Curse on the Land

Curse on the Land

by Faith Hunter

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Overview

Set in the same world as Faith Hunter’s New York Times bestselling Jane Yellowrock novels, the second Soulwood novel tells the story of a woman whose power comes from deep within the earth...
 
Before Nell Ingram met skinwalker Jane Yellowrock, she had no one to rely on, finding strength only in her arcane connection to the dark woods around her. But now she has friends in the newly formed PsyLED team to keep her grounded—even if being part of the agency responsible for policing paranormals comes with dangers of its own....
 
After training at the PsyLED academy, Nell returns home to her woods to find the land feeling sick and restless. And that sickness is spreading. With the help of her team, under the leadership of agent Rick LaFleur, Nell tries to determine the cause. But nothing can prepare them for the evil that awaits: an entity that feeds on death itself. And it wants more....

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780698184497
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 11/01/2016
Series: Soulwood Series , #2
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 16,122
File size: 778 KB

About the Author

Faith Hunter is the New York Times bestselling author of the Jane Yellowrock series, including Shadow Rites, Dark Heir, and Broken Soul; the Soulwood series, set in the world of Jane Yellowrock, including Blood of the Earth; and the Rogue Mage series, including Host, Seraphs, and Bloodring.

Read an Excerpt

One

I pulled up to Soulwood and let the truck lights shine on my house and garden. The trees were leafless, stark branches reaching up to the sky and down to the earth, roots thick and gnarled and digging deep. Leaves were piled against the foundation and against the garden fence. The three acres of grass needed to be cut, despite the time of year. Following on the heels of an early cold spell, the fall had been warmer than usual, and a second growth spurt had left the lawn unkempt and shaggy, the garden full of raggedy weeds and dead plants. I had never let my house and garden go untended for so long. It had been four weeks since I had been home, and then only for a long weekend. Now, the week before Thanksgiving, I was finally home from the training center for the Psychometry Law Enforcement Division of Homeland Security, known to its graduates-which I was one of, though I wouldn't go through formal graduation ceremonies until just before Christmas-as Spook School.

I opened the door of John's old Chevy C10 and the scent of home-rich loam, the creek out back, the tart scent of fall flowers, and the welcoming aroma of a wood fire from somewhere nearby-stopped me. I closed my eyes and simply breathed. The land around Richmond, Virginia, was practically lifeless, the air stank of exhaust, and the traffic roared from everywhere, the constant, distant drone of vehicles. Here, at the end of the dead-end road near the top of a low mountain, it was quiet and alive. The last of the leaves were falling, rustling across the ground, pushed by a steady, light breeze. The creak of the windmill that pumped my water sounded lonely but peaceful.

I left the truck door open and took two steps to the lawn, kicked off my shoes, and let my bare feet settle into the grass. Oh . . . home. Home, to Soulwood.

The earth reached up to me, knew me, and took me back into itself the way a mother hen gathers a chick beneath her wings. I stretched out on the lawn, face and body in contact with the ground, hands extended to my sides, and reached deep into the earth. I spread myself across the life there, rich and fecund and content. I didn't know what I was, not really, not yet, but I knew my land, and it knew me. I was home.

I sensed the new cell tower on the top of the hill between my property and the church. Sensed the turning of the windmill that pumped my water. The presence of the spring that fed the rivulet and the small pool out back. Sensed deer, squirrels, rabbits, and foxes, the fox family having broken up and separated into four overlapping but individual hunting territories.

This was my magic, simple and dark as it was: to read the land that I had claimed, and that had claimed me, to know what it needed. To heal it and be healed by it. And to feed the earth-though I seldom spoke of that part of my gift, that part that felt so good, yet was sinful by every human standard I knew.

But something in Soulwood was wrong, just as wrong as when I'd left to start Spook School. Then, there had been an evil something skittering around beneath the ground, a darkness that was my fault, and that I had no idea how to fix. I had hoped the problem would resolve itself, but it was still there, the soul of a cruel, violent man I had fed to the land, a soul that my woods hadn't absorbed, hadn't used, and I didn't know why.

The evil that had been Brother Ephraim was gathered tight on the edge of the woods, a hole in my awareness of the earth, deep and stark and quiet at the moment, somnolent. The foul soul now rested on the border where my property met the compound of God's Cloud of Glory Church, just over the crest of the mountain, the polygamous church I had grown up in.

The church, Brother Ephraim, and his cohorts had shaped, defined, and confined my life and my understanding of myself for every moment until Jane Yellowrock came into it. The rogue-vampire hunter had disrupted everything I was and everything I had by showing me that I could fight back. That I could take a stand.

It was ultimately because of her that I had fought back against the church. Ultimately because of her that I had fed the body and soul of Brother Ephraim to the land. Had taken a job as consultant with the Psychometry Law Enforcement Division of Homeland Security, working with Jane's ex-boyfriend, PsyLED special agent Rick LaFleur. And had later gone to Spook School so I might join PsyLED and fight evil paranormal things. The irony of me being an evil paranormal thing wasn't lost on me.

I still wasn't sure if I hated or loved Jane Yellowrock for all the changes in my life.

I was careful not to make Brother Ephraim aware of me. I had a feeling that his disembodied soul was just as dangerous dead as the churchman himself had been alive. Well, not man. Creature.

To get better contact with my woods, I placed my cheek on the night-cold grass, pressing my palms flat on the ground, reaching deep, communing with my land. I breathed out, searching lower into the earth, listening, feeling the magic that was Soulwood. The old magic of the woods was a strong and profound power, a deep well of energy, strength, and contentment. The power had weight and mass and a greatness that reminded me of God, but wasn't. And a magic that might become self-aware. Despite Ephraim's dark soul, this old power still held sway over Soulwood, and it seemed more alive, more interested, and, maybe, more conscious than before I left.

I lay in the grass, eyes closed, arms out, long enough for the mouser cats to find me, one settling onto my back, one curled around my head, the third walking up and down my legs, mewling. My mousers had missed me. I returned my thoughts to the boundary of the woods and to the blot of darkness. It was different from before. It had grown in size, had taken over a larger part of the land. I had to do something about it sooner or later. I knew the land could subsume it. I had seen it happen not that long ago in North Carolina, but I hadn't succeeded with Ephraim. Except for the blot, the land was happy and growing and satisfied. It was good to be back, peaceful, here on my land.

I tracked the energies of the earth out, and saw an odd glow to the east. Shimmering yellow with sparks of red and green and blue. I extended my senses, reaching out for it, but it faded like a candle on a foggy night.

Something trailed across my senses, like a cold, dead hand, smelling like a week-old corpse. Gripping the power of Soulwood, I whipped away from the foul sensation. Jerked myself clear. And saw the evil that was left of Brother Ephraim. It was awake, aware of me. The darkness gathered itself, shaping like an arrowhead, pointing at me. Using the land like a mental rope with knotted handholds, I began to withdraw, pulling myself back to the surface. Easing my way through stone and water and earth.

The malevolent arrowhead shot at me. Pierced me. Wrapped itself through me. Pulling me down. I yanked away, but the malicious soul twisted itself into me, stinking of death and maggots and the grave. Touching me where no one had ever touched me. Opening me. My deepest self. Violating me.

I couldn't draw a breath, couldn't move. My heart stuttered and missed a beat. Pain spiraled through me. My guts roiled as if the roots that had once grown inside me were twisting and stretching and growing, fast. Something electric sped through me-the awareness of death. I was dying. And I could almost hear the dark soul howling with satisfaction.

An electric spark, hot and flashing, hit me, flowed through me like electric lava. Ripped the evil thing off me, out of me. I wrenched free of the earth and to my feet. Cats tumbled off me, claws catching in my clothing, scraping my skin. Yowling.

I raced to the truck. Heart pounding, I climbed on the hood and sat, hugging my knees, trying to make sense of what had just happened. Shivering. Below the ground, I heard rumbling, as if boulders tumbled and broke in a flood, carried by massive waters. A vibration, like a small earthquake, shook and rocked the land, a battle of great forces.

It was Brother Ephraim and . . . and Soulwood.

Fighting.

Low in my belly, I could feel the clash of wills, a skirmish, a battle. Death and life in one place, occupying the same space, and not enough room there for both. Soulwood was trying to protect me, defend me. The wood had never done that before. I rubbed my palms up and down my icy arms, as if to remove the crawly feel of maggots on my flesh, a sensation that I usually associated with vampires or dead opossum. I sat, waiting. Breath fast, heart pounding.

Belowground, the battle ended as abruptly as it had begun. The darkness of Brother Ephraim yowled and raced away, back to his hole. Curled around himself in the small space he had carved out of the earth at the boundary of the church land. Beneath me, Soulwood settled.

Electric shocks still cascading through me, I bent my legs in a yoga posture, sitting on the warm truck hood like a child. I gulped and caught up on breathing and tried to figure out what had happened. Whatever it was, it was over.

But just in case, I stayed on the truck, trying to calm my mind and my body, both of which had gone into flight-or-fight mode-settling on flight, which seemed cowardly but had kept me alive, so I wasn't complaining. Unwilling to touch the earth with my feet, I sat there long enough for the truck's lights to dim. I was pretty sure it needed a new battery, or maybe a new alternator. It wasn't holding a charge. I had the money and the plans to take it into town this week and get it checked out.

But first I needed to find the courage to get off the truck, get unpacked, and let my family and PsyLED Unit Eighteen know I had made it home safely. The special agents were already established in the brand-new Knoxville PsyLED office, where I had a tiny cubicle waiting on me. But only if I got inside the house. Right. I could do this.

Dropping my arms, I let gravity take me, and I slid off the hood of the Chevy and inside the cab. Grabbed up my shoes and yanked them on, protecting myself from the land with a layer of leather. I cranked over the engine, to let it run a bit and charge up the battery. I was underdressed for the amount of time I had spent in contact with the land, and I was shivering. But at least the maggoty sensation was gone.

Feeling the long drive in my achy muscles, I left the truck running and made trips up the seven steps to the porch, stomping to build up body heat. I carried luggage filled with fall clothing that needed to be washed and mended and I dumped it all in no particular order at the front door, along with my umbrella and raincoat. My potted pansies and sage and chives I carried to the back porch, to be repotted. The soil in the pots had been dug out of Soulwood land, and the plants were in need of fresh soil, though that was as much for me to put my hands in when I was away from Soulwood as anything helpful for the plants. The soil and the contact it provided with my land had kept me sane while I was away for the weeks of training.

My weapons gear came next, from where I had stashed it behind the cab seat for transport. I had a newly issued service weapon, a Glock 20, locked in the plastic carrying case the weapon had come in, along with two magazines, each loaded with fifteen rounds, and a speed loader. It was a large case. There were also two boxes of ammunition, one standard, one silver-laced hollow points for vampires and were-creatures. My fitted body armor-a Kevlar and Dyneema composite, threaded throughout with a lining of thin silver foil to provide protection against weapons of all kinds, from gunfire to vampire claws to werewolf teeth-went on the porch floor beside the pile of other stuff. Gear, not stuff. Talking like a special agent was harder than I had expected. The silver-plated stakes-I couldn't afford solid sterling-and the ash wood stakes in their special sheaths went beside the weapon case, with the two vampire-killers, the fourteen-inch steel blades silver-plated. As a probationary special agent, I was already expected to fight my way out of any paranormal problems with guns and blades and magic. I had the training, the bruises, and the strained muscles to show for it.

I was no longer just a consultant; I had graduated under "special circumstances" at e3/GS 2 grade level. Technically, because I had passed background checks, stringent physicals, and weapons training as well as course work, I was a special agent, with an official title, a badge, and everything. However, because of my speciation classification and because I had no undergraduate degree and only a GED, I would be a probationary employee in PsyLED. If I survived the first full year of my employment in the paranormal branch of law enforcement, I'd move up to permanent employment, a higher pay grade, and access to greater levels of classified material.

To get here, most of my deepest, most private secrets had been released to the world of law enforcement I was now inhabiting. I didn't know if that was a good thing or a bad thing. Not yet.

Now lots of people knew that I wasn't human. I had magic. I was categorized as "nonhuman, paranormal, undifferentiated" by the government medical experts and biologists-undifferentiated because I didn't fit into the most common categories. I wasn't vampire, were-creature, witch, arcenciel, Welsh gwyllgi-pronounced something like gwee-shee-or even any of the other, lesser-known paranormal creatures that were being identified. So far as the biologists at Spook School knew, my sisters and I were a genetic family singularity, with Mud and me being the most alike and least human. I'd have kept us all a secret if I could have, but a paranormal-hating group called Human Speakers of Truth had outed us. I still hadn't told my family, proving me a bona fide coward. I was putting that off as long as possible.

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Curse on the Land 4.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 29 reviews.
Windi_Henri More than 1 year ago
I was so excited to immerse myself in Nell's world again. I've read this book in record time. I'm about to read it a second time to catch all the tiny bits and pieces I missed the first read. It's an amazing complex tale with several story lines at once, like all of Faith Hunter's books, and each is easy to follow yet intriguing and fascinating as a whole. Rick LaFleur has a powerful change in his life, and true to his nature of having difficulty with gratitude, we're left wondering. Relationships of Nell's PsyLED team are empowered, and Nell's experiences with her own magic and the Earth grow and mature. I'm already all ready for the third on the Soulwood series. Faith, you ROCK!!!
LynnLTX More than 1 year ago
In this second novel from the Soulwood series, Nell returns home from the PsyLED training center after learning the necessary skills to be a fully functioning member of her team under the leadership of Rick LaFleur. Her time in “Spook School” has also been a crash course on bringing Nell firmly into the world of popular culture. The action starts quickly as two major issues challenge Nell’s magic affinity with the earth. The first problem being on her own land with the malevolent dark spirit of Brother Ephraim still lurking below causing problems for Nell and perhaps, the church compound. As a newbie PsyLED agent, Nell expects only to be doing grunt work, but her insights, magical talents, and unique perspectives on the world are needed to help the team solve a complex and intricately detailed case. First animals, and then people behave strangely in Knox County before they start dying. After communicating with the land, Nell senses an ancient power, and a new potent force that could have devastating effects if not contained. Nell’s own magic has dark aspects that threaten to pull her under because of the yearning to “feed the earth…that part that felt so good, yet was sinful by every human standard I knew.” Ironically, though Nell seems to abhor vampires, her magic has some commonalities with its strong blood call. Not surprisingly, witches are involved, good and bad ones, in a complicated and scientifically complex way. Adding to the fun, the full moon cycle affects the Weres Rick, Paka, and Occam during a critical part of the investigation. So once again much rests on Nell’s magical strength and abilities. Nell’s formerly quiet life has taken on a frantic pace to help solve this case before a catastrophic outcome. On the personal front, Occam’s interest in her might be more than just the comradery of a team member. Nell wants to live a life unrestricted now, but she is not quite sure what that will look like as her church upbringing still holds some sway. Interesting changes are also happening at God’s Cloud compound. Rick’s past sins and relationship with Paka catch up with him in a painful and dramatic way adding another level supernatural drama to the story. Jane Yellowrock helped to set her life on a new course which Nell is not always sure she is grateful for, but there is little time to settle and reflect on with dangers at her job and doorstep: “I still wasn’t sure if I hated or loved Jane Yellowrock for all the changes in my life.” As Nell seems to be awakening to her powers, so does her land making stronger their symbiotic relationship. The threat to her property and a nearby one pushes her into the hot zone and keeps them all scrambling to contain a possible magical disaster. One of the things I like about Nell is her evolution from living a solitary rural life to becoming PsyLED Special Agent Nell Nicholson Ingram, albeit a “probie,” but one who soaks up knowledge like someone parched from the desert taking advantage of formerly unimagined opportunities to become a fully realized woman not restricted by any previous dogmas or rules. Nell shows that courage is not the absence of fear, but doing the difficult and scary thing anyway even while risking much. This new job is a big step out and quantum leap from Nell’s earlier life; however, it is one in which she can soar.
knobren More than 1 year ago
Another reviewer said this book has an X-Files vibe. I concur. Nell Ingram has returned home to Soulwood from her PsyLED training at "Spook School", but she doesn't get her expected time off, before Unit-18's leader, Rick LaFleur, calls upon her services. The team is now officially stationed in Knoxville, and they now have an office instead of a hotel room. A bizarre series of events involving local wildlife needs to be investigated and Nell's special abilities to read the land might be vital to the case. She is a probie (probational member) and expects to do more grunt work and research at this stage, but Nell is critical to solving the case and helping to contain and correct the problem. Concurrently, she is trying to deal with the problem at Soulwood carried over from the first book. Nell is more worldly after her exposure to more pop culture, slang, electronic instruments, and investigative techniques during her training. Her magic is evolving, as well, as are her relationships with family and coworkers. Relationships among team members are strained from exhaustion, changing phases of the moon, and other factors that I can't explain without spoilers. If you are a Jane Yellowrock fan, you must read this book for a big plot development with Ricky-Bo! Overall, the book has well-developed, unique, interesting characters and an engaging story with a complete story arc and some elements that carry over from the first book and which will continue in a subsequent book. Unlike the first book or the Jane Yellowrock series, this book contains a lot more "scientific" and magical techno-babble, as well as law enforcement and procedural lingo. However, the part that detracted the most for me was the X-Files or B-movie sci-fi feel about the case. I also feel that some people might be offended or uneasy with some of the back story, but I'm not sure how to leave a non-spoiler warning. I guess, if Indiana Jones - Raiders of the Arc didn't bother you, then you can probably read this book. I hope that isn't giving too much away. I apologize, if that is too much.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
So good...i just wanted to keep reading!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Faith Hunter's latest series brings a new mythology and very different logic to urban fantasy. Nell, the main protagonist , is learning about herself and her world...and keeps us following like a plott hound after a fresh scent. Those who enjoy the Yellowrock series will love this.
MzJaym More than 1 year ago
Wow! Loved this second installment in the Nell Ingram / Soulwood series. You can tell that Hunter has done a ton of research on police investigative procedure and given great thought to the mechanics of how magic works to bring yet even more depth into her already complex world building efforts. Our heroine, Nell, has continued on her path of personal growth by completing training at the Psy-LED (paranormal) law enforcement academy. She returns to her land with new skills and tech to rejoin Rick's unit and start her first case as a bonafide rookie. Animals have been behaving oddly and begin dying and as the case expands the abnormal behavior spreads to humans. It doesn't take long to determine that this isn't a natural occurrence and that the team are looking at a magical working either being used as weapon or gone horribly wrong. We get a glimpse into the detailed workings in a police/Psy-LED case from the ground up as Nell goes through the rookie grunt work of collecting evidence and painstakingly documenting crime scenes. While working an intense case like this is stressful, Nell also has to begin to deal with an issue with her own land, Soulwood, with which she is magically connected. Nell is tied to the land through her still mysterious affinity for the earth and growing things, able to sense who and what is lurking in the woods around her home when she concentrates. In the last book, Nell had defeated a bad guy who was attacking her with the help of Soulwood, using spilled blood to magically forge an connection between her enemy and the land, effectively opening a channel for the land to consume him. Seems the bad dude's shade is still lurking around looking for a chance to cause harm however possible. Add into the mix that the moon is waxing full and that half of Nell's new unit are shifters and things get a little dicey. Team leader, Rick LaFleur, (whom we met through Hunter's Jane Yellowrock books) is still having issues with changing into his cat shape because of a previous magical attack and this affects his self control. He and a couple other team members are using Soulwood as their stomping grounds for this month's full moon. I thought this was a great installment in the series. A little different flavor from the previous book, but that is a good thing as we see Nell branching out from the reclusive person we first met and testing her new lifestyle and freedom. I love that she is able to stay grounded and begin to heal old wounds by continuing to reconnect with her family that we met previously. Nell was already a charming and complex character in the last book, but these new dimensions really suit her. Can't wait to read more!
PollyBennett More than 1 year ago
Exciting! I love Soulwood as much as the Jane Yellowrock series. Nell's character is learning and growing. The stories are complex, woven together to make a very exciting and different world. There is nothing better than a Faith Hunter book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Nell is quickly becoming one of my favorite characters. She is both naive and intelligent so her reactions to things and her perspective sometimes make you smile and other times leave your mind blown. In this second installment of the Soulwood series Nell has gone through training and is now a member of the paranormal policing agency PsyLED. The team is investigating what on the surface seems to be a minor magical event, but actually turns out to be something significantly worse. On top of this, Nell's woods are sick and with her gift, she sees that the "sickness" is trying to spread. Not only do we get to see Nell expand her own horizons, but in some ways those of her team. We get to see the team become more cohesive while suffering a few growing pains of its own. Mrs. Hunter incorporates scientific explanations along with good old fashioned magic in ways that weave a story that keeps the reader looking for what's going to happen next. I am looking forward to seeing how she continues Nell's journey.
mlharg More than 1 year ago
Wow! I really liked the first Sourwood book, but this one surpasses it! The book starts out a little slowly giving a lot of interesting background info to understand the current paranormal case that Nell (our heroine) is assigned. Once that action picks up, it doesn't stop and can really interfere in the amount of sleep you get before you finish! The book involves witches, weres, and other magical beings and a serious life-threatening case with vast possibilities of destruction if not solved and stopped soon. Nell is an interesting and engaging character and I really don't want to wait too long to hear more about her! You don't have to have read the first book, Blood of the Earth, to enjoy this one, but it's really good too - so might as well get and read it first!
Covegirl More than 1 year ago
I'm loving this series! Nell is definitely one of my new favorite characters. It is so interesting to watch her grow and really develop into her own person. Faith has done an excellent job showing backwoods and modern day collide!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Book was very well written. With twists and turns and wonderfully defined and evolving characters. Great all around. I couldn't put it down. Can't wait to read the next one!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I very complicated and intense story. Bells actual first time working with pshyLed as part of the team. My only problem is that she was so busy with the case that she really didn't get to put any effort into all Her land work which I think would eventually hurt not only the land but she needs it for herself.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good story
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The fast pace, great characters, ideas and situations that I could never have thought of, kept me glued to this book. All of Faith Hunter’s books are well worth the time to read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great characters!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Faith Hunter has once again shown that she has excellent and convoluted plot development. In this story the female lead character Nell not on grow buts stands out in a world where men usually lead with an iron fist and at times curde language. The character s church background is a fantastic foil and makes a wonderful change from the normal fair . I have loved Faith's writing style since I first picked up one of her books. Can't wait for the next one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've read every book she's written and they all are good. Can't wait for the next book!!!! Wish she wrote more from her first series
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the second in Faith Hunter's new series, and I think it is even better than the first in the series. I'm looking forward to the next!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I absolutly love this new series and can't wait to learn more about Nell and all the other characters in her new life. Great new series!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I can't wait until the next book in the series comes out! I love Nell and the unique world Hunter has created. Looking forward to seeing what happens w/Occam sugar.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This story was full of amazing characters. A fast paced plot quickly pulled me into the world. I can't wait for the next book.
MJLuckett More than 1 year ago
I am LOVING Nell and her Psyled team,..... Especially Occam.... LOVED this book... Can't wait for more... I see big things in the future for Nell. Love that all her relationships are growing... and she even calls Jane Yellowrock on occasion.... Great book, Great writer...