In a city divided between opulent luxury in the Light and fierce privations in the Dark, a determined young woman survives by guarding her secrets.
Lucie Manette was born in the Dark half of the city, but careful manipulations won her a home in the Light, celebrity status, and a rich, loving boyfriend. Now she just wants to keep her head down, but her boyfriend has a dark secret of his own—one involving an apparent stranger who is destitute and despised. Lucie alone knows the young men’s deadly connection, and even as the knowledge leads her to make a grave mistake, she can trust no one with the truth.
Blood and secrets alike spill out when revolution erupts. With both halves of the city burning, and mercy nowhere to be found, can Lucie save either boy—or herself?
Celebrated author Sarah Rees Brennan weaves a magical tale of romance and revolution, love and loss.
About the Author
Sarah Rees Brennan is the New York Times best-selling author of fantasy novels for teens including The Demon's Lexicon, a YALSA Top Ten Books for Young Adults, and The Bane Chronicles, co-authored with Cassandra Clare and Maureen Johnson. www.sarahreesbrennan.com
Read an Excerpt
IT WAS THE BEST OF TIMES UNTIL IT WAS THE WORST OF TIMES.
We had never been allowed to go away for the weekend alone together before. So our holiday at Martha’s Vineyard was a rare and special treat, sweet as only things that come seldom and do not last can be.
Those two days were long and sunshiny and warm. When I think about them now, I remember the pale amber of the sky at sunset, like light shining through honey. I remember the last time I was purely and uncomplicatedly happy, as I used to be when I was a child and my mother was alive.
Happiness is self-sabotage, a mean trick that your own mind plays on you. It makes you careless, makes you lose your grip, and once you lose your grip, you lose everything. You certainly aren’t happy anymore.
I was very stupid. It was because I was happy that I made my first mistake.
In the weeks that followed, I made more.
Ethan and I lingered in the sun-drenched orchards too long and missed the train we were supposed to catch, a direct train back home with plush seats and clear walls that Light magic pulsed through until the walls themselves looked like they were made of diamond. Staying an extra night was out of the question: Dad would have panicked, and it would have been all my fault. I was responsible for him. Taking care of him was my job and my penance.
We had to catch the last train home to Light New York. It was one of the commuter trains that wound through the sky on rails that shone like glittering threads, stopping at tiny stations on the way. This kind of train even stopped in the Dark cities. Ethan and I bought the tickets and stood on the platform, reassuring each other in voices that did not sound terribly assured.
“It might be fun,” said Ethan.
I told myself he didn’t know any better. Rich people think like that about slumming it, putting on other people’s lives like a disguise at a party. It is fun only because they can cast off the mask at any time.
“Why would it be fun?” I asked.
Nevertheless, I felt my shoulders relax as the train came into view. The train was an older model, but magic made it a shining rope of Light in the night sky, like a crystal necklace suspended between the stars.
It was just a train like any other train. The buried had their own compartment and would not be allowed into ours. We had reserved a private train car. Nobody, from the Dark or Light city, would have the chance to recognize me.
I made my next mistake. I promised myself everything was going to be all right.
Once you lose something, it tends to stay gone. This is especially true with chances.
The train streamed, sparkling, up to the platform. I saw a glimpse of the car carrying the buried ones with its black-screened windows, and then Ethan and I boarded the train. Moments later, we were in our own tiny room, tangled together on a bunk. The moonlight flooded into and ebbed away from our small window, tide-like, with the movement of the train.
We would be traveling all night.
I don’t always sleep through the night. I tear myself out of sleep, heart pounding, sure something terrible is happening. I have trouble feeling secure. Except with Ethan.
I only sleep well when I sleep beside Ethan. I fell asleep in the flickering light, warm in his arms, warm as kissing and skin had made the tiny space between us. The train was rocking, gentle as a boat on a calm sea, and he was stroking my hair.
“I love you,” he murmured to me, and I knew he would keep saying it even after I was asleep.
In the two years since my father and I had escaped Dark New York, I’d woken a hundred times to night terrors that vanished as soon as I opened my eyes. It was bitter irony that I didn’t wake when the real danger was coming.
I didn’t wake until they ripped Ethan out of my arms, and then I sat up in the bunk with my heart pounding and my eyes full of moonbeams to find the nightmare was real. Once the dazzle cleared from my vision, I saw six armed guards dragging my boyfriend out of our compartment and onto a platform. He was fighting, but they had already bound his hands with Light, a shimmering coil of magic around his wrists that he could not escape. They pressed him, struggling, onto his knees on the shadowed-dark stone, and in the cool moonlight I saw the flash of a blade.
I threw myself out of bed and hurled myself out onto the platform. In two bounds, I was in front of Ethan, grabbing the sword, my feet on cold stone and my hands full of cold steel.
All guards carry Light swords, blades tempered with Light magic, to prevent Dark magicians from messing with their minds, and the swords are precise and deadly, unstoppable, whether you are a Dark magician or someone born with no magic at all.
Most Light magicians are not taught to defend against guards’ swords. They are meant to be used for our protection, used against our enemies. No normal Light magician would be trained to fight their own guards.
But I was.
Pain burned a line into each palm, but I hung on. My rings pressed against the Light-gleaming blade and blazed. My blood stained the blade, blotting out some of the light, but the guard gasped and found he could not move his weapon.
“Don’t you dare touch him,” I said. “I’m Lucie Manette, do you hear me? He’s Ethan Stryker and I’m Lucie Manette. If you hurt him, you will pay for it in blood.”
I knew it was a mistake as soon as I spoke. The guard’s face showed not submission but angry confusion: he obviously recognized the names, but it was as if I’d said that we were the hero and the cute talking animal from a fairy tale. It didn’t match up with any of his ideas, so it didn’t convince him, and it wouldn’t stop him.
It had been two years since anyone had doubted my word. It had been two years since I had dealt with anybody who wanted to hurt someone I loved, and I had forgotten how to bear it.
“He’s a traitor,” the guard said. “We have a warrant and a witness who swears he saw him passing vital security information to a fugitive member of the sans-merci. The fugitive was apprehended and killed, and the plans were found on her. The witness described this man with absolute accuracy. There is no possibility of error.”
One of the guards wearing Light rings gestured, and Ethan’s face was reproduced in light against the night sky, as if an artistic comet had traced his profile onto the darkness. His face shone for a moment, and then the magic faded and the lights went out.
“You know the penalty for treason. Move aside.”
I understood now how the guard had felt, hearing words but not being able to make sense of them. I knew what happened to anyone accused of associating with the sans-merci, and I could not connect any of this to Ethan.
The sans-merci was the name the band of revolutionaries in the Dark city had given themselves. They had killed Light guards, risen up in fury, and even saved condemned criminals from the sword. The Light Guard had been given free rein by the Light Council when it came to the revolutionaries, and nobody could stand against the council.
Anyone suspected of being in league with the sans-merci, the Light Guard would not spare.
I did not know how to get through to them. There were not many Light guards in the actual Light cities. Guards were posted mainly in the Dark cities, to control the Dark magicians, and the rest patrolled the country to search for Dark magicians and take them to the Dark cities, where they belonged. Out here, these backwater guards did not even know a Stryker when they saw one. The guards were not used to answering to the Strykers or anyone else on the Light Council. “The council” was just a phrase that gave them power. These guards were used to being the ultimate authority.
I knew the penalty for treason. It was death: instant death, death by the blade, death without a chance for mercy or escape.
I did not know how death could suddenly be so close to Ethan. I could not even associate him with the word. He had always been secure and protected, his whole charmed life. I had envied him and resented him and taken comfort in the fact that there was one person I loved who would be safe forever.
I didn’t even dare look back at Ethan, at his shoulders bowed under cruel pressure or his hanging, vulnerable head. I kept my eyes locked with the guard’s: the only thing stopping him from carrying out his orders was the complication of a barely dressed girl crazy enough to catch a sword in her hands.
The only thing standing between Ethan and death was me.
“I said, he’s a Stryker,” I insisted, making sure my voice rang out so everybody could hear. “He’s Mark Stryker’s nephew, Charles Stryker’s son. You can’t just execute him. The Strykers will bring a world of trouble down onto your head.”
“If he’s a Stryker”—I could hear that the guard didn’t believe me; I didn’t know how to make him believe me—“then he knows the law.”
We all knew the law. I remembered how noble Ethan’s Uncle Mark had sounded when he made the proclamation broadcast across the city, announcing new laws had been passed to stop the sans-merci, to give the Light guards the power to crush them.
The guards would use that power to kill Ethan, unless I stopped them.
“This is all a misunderstanding,” I said forcefully. “Why take this unnecessary risk? Why not transport us both to the city? You can watch us every minute, keep us in restraints. Send word to Charles Stryker, and he will meet us at the station. He will explain everything. He will reward you.”
Instantly I saw that I had made another mistake. I had not been this clumsy, once, but I had not been this desperate for two years. I was out of practice, and that meant Ethan was out of luck.
The guard’s face—he was an ordinary guy, stubble and tired eyes, a totally normal man just doing his job and burning my life to the ground—closed like a door.
“The guards of the Light don’t take bribes,” he said, and his voice had the definitive sound of a door closing too. He gave a single brief nod, and I felt hands close around my arms.
“No,” I said, desperate. I tried to twist away, out of their hold, even though I knew it was useless: once people begin using force, words will not stop them. “Wait—you have to listen to me! You can’t do this!”
The only thing standing between Ethan and death was me, and I was not enough. Two guards dragged me back, kicking and fighting and saying useless things, a victim’s chant of despair—You can’t do this, when we all knew they could, Stop, when we all knew they wouldn’t, and Please, please, for the Light’s sake, please, when mercy was not an option.
“Lucie!” Ethan’s voice cut through the sounds of my futile struggle. There were guards in my way, and I could not see him. “Lucie, I’m so sorry. I love you.”
“No!” I screamed at him giving up, at the guards, at the whole uncaring world. “No. Stop!”
There was the long, slow scrape of a train-car door opening. I twisted in the guards’ hold at the sound.
It was the car of the buried ones, the citizens of the Dark city, that had opened. Standing framed in the doorway was a doppelganger, his face shrouded by the doppelganger’s dark hood, fastened with the enchanted collar.
He was a boy, I guessed, though it was hard to tell with the hood. He was tall, whipcord lean, and strong-looking, but something about him suggested that he was not full grown. He would be no help, I thought with a burst of frustration—he was a doppelganger, a creature made by Dark magic, with a face that wasn’t his own and no soul. Nobody would listen to him.
I choked on my own hopelessness. The doppelganger was standing slouched to one side of the door, like a not-very-interested spectator.
“The lady’s right,” he said, and his voice was a drawl, as if he wasn’t entirely sure why he was bothering to speak. “You’d better stop.”
“Back inside, doppelganger,” the guard with the sword, the leader, snapped. There was none of the hesitation there had been with me.
The leader nodded again, and one of the guards dropped my arm and advanced.
I saw the guard’s walk turn purposeful and predatory as he came toward the doppelganger and uncoiled a whip from his belt.
“Don’t!” The sound burst from me, without my permission.
At the same time, from the guard, came the order “He said inside, beast.”
I heard the crack and saw the leap of the whip as it woke into light and transcribed a bright circle against the black sky. He struck at the shadow cast by the hood, aiming directly for the hidden face.
The doppelganger wheeled at the last moment, stepped out onto the train platform, and caught the lash on his arm, turning his wrist so the whip wrapped around it. He pulled, changing lightning into a leash, and yanked the stunned guard onto his knees.
Before the guard could scramble up or another guard could intervene, the doppelganger spoke again.
“I heard there was a witness who saw the accused consorting with a member of the sans-merci,” he said. “I just have one question.”
Silence followed, the guards taken aback by his casual air as they had not been by my screaming.
I stopped straining against the remaining guard’s hold and said, forcing my voice to match his, “What is it?”
“This terrible criminal your witness saw . . .”
The doppelganger threw his hood back.
The humming magic light of swords, my rings, and the train itself had transformed the platform into a brilliantly lit stage. The light was bright enough that I could see every detail of his face; it chased along his high cheekbones and the slightly crooked shape of his mouth, lending an icy sparkle to his dark eyes. His brown hair was cut very short, but I knew if it was longer it would curl. I knew the lopsided turn his mouth would take if he smiled. I knew the very line of his throat as it disappeared into the dark folds of his hood and the black edge of his heavy collar. I knew every detail of his beloved face.
Ethan was still on his knees, surrounded by guards. I could not see Ethan, and yet I could.
This was Ethan’s face. This was Ethan’s doppelganger—his exact physical double.
“How do you know,” continued the doppelganger, “that it wasn’t me?”
Another silence followed. We had a second chance, in this uncertain moment, to use words and change the world.
I had to get it right this time.
“An eyewitness sighting doesn’t count if the person reported has a doppelganger,” I said quickly. “Everybody knows that.”
“Because it could have been me,” the doppelganger agreed. “I mean, maybe it was him. Maybe he was out prowling the streets with his low political companions, and I was somewhere warm, having a lot more fun—possibly with this gorgeous thing.”
He cast me a brief glance. The brown eyes I was used to seeing soften as they looked at me were flat and expressionless. His look made me feel colder and more exposed than the night wind did. I was deeply and horribly conscious that I was standing on this platform in nothing but a thin shift that hung open so my goose flesh was on display.
Very alluring. But this hideous charade had to be continued.
I tossed my long hair over my shoulder and sent the doppelganger a wink. “Maybe.”
He spread his hands, as if to say “What can you do?” He was still slouching, which was fairly impressive when there was nothing in sight to slouch against. “Maybe he is guilty and I’m totally innocent.” His mouth curved, as if he was amused by the very idea. “It only seemed fair to point out that you don’t have all the information.”
“Now you do,” I stuck in. “It could have been either one of them, and if you kill the wrong one, it will be murder.”
“Killing a beast isn’t really murder,” muttered the guard who had wielded the whip, spitting at the doppelganger’s feet.
“You might not think so,” I said, “but you’ll be punished just the same.”
I tested the grip of the guard still holding me. His fingers twitched, relaxed, and, under the steady pressure I was exerting, released. I walked forward, past the cluster of guards, to the doppelganger. He started when I approached him, oddly, as he had not flinched when the whip came down. I reached out, grabbed his hand, and towed him over to Ethan.
When the guards let me pass, I could almost believe we might get away with this.
“The only thing you can do is take us to the Light city,” I said, sounding as certain and casual as I knew how. “All of us.”
The guards parted and I could finally, finally see Ethan, my Ethan. They had knocked him onto his hands and knees, his broad shoulders were bare and his wavy, sleep-mussed head was still hanging, but he looked up as I stooped toward him. I gave him my free hand, and when his fingers closed around my shaking, sweat-slicked fingers, I felt steadier, my lost anchor regained, warmth and security a possibility once again.
Ethan got to his feet. A moment later, I had them both safe, keeping myself a step ahead, between them and the guards.
“Remember what I suggested earlier?” I asked. “Put us back in our compartment. Put a guard at the door if you like—I don’t care. And call Charles Stryker. Let the Light Council sort out this misunderstanding.”
They were off balance enough to do what I wanted, and uncertain enough now to listen to the name Stryker. When the guards ushered me, Ethan, and the doppelganger into the compartment that had been just mine and Ethan’s, the leader was already looking worried.
Another guard said, as he shut the door in our faces, “I didn’t know any of the Strykers had a doppelganger.”
The door closed, and I sagged against it. I watched Ethan and the doppelganger retreat to opposite sides of the compartment.
“Funny thing,” I remarked. “Neither did I.”
I was furious, but there was something I had to do before questioning either one of them.
“Come here,” I said, and advanced on the doppelganger. He took a step back and wound up sitting on the bunk, looking surprised and mildly irritated.
I held up my hands as if in surrender, though it was anything but. I held them so the doppelganger could see the Light magic rings glittering on all my fingers.
“I’m a trained Light medic,” I told him. “Now let me see your wrist.”
He gave me an unfriendly look, but he let me kneel down and snatch his hand again. I pushed back the worn fabric of his sleeve. The material tried to adhere to the burn, but I pulled it off despite the hiss of pain that slipped through the doppelganger’s teeth. I had to loop my fingers around his wrist, over the burn, thumb and middle finger touching. I concentrated, coaxing to life the light hidden in every sparkling stone, letting it form a bright bracelet over his skin and mine. When I let go, I knew the light would wash the burn marks away. I was able to help, because he was not too badly hurt. My mother had been able to save people on the brink of death, but I was not a tenth as brilliant a magician as my mother. I could only do this.
I blinked away the remnants of Light in my vision, like dissolving stars, until all that was left was his intent gaze.
“There,” I told him.
“Am I supposed to thank you?”
“No,” I said. “I’m supposed to thank you. You saved his life and I love him, so I owe you more than I know how to repay. Thank you . . . what’s your name?”
He hesitated. “Carwyn.”
“Carwyn,” I said, still kneeling, staring up into a familiar face with a strange name on my tongue. “Thank you. Buried how long, Carwyn?”
That was what citizens of the Dark city always asked each other when we met. That was what we called living in the Dark city: being buried.
He hesitated again, but when he spoke there was weight to his response, as if he had come to some decision. “Thirteen years, but I’m out now,” said Carwyn. “Buried how long, Lucie?”
So that answered that: he had recognized me.
“Fifteen years,” I said. “But that was two years ago. I’m out now.”
“They’re still talking about you in the Dark city,” Carwyn said.
I picked up the dress that was on the floor and pulled it over my head as quickly but with as little fuss as I could manage, lacing up the front. Ethan grabbed a fresh shirt out of his bag.
He came and sat with me on one end of the bed, taking my hand again, and I curled into him, chin tucked against his shoulder and my hand pressed in a fist against his chest. As if I could protect him, as if I could keep his heart beating.
“I didn’t know how to tell you, Lucie,” said Ethan. “About him.”
The train was in motion again. I leaned against Ethan, but I did not look at him or at the stranger who wore his face. I looked out the window. The train was speeding along the slender bridge that the Light Council had built fifty years ago, toward the Light city of New York. I saw the tall, bright columns standing in clusters, the Chrysler Building with its prismatic triangle of lights at the top, blazing like a beacon, and Stryker Tower, a steel line studded with huge stones shimmering with Light power and crowned with a spike.
We were almost home, my new home full of Light, the home where I had learned how to be happy. I did not jump in front of blades there. I did not see blood or horror: I was not that person, not anymore. All I needed to do was keep my head down and my life could continue the way it was now, the way I had made it. I could be safe.
I remembered how I had felt on the train platform, knowing for the first time that someone could hurt Ethan.
I said, “So tell me now.”