A priceless mystical treasure, a dark secret order, and a vengeful fallen angelforces collide as the battle for Middleburg continues . . .
For gang members Raphael and Ignacio, plans for the homecoming dance are almost as harrowing as their recent victory against the demonic forces that threaten their town. Despite their tentative alliance, a fight breaks out between the preppie Toppers and the goth Flatliners when Topper girl Aimee shows up at the dance with Raphael, the rival gang's leader. In the midst of an all-out rumble, the homecoming queen discovers a supernatural power that causes a potentially deadly catastrophe. Meanwhile, a charismatic half-angel, half-human arrives in Middleburg with plans to steal Aimee from Raphael.
To add to the bizarre circumstances surrounding the town, real-estate moguls begin buying up most of the Flats and evicting the tenants. These mysterious men seek a priceless treasure prophesied in ancient Chinese writings and will stop at nothing to find it. But Raphael and his friends vow to get to it first and use it to reclaim their homes.
As Raphael and the Flatliners and Zhai and the Toppers hone their supernatural abilities and search for the treasure, Aimee begins kung fu training, intent on using her new skills to locate and rescue her mother. When she discovers that the elusive treasure may be the key, the race to find it intensifies.
But there are others who seek the treasure too, and they have the power to reduce all of Middleburg, and perhaps the world, to ashes. . . .
About the Author
J. Gabriel Gates is a Michigan native and a graduate of Florida State University. He has worked as a professional actor and a Hollywood screenwriter. For more of J. Gabriel Gates' writing, check out his horror novel The Sleepwalkers. Visit www.jgabrielgates.com.
Charlene Keel is the author of a dozen novels and how-to-books. She has also ghostwritten books for celebrities, doctors, and corporate moguls.
Read an Excerpt
Raphael Kain's adversary cartwheeled forward and attacked with a barrage of flying fists and slashing elbows. Unable to sidestep the attack, Raphael was forced to block each blow as it came, retreating a few steps down the narrow brick alleyway. The moment he saw an opening, he lashed out, counterattacking with a front kick and a host of blazing-fast punches. He landed a few glancing strikes before his opponent managed to backflip away from him, dodging in an acrobatic fury what would have been a devastating crescent kick.
"Good thing you got out of the way of that one," Raph taunted. He wasn't even out of breath. "You'd have had a headache for a week."
As his opponent stepped backward down the alley, regrouped and came forward again, Raphael watched him closely--paying careful attention to his elbows, since he knew they would tell him what sort of strike was coming next. Raphael read his movements flawlessly and launched a perfectly timed kickÑbut his enemy was too fast. He cartwheeled beneath Raphael's leg, sprang to his feet, and caught Raphael's cheek with a glancing elbow as he shot past. By the time Raph spun around and struck out with a backfist, his opponent was already safely out of range.
As Raphael prepared for his next onslaught, he felt the mysterious, soul-tingling magical force his kung fu master called Shen filling him. It rose through his feet, traveling upward like a shiver, and it shone down on him from above, too, filling him with its unseen light. Lately, Raphael was feeling the presence of Shen more frequently, but there was still no telling when it would appear and when it wouldn't. But he felt the energy's presence now, and he used his qigong training to focus it.
"You're slippery," Raph conceded. "Try to slip past this!" Squinting with concentration, he willed the energy to build within him. Instantly, his chest tightened and his forehead buzzed as that familiar, electric vibration coursed through him. Then, just as his opponent was charging him again, he reached a hand out and released the power.
Instantly, his attacker was knocked backward. Stumbling, he slipped on a crushed soda can and fell hard on the dirty concrete. Raph hurried toward him and extended his hand.
"You all right, Nass?"
With Raphael's help, Ignacio got to his feet and dusted off his clothes. "Yeah. I'm good. That was crazy with the Shen, though. You're gettin' scary good with that stuff."
"You're getting a lot better too," Raphael said. "I can't believe you dodged my kick like that. How did you see it coming? Did I telegraph it somehow?"
Ignacio shook his head. "Nah," he said, "I used the knowing."
The knowing was something Ignacio was still getting used to. As he explained it to Raphael, ever since he was a kid he sometimes saw things before they happened. Sometimes he saw them only in his mind, but sometimes it felt like they were really happening and he was in the middle of the action. But no matter how it came to him, he had always been afraid of his ability. Now he was learning to embrace it.
Raphael nodded. "I think the knowing comes from Shen too," he said. "It's all connected somehow."
As they stepped out of the alley onto the sidewalk of downtown Middleburg, Raphael shivered. Winter was coming. He could feel it in the sharp bite of the wind, see it in the frosty, pale blue of the sky. He wore his dad's old goose-down parka now, over his customary hoodie, and his best friend, Ignacio Torrez, striding down the sidewalk next to him, was huddled in a frayed old peacoat he'd picked up at the Goodwill. But despite the chill that numbed his fingers and reddened his nose on that cold Thursday afternoon, nothing could dispel the warmth Raphael felt when he thought of the awesome changes that had recently taken place in his life.
First, everyone in town knew he had rescued Aimee Banfield from Oberon. Thoughts of that day, and of Oberon, sent a chill down Raphael's spine that was worse than anything the weather could cause. In a brief mind-flash, he saw Oberon as he had looked during their battle: sheathed in black reptilian skin with sleek, black, feathery wings jutting from his back. He'd looked like some kind of dark, demented angelÑnothing like the angels in any of Raphael's Sunday school books. Maybe it was crazy, but sometimes it was like he could still feel Oberon staring at him with his one good eye, while the other oneÑthe glass eyeÑglowed a terrifying shade of crimson. The image was sobering, to say the least.
But Raphael had defeated Oberon. He had rescued Aimee. And now, people in town (even some from the ranks of his archenemies, the Toppers) were starting to show him a grudging respectÑalthough they still had no idea about Oberon's real, horrific identity.
The whole thing had been beyond weirdÑand he hadn't quite recovered from it. He wondered how Zhai--the leader of the Toppers (and his long-ago best friend)--was doing with it.
Part of the overall weirdness, Raphael thought, was that he hadn't told anyone--not even Nass--about everything he'd seen, how hard he'd had to fight, and the unbelievable otherworldly creatures he'd battled just to get to Aimee. And none of the Flatliners had discussed what had happened to them--and to Middleburg--during that fateful Halloween battle.
As odd as all of it had been, it wasn't a dream--as much as he'd like to think it was. The horses in Master Chin's barnyard and the samurai helmet that sat in a place of honor on the mantel over the sifu's fireplace were proof of that.
After the Halloween battle, it seemed to Raphael that Middleburg would forever retain the peculiar, disjointed feeling that lingered for a day or so after Aimee's rescue, but in less than two weeks, it had settled into an uneasy calm as the community adjusted to her safe return--and things went back to normal.
For a Flatliner like Raphael, "back to normal" meant broke and struggling. Between their nonexistent finances and his mom's pregnancy, things were as complicated as ever in the Kain household. The only thing that got Raphael through the day was knowing he would see Aimee--even if it was just from a distance. Maybe all they had for now were anonymous notes and discreet little waves or smiles across the crowded lunchroom, and a few rare, stolen moments when they could hold on to each other and hope for better times. But it was more than either of them had ever had before. They were in love, and with that thought to keep him warm, winter had might as well give up now.
They reached Lotus Pharmacy, and Ignacio pulled the door open.
"Ladies first," he said, ushering Raphael inside.
Raph slugged him in the shoulder as he passed. It was a friendly jab, but it made Ignacio wince all the same.
"Ow!" said Nass, laughing. "How many times I gotta tell you, man--normal people can hit their friends, joking around. Kung fu masters, not so much."
By that time they were at the cash register.
"You sure you want to spend this money on a cell phone right now?" Nass asked. "You don't know when your mom is going to be working again."
True, Raph thought. Since Oberon went all Lucifer-on-steroids, kidnapped Aimee, fought Raph, then plunged over the edge of that crazy temple's rooftop (hopefully to his death), his business interests in Middleburg had been in a holding pattern. Little Geno's was still open, but Hot House strip club where Raph's mom had worked was closed indefinitely. Money was tighter than ever. But, Raph considered, when you've been running around battling time-traveling samurai, a gigantic, blood-thirsty lizard and a conniving, evil man who suddenly sprouts wings--not to mention trying to keep the Toppers at bay--you kind of have to have a cell phone. You can't always count on finding a payphone so you can call for reinforcements.
Instead, he said, "No, man. I need a phone. It'll have to be one of these pay-as-you-go things for now, but at least I'll have it for emergencies or something."
"It's about time," Nass agreed. "Imagine actually being able to call each other from anywhere. What a concept."
"Yeah," Raphael agreed. "We'll be almost like regular people now."
"All right!" Nass said. "Let's see what kind of top-of-the-line, pay-as-you-go, loser phone my pizza delivery millions can get me!"
Lydia, the pharmacy clerk who waited on them, had green hair and an eyebrow ring. She was Beet's older stepsister, and with her narrow hips and thin, almost bony frame, there was definitely no family resemblance.
"Wow, cell phones," she teased. "You're finally leaving the age of the dinosaurs. Welcome to the twenty-first century." She smiled at Raphael and Nass as she rang them up and told them how to activate their phones. A moment later, they were walking out the door again, onto the sidewalk of downtown Middleburg.
"Uh-oh," Ignacio said. "Here comes trouble."
Instantly Raphael was on guard, ready for a Topper attack. But when he followed his friend's gaze, he broke into a wide grin.
Across the street, Dalton was just coming out of Middleburg's only upscale, designer dress shop--and best of all, Aimee was with her.
Raph headed toward them, not even looking as he rushed into the street, not caring about the oncoming cars he had to dodge. He didn't care about anything except being close to Aimee.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Gates and Keel have done it again. Back in the world of Middleburg nothing is as it seems and nothing is left untouched from the events in Dark Territory. Everything has changed, Ghost Crown is darker and grittier. OOOh, what a read! There were so many moments that my mouth fell open in disbelief. I had to stop myself from screaming out warnings (especially when reading in public places!) I was so involved in this book, that everything in my reality disappeared. I really thought that I was sitting in Middleburg watching all of this happen. I felt so many different emotions. My heart sank with the mini-defeats the characters experienced. It soared with the mini-victories. There were so many awesome elements that came together successfully to make this a rock-star book. I loved the development of the characters, everyone was tangible and felt as if they just floated of the page and came to life. The bad guys just got darker and even more unlikable. The character that sits on the fence-Zhai- was pushed even more into the murkiness of the gray area. I still wonder why he chose to be the leader of the toppers. I know how he got there but why did he accept? It¿s June, and I have my first book to add to my favorite reads list for this year. All of the characters are back in this sequel, and they all leave quite an impression, including the new ones that pop up. All of the old characters, that we have grown to love or hate, have changed since the events and Dark Territory. I think that change would be necessary, considering everything that they saw. Some of the changes are for the better, as when one embraces the gifts that shen/The ALL have bestowed upon them. Some of the changes are for the worse, as when one makes a deal with a half-breed without really understanding what they have bargained away. Some events are heartbreaking, as when one forgets her love as she is manipulated by another. All of the characters surprised me in one way or another, but truthfully, the biggest surprise was Maggie. Ghost Crown has a little bit of everything, forbidden love, secret love, a love triangle, secret alliances, secret society, a treasure hunt, action¿everything you could ever need to tell an awesomesauce story. Man! I could go on and on about how awesomely happy I am with Ghost Crown, but I still feel as if this review is too vague. I don¿t think I¿ve really captured how great this book is. I wish that I could find something that I hated, to give a balanced review. I looked, flipped through pages and couldn¿t find anything. When I read the word ¿nephilim¿, it was like a punch to the gut. This didn¿t start out like your typical angel/fallen angel story and everything screamed that it wouldn¿t fit neatly into that category. A part of me liked it better when the mysterious creatures went unnamed. But even that worked out in the end. I so can¿t wait for book 3!!!! (Yes folks, in case you didn¿t know, there will be a book 3!!)Recommendation: Go. Read. Now! Right now! Put The Tracks series at the top of your reading pile.A free copy of this book was given to me free, in exchange for my honest review.
I love this book;)
Reviewed by: Stephanie O Book provided by:Publisher Review originally posted at Romancing the Book Making the comparison to West Side Story isn’t a stretch. This series just adds in there a dash of magic and the paranormal. Ghost Crown, is book two in The Tracks Series and is packed with action that leaves you griping the covers until your knuckles turn white. Written in such a manner that one feels as tho they are right there in the middle of town with all the action. Young love, stereotypes, friend or foe? An ending that sends the reader to the computer to search for the release date of the next book. What happens when the side of the tracks you live on, dictates your “status”? Are the good people of Middleburg what they seem? This is a series that doesn’t disappoint. An awesome read for anyone that loves a little supernatural action tossed with some romance. There is a character for everyone to connect with, to grow with. Someone to feel as though, UGH . . I’ve been there (age doesn’t matter when reading this series). Could you read book two without having read book one? YES. Would you feel a little lost? YES . . . but soon thing do sort out. I would highly recommend grabbing both copies and settling in for a paranormal ride like none other.
This is the first book by these authors that I have read and I thought where have I been it was great. The book has action, paranormal activity,danger and romance. I thought it was like and updated version of West Side Story. The characters were believable and I liked them all except Jack Banfield he seemed to care only about gaining control of Middleburg and nothing else. Some of the good guys had their own shortcomings like jealousy and selfishness just like the bad guys. It was truly a hypnotizing and wonderful book. Thanks Net Galley.