As the winter ice begins to thaw, the fury of a demon builds all because one girl couldn’t stay dead . . .
Roan Harken considers herself a typical high school student dead parents, an infected eyeball, and living in the house of her estranged, currently comatose grandmother (well, maybe not so typical) but she’s uncovering the depth of the secrets her family left behind. Saved from the grasp of Death itself by a powerful fox spirit named Sil, Roan must harness mysterious ancient power . . . and quickly. A snake-monster called Zabor lies in wait in the bed of the frozen Assiniboine River, hungry for the sacrifice of spirit-blood in exchange for keeping the flood waters at bay. Thrust onto an ancient battlefield, Roan soon realizes that to maintain the balance of the world, she will have to sacrifice more than her life in order to take her place as Scion of the Fox.
American Gods meets Princess Mononoke in this powerful first installment of a trilogy sure to capture readers’ imaginations everywhere.
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Oh she's so glamorous, she's so cool, long legs that go to heaven and lips that tell me to get outta town. Pretty lady that won't give me the time of day — she's a stoooone FOX!
That song. The song my dad used to sing at my mom on the good and the bad days. It's my only memory of my parents. I was too young when they died, became an orphan before any other memories could stick. But this one did.
My dad singing intentionally off-key, chasing Mom around the kitchen until she gave up being mad at him for whatever unspeakable thing hung between them, and then they'd kiss and make it better. I'd squeal and demand to be picked up, to be a part of their fun, and we'd hold each other until I fussed to be put down again. I felt their love like a fire. They loved me. I know they did. Even if it didn't last.
My mother was a compact creature. Very hard to crack. Sometimes she would lock herself in my dad's little greenhouse and go quiet for days. She would let only me in (though I don't remember my father ever trying to get through to her), and I'd give her peanut-butter-and-banana sandwiches that my sloppy preschool hands had made, hoping it would make her remember she had to love us. It was as hot as a sauna in there, even in winter, the warmth rolling off her in angry waves. I would find her in the back by the stuff Dad called belladonna, and she would be staring out through the glass, fixated on our big yard as if imprisoned.
She spoke like someone else was standing over her, and she'd say something like, "A darling little stone menagerie, with the power to kill and create." Was it a fairy tale she was telling me? Was she even speaking to me at all?
I never asked. I should have.
Instead, I would put down the sandwich and jump to see over the table of plants and out at the little statue garden. Still in her trance, and without looking away, my mother would lift me as if I were a pebble in the palm of her hand.
Then I would wind my fingers in her seemingly infinite hair. "The fox is the prettiest, Mommy, the prettiest like you."
She sighed and clenched me so tight it hurt, but I didn't ask her to stop.
Out in the garden, there was a pair of stone deer leaping. A stone owl mid-flight. A stone seal diving through a stone wave, a stone rabbit bolting and, yes, a stone fox. It sat amongst them but apart from them, still and staring and quiet. The set had been a present from my grandma, my mother's mother. There was no special occasion, but a truck had backed into our yard one day with men hired to move the statues into it.
I frolicked and cartwheeled that summer, feeling like it was Christmas in July. But my mother just stood there, still as a warrior waiting for the next onslaught.
Take it back, she'd scream over the phone to someone I never knew. I don't want it anywhere near this family. My dad would try to calm her, but she'd only grow angrier. She's telling me to just accept it. To let it happen for the greater good. I won't! I won't let them take her!
We'll find another way.
I wish I'd been old enough to ask. I wish they could have trusted me with their secrets.
The statues had been my grandmother's and now they were ours. I never met my grandmother, or if I did, I don't remember what she looked like. She went far, far away before I was born. Mom never talked about her, but I could tell she thought about her often; mouth set in a hard line, beryl eyes crystallized. She stared at the statues. She hated them. And was maybe afraid of them, too.
Once, I climbed up onto the deer, gripping its ears or antlers and pretending I was riding it. Like we were flying through a forest being chased by whatever evil thing pursues kids and ultimately fails to catch them. I saw my mother and scrambled off. I wasn't allowed near them. I thought I was in trouble.
But she only folded her arms. She had accepted something I didn't understand, and instead of disciplining me, she wondered aloud if I'd asked the deer permission to ride them. I felt suddenly guilty, as if the statues were real. I didn't say anything. But she said that if I asked for something with true and honest intention, I'd always get what I needed. Then she left me alone.
I should have asked.
I didn't ride the deer after that. When I looked at the statues closely, eternally jumping or flying or sprinting, I realized they were all running away from something. Except the fox. It gave off warmth. Sometimes when I sat very still, I could hear it whispering stories to me, tales of things I'd never understand.
Kid stuff. Imaginary friend complex.
Back in the greenhouse, my mother would stare into the dark whirlpool in her head that I couldn't see, saying nothing for a long time. But she wouldn't move from that spot. For hours, for ages. But I'd keep by her, until I fell asleep. I'd wake up in my bed the next day, like it was all a dream.
And sometime later, I'd hear Mom and Dad downstairs, Dad singing the stone fox song to Mom until she gave in to his kisses. And we'd all be happy again. I don't remember the last time I heard the song. Just the absence of it.
My mother was twenty-eight when she died. Dad's friend Audrey from his gardening club was looking after me in her sweet-smelling bungalow when she got the call. My parents had driven out to Assiniboine Park; my father could work wonders with plants, and the city consulted him when designing the elaborate English Gardens that tourists and locals fell all over.
When I was old enough to understand, I'd heard it went like this:
Their little Volvo plowed right through the fencing along the bike path, careening headlong into the river. They dredged the car from the water, but they could not find my mother's body. My father's washed up like a discarded shopping cart on a bank near the Alexander docks. My mother evaded local crime scene investigators until they eventually gave up — Must have washed all the way to the States, they said. I thought maybe she had gone off on an adventure, like the heroes of my stories, and that she'd left us behind to protect us. An accident, they'd officially said. Maybe intentional, others whispered. We'd never know.
But nothing could be so easy. The dead never rest when they've left too many secrets behind. I only learned that after the moths.
TheSigilof theMoth Queen
Five days before the dead body in the snow, and fourteen years after Ravenna and Aaron Harken inhaled a lungful of the Assiniboine, I sat in the back of English class, trying really, really hard not to rub my left eye. The best solution I'd come up with after all these years was to claw at the eye patch I wore over it, faking relief. I had a bunch of eye patches actually, and I took pride in decorating them. The plan was to wear my disability like a badge, to show people I didn't care.
But after adjusting the patch in the mirror every morning before school, I'd inevitably cover it with my messy auburn hair. It took less energy to hide it than own it. My left eye had had this lingering infection thing since I was small. I'd apparently started rubbing it sometime after my parents' deaths and couldn't stop. The psychologists branded this a coping mechanism and shrugged it off.
And it got worse. A "chronic weeping infection," caused by what could've been an autoimmune disorder. All I could do was use drops and antibiotics, keep it covered, and hope I'd grow out of it. Stress made it worse. And I was always stressed. Vicious cycle.
I tried to stay positive. I was always trying really, really hard at that. But tapping on the patch wasn't doing a damn thing, so I dug my pen into the well-worn groove on my desktop, wishing it was my eye, wishing I could just grind it out and trade it for a bionic one that shot lasers and gave me some social cred.
I felt a hand on my arm and looked up. Phae's placid, deep brown face was in mine, and she was shaking her head. Smiling, she told me to take a deep breath and sit back. So I shut my good eye and my evil eye, and sighed deeply. It worked for a few seconds. Breathe, a wise dwarf once said. That's the key.
Thankfully, it was the end of the day. The bell went off and everyone stuffed their bags desperately, afraid that if they didn't move fast enough they wouldn't be allowed to leave. I tucked my well-worn copy of Wuthering Heights into my bag.
"... and it wouldn't be so bad if you weren't on edge all the time. Stress is a killer," Phae was saying. Phae was always trying to help. "Why don't we try yoga again in my studio? I promise it gets better after the first time."
I was feeling generous, so I did the math for her. "C'mon, Phae. Me plus contortionist calisthenics minus one eye equals doom." I shouldered my bag. "Don't worry about me. I've just got the usual stuff on my mind."
I didn't elaborate. Usual stuff could mean anything.
Usual teenager stuff — grades, periods, boyfriends (or lack of interest in them), body anxieties, family drama, trying to fit in at school — yep, all boxes checked. Then there were the extras. Double dead parents. Freaky new house. Gunky eyeball ...
Everyone was rushing for the door, including the few peers Mrs. Mills asked me to help with essay composition. I felt like she was punishing me for being a good student, because these particular kids didn't give a crap about English or the provincial exams coming up next term. Which meant they gave less of a crap about me, if that was possible.
If you haven't gotten it already, I wasn't exactly a social butterfly, or up to confrontation, so when I called out to John Hardwick and the rest of his cronies about their practice essays, they threw glances over their shoulders, sneering and slapping each other on the backs. Ugh, whatever. Let 'em fail. They'd still end up CEOs.
Phae came to my side, smiling and shrugging as she steered me towards our lockers.
Tutoring my peers, caring about school, keeping to myself. I'd been making it seem like I had it all together, that I had plans and goals, because I didn't want tragedy to always define me. Besides, grades, private teenage thoughts, fleeting attempts at friendships — these were the things normal people cared about, right? I felt like each one got me closer to the status quo that everyone around me took for granted, and mercifully farther away from the pang of having little direction in life except forward.
But right now, I wanted to live. I wanted my biggest concerns to be getting into university, having some semblance of privacy, or worrying about what kind of leftovers I could heat up after ten p.m. without my aunt knowing. I wanted it all badly enough to put the eye patch on every day, to tutor lazy idiots on their shitty papers, and steer any cruelty or pity, intended or otherwise, into the immense vortex caused by my convincing and well-practised Brave Face. And so far it was working, except when a few impulses slipped through the cracks.
My eye twitched and I reached for it.
Phae slapped my hand away from my face, full-stop.
I winced. "Hey, we trying physical abuse now, guru?" I felt Phae squirting my palms with hand sanitizer. "I think abuse is my only remaining option. This place is a germ factory, and you're shoving your fingers into your infected eye?"
Oh, Phaedrapramit Das. Calming manatee and life coach since grade three. She'd marked me as her best friend almost immediately, asking blunt but kind questions about my eye and if I needed someone to talk to, on account of my dead parents and all, since, according to all the books she'd read, orphans were the ones who had it roughest. I think she mostly stuck by me because I was helpless with some things, even though I tried hard (and failed) to look capable.
I flexed my now-sanitized hands, squeezing them into fists. "It feels really bad today. I don't know." I lifted the patch. "I know this is gross, but, can you ...?"
Phae was on the med-school track, and no injury of had ever phased her. But I noticed a tremor at the edge of her mouth when she frowned. "That bad, huh?"
She leaned in for a closer look. "It looks worse than usual, that's for sure." She ushered me up to my cheap plastic locker mirror. "That lump there is very large and red. Can't you feel it under your eye?"
The truth was, I couldn't. And seeing it in the mirror was such a shock that I had to look away before I started prodding it. It looked like something from a hospital horror BuzzFeed article. I slapped the patch down and my hair over it.
"No, it just ... it feels irritated, that's all. There's been swelling like that before, though, so ..." I didn't mention the headache creeping on. Seeing that lump really freaked me out.
"Go to the emergency, Roan. Seriously."
I waved her off. "Look, it's the end of the day. If it's worse in the morning, I'll skip first period and go to a walk-in clinic."
Phae fussed all the way into the winter air and to the bike racks, and I promised I'd text her a play-by-play of my mutating opto-tumour if it made her feel any better. As I ran my bike up to the road and started pedalling, I was already strategizing how I'd manoeuvre around Deedee and Arnas. Phae was bad enough (in a good way), but my aunt and uncle were tougher to get around. Well, Arnas wasn't too bad, since he had always been as assertive as a two-by-four, but where he lacked, Deedee made up in spades ... in a loving, hypochondriac way.
Arnas was my father's brother, and Deidre, his wife. They weren't technically married, but they had been together for as long as the "conventional" parents of my classmates. Deidre was doting and always concerned (all the doctors' and psych visits had been her idea) and always busy. She said that sitting still was something she could do when she was dead. I admired her tenacity, but it had been a long day, and I didn't need someone else going, Oh hey, what's wrong? Here are a hundred suggestions — fuss, preen — let me get you something. Good intentions and all, but the last thing I wanted was another helicopter hovering over my life. And a lump now? God, it hadn't been that bad before. Maybe I could check WebMD when I got home. What I'd find there would probably be worse than Deedee, though.
I pulled up to the house and stared up at it before parking my bike. Being here felt like crash-landing on an alien planet.
This house wasn't mine, and in the year since we'd moved in, it still didn't feel like home. And this house wasn't Deidre's or Arnas's, either; it belonged to my grandmother, the one who had given us the stone menagerie. When my parents died, my aunt and uncle moved in with me in the house I grew up in — a white little Wolseley two-storey, ivy growing up the front, greenhouse in the back — to keep my life as uninterrupted as possible, tragedy notwithstanding. I spent a lot of time in that greenhouse after it all happened, trying to tend the plants that my father could will out of the dirt with a promise. They all died, of course. Neither Arnas nor Deidre had any interest or passion for plants. They turned the greenhouse into a shed, but it didn't stop me from going in there, digging my hands into the earth, and missing my mother.
We stayed there up until last year, when the lawyer's letter came. I hadn't seen or heard from my grandmother since we got the statues. After that, she seemed to just melt back into the absence I was accustomed to, travelling all over the world for "work," the nebulous excuse I was always fed when I asked about her. She was just as compact as my mother, except so unreachable as to exist in some other dimension. She would sometimes send me postcards with pictures of exotic places. She only sent them to me, and that made me feel like I was a part of her strange adventures. That's what I told myself, anyway.
Then the postcards stopped. And the lawyer's letter came.
I took my bike around the side of the enormous house and to the backyard, where I locked it to the black wrought-iron fence hemming in the property. On my way to the door, I paused at the stone menagerie. Deidre had it moved here with us. I thought, at first, that it was a gesture to make me feel better, but it was one of the many weird "stipulations" we had to fulfill to stay here.
The stone fox stared at me from between the legs of its companions. An untouched layer of snow frosted each statue except the fox's, and for a second I swore its eyes flickered at me, almost hot as they met mine. My bad eye tingled harder than it had all day, and my hand shot up to it.
"There you are!"
I whipped around, more than startled. "Gee-zus, Dee, can you quit it with the ninja stealth?" I clutched my heart, trying to laugh off the fact that it was slapping around my ribcage like a trapped bird.
Deidre rolled her eyes under the black fringe of her perfect bob. "Teenagers only get jumpy when they're up to something." She held the back door open, smile twitching. The inquisition was coming.
Excerpted from "Scion of the Fox"
Copyright © 2017 S.M. Beiko.
Excerpted by permission of ECW PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Scion of the Fox caught my attention as soon as I saw that it was blurbed by Kelley Armstrong, one of my favorite YA authors. If Kelley liked it then I was definitely going to like it - or at least that's what I hoped (and prayed). As it turns out, Scion of the Fox was a great series opener. Unique, compelling, and delightfully creep, Scion of the Fox ended up being the perfect way to spend an October evening. Scion of the Fox introduces us to Roan Harken. Roan has always stayed under the radar at her high school, and that's exactly how she likes it. She doesn't want people talking about the weirdness of eye or her parent's tragic (and possibly self-inflicted) deaths. However, everything changes the minute the stone fox in her year transforms into an actual fox....and just in time, to save Roan from immense, life threatening danger. The fox, named Sil, informs Ronan that she posses a huge amount of power - a power that threatens her life AND makes her potential savor. Roan was an interesting main character. She was very blasé (I guess you would say) about everything - she was a more of a go with flow quietly kind-of-girl - but as more and more power and responsibility were thrown her way, Ronan begins to get comfortable in her shoes, taking her new powers in stride, knowing full aware that she needs to use them for good. As the book progressed, I liked Roan, but I never felt a real connection to her for some reason, unfortunately. There was just something about her that didn't click for me, but as with all characters, sometimes you get that connection and sometimes you just don't. I will say, though, that I loved her friendship with Sil. Sil was a funny, bull-headed little Fox, always helping Roan see the real picture. The plot in this was interesting albeit slightly weird. The owls versus fox dilemma was unique, and I thought S.M. Beiko did a decent job of fleshing it out through not only Roan's POV but the POVs of others involved on both sides. It made the story well rounded. I also liked the setting. The coldness of winter added to the "scary" and "thrilling" factors, making it all the more enjoyable for a mid-Ocotber read. In all, Scion of the Fox was a decent debut! I look forward to seeing what happens next. Grade: B