Landry Park

Landry Park

3.9 7
by Bethany Hagen

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“Downton Abbey” meets The Selection in this dystopian tale of love and betrayal

Sixteen-year-old Madeline Landry is practically Gentry royalty. Her ancestor developed the nuclear energy that has replaced electricity, and her parents exemplify the glamour of the upper class. As for Madeline, she would much rather read a book than attend yet

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“Downton Abbey” meets The Selection in this dystopian tale of love and betrayal

Sixteen-year-old Madeline Landry is practically Gentry royalty. Her ancestor developed the nuclear energy that has replaced electricity, and her parents exemplify the glamour of the upper class. As for Madeline, she would much rather read a book than attend yet another debutante ball. But when she learns about the devastating impact the Gentry lifestyle—her lifestyle—is having on those less fortunate, her whole world is turned upside down.  As Madeline begins to question everything she has been told, she finds herself increasingly drawn to handsome, beguiling David Dana, who seems to be hiding secrets of his own. Soon, rumors of war and rebellion start to spread, and Madeline finds herself at the center of it all. Ultimately, she must make a choice between duty—her family and the estate she loves dearly—and desire.

Fans of Ally Condie, Kiera Cass, Veronica Roth, and even Jane Austen will be enthralled by this breathtaking read.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Hagen’s debut has ambitious goals—forecasting a world reliant on nuclear power, commenting on social oppression, and delivering a romance filled with longing—but falls a little short. Madeline Landry, 17, is heir to the vast Landry Park estate in Kansas City, built by a revered ancestor, Jacob, who invented the “Cherenkov lantern” that now powers the world. A member of the privileged gentry, Madeline is subject to frequent teas, formal debuts, and a constant stream of suitors. Her father is a powerful figure whose main goal is keeping the lower-class Rootless under his thumb. Madeline resists all suitors until she meets dashing David Dana, who flirts shamelessly but escorts Madeline’s archrival to her debut. When Madeline isn’t suffocating in taffeta, she appears destined to become a courageous champion of the underclass, though she makes little progress in this trilogy opener. Despite the claim that the “boundaries of race and gender and religion fell away” in the establishment of this technologically advanced society, it’s unclear why attitudes toward women have regressed to mirror that of the 19th century. Ages 12–up. Agent: Mollie Glick, Foundry Literary + Media. (Feb.)
From the Publisher
"Gone with the Wind meets The Hunger Games." - VOYA

"A mélange of sci-fi inventions, well-written characters, and classic literary allusions." - The Christian Science Monitor

"This is a terrific mash-up of a Regency period romance with a dystopian tale that will intrigue teen readers, and introduce some important questions about the structure of modern society." - School Library Journal

"Hagen’s debut is filled with luxurious language, swoon-worthy love interests, and exceptional world-building...this first book in a trilogy will appeal to fans of Diana Peterfreund’s For Darkness Shows the Stars and Catherine Fisher’s Incarceron." - School Library Journal

"Heated debates and similarly heated kisses fuel Madeline and David’s will-they/won’t-they relationship, tempering the social commentary with a bit of romantic drama." - The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books


VOYA, February 2014 (Vol. 36, No. 6) - Walter Hogan
The cover blurb of Hagen’s debut novel describes the book’s contents as “Downtown Abbey meets The Selection.” Or, just as aptly, it could be Gone with the Wind meets The Hunger Games. In a near-future U.S., teenage Madeline is the sole heir to the wealthy and self-righteous leader of “the Gentry,” Alexander Landry. Like Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, Landry Park is a lavish estate where wealthy landowners wine, dine, and arrange marriages. The Landrys descend from the scientist who invented a crucial method of harnessing nuclear energy to power homes and appliances, following the exhaustion of fossil fuels. Unfortunately, the mining and processing of the nuclear material is deadly to the Rootless, a vast underclass who labor in virtual slavery to supply the patrician Gentry with cheap energy. While planning her society debut and trying to choose between a pair of dreamy boyfriends, Madeline is gradually brought into contact with members of the forsaken Rootless. As the terrible cost of her privileged life is brought home to Madeline, readers of her first-person narration experience along with her the transition of an apparent utopia into a nightmarish dystopia. Although the novel follows a conventional historical-romance pattern of disrupting a costume drama with a proletarian revolution, there are a few distinctive features. The story is set in a future version of the author’s own Kansas City, where her familiarity with such features as the Missouri River and the Kansas City Zoo lends authenticity. The story concludes at a logical point, but sequels are likely. Reviewer: Walter Hogan; Ages 11 to 18.
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—In a postapocalyptic United States, Madeline Landry, descendant of the scientist who developed nuclear-powered lanterns, enjoys a life of privilege, but she would rather attend university than be groomed for marriage and the eventual inheritance of the Landry estate. In this castelike society with a mishmash of Victorian/Regency/Edwardian norms, the 17-year-old's family is part of the gentry class that subjugates the lower-class Rootless to handle the nuclear-emitting light sources-a task that Madeline later discovers causes a slow and painful fate. The arrival of David Dana, a charming but secretive suitor, and a brutal attack on Cara, Madeline's lifelong frenemy, are the catalysts for not only the rich girl's rebellion but also the complete upheaval of the status quo. Hagen's debut is filled with luxurious language, swoon-worthy love interests, and exceptional world-building that doesn't bog down the narrative. While the novel's treatment of class is intriguing, the dismissal of race as a factor is problematic. While status, not ethnicity, determines acceptance in this stratified new order (several gentry members are people of color, and the protagonist is half-Latina), war with the Eastern Empire (Asian countries) is named as the primary cause of America's demise. The elite continue to vilify the Eastern Empire as much as the Rootless and are seen as a constant threat. Still, the cast of fully developed characters, pervasively sinister mood, and thrilling love story will keep readers turning the page, even if they'll be able to predict some plot twists before they occur. This first book in a trilogy will appeal to fans of Diana Peterfreund's Darkness Shows the Stars (HarperCollins, 2012) and Catherine Fisher's Incarceron (Dial, 2010).—Shelley Diaz, School Library Journal
Kirkus Reviews
Regency romance sits uneasily in a dystopian throwback future. Poor little rich girl Madeline Landry wants to go to university before marrying and inheriting one of America's most important estates. Madeline's world is an odd amalgam of romantic notions of history and dark, postwar future. The western half of the United States fell years ago to "China and her allies," exotic faceless caricatures who smuggle "plum wine, opium, and jade" and who don't fight like "civilized armies" but are "brutal" when they "swarm." Meanwhile, the gentry's entire society rests on its enslavement of the Rootless, a diseased underclass responsible for maintaining the nuclear power invented by Madeline's own ancestor. From within the cozy confines of her silken prison, Madeline realizes that forcing children to dispose of spent uranium while providing only enough medical care for them to stay fertile is a little gauche. Along with a few interestingly complex secondary characters, Madeline learns about the caricatured evil underlying her luxuries. Will she be able to assuage her conscience by merely scattering largesse to the populace out of a sense of noblesse oblige, or will she be forced to make any actual sacrifices? Regency romances can combine well with science fiction (Lois McMaster Bujold's accessible adult novel A Civil Campaign (1999) does so brilliantly), but this awkward merger of the two will convince few. (Science fiction. 12-14)

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Product Details

Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.50(d)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

The truth is sometimes hard to hear.

“I know you lied to the police about who attacked you,” I told her.

She crossed her arms over her chest. “Prove it.”

I slid my chair closer to the table. “Why are you doing this?”

“Why do you care?” Cara hissed.

“You can’t get lost in the grove at night—I could see the lights of the house the whole time we were looking for you. And a walk, really? Without a coat? In that cold?”

“It’s none of your business why I was out there.”

“You made it my business when you refused to tell the truth! My father thinks this is all part of some Rootless conspiracy to overthrow the gentry, and he’s ready to crush them. You and I are the only ones who know that he’s wrong.”

“We don’t know he’s wrong,” she said. “The Rootless could be plotting a revolt for all I know. If some conspiracy gets thwarted because of this, then no harm done. In fact, that means that I’ve done everyone a favor and helped unmask a threat to the gentry.”

“Do you even have a conscience?”

“Do you have a brain?” She jabbed a finger at me. “If I wasn’t attacked by a Rootless or some poor person or a servant—if I was attacked by someone in the gentry—do you think I could go around announcing it to the police? To your father? Do you think anyone would believe me if I accused one of us? Like it or not, Madeline, this is how our world works, and if you know what’s good for us, you’ll keep your head down and your mouth shut.”

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Two hundred years ago, America found itself at a crossroads. With sickness and famine came economic turmoil, and with economic turmoil came the looming threat from across the Pacific—China and her allies. The rich and the poor temporarily forgot their fight with each other and united to defend themselves. They failed.

The West Coast and all the land west of the Rockies fell to the Easterners, though the Americans were able to stop their advance in the mountains. Peace was restored, but a wary peace. America’s arsenal of weapons was surrendered and destroyed, her access to most of the world’s oil completely cut off. Fortunately, a forward-thinking scientist named Jacob Landry introduced the Cherenkov lantern that very year, which no less than changed the world.

In the coming years, Jacob Landry emerged as the voice of reason and stability, promising a new way of life whereby the wealthy could protect their own and gently spur the underclass into productivity. And then there was war. Rather than North against the South, it was each city against itself, each state against itself, all led by the Uprisen against the hastily cobbled together but fierce resistance. After two years of destructive and bitter warfare, the Uprisen were victorious. The boundaries of race and gender and religion fell away as class became the most important delineator in society.

When I woke in the morning, it was spring. Spring came like that now, like a thief tiptoeing through the frost, saving its first warm breaths for early May mornings.

I’d fallen asleep under my silk canopy, my fingers wedged inside The Once and Future King, a dim blue lantern still unhooded beside my bed. Elinor, my lady’s maid, came in to open the curtains and lay out my clothes.

“Good morning, Miss Madeline,” she said.

“Good morning.” My dreams had been wistful and restless and filled with the faraway hopes of people long since dead and returned to dust. I stood and walked to the window, where I could see the stark branches of the trees weeping with melting ice.

“Shall I prepare the ivory lace for the debut tomorrow night?” Elinor asked. “Your mother says you must dress to make a match.”

She would. It was always about marriage with her. It was always about marriage with all the mothers; it was the gentry way. As late as last year, I’d been allowed to beg off dances and dinners, but since I’d turned seventeen last February my mother had stopped letting me neglect my social obligations. “The ivory will be fine, Elinor. Thank you.”

After Elinor had buttoned up my day dress—a flowing gown the blue of glacial ice—I took my book downstairs to find a quiet place to finish it and then practice my speech to Father. I planned to avoid the morning room, where my mother was hosting a breakfast tea for her friends, but when I heard my name as I passed the doorway, I couldn’t help stopping to listen.

“Does Madeline know?” a woman asked.

“Please,” said a scornful voice that I recognized as belonging to Addison Westoff, one of the richest women in the city and my mother’s childhood friend. “Why would any of our children care about scandals old enough to be in a museum?”

“But is it true?” the first woman asked. “Christine Dana is coming back to Kansas City?”

“What does it matter?” Addison asked. “Even if she is, she’s a harmless widow. Olivia has done the one thing Christine could never do and that’s give the Landry line an heir.”

“Madeline,” I heard someone whisper and then a low chuckle. My cheeks burned.

I crept away from the door and continued down the hall. Maybe I’d take a walk outside. The cold air would be bracing, and I would be well away from the gossiping women.

I traded my slippers for boots and slipped on my woolen coat. My steps echoed through the empty ballroom as I made my way to the windowed doors that led out to the patio and the grounds.

I crunched through the snow into the rose garden, where gardeners were wheeling out the solar-powered heaters to speed the melting that was already under way. Father was talking to one of them about laying a fresh layer of crushed gravel on the path as I approached.

The gardener doffed his hat. “Good morning, miss.”

“Good morning,” I said. “Preparing for the growing season?”

“That I am, miss, although I’m a bit worried about what we can grow with the winters lasting longer and longer,” he replied. “Our plants need to be modified to grow faster.”

Father was squinting at the ceiling of clouds, rolling and leaden and promising rain, but I knew his mind was on the various farms we owned. The crops on those farms, like the roses and ferns in our garden, had evolved to grow in the weather of the twenty-first century, not in our new world of snow and ice. Every year, the yields grew smaller and smaller.

“I’ll be at it now, if you’ll excuse me.” The gardener replaced his hat and made to leave, but then stopped and turned. “And mind your pretty gray cat, if you will. There’s a big brown tom that’s taken a fancy to her whenever she steps out for a walk. I wouldn’t want you to have a litter of brown kittens running about, spoiling that pretty thing’s pedigree.”

I smiled. “I don’t believe any tomcat is a match for my Morgana. You should have seen my arms the last time I tried to give her a bath.”

“If you say so, Miss Landry,” he said, shaking his head. He excused himself and rejoined the other gardeners.

Father put his hands behind his back and regarded me.

“Well, Madeline?”

“Well, what?”

“You come forward so intently. I assume you have something to discuss?”

“Yes, Father.” It was like him, to know just what I was thinking. He usually knew what people were thinking, which was what made him such a shrewd leader among the gentry. It was also what made him such an intimidating father.

He started walking and I stayed beside him, wondering how best to bring up the subject of my education.

“Have you finished reading John Locke?” he asked.

I nodded.


“I find his argument for the ownership of property convincing enough, but he writes that it is only an individual’s labor that gives him the right to own land. What does that mean for our land? I do no labor here, yet I’m to own it.”

Father ran his gloved fingers along an icy bramble bush. “If we were not here to direct the labor, this estate and all of our forests and farms would be less productive. We’re adding value by applying our wisdom.”

I considered this, doubtful. I didn’t know many people who’d equate “applying wisdom” with pulling up stumps or plowing or herding cows from pasture to pasture in the roiling summer heat.

He spoke again. “But I agree with you that Locke’s argument can only be carried so far. Next, you must read Edmund Burke. Your six times great-grandfather Jacob Landry was a keen admirer of Burke.”

Father had stopped and was examining one of the bushes, where rot had taken half the branches. I couldn’t wait any longer. I had to speak before I lost my nerve, before Father went inside to his study and this private moment in the slushy beauty was lost.

“Father, my history teacher told us about the time before the Last War, when America was still the United States and the West Coast still belonged to us and not to the Eastern Empire.” I’d prepared my speech with an appeal to history, since Father’s own justifications were usually couched in terms of historical perspective. My father talked about the Last War and the birth of the gentry like it was more central to our being than the air we breathed. To him, the Last War was more important than the American Revolution or the Civil War. Referencing it would show that I’d done my research, thought about this carefully—even if I was technically citing the period before my ancestor had led America from chaos to order.

I glanced over at Father. He continued looking over the branches.

I continued. “When men and women dated whomever they wanted, whenever they wanted, regardless of money or class. Back then, everyone had been able to attend school, and everyone had an opportunity to study at the university, to choose their own way in life. I want to go to the university,” I said this last part quickly, nervous but determined. “I graduated from the academy two weeks ago, and soon it will be time for me to submit my application if I want to go. And I do want to go.”

“Indeed.” Father’s voice held nothing—no affirmation, no condemnation.

I pushed ahead, trying to hold onto the optimism I felt this morning. “I know it’s unusual for an heir to spend any length of time studying, but I want a university education and I know I would be good at it.”

“Is the education you receive here not sufficient?”

The coldness in his voice was a warning, but I chose to ignore it. “You know I value everything that you teach me, but I want to learn more. I want to learn more about history and philosophy and about land and business—I know it will make me a better owner of Landry Park, when the time comes.” There. He could hardly argue against something that would help the estate.

“It’s not possible.” He straightened and brushed the ice from his gloves. “You know the rules. Eldest children inherit, marry, and carry on the family name. Younger gentry children may attend a college and take a degree, but the eldest child has a duty to her family. And you are not only my eldest child, Madeline, you are my only child. How do you expect to pursue your studies and fulfill your duty to this estate?”

The estate. Always the estate. Three stories of gray stone and large windows with a tower in the middle jutting up above it all, built by my ancestors after the Last War. The Palladian mansion sat on a sprawl of wide lawns and tumbledown gardens, scented by bobbing flowers and tossed with a breeze that whipped up from the Missouri River. From the copper-roofed observatory in the tower, one could take in the entire city by day, and at night, planets and stars and galaxies far overhead.

“But I don’t want to marry,” I told him, trying to keep my chin from quivering. “Not yet, at least. I could marry after the university. I know the Landry will says the heir must be married by their twenty-first birthday, and I wouldn’t be finished with my studies by then, but if you could just change the will—”

He pulled my hands into his iron grip, the leather of his gloves cool and wet on my bare fingers. “That rule is in place for a reason, Madeline. The business of family must come first. You must be settled and ready to perpetuate the family name in the flush of your youth—when you have your health and energy to ensure a viable heir.”

The sounds of the melting garden filled my wounded silence until he finally spoke again. “I didn’t want to marry at your age either. But we have an obligation to the family and to the land. I married to help the estate, and so will you.”

I ducked my head so that he wouldn’t see my eyes shining with tears. I needed to be strong. Stoic. But despite my determination, a tear slipped down my cheek.

“I will not marry you to an ogre,” he said gently. “But I will respect you by handing you the same expectations of honor and duty that my father handed to me. You are a Landry, Madeline. It’s our obligation to uphold the standards of the gentry, to light the way as an example for our peers. Don’t you remember our ancestor’s words?”

How could I forget? They echoed down through history.

Order, elegance, prosperity.

The three ideals that governed our world.

“But wouldn’t I be able to be ordered, elegant, and prosperous with a degree?”

He shook his head. “You’re an heir, not a scholar.”

I let go of a breath I hadn’t known I’d been holding and tried to gather my composure.

But before I could say anything more, Father gave my hands a squeeze and left me standing in the frozen garden.

Wilder House was smaller than Landry Park, a simple brick affair with a courtyard in the middle and a modest grove of trees out back. The interior was clean and well-appointed—full of shining chandeliers and antique furniture, smelling of beeswax and lemon—but slightly cramped. The ballroom seethed with people, jostling one another for space, the older ladies fighting one another for the wooden-backed chairs that lined the room.

Twinkling lights glimmered in every corner, all powered by the small, silent nuclear charge in the basement. In addition to the nuclear electric lights, candles flickered in candelabras and chandeliers and on the tables, long white tapers in gleaming silver candlesticks. They were quite lovely, even if they did increase the risk of singed gowns in such a crowded room.

We were here for Marianne Wilder’s debut, the ball that would ordain her entrance into the world of courtship and marriage, and yet another opportunity for gentry girls and boys to be put on display for one another. Another night wasted.

Jamie might be here, I comforted myself.

Jamie Campbell-Smith was one of the people who knew me best in the world—a very distant cousin, brought over from England by my uncle Arthur Lawrence, who was sponsoring his education as a doctor. Since Jamie’s family was middle class and without land, he would probably never marry within the gentry, even with his connection to the Lawrences.

Of course, there was another reason he’d never marry here: a young man back home, but only I knew about that.

I plucked at the skirt of my bisque-colored dress. It was silk like all of my gowns—like all of my mother’s. Silk, along with plum wine, opium, and jade, were near to impossible to get from the Eastern Empire, since trading was practically nonexistent. But for a steep price, we wealthy could wriggle around these restrictions.

Mother sidled by, cradling a glass of champagne. “Smile, Madeline. You look so sullen just standing there.”

“I’m waiting for Jamie.” It wasn’t entirely true—what I really wanted was to avoid the callow blandishments of the Lawrence boys, who were constantly sniffing around Landry Park, as if it was a dinner about to be served. But it wasn’t entirely untrue either. Jamie was kind and genuine, which made him worth about ten of the gentry boys here tonight.

Not for the first time, Mother raised her eyebrows at the mention of his name. “You know you can’t marry him, Madeline. Not as poor as he is. Landry Park needs money and lots of it.”

“I don’t want to marry him!” I protested too loudly. A group of men nearby turned in my direction. I lowered my voice. “We’re just friends.” And Jamie wasn’t interested in marriage anyway. At least, not with me or any other girl.

Besides, we were related. With a small group like the gentry it was difficult to avoid some degree of intermarriage, but I could never regard Jamie as anything more than family.

Mother nodded. “Good. We do not need any rumors of marriage surrounding you when David Dana arrives.”

“David who?” I asked.

“Christine Dana’s son,” Mother said, sipping her drink. “His father left him millions of dollars after his death, but their estate in Georgia reverted back to David’s cousin. So he’s rich and without any land to speak of. Plus, he’s taking an officer’s commission in a few months.” Her eyes sparkled.

Another gentry bachelor. Wonderful.

“We need to meet him before anybody else,” she continued, and I forced myself to pay attention. “Especially with Addison on the prowl. She wants David for her daughter, Cara, and mark my words, she’ll do whatever it takes. She would not hesitate for a second to invent a romance between you and your cousin Jamie.”

I sighed, but she didn’t hear, since she was already waving and moving toward some of her friends, her small frame disappearing in the crush of people.

The Wilders may have had a small ballroom, but it certainly met the gentry standards for quality and opulence. The floor and artwork had been flown in from a palace in France two hundred years ago, right after the Last War when the gentry and their estates were formed. All the Kansas City families were here, and the women wore their most splendid gowns—all low-cut bodices and seed pearls and filmy skirts that released the smell of jasmine when they moved.

Thankfully, Jane Osbourne arrived and came to stand beside me, offering a smile but no idle conversation. Jane was an eldest daughter, and therefore an heir like myself, and was well read and sensible and just as quietly reluctant to participate in the marketplace of privileged marriage. We frequently found ourselves together in these types of situations—wallflower heiresses. We shared a plate of strawberries in companionable silence while the other guests danced and chatted around us.

A group of laughing people came in from the patio outside. I craned my neck to try to see if Jamie was one of them but, at that moment, a booming voice announced Marianne’s entry. Two heralds in green costumed livery blew into gleaming trumpets as the doors to the ballroom opened.

Preceded by her parents, Marianne Wilder and Mark Everly walked arm in arm, the skirt of her kelly green gown brushing against his legs. Her dark skin was striking against his white tuxedo, her long braids swept up behind a tiara set with emeralds. She was followed by another couple, the debut equivalent of a maid of honor and a best man, both of whom looked distinctly unhappy to be paired together.

Usually the rest of the family followed the debutante and her escort into the ballroom, but only Marianne’s parents and grandparents trailed beaming behind her. Her older brother, Philip, was absent. I could hear a few disappointed girls murmuring behind me. Though the Wilder estate wasn’t large, the family owned several lucrative orchards out west, and Philip still hadn’t found a wife. For most of the single girls in the room, the math was easy.

“Let all men and women find a partner for the first dance!” a voice announced. People scrambled around—shuffling boys, giggling girls, hopeful young men and women trying to find the dance partner who would spark their own debuts—or if they had debuted already and not gotten engaged, hoping to win a proposal by the end of the ball. Jane—very pretty and too polite to refuse—was snatched up by one of the Lyons boys right away.

“Looking for a partner?” a gentle voice said next to me.

“Jamie!” I breathed a sigh of relief.

Smiling, he led me out onto the floor, where we lined up in rows facing one another. He bowed—glossy black curls bobbing—I curtsied, and we touched hands. I had to reach upward because he was so tall.

“See, how could you think of leaving all this fun behind?” Jamie said as we circled each other. “There is no dancing at the university. I should know.”

“Dancing is only as fun as your partner,” I pointed out as we stepped forward in the line, turned, and traded partners. My new partner was short, acne-riddled, and wasted no time in trying to squeeze my bottom when he slid his arm around my waist. He had terrible breath.

When I got back to Jamie, he conceded my point. “Maybe you would be happier cloistered in the university libraries. But how could you live without Landry Park? Even for just a few years?”

I didn’t respond right away. To my parents, I’d offered up a defiant answer, but Father could see through my uncertainty, and I knew Jamie would, too. “I ask myself that question every day,” I finally said.


“Every day the answer is different.”

The music ended, and I curtsied again. He offered an arm to lead me off the floor while the band struck up a reel, and as he did, a terrible noise, sharp and shrill like a rabbit about to be slaughtered, came through the open patio doors, piercing through the merry strings of the violins. The band stopped and people looked around, as if expecting the screamer to materialize underneath the chandelier or by the buffet.

“What was that?” I asked Jamie. “It sounded like a girl.”

“Maybe it was an animal,” he said.

But then there was another scream.

The room rippled in panic. People began to yell and shove their way to the doors, and Arthur Lawrence rumbled for someone to call the police. I saw my father push his way outside, calling for a lantern. Marianne Wilder’s father and our neighbor William Glaize followed him. Jamie gave me a look and made for the doors.

“I’m coming, too,” I insisted.

A small set of doors opened onto a flagged patio. Our breath came out in steamy clouds in the chill air, and I immediately regretted not getting my pelisse from the coatroom before I came outside. Jamie shifted his weight from foot to foot as the cold damp from the stones crept through the thin cardboard on the bottom of his shoes. Seeing my shivers, he shrugged off his jacket and handed it to me.

“It came from the grove,” Mr. Wilder said. His butler scurried out with two Cherenkov lanterns that emitted a vivid blue light. Leaded glass allowed the glow of the radioactive material to shine out steadily, while the rest of the water-filled case was made of a lightweight polymer that blocked radiation, which made the lantern completely safe to handle. It was these Cherenkov lanterns that built the Landry fortune over two centuries ago.

Father took a light and we walked toward the grove, the bobbing blue lights from the lanterns making swinging arcs along the path.

“It could just be an animal,” Mr. Wilder suggested. “It must be. Nothing like this has ever happened on our property.”

“Things are changing,” Father said brusquely.

Mr. Glaize nodded. “I heard they’ve been having trouble with the Rootless in St. Louis. My cousin found his entire stable of horses dead the other week. Almost hundreds of thousands of gentry dollars, lost in a single day.”

“But surely there is no evidence that the Rootless did that,” Mr. Wilder huffed, trying to keep up with my father’s long strides. “The horses could have taken ill?”

“And in Dallas, that terrible penthouse fire,” Mr. Glaize added. “The old man who lived there almost lost his life. As it is, his hands are so badly burned that he’ll never be able to feed himself again.”

Father said nothing, but the tense set of his shoulders spoke volumes. Based on the amount of time he’d spent on his wall screen in his study recently, I guessed that none of this was news to him. He’d always been extremely attentive to the actions of the Rootless. As the caste in charge of handling the nuclear material that powered our lives, they were both vital to the gentry way of life and an ever-present liability.

The grove spanned no more than a half-acre, and the thick carpet of pine needles kept the undergrowth to a minimum. “It should be easy to find someone, if there’s anyone out here.” Father held his lantern high, the blue light turning his red hair purple. “Madeline, stay with me. Gentleman, shall we spread out?”

My slippers crunched on the frosted needles. A small brook ran midway through the grove, and I could hear its trickling ebullience from several yards away. Jamie and my father were both walking too quickly for me to keep pace easily. “Wait!” I said, but a high wind whistling through the trees and the noise of the stream drowned me out.

I suddenly felt uncomfortable in the dark, even with the lanterns bobbing in the distance and the Wilder House lit up like a festival behind me. I started jogging and then running to catch up, paying no attention to where I put my feet, just looking ahead to Father’s bluish figure. My breath came in cloudy pants, and a sharp pain stitched itself in my side. Just before I reached the stream, my foot caught a tree root, black and invisible, and I fell hard. What little breath I had left was knocked from my chest.

I looked up, hoping that the men had heard me, but instead I saw a girl in a ball gown, her green eyes gleaming in the frozen darkness.

She was crouched on the ground behind a tree, as if she had been hiding. Her pink gown was ripped up to the thigh, exposing a long leg and a very swollen ankle. Blood clustered around her nose and lips, a dried streak trailing from the corner of her mouth down to her neck, and her hair was yanked and tangled out of its elaborate twist.

As I got closer, I could see that it was Addison’s daughter, Cara Westoff, tormentor of my childhood and the most sought-after girl in Kansas City.

“Oh my God,” I said when I could breathe again. “Are you okay?”

“Do I look okay?” she snapped.

“You look like you spent the night in a gibbet cage,” I told her, and tried to brush a clump of hair away from a scrape on her cheek. She slapped my hand away. If we had been in any other situation, I would have walked away.

Cara and I were born days apart from each other to mothers who were best friends and rivals. We were both firstborn children and both destined to be heirs. But while Cara was born blond and plump and cooing, I was born red-faced and scrawny and stone-eyed. Cara was beautiful and vibrant, while I was quiet and racked with frequent bouts of the mysterious illness that plagued all the Landrys as children. She had everyone—parents, servants, strangers—convinced that she was the sweetest girl ever to twirl on the earth, and maybe even I believed it for a time.

However, it soon became clear she had a wild streak. As children, our games of hide-and-seek sometimes turned into vicious hunts that ended with hair pulling and Indian burns. She took my desserts at dinner and kicked my legs under the table. And any time I dared protest, she’d play sweet-voiced and contrite, probing whatever new bruise or scratch she’d left with long fingers.

“See? No harm done,” she’d say, eyes flashing from my face to the corners of the room and back again.

When she was nine, she dared a servant boy to kiss her on the mouth and then watched without emotion when the boy and his family were removed to a distant farm. When she was twelve, she stole a pouch of her father’s opium and smoked an entire pipe of the stuff, falling asleep right at the dinner table, then blaming her torpor on a late night spent studying. And the year after that—the year I became sickest of all—she tried to run away from home, but was caught after driving the family car into a ditch. She told her father that I’d convinced her to do it, had made her steal the car to come fetch me so that we could run away together.

I’ll never forget Harry Westoff’s face—ruddy and furious—looming over my sickbed like a malevolent moon.

“Daddy,” Cara had said, her voice lilting up in that syrupy-sweet tone. “I’m sure Madeline didn’t mean any harm.” Even through my fever-racked haze, I could see her eyes darting around, just as they had when she tried to convince me that she hadn’t hurt me.

“I’m sure it’s a misunderstanding, Harry,” Father said, his hand heavy on my burning forehead. “At any rate, I will not have you accosting my daughter while she’s sick.”

Father’s word, as always, was law for other gentry. Harry glared at me before sweeping out of the room. Cara stayed to brush her lips against my cheek and whisper in my ear.

“See? No harm done.”

We talked less after that. I remained housebound and frail for almost a year, and by the time we started the academy at fourteen, she’d quickly ascended the pyramid of popularity while my reserved nature and frequent absences kept me in relative obscurity. She chose dresses; I chose books.

We stopped writing to each other on our sleek white tablets, and even our mothers—the sole impetus for our infant companionship—stopped trying to bring us together.

As I stood next to Cara, our past flitting through my mind, I realized that this was the closest we’d been to each other in years. And she’d slapped me, as if I needed another reminder that we weren’t friends—or even friendly—anymore.

“I’ll go get my father,” I told her. “My cousin Jamie is here, too. He can look at your ankle.” The words came out softer than I expected; I realized that I did want to help, no matter how she’d treated me before. She looked so brittle and so uncertain with her shredded dress and bruised skin.

“No!” she said. “Just—just help me up and get me back to the house. No one needs to know I was out here.”

“Cara, they’re turning the house upside down to find out who screamed. How do you plan on blending in with blood on your face and an injured ankle?”

“I don’t know! But they can’t find me like this, they’ll think—”

I never found out what she was worried they’d think because Father and Jamie finally noticed that I wasn’t with them anymore. With a shout to the others, they came straight over to us, Jamie jogging and my father walking in long, brisk strides a few yards behind him, their lanterns casting strange shadows over Cara’s face.

Jamie wasted no time in kneeling on the frozen needles and raising a hand to Cara’s battered face. “May I?” he asked. She looked like she wanted to say no, but my father was standing next to her, his face cold and sharp, and Mr. Wilder and Mr. Glaize were approaching, so she simply rolled her eyes.

“Might as well,” she said.

“Cara Westoff!” Mr. Wilder sputtered, his words labored from his hurry over to us. “What in the name of heaven are you doing out here?”

Cara tilted her head up to him. In the light, I could see the blood on her face more clearly, and bruises, too, running along her throat like a necklace. “I got lost.” Her voice was surly, proud. Pure Cara. “And I don’t need any help, thanks.”

Father pressed his lips together, examining her with steel eyes. “You’ve been assaulted, Miss Westoff.”

Mr. Wilder choked at the word assaulted, and Mr. Glaize started roaming the area around us, as if he expected the assailant to be skulking behind the nearby pines. I myself felt a twinge of fear. If someone could catch Cara, as athletic and tall as she was, by surprise, it wouldn’t take much for them to overpower me, short and thin and with muscles just strong enough to pull a book from the shelf.

“We’ll take it from here,” Father said when Cara remained silent. “Did you see your assailant? Hear anything important?”

“Is he nearby?” Mr. Glaize asked, still tramping around the clearing. “Do you know if he fled?”

“Was he at the debut?” Mr. Wilder asked in a trembling voice. “Not a guest, surely, but maybe as a servant?”

Cara gave me a fierce glare, as if somehow this was my fault, but she didn’t answer.

Father shook his head slightly. “I’m afraid the police will need to question you, and they’ll want to do it promptly. It’s best to get this taken care of quickly, for your sake and for ours.”

Mr. Wilder pressed a hand against his chest, rubbing it as if something was burning him from the inside. “Surely, Mr. Landry, we do not need to involve the police?”

“It’s your property, Mr. Wilder. But a gentry girl’s honor and health are at stake, and you can imagine Addison and Harry Westoff aren’t going to rest until they’ve brought the assailant to justice. I assume you don’t want to seem reticent to help the Westoffs?”

“Reticent? Of course not! Obviously, I’ll do whatever it takes to help the Westoffs. But a brazen attack here at Wilder House, and on Marianne’s debut night . . .”

Father ignored him and knelt in front of Cara. Jamie was still peering into her face, gently lifting her hair to probe the bruises along her jaw, but Father waved him away. “Miss Westoff, before the police get here, is there anything you’d like to tell us—about what you might have seen? Who you might have been out here with?”

Her lips parted as if she was about to speak, but she closed her mouth and shook her head. Her green eyes flicked to mine, then back to my father’s.

She’s hiding something, I thought, recognizing those darting eyes.

Just then, Mr. Glaize came crashing back to us, holding a battered leather satchel. Inside, one nuclear charge blinked red. Expired.

In order to be light enough to be carried and replaced easily, the charge boxes were made of a temporary polymer that only lasted for six months before they leaked radiation. It was a modified version of the same polymer that the Cherenkov lanterns were made of, except instead of casting off a small pool of light, these charges powered entire homes. And it was the job of the Rootless to remove these charges before they expired and began to leak radiation inside the houses of the gentry, and also their job to replace the expired boxes with new ones.

“A Rootless was here,” Mr. Glaize said. “Maybe here to change Mr. Wilder’s charges? Maybe he found Miss Westoff out here alone and took advantage?”

“It’s just a bag,” I pointed out. “It could have been there for weeks.”

It was ridiculous how willing the gentry were to blame everything on the Rootless. Missing jewelry and mysterious pregnancies were never openly attributed to carelessness or forbidden trysts. Everything from a broken wall screen to a bad harvest could somehow be traced back to the Rootless.

Cara made a sound between a laugh and a sob. We looked at her, but she just looked down. Wetness glistened on her cheeks.

“No harm done,” she whispered to herself.

I breathed in sharply. I’d heard that before.

“What was that?” Father pressed.

She looked up again, and all signs of defiance and shock where gone. “I said, I think maybe it was a Rootless,” she answered. She could have been acting the part of a trapped princess, the pout and the trembling voice were all so staged. But the men leaned in closer. “I thought I saw dirty clothes and that leather bag. But it happened so fast.” She buried her face in her hands. I thought I could see the glimpse of a bright green eye in between her fingers, as if gauging the reaction of her audience.

I’d seen this performance many times.

“All this talk is upsetting Miss Westoff,” Jamie interjected. “Mr. Landry, may I take her back to the house? Surely, this kind of interrogation can wait until her injuries have been seen to and she’s had a chance to compose herself.”

Father looked around the grove, considering, and then nodded. “Madeline, go with them. Help tend to Miss Westoff, and for heaven’s sake, don’t let yourselves be seen. The last thing we need is an entire house full of panicked gentry.”

“They will panic once they see the police,” Mr. Glaize said. “It’s hopeless to pretend this will stay quiet for long. If people don’t figure it out tonight, gossip will certainly be circulating around the brunches and business meetings tomorrow.”

Mr. Wilder looked miserable.

Father considered Mr. Glaize’s words. “Perhaps you’re right, Mr. Glaize. Perhaps we should explain the circumstances to the assembly and encourage their quiet cooperation with the investigation. Maybe they’ll sleep more soundly knowing we already have a direction to take our inquiries.”

Jamie stooped and lifted Cara into his arms. His thin frame struggled with her weight—slender as she was, she was tall and strong—but he gallantly walked toward Wilder House, the two of them silhouetted against the bright lights shining from the windows.

“Madeline, please go with them like I asked,” Father said. “I want you safely inside the house until we can be certain the estate is secure.”

I stepped toward the house, then stopped and turned. “Father, I don’t think it was a Rootless who attacked Cara.” My voice quavered a little at the end; Alexander Landry was not an easy man to disagree with.

His iron eyes turned their metal gaze to mine. “And what makes you so certain? In the midst of all the trouble the Rootless have been giving the gentry, the physical evidence that a Rootless was here in these woods, and the information Miss Westoff herself has revealed to us—”

“She hasn’t revealed anything,” I interrupted. “She said only that she thought she might have seen that bag. That’s hardly proof, and you know how Cara can be.” I couldn’t explain to him the sense of responsibility I felt for Cara’s testimony; I couldn’t even really explain it to myself. I tried another tactic. “Why are you so eager to blame the Rootless?”

He stepped closer so that Mr. Wilder and Mr. Glaize couldn’t hear. “Why are you so eager to defend them? If you knew how dangerous they’ve become and how ignorant and depraved their minds are, you would not be so quick to shelter them from justice. Must I remind you of your uncle Stephen?”

I paused. Stephen Landry—Father’s older and only brother—had died shortly after graduating the academy. He’d been seen spending time with several rough working-class men—including some Rootless—and the rumor was that he’d gotten into some kind of trouble. They never found his body and they never tortured the truth out of the youths they arrested, but a pack of police dogs found his bloodstained jacket buried in the Rootless ghetto.

“Uncle Stephen died over twenty years ago.”

“You feel the pain less keenly because you never knew him. But perhaps you’ll understand now that your friend has been attacked.”

I wanted to say something in reply, something to refute what he had said, but my mind stumbled under the weight of Father’s gaze. So I remained silent. My best hope was that Cara would ultimately reveal whatever inscrutable reason she’d been out in the cold, without a chaperone, without a friend, without even a jacket.

About half of the guests had stayed, talking together in clumps while servants gathered up the remains of the food and pushed brooms across the dance floor, now littered with fallen hairpins and crumbs. Some of the gentry left, fearful of another attack, but the remaining guests crowded around me as I tried to walk through.

“We saw Jamie Campbell-Smith carrying Cara. Is she all right?”

“Was she attacked?”

“Where is your father? Did he call the police?”

I just shook my head, mumbling that I didn’t know. I needed to find Cara. I was the only one who knew that she wasn’t being entirely truthful. Maybe I alone couldn’t convince my father not to go after the Rootless, but if Cara would name her attacker—or at least confirm that he wasn’t a Rootless—then Father would have to respect her word. And mine.

Mother came up to me, sliding easily between the clusters of people, keeping the train of her delicate gown from being trampled. “Darling, you must go see to Cara. Addison would, but she just learned of the whole thing after coming in from having a cigarette, and the shock made her faint. I volunteered to help her home to rest.” Her voice was tender, but her eyes belied her concern. If she stayed by Addison’s side, she’d be the first to hear of any news.

“Where is Cara?”

“Upstairs in the north end of the house. Miss Wilder kindly loaned her chambers.”

I gave Mother a quick hug and set out for the staircase, pushing past a laughing Philip Wilder as I did. I pulled my skirts in close as I rushed down the hallway to the front foyer, hung with long banners displaying the Wilder crest: a bow and arrows set against a green forest. There I found a thin green carpet running down the shallow steps, with intricate balusters lining the sides of the banisters and a railing that gleamed with polish.

The chandelier in the foyer had been extinguished, leaving only the flickering wall sconces, which barely illuminated the stairs. The front doors were thrown open, and a small pool of lamplight from outside shone on the wooden floors.

I had started to climb up the steps when I heard the faint whisper of tires on the road. I stopped to see blue lights cresting the hill, mounted on sleek black cars. As they came closer, I could see the Cherenkov lanterns mounted on the tops of the cars. The gentry usually stored their lanterns in lead-lined cases when they weren’t using them, but the police kept their Cherenkov lights unveiled at all times, letting the signature cerulean halo announce their presence.

The police cars pulled up to the house and stopped. The constables stepped out, then gestured to the back of the house while they pulled out notebooks and black bags. “They said she was attacked in the grove,” one officer said, his voice carrying easily into the foyer. “Let’s start there, assess the scene, and then interview the witnesses.”

“When he called, Mr. Landry said it was possibly the Rootless,” one said quietly.

“I wouldn’t be surprised.”

“Filthy beasts,” a third one spat.

I flinched. It’s not as if I were friendly with any of the Rootless—we’d learned in the academy that they’d inherited their lot due to inherent laziness and violent tendencies, and that mingling with them was dangerous—but the viciousness of the hatred toward them sometimes shocked me. They were people too. Human beings. And surely there was a basic level of respect that we afforded any and all human beings, no matter what caste they hailed from? And weren’t we, as the gentry, supposed to be the leaders and examples for everybody else?

I stepped farther up on the staircase, wanting to watch but not be seen. Part of me wanted to run back to my father, to be there to temper his testimony, but I knew it wouldn’t matter. Maybe when I was the owner of Landry Park—if I was ever the owner—my word would finally mean something.

I took another step, and someone spoke aloud. “Normally these debuts are terribly boring, so I make a point of arriving late, but I guess this time I missed all the excitement.”

I turned to see a blond man, tuxedo-clad and completely unfamiliar, stepping into the lamplight from the shadows in the foyer. In the dark, I could tell nothing more than that he seemed about my age and had blond hair so light it looked almost translucent under the Cherenkov lights. A carefully tailored tuxedo revealed wide shoulders and a narrow waist—an athlete’s body.

Had he been there this whole time watching the police? Watching me? I suddenly felt self-conscious of my hair—ruffled and slightly frizzy from the wind—and my dress, decorated with bits of leaves and pine needles from the grove. It’s dark, I reminded myself.

Besides, who cares what a stranger skulking around the Wilder estate thinks?

He leaned against the doorframe and struck a match to light a cigarette. With the sudden flame, I caught a glimpse of sharp features and a wide mouth. Long eyelashes and eyes the same blue as the Cherenkov lights behind him.

“I almost didn’t come,” he said, after a long drag on his cigarette. “Really, I get bored to death at these things. But police! Drama! You people in Kansas City sure know how to throw a party.”

Right there, I decided I knew his type, and we people in Kansas City already had plenty. Rich, bored, and confident that the world hung on his every word, he thought that his disdain was somehow electrifyingly amusing to everyone around him.

“It’s not funny,” I snapped. “A girl was attacked. Hurt.”

He cocked his head at me. “I suppose you’re right. But the police said it was the Rootless—they’ll find the animal soon enough, throw him in jail, and then everything will be as it was.”

“It wasn’t the Rootless,” I said firmly. “My father and the other gentry, they just want the Rootless to be guilty.” I stopped suddenly. “How long have you been here?” I asked.

“Excuse me?”

“I mean, here at the party. How long have you been here at the party?”

He shrugged. “A few minutes, I guess. Why—” His gaze sharpened. “I didn’t have anything to do with that girl, if that’s what you’re implying.”

I didn’t respond.

He sighed and started digging in his coat pocket. He pulled out his tablet, pressed a few buttons, and held it out for me. From a few feet away, I could see the copy of an airplane ticket, putting his arrival time in Kansas City less than an hour ago. About the same time I heard Cara scream.

“I came straight here from the airport,” he said. “Satisfied?”

“I’ll be satisfied when I find out what really happened,” I informed him, although I was privately relieved that I wasn’t standing alone in the near-darkness with a violent man.

We stared appraisingly at each other for a moment. “What’s your name?” he finally asked.

I needed to be upstairs with Cara, not wasting time with a stranger in the dark. I turned to go, but he strode forward and caught my hand. I could smell tobacco and something else—something spicy and wintery. This close, I was shocked by the radioactive blueness of his eyes.

“Please,” he said. “I would like to make your acquaintance.”

There was a boyish earnestness to his request, as if once he decided that he wanted something, he wanted it with every atom of his being.

As I opened my mouth, a guest strode into the foyer, talking loudly into her tablet and relaying the details of the ruined party. So, instead of answering him, I abruptly withdrew my hand from his. Gentry boys and girls dated—and often did more than just that—before their debuts, but strictly speaking, both parties were expected to arrive at the marriage bed untainted and untouched, to ensure that the pedigrees remained carefully crafted and planned.

He stared at his outstretched hand for a moment and then looked back up at me with those alarming eyes. And then he smiled, a smile full of white teeth and mirth and charm. A curious pang caught in my chest, as if a hook somewhere above my navel was jerking upward, making it hard to breathe.

It was this pang—more than his question or the threat of gossip—that made me move my legs.

“Good night,” I said, and climbed the stairs, my thoughts already turning back to Cara and her bruised face.

• • •

The upstairs hallway was better lit, with nuclear electric lights instead of candles, and the occasional window admitting moonlight from outside. I found Marianne’s room with little trouble, but when I knocked, Jamie was already opening the door to come out.

He shook his head at me. “She needs to rest.”

“The police are here. She won’t be able to rest anyway.”

He looked around the hallway almost guiltily. “She won’t be able to wake up until morning. I gave her a couple of sedatives from the house medicine chest.”

“You did what?”

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"Gone with the Wind meets The Hunger Games." - VOYA

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"This is a terrific mash-up of a Regency period romance with a dystopian tale that will intrigue teen readers, and introduce some important questions about the structure of modern society." - School Library Journal

"Hagen’s debut is filled with luxurious language, swoon-worthy love interests, and exceptional world-building...this first book in a trilogy will appeal to fans of Diana Peterfreund’s For Darkness Shows the Stars and Catherine Fisher’s Incarceron." - School Library Journal

"Heated debates and similarly heated kisses fuel Madeline and David’s will-they/won’t-they relationship, tempering the social commentary with a bit of romantic drama." - The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books


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