With action from the first page to the last, paranormal romance fans will most definitely enjoy this.'
I can't say I object. Burch may be riding the coattails of a mainstream trend, but she's giving the fashion a distinctly fresh cut that will allow it to stand out on the angelic romance runway. I'm excited to watch this series take flight – and curious to see where the next book will take what's sure to become a devoted following.
Packed with action, Halflings is stocked with a feisty, likable cast and a fantastically impossible love-triangle that made my heart flutter, race and sigh. This hard-to-put-down novel kept me up late into the night and burrowed itself into my imagination.
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By Heather Burch
ZONDERVANCopyright © 2012 Heather Burch
All right reserved.
Chapter OneFangs sank into Nikki Youngblood's leg, setting her skin on fire. A scream gurgled in her throat, but she willed herself past trees smeared by her jarred vision. Her jacket snagged on a branch. No, no, no ... She jerked free, casting a glimpse backward at the gnarled faces behind her. The lead beast stumbled over paws caked with mud. She seized the moment to widen the distance.
Run. Her lungs burned. Just keep running.
Her feet, now numb, thumped against the dense carpet of the forest floor. Once a place of security, a quiet sanctuary of solitude and escape, her woods had morphed into a house of terror complete with four grotesque dog-wolves tracking her every step.
Despite her years of martial arts, of seeing herself as tough and in control, Nikki was completely helpless. But that didn't mean she had to die. Karate had taught her to stay calm in all manner of attack. Though I don't think this is what you had in mind, Sensei.
One minute she's perched against a rock, drawing. The next, she's running from ... from ...
She started to glance back, but stopped herself. Concentrate on escape. Don't concentrate on your enemy.
Besides, she didn't even know what those dog-things were. But one thing was certain: they were out for blood and Nikki was an easy mark for the vicious beasts.
Exhaustion squeezed each muscle, depriving them of strength. Likewise, it pushed at her consciousness, promising failure. When she thought her lungs might literally burst, a momentary, blinding flash of light sparked above her, as if the universe were snapping a picture of her dilemma. Within seconds of the spark of light, a sound descended. Church bells? The reverberation of a thousand muted bells soothed her nerves and curled around her like a warm blanket after a nightmare. The unearthly noise filled her ears, a beautiful hum closing her in. But the tempo rose higher and higher it until it caused the backs of her eyes to throb.
The dog-wolves began to moan. She glanced back—the four monsters had crumbled to the ground, their taut, muscled legs folding beneath them. One raked his head in the dirt and grass, his massive paw clawing brutally at his ear. The sound. Convulsing and groaning, their desperate plea to escape the melodic cry of the bells filled the air around her. Nikki took in short puffs, knees nearly buckling beneath her where she'd slid to a stop. The first flicker of relief tried to manifest, but Nikki knew she wasn't out of trouble yet. Her mind reeled, searching for a feasible escape. But her eyes watered, causing her to press a flat palm to her temple where it throbbed from the wind song.
Wind song; that's all she could think to call it. And right now—whether causing a killer migraine or not—anything able to stop the ugly wolves ranked at the top of Nikki's new favorite things list. The pain intensified, but she still kept her attention riveted on the wolves. Were they wolves? She still wasn't sure. Each one was dark as a black hole, with hollow eyes she couldn't seem to look into directly. When she forced herself to lock eyes with one of the beasts, a cold river of pure fear streaked down her spine as if the wolf seized her very soul, choking out life and leaving a tormenting void.
The creatures' legs had folded and twisted into awkward positions, claws scraping at the ground, then at their ears. Wait, that's not mud on the dogs. It's ... dried blood. Her eyes blurred, causing her sense of survival to kick in. Head still throbbing like a bass guitar at a concert and with one hand at the side of her face, she ran. Through the tree line she caught a glimpse of silver. Yes! The gate to the football field. She'd make it to the other side and this nightmare would be over.
Was it just a nightmare? Some indigestion-induced dream? She could have fallen asleep in the woods while she drew the picture of ...
What had she been drawing? She couldn't remember.
But this was no dream. She was awake. Awake and aware of the spongy grass collapsing beneath her feet, aware of the scent of moist pine hanging on the forest walls. Aware of the searing sensation in her calf where the thing had sunk its teeth.
Eyes fixed on the fence, she tried to take a breath but managed only tiny gasps. Get to the gate. Just get to the gate. As if the deserted football field on the other side could somehow offer safety. Four dog-wolf-things had chased her through a quarter of a mile of woods; why would five feet of chain link stop them? She pushed on, leaping over rotting tree roots protruding from the earth like the twisted fingers of a witch. She imagined her legs getting tangled in the mass of vines, imagined the weathered roots reaching for her as she bounded past. Determination swept into her soul. With sickening certainty, Nikki knew she was racing for her life.
And more. Things, big things, world changing things factored into her circumstance. She didn't know how she knew it. But she did. And for the first time in her seventeen years of life, Nikki felt a destiny awaiting her. Fear and dread careening in her soul, and deadly hounds at her back, Nikki felt alive.
* * *
"Raven, the song is hurting her too," Mace said, anxiety creeping into his words as he peered over the rock ledge.
Raven scowled through his too-long bangs. "The Angel Song doesn't hurt humans. It only affects the evil within."
"Then you should be writhing on the ground with the hounds," Mace mumbled.
Raven chuckled and sank his hands into the pockets of his jeans.
Mace shifted his weight and slid his hands down his thighs. "It's time to intervene." If Raven thought he was going to torture this girl for fun, he was dead wrong. What made him think he was in charge, anyway? Just because he'd been on more journeys, and was the oldest of the three Lost Boys? So what. Experience didn't make a capable leader. The best leaders were those who put the welfare of their soldiers before their own. Anyone who knew Raven knew he only looked out for himself.
Beside him, Mace felt Vine's apprehension rise. For a quick moment, he closed off the noisy world and quieted his own soul, tuning into Vine's heart rate. Mace's gaze narrowed slightly as he listened to the kid's breathing pattern. Inhale. Exhale. All in check. Just first-time jitters.
Assured Vine was okay and ready for the fight, Mace's gaze returned to the pretty teenage girl trying to escape a nightmare sent directly from the pit. Her name echoed in his head: Nikki Youngblood. He'd known her name instantly. They all had. One of the perks of being a Halfling. Her shoulders were narrow, arms thin, but looked tone beneath her snug windbreaker. A small, straight nose rested above full lips that remained parted as she panted with each pounding step. Large eyes stayed focused on the field before her. Maybe pretty was an understatement. There was something ... captivating about her. It wasn't her face. It wasn't the long train of golden-brown hair that trailed behind her as she ran. It was her absolute tenacity to outrun her pursuers, her determination to survive. He'd watched grown men crumble at the sight of a single hell hound; she was chased by four. And crumbling didn't seem to be in her list of options. She'd kicked free from the hound when it bit into her calf muscle, then with a limp bolted for the gate of the football field, and he could sense as well as smell her resolve. But a mere human girl against four hell hounds? Zero chance for survival there.
"Haven't you seen enough?" Mace spat.
Raven gave a noncommittal shrug and finger-combed his hair away from his eyes. "What's your rush?"
Mace glanced fifty feet below—first at the girl, then the hounds. "She's terrified."
"Yeah," Vine agreed. "She looks really scared."
Raven smiled, white teeth shining in the disappearing light. "So?"
"You're a jerk." Mace spread his arms and prepared to descend. One of the benefits of being a Halfling: a fifty-foot drop was nothing. He snapped his wings open to swoop down, but before he could drop off the ledge something hit him square across the chest. Air whooshed from his lungs as he landed with a thud.
"She'll see you," Raven snapped. As he stared down at the girl, a surprising—almost tender—look crossed his face, only to be whisked away by his normal demeanor of cold detachment. But Mace had seen it, and the flash of compassion shocked him.
"You're not in charge, Raven." Mace said, rising from the rocky terrain. Once on his feet he dusted his rear end, partly to remove the dirt, partly to keep his hands busy so they wouldn't ball into fists and pound Raven into the ground.
"Be patient." Raven's voice lowered to a purr.
Mace's jaw clenched. He hated this part of an assignment. Yes, okay, sometimes it was important to let things play out a little, to not sail in and rescue too quickly. But the human side of Mace despised it. The angelic side of him ... well, the more journeys he completed, the less human he felt. Just as well. It was a world out of reach, and he needed to remember that.
He knew Raven would only allow intervention at the last possible moment. Mace felt the short hairs on the back of his neck rise along with the anger crawling up his spine. "Why would we have been sent if we weren't going to be utilized?"
Raven's eyes flashed fascination. "Maybe just for entertainment?"
Vine's mouth dropped open, his white-blond hair falling forward. "Entertainment?" He shot a quick, questioning look to Mace. "Does that happen? I mean, are we sent to just watch stuff like this?" Trepidation clouded those naive blue-gray eyes.
Mace sometimes marveled at the fact Vine was only two earth years younger than him; his innocence glowed like morning dew, quickly visible and quickly trampled into the mud.
Raven's mouth twisted. "Our kind does it all the time." No dew softened Raven's stark features and face cut into strong angles. His eyes, once bright blue, had darkened to midnight in recent years, which didn't bode well. "You know, earth girls are hot when they're running for their lives."
That was it. Mace dove for Raven, sick of his antics and, well, sick of him in general. Raven sidestepped and in an instant the two were nose-to-nose, fists drawn.
Mace cast a glance to Vine. For the first time, the kid looked like a warrior. Ready to step in if the two older boys came to blows. Go, Vine.
Mace exhaled a long breath and lowered his hands. Adrenaline surged into his muscles and pulled every ligament into a tight cord.
Cool confidence oozed from Raven as he tilted his chin into the sun, as if daring Mace to strike.
"I won't fight you, Raven," Mace said. Vine needs some sort of role model. Which he'll never have if I keep getting sucked in by Raven's games. He forced his attention away from the Halfling and focused on the pitiful scene unfolding beneath them. A fist fight wouldn't help the girl either.
Long hair floated behind her. Strands matted across her delicate face where her skin glistened with a silky sheen of sweat. She smelled like fear. The scent curled into the wind and rose on pleading wings, calling to him.
When she reached the fence, her golden eyes flashed relief. Mace watched a moment longer. "Raven, there's nothing to learn. Look at her." He gestured toward Nikki Youngblood and the hell hounds no longer chasing her. The four beasts whimpered, trying to escape the Angel Song drifting around them. Nikki trembled at the gate to the football field, hands shaking when she spotted the padlock secured with a thick chain.
"She's here for a reason, Mace. We have to find out what it is." With a twinkle in his eye, Raven clapped his hands and the Angel Song died. "Time to party."
Sometimes the worst part of being a Halfling was standing aside and letting events happen as they're supposed to. Maybe that was the worst part of being any created being. Mace's eyes drifted shut. Without the Angel Song to torture them, the hounds would once again be on the hunt. And Nikki Youngblood would be as good as dead.
* * *
"Come on," Nikki pleaded, willing her hands to stop quaking. Her fingers bled where she'd slammed them into the fence. She jerked back and forth on the entrance, a vain attempt to break the lock, and hopelessness born of despair slipped down her body like deadwood slipping into the sea after a storm. She was trapped. Blood began to work its way through her veins but brought with it a new form of torture. Splinters rather than blood seemed to course through her while her head pounded rhythmically.
Then the wind song disappeared.
The dogs stopped groaning. The forest dropped to a dead, graveyard quiet. No little bunnies or squirrels rambling through the fallen leaves. Just stillness. Just the promise of death.
A rustle behind her evoked a fresh wave of nausea. Desperate hands tightened on the crisscrosses of chain link. If she had the energy, she'd climb. But fear and torment had stolen the last shreds of her strength, leaving nothing but a bundle of exhausted nerves.
She dropped her head to her hands and closed her eyes. A twig snapped, forcing her head up. She tried to swallow, but her mouth and throat were cotton.
As a breeze skirted through the trees, cooling the sweat on her face, Nikki cast a reluctant glance over her shoulder.
The lead dog-wolf moved toward her methodically, a long bead of saliva dripping from his mouth. She watched as each paw landed on the ground. Nikki frowned. He seemed almost ... fearful as well. Was he scared of her? She turned, chin jutting forward. "What?" she spat, addressing the hound. "You afraid I might pop the cork on a bottle of screaming bell song again?"
Head dropping between his wide shoulder blades, he stared at her with those empty eyes. She hated that posture, that stalking, ready-to-lunge stance. Wolves at the zoo did the same thing and it freaked her out even though they were on one side of the enclosure and she on the other. She didn't even like to see her dog Bo stand like that. It was too predatory, too anxious to kill.
"Oh man," she mumbled. What did I just do? Her valor dissolved at her feet as the breeze moved again, this time pushing a rotten scent toward her. Nikki nearly gagged on the putrid odor. Rancid meat has nothing on these wolves. Years ago, some boys at her school had put a dead pig inside a car and locked it in a garage of an empty house. Weeks of scorching heat not only ruined the car, the house had to be demolished as well. When the vehicle was opened, the stench fetid animal threaded through several blocks of her neighborhood. At the time, she thought she'd never again smell anything so foul. She was wrong.
The beast growled deep in his throat and the sound invaded every cell of her being. Black lips curled back to expose yellowed fangs. Round eyes grabbed and swallowed light into the empty, soulless pits that were its sockets.
She pressed her back into the chain links. Tears rushed to her eyes as the other hounds appeared from the woods, leaving no way to escape.
The hunt was over. This is where she'd die.
Wiggling on his back haunches, the wolf leapt.
She cupped her hands over her head for protection, watching through the crook of her arm as the animal attacked. Scarred paws stretched toward her, razor-sharp claws seeming to grow larger and larger as they filled her vision. Why wouldn't the song return? Frantic, Nikki cried, "God, help me!"
A whoosh of cool air blasted her body and an explosion of light soared past. An instant later something solid slammed against her, shoving her to the ground. Her head thundered on impact. As she fought to take in air, white sparked above. She could hear voices, and the wolf's growl, but remained unable to focus her eyes or attention.
White again. With it, the dog creature screeched. A sickening voice entered her ears, whispering, hissing like a hundred snakes. It referred to something as sons of God.
Was the wolf talking? She couldn't see. White —white everywhere. Her mind whirred as an electrical current ran the length of her being: head to foot, foot to head, zipping through her, electrifying and depriving her muscles of movement.
Consciousness slipped away. As her eyes closed for the final time, a velvet voice soothed, "You're safe now, daughter of man."
Excerpted from Halflings by Heather Burch Copyright © 2012 by Heather Burch. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
What People are saying about this
James L. Rubart
Best selling author -- James L. Rubart, , Author
'Heather Burch's writing feels effortless. Her conflicted characters are both human and divine, caught in an ageless battle set against a modern backdrop. And she leaves us sooo thirsty for more!'
NY Times bestselling author of Fireproof and Two Seconds Late -- Eric Wilson, , Author
'From a fiery heroine to her otherworldly bodyguards, from conflicting desires to the terror of hell hounds---Halflings is a nonstop thrill ride through teeth-clenching dangers and the complexities of the human (and half-human) heart. Heather Burch is a top-notch storyteller, pure and simple.'
Author of The 13th Tribe, Comes a Horseman, and the Dreamhouse Kings series -- Robert Liparulo, , Author
Meet the Author
Heather Burch, the author of the popular Halflings series, spent the last seven years in Southern Florida but recently returned to her hometown in the Ozark Mountains. Her books have garnered praise from USA Today, Romantic Times, and Booklist magazine. When not working on her latest novel, she can be found hiking in the hills or planning a trip to the beach with her husband, John, who is her hero in every way.
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Why is it so short????????????????????????? (:)
Was a cute short story. I hope there is a series to go with it. :)
From the title i thought sure why not thinking it'd be an okay book. WRONG. I fell in love with the book Nikki may seem fearless at first but she isnt. Shes vulenerable and curious which leads her to a relevation like no other. Throughout her journey she finds what seems like forbidden love. Only one thing will escape your mouth when finishing this book. MORE. Enough said for an epic.
Can't write a review when you only get 20 pages counting the pages before the story starts.
Always looking for good sci fi/fantasy. Although this is more of a teen read, it was still enjoyable for someone "middle aged". Looking forward to book 2.
Ok. So I've only read the sample and its going great so far in the book:) The tittle and cover got my attention since I saw it. I am going to buy the rest of the book as soon as I can. :D
Halflings gets off to fast start. Our main character, Nikki Youngblood, is painting in the woods when she is attacked by enormous, otherworldly creatures called hellhounds. Even though her death seems imminent, Nikki bravely faces the monsters until three gorgeous boys come to her rescue. The boys Mace, Raven and Vine are Halflings: the product of fallen angels and humans and are outcasts in both Heaven and on Earth. Nikki is an interesting character. She portrayed as a tough, no-nonsense girl, one who has a black belt in karate, drives a motorbike and prefers boyfriend jeans and vintage tees to dresses and make-up. I had a hard time identifying with Nikki mainly because I think the character rejects anything feminine. For the record, I think it’s possible to rock at karate and be into bikes while still being girly. In contrast, Nikki’s best friend, the one who is very girly encourages her to be more feminine, is portrayed as being shallow and boy crazy. I understand and appreciate the message that the author is sending to teen girls but this tomboy character is becoming a bit of a stereotype in YA these days. While the author tells us that Nikki is a fighter, she does little fighting but gets rescued a lot by the Halflings. There isn’t a huge love triangle here, Nikki is more involved with one boy than with the other and insta-love is involved. I liked the boys. Mace, considered the good one, is more idealistic and while Raven is supposed to be bad, he just seemed jaded and snarky to me. I didn’t find the angel mythology in Halflings offensive, especially after recently reading two angel books that I did not like at all (Embrace and Fallen). While the mythology had some holes in it, I just went with it and hope those holes will be filled in with the next book in the series. The romance is Halflings is sweet and the action is exciting. Halflings will undoubtedly appeal to younger teens (its intended audience) who will especially like the three swoon-worthy boys, forbidden love, the quasi love-triangle and paranormal romance. I seriously doubt they will have the issues I did. Parents can also breathe easy as this is an angel book with no questionable content and even has a solid message about putting the greater good above serving yourself. Despite my issues with Halflings, I do recommend it to teens who love paranormal romance. The ending leaves a lot of questions and a huge opening for the second book in the series, Guardian, which comes out in October.
Ok for 15 pages
What I Loved I adored the suction power of the opening lines and pages of this book. From the first moment I met Nikki, I was drawn into her world, into the mystery she's caught up in, and the danger she's running from. The magnetism is my favorite part of this story...and I can already tell that I can look forward to the whole series being the same way. Heather Burch's writing style is stunning. I realized that when I read the prequel for the first time. Amazing. And the perfect sneak peek at what the book would bring. The storytelling is just as good as the writing. From the first, the mood was set for this one-of-a-kind adventure story where Nikki and her strange protectors are fighting not only for their lives ~ but for something much, much bigger. I don't usually appreciate being left out of the loop until so late into the book (and I still feel as I've only just begun to scratch the surface of just what makes these Halflings tick) but this story unfolded at the perfect pace to keep me thinking, guessing, and looking forward to reading more. What I Didn't Like As Much I wasn't sure what to expect when I signed up to participate in this blog tour. I had no idea what a Halfling was, but they sounded so intriguing and the book promised to be so good. I was happy to see that Heather Burch never distorts Scripture in any way ~ but she does weave an edge-of-your-seat story that plunges your imagination into a unique adventure! So though the premise of this story and half-angels unnerved me at first, I have no complaints. It's an entertaining debut novel that promises great things from this author.
I love the chacracters, angles are awesome creatures and I have seen 5hem I'm my home . GREAT READ!!!
Hmmmmm, very short....mythical.....interesting.
So far so good I really like this book. I'm not much of a reader but I think that i will really enjoy this seris. I can't wait to buy the book because i have the sample book. The romance in this book is so really and i loved that.
Kiss your hand three times and post this on three diffrent books and look under your pillow
which is a jumping off point in the story
22 page long and not really a book but more of a short story. Decend but not that impressive. Simple plot and not that exciting. An ok fast read for though who are looking for insperaion.
NAME## Alexandra "Nyla" Jackson AGE## 14 going on 15 this summer GENDER## Female PARENTS## Poseidon and Sally Jackson LOOKS## Long, slightly messy inky-black hair like Percy's, ivory skin, deep blue oceanic eyes that portray the darkest tides of the ocean. People say they can see the ocean in her eyes POWERS## Hypnotism with her blue eyes (not really a power, but she perfected that 'draw-you-in-until-you-drown' alluring look of the waves. Any sort of weapon- she trained with Ares for years. Hunting. Fighting- like aforementioned, any type of combat. Surfing, lifeguard-ing, tricking people. BACKGROUND## She was born a day after Percy, but the gods kidnapped her because they didn't want two major halfbloods of Poseidon running around. She lived on Olympus until she was thirteen, training with all the gods. Her immortal best friends are all of them except Hera, Dionysus, Zeus, Athena, and Hades. Then she wanted to search for her brother when she found out she had one on her 13th birthday. SONG## "Get Out Alive" ~ Three Days Grace, "Daring To Move" ~ some random person... and "human" ~ Christina Perry WEAPON## Her silverhilted sword which has a sapphire in the hilt. OTHER## None.
Name... Greg Jake Brenn. Age... 14. Parents... Pr. Jessi Brenn and Athena. Appearance... Black hair and grey eyes, and freckles. 5'9 and 126 lbs. Six pack and long legs, fit for running. Personality: Quiet and thoughtful. War like and loves to be challenged, though he would never admit it. Weapons... Throwing knives and a bag of lotus flower dust. Powers... None but he got Athena's warlike qualities so he invents alot of weapons for the Hephaestus cabin. Other... Envies Annabeth, favorite child of Athena. Conquered his fear of spiders but is scared of children of Poseidon due to a run in with the sea god himself.
Is at pineapple res 1
No swear words
Can someone tell me if this book has swear words in it?
It is so amazing reminds me of the twilight books
This was a great series. Lots of action and romance. Well written with well defined characters. I want to know what happens to Raven now so I hope there is another book.