"I love this book so very much."—Robin LaFevers, New York Times bestselling author of the His Fair Assassin trilogy
Romantic high fantasy from the bestselling author of Star Wars: Ahsoka and Exit, Pursued by a Bear.
It's been a year since the mysterious godsgem cured Cadrium's king and ushered in what promised to be a new golden age. The heroes who brought home the gem are renowned in story and song, but for two fellows on the quest, peace and prosperity don't come easily.
Apprentice Knight Kalanthe Ironheart wasn't meant for heroism so early in life, and while she has no intention of giving up the notoriety she's earned, reputation doesn't pay her bills. Kalanthe may be forced to betray not her kingdom or her friends, but her own heart as she seeks a stable future for herself and those she loves.
Olsa Rhetsdaughter was never meant for heroism at all. Beggar and thief, she lived hand to mouth on the streets until fortuneor fatepulled her into Kalanthe's orbit. And now she's reluctant to leave it. Even more alarmingly, her fame has made her profession difficult, and a choice between poverty and the noose isn't much of a choice at all.
Both girls think their paths are laid out, but the godsgem isn't quite done with them and that new golden age isn't a sure thing yet.
In a tale both sweepingly epic and intensely personal, Kalanthe and Olsa fight to maintain their newfound independence and to find their way back to each other.
|Publisher:||Penguin Young Readers Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.40(d)|
|Age Range:||14 Years|
About the Author
E. K. Johnston is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of several YA novels, including the L.A. Times Book Prize finalist The Story of Owen and Star Wars: Ahsoka. Her novel A Thousand Nights was shortlisted for the Governor General's Award. The New York Times called The Story of Owen "a clever first step in the career of a novelist who, like her troubadour heroine, has many more songs to sing" and in its review of Exit, Pursued by a Bear, The Globe & Mail called Johnston "the Meryl Streep of YA," with "limitless range." E. K. Johnston lives in Stratford, Ontario. Follow her on Twitter at @ek_johnston
Read an Excerpt
As a rule, Olsa Rhetsdaughter avoided breaking into a house through the nursery. More generally, she avoided housebreaking, especially now that she operated without protection, but as the rain poured down on the city of Cadria, she was almost grateful to escape the soaking cold. She was used to sleeping rough—had slept rougher, as a point of fact, than she would tonight. But she hated the wet—how it permeated everything from her clothes to her hair to the slick stone of the wall she was scaling—and hated it all the more now that she didn’t have reliable access to a good fire. There would probably be several of those inside the house, as the wealthy owners warded off the damp.
Once she reached her destination, she paused halfway over the sill and surveyed the layout of the room as best she could in the dark. Her preference for a job of this sort was a musty attic or, in a pinch, an unoccupied guest room. There were just so many obstacles in a nursery: toys strewn on the floor; more than the usual number of beds; the family cat; and, of course, the children themselves. Children were restless sleepers. Children required lamps left lit in case they woke up in the dark. Children asked questions.
“Are you Olsa-thief-of-the-realm?” The voice was high enough and young enough that she couldn’t tell whether it was a lad or lass who spoke, but the question froze Olsa in her tracks halfway across the room. Dammit, she’d done such a good job of opening and shutting the window too.
“No,” she hissed. “I’m a demon that preys upon waking children in the dark. Go back to sleep.”
“I think a demon would be taller,” said a second voice. This one was almost certainly a girl. “Also, demons are usually on fire.”
Olsa sighed. All she wanted was a quick, easy job, and those were increasingly hard for her to come by. She’d taken this one because it had been a slow week, because her percentage of the take was high, and because the family she’d be stealing from employed one of the best cooks in the city. She’d been planning her detour through the kitchen on her way out in almost as much detail as she’d been planning the actual heist.
“Yes,” she said, flopping gracelessly into the chair by the fire. She was probably destroying the fine upholstery with her soaked tunic and hose, but the fire was warm enough that she couldn’t bring herself to care. “I’m Olsa.”
“Oh, tell us about the godsgem!” said the little one, a girl after all, bouncing across the room to sit in front of her, as though Olsa were her nurse. “Papa is a gem merchant, so I’ve seen lots of pretty stones, but they say the godsgem is the prettiest.”
“She knows Papa is a gem merchant, Ildy,” said the older girl. She was at the age where she felt it imperative to remain dignified at all times, so she didn’t bounce, but she did come closer and take a seat. “Why do you think she’s here?”
“Be quiet, Mina,” the little one, Ildy, said. “I want a story.”
“If you’ll both be quiet, I’ll tell you,” Olsa said.
It wasn’t the best plan she’d ever had, but short of diving out the window right now and making a run for it, she couldn’t think of anything else. She was caught, but it was better to be caught by these two than by their parents or whatever burly servants they had kicking about the house. Also, it was a very good fire. Olsa decided it was worth the risk.
The girls settled in front her, their white nightgowns tucked neatly under their legs. Soon, they would be too old to sit on the floor. Their skirts and stays would require chairs. Olsa wondered if either of them had ever sat cross-legged in their lives. She’d had to teach Kalanthe how to do it, and Kalanthe wore trousers half the time anyway. Money made a person very strange, and Olsa was more aware of it now than she had ever been.
“The first time I saw it,” she began, “I thought to myself ‘I could see a roomful of gems, all piled up on top of one another, and be able to recognize this one immediately.’”
“What does it look like?” asked Ildy.
“Hush,” said her sister.
“It’s not large and it’s not cut very well,” Olsa said. “From the stories, you’d imagine an emerald the size of my fist, cut with so many facets that the reflected light goes off in all directions at once. The truth is that the godsgem is much smaller, and almost raw.”
“That doesn’t sound very special at all,” said Mina.
“You hush,” said her sister.
In spite of herself, Olsa smiled.
“It doesn’t look like much,” she continued. “It doesn’t have to. As soon as you see it, you know it’s special. It sings, you see. Imagine the most beautiful hymn you’ve ever heard at the temple. The kind they sing on festival days, where the different sections of the choir layer their voices over each other’s in more than four parts. Now, imagine that, but a hundredfold. The most complicated and the most beautiful music you’ve ever heard, so much so that you can barely stand to listen to it, because you know that once you start, you’ll never want to stop.”
“That sounds dangerous,” said Mina.
“Of course it was dangerous,” said Olsa. She shook herself a bit to try forgetting what the godsgem had sounded like. Of course it didn’t work. It never would. The song would haunt her for the rest of her life. “That’s why they sent all those knights to find it.”
“Quicksword and Stonehand and Fire-Eyes and Silverspoke,” said Ildy, rhyming them off like a psalm. Olsa had seen them all naked, so she was somewhat less impressed by them. “And the Mage, of course.”
“And Ironheart,” said Mina. “And you.”
“Why did they send you?” Ildy asked.
“I asked myself that question a lot,” Olsa said. “The truth is that I’d done Sir Erris Quicksword a couple of favours. She needed a spy, and I was available. Only the men I was spying on got wind of it, somehow, and sent some footpads to cut my throat. I escaped them, but I knew I needed better sanctuary. I didn’t much fancy shutting myself up in the temple, so I went to Quicksword herself and she took me with her. Then I stayed because I didn’t have anywhere else to go, and because the gods like it when the people on a Quest stay the same.”
“They say the king picked those knights and you because you each matched a facet of the new gods,” Ildy said.
“Don’t be foolish, Ildy,” Mina said. “Everyone knows that the king had given instruction to let Sir Erris make her own decisions, and that meant picking her companions, and she picked the ones she thought it would the hardest for the Old God to tempt.”
“You don’t know the half of it,” Olsa said. It wasn’t Kalanthe’s soul she was thinking of. “But, yes, Erris picked who went.”
There was a creak in the hallway, and Olsa tensed. Neither of the girls reacted, and presumably they weren’t supposed to be out of bed at this hour. They wouldn’t get in nearly as much trouble as Olsa would, but no one likes to be punished. Perhaps it was the cat. Olsa knew from casing the house that the family cat was enormous, and it wasn’t in the room with them.
“Tell us about Kalanthe Ironheart,” said Ildy. It was more a plea than a demand. She wasn’t old enough that she was used to being obeyed without question yet.
Olsa paused. Both Mina and Ildy were leaning towards her now, eager to hear a story about the Apprentice Knight. Kalanthe, like herself, had only been on the Quest because of circumstance. Young though she was, she was the same size as Sir Erris and could wear her armour. It was decided that if she came along, she could be used as Erris’s double if the occasion called for it. Since the older knights were much older and the Mage was mostly unapproachable, Kalanthe and Olsa had spent a lot of time together. It hadn’t been very much fun at the start, but, well, it didn’t much bear thinking of, to be honest.
“Ironheart will be the perfect knight someday,” Olsa said. She was plagiarizing a little bit, but maybe these girls hadn’t heard that particular ballad yet. It was easier to think about Kalanthe if she didn’t have to use her own memories to do it. “Tall and strong and dedicated. Pure of heart and sure of arm.”
Less pure and less sure when it came to other areas of expertise, but that was hardly fit for young children. Also, it was exactly the sort of memories Olsa did her very best to avoid thinking about.
“At the very moment when Sir Erris Quicksword needed her, Ironheart was there,” Olsa continued. She could see the scene in her head, replaying as it always did when she thought about Kalanthe and tried not to think about Kalanthe at the same time. Which happened fairly regularly. “In an act of sheer defiance and bravery, she threw her axe at the Old God’s altar.”
Both girls gasped, their faces lit with glee. They knew the story after all, it seemed, though they hadn’t heard it from someone who had been in the room where it happened.
“You know the Old God’s power,” Olsa went on. “Dark and cruel, it could not be broken by so simple a thing as a knight’s axe, even when the knight was good and righteous as Kalanthe Ironheart.”
She was very proud of herself for saying that last part with a straight face.
“But it was enough to split the Old God’s attention,” she said. “For a fraction of a second, He turned his awful face to Ironheart.”
It had been a terrible moment. Olsa had been certain that Kalanthe was going to die for her bravery.
“And in that moment, Erris Quicksword struck,” Olsa said. “Like her name says, she moved so quickly I could barely see her arm. Instead, it was a blur of motion as her blessèd sword came down on the altar and, with the power of godsgem, smashed it to pieces.”
“And that was the end of the Old God,” Mina said. “And the start of the new age with our King restored.”
“Something like that,” Olsa said. She wasn’t particularly fond of the new age. She was a lot hungrier in it.
There was another creak from the hallway. This time, Olsa was sure it wasn’t the cat. She hated leaving a job undone, but there was no way she’d be able to ditch the children and complete her thievery now. That chance had been lost as soon as Ildy woke up, and now it was time to abandon the house completely. Another failure and another night as the most famous person in the realm who wasn’t going to get any supper. At least she was warm and her tunic had dried out. She looked back towards the window, her escape, and counted out how many breaths it would take her to cross the room to it and jump.
Without warning, the door to the nursery slammed open. Though she was prepared for it, Ildy and Mina were not. Both girls screamed at the noise and kept screaming when, instead of the familiar faces of their parents, the nursery filled with soldiers-at-arms in the uniforms of the city watch.
Olsa dove for the window, but as soon as she had it up, she saw the torches below and knew there was no escape that way either. She looked about for another rooftop, but found nothing. That was why she’d had to scale the wall to the nursery window in the first place. The chief gem merchant of Cadria took few chances when it came to home security.
She turned around to face the watch. The girls’ mother had come in and was soothing them. Mina looked calm, but Ildy was furious. Olsa did her best to swallow a smile. It appeared she had made another noble friend, for all the good it was about to do her.
“Olsa Rhetsdaughter,” said the leader of the watch, her tone more resigned than anything else. “You are under arrest.”
Excerpted from "The Afterward"
Copyright © 2019 E.K. Johnston.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Young Readers Group.
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
What happens after the epic quest, when everyone has gone home and they have become heroes of the land, but ultimately still have to go back to their daily lives? This is the essential question that The Afterward seeks to answer in this unique fantasy story. Most fantasy books rely on the action and intrigue of the quest itself to pull the reader in and keep the story going, but The Afterward is especially impressive because it deals with a concept that I hadn’t really considered and made it just as interesting as the quest itself. I’ve never really seen the aftereffects of an epic fantasy quest portrayed in this way and I have to say, I really enjoyed it! In this story we follow the two youngest members of the group, Kalanthe and Olsa, in their lives both Before (during the quest) and After (after the quest is complete). We get both character’s perspectives on what it was like to be a part of the quest, but also on what the aftermath of being heroes has created for them. Despite the fact that Kalanthe and Olsa fell in love during the quest, the two of them are at odds after. As an Apprentice Knight in a world where debt knights are the way many young people afford to become knights, Kalanthe is busy worrying over how she is going to pay her debts once knighted. The one option available to her is marriage, which she is dreading because of her love for Olsa and her own sexuality. Meanwhile, Olsa has returned to being a thief, but is finding it increasingly harder to steal anything because she is the most recognizable thief in the city, landing herself in prison multiple times where Kalanthe arrives to vouch for her every time. I loved the two main characters and how well their lives were portrayed after. I loved that the author did not have things become simple for them after their quest, their lives were messy and they both had a lot they had to work through, despite the bonds they had formed while on the quest. It ultimately made their love story all the more interesting because it felt more real. I really found myself rooting for the two of them and hoping they could just figure it out. I really enjoyed this sweet story about two heroes trying to find their way in the world after their quest is over, while trying to also find their ways back to each other. It was fantasy but ultimately, it is also a very character-driven look at the bonds characters form on quests, and it is also just the sweetest fantasy romance ever! One last thing that I loved about this book was how wonderfully inclusive it felt to read a story like this! There were sapphic relationships, there was talk of bisexuality, there was an allusion to asexuality, and SO. MANY. BADASS. WOMEN! The fact that this book mentioned far more lady knights than it did male knights was in itself enough for me to thoroughly enjoy this story!
This is one of the unique novels I've read in a long time. This is a high-level fantasy adventure novel with a love story between two young women. The book alternates between before and after. Which is why I said it's a unique novel. This is a love story between an upcoming female knight and a thief. I was hoping for more interactions from other characters in the book. I was hoping for more background stories on the other characters and how they came together. It solely focused more on these two female characters. I enjoyed it, but I wish there were more. Don't get me wrong. I LOVE Fantasy genre. This book would be great for those who enjoy romance with fantasy romance. This book gets 3 3/4 stars from me
The Afterward is the newest novel out by E.K. Johnston, and it is everything I didn’t know I was looking for in a book. That sounds dramatic but bear with me here. I knew I was going to love the novel, based on how much I loved Johnston’s work with Ahsoka, so I didn’t hesitate to jump at the chance to read this. However, I wasn’t expecting just how much this novel would end up meaning to me. Have you ever been in a bit of a reading funk, but you didn’t really realize it until you found a novel that utterly consumed you? That’s what it was like for me. I hadn’t realized that I was craving something like it until I read it, but man am I glad that I took the time to do so! The Afterward is a standalone novel. The characters within are all so unique and memorable, that it took no time at all for me to become attached to all of them. Admittedly that makes me sort of wish it wasn’t a standalone novel, but hey, you never know. The Afterward was a perfect storm of well-written characters, an intriguing plot, and brilliant storytelling techniques. Everything about it made me anxious to turn the pages and see what happened next. I enjoyed the time spent reading this novel, as I found it both fun and relaxing. The characters were one of the big highlights for me. There were several of them, though admittedly a couple of them got more attention than the rest. Despite their numbers though, all of the characters were unique and memorable. Most were stubborn, determined, driven, or otherwise knew exactly what they wanted out of life. Did I mention that most of the characters were female, and many of them were even knights? The best part about this was that it wasn’t a big deal. Female knights were just a thing in this world. How amazing is that??? The characters are all different enough, and full of enough personality to allow for a favorite for most people. I won’t say who my favorite was (but I sorely want to), but I will say that even though I had my favorites I did find myself feeling fondness towards most of the characters at one point or another. They were all very well written. The story itself switches back and forth between an even in the past and the present. It also switches perspectives between two of the characters; Olsa and Kalanthe. These frequent changes helped to move the plot along rapidly, while also keeping the air of intrigue going for as long as possible. It had other advantages as well, but I’d probably be here all day if I tried to list them all out. For obvious reasons, I don’t want to speak too much about the conclusion. I will say that I normally don’t like conclusions like this one…but it was oddly well suited here. I feel like everything that happened after the final conflict made sense, and in many ways was deserved. I’m so happy that I spotted The Afterward and took the time to read it. It’s probably too early in the year to comment on if it’d make any of my theoretical lists, but I’d like to think that it would. Regardless, I’m looking forward to seeing what E.K. Johnston comes out with next.
I’m grateful to have finished my third book by E.K. Johnston. She never misses the mark for my enjoyment. The Afterward has an excellent premise that has uniquely never been done before. Written between two narrators, Kalanthe Ironheart (apprentice knight soon to be Sir Knight) and Olsa Rhetsdaughter (thief) the story goes between two timelines labeled: Before and After. I was skeptical when I read the blurb, but the romance inside the book is alive and through perseverance the love stays kindled. Although the book is shorter than most high fantasy, the world building is incredibly well done without giving too much detail while still giving enough to the reader to latch on and follow. With a lot of camaraderie between the lady knights plus mage and thief, there lies their tale to be told to Cadrium. I would definitely love to see another story (a companion) to be written about this world and learn more from years past or in the future. There’s a lot to look forward to if that were to happen. But, I am glad where the story ended, it wrapped up perfectly and did not disappoint. Go ahead and give this a try if you’re intrigued by Johnston’s entrance into high fantasy!
There are some really great things about this book. While I am not a big fantasy reader, and I (gasp!) don't know who this David Eddings person is everyone keeps referring to when talking about this novel, I will say that it held my attention when most fantasy books do not do so - so props first for that! It's very much about the world building and fantastical characters and situations, but it's primarily about the love story between two women, a thief and a knight. I enjoyed the characters, and wish there were more of them - but the supporting characters are definitely important and pertinent to the story. I did have a little trouble following the structure and the timelines, but the prose was fantastic and beautiful and elegant and I really did enjoy it.
I appreciate when the is a preview to the book. I had read the synopsis and loved it, but many times I get disappointed by the actual book. Not this time. This books was amazing! I love when there are 2 characters, both strong heroic girls, who are in a dire situation but come out on top. The relationship is so beautiful, as opposed to a boy and girl relationship which is sometimes glossed over. Both heroines were amazing, as people, as protagonists, as friends. The scenes they had separate were amazing, but even better were the scenes they had together. I also really enjoyed the action; it wasn't all rainbows and butterflies. There was some serious butt-kicking going on. This book was really amazing. Please go read it now!
Won Paperback ARC from BookishFirst.com! This was my first E. K. Johnston book and I was thrilled when she dedicated it to David and Leigh Eddings! David Eddings was my first fantasy author and will forever hold a special place in my heart. But Eddings this was not. This sort of felt like his Elder Gods trilogy and those are the books I liked the least of Eddings' collection, they were his newest and written with his wife. I really liked the idea of the book but the structure was not good. We're told what happened before and how the godsgem was stolen or retrieved from the Old Gods. Then the whole book we're taken BACK through that experience, hopping between BEFORE and AFTER and Kalanthe and Olsa's perspectives. It was very choppy and a little confusing. Why the preamble at the beginning when we're going to read about it anyway? Then there were the gods. There was no explanation about them! There were Old Gods, or at least one, and now there are new gods. That's about it. Where's the rich history of the gods? They weren't developed enough at all. We don't meet any, which is very UN-Eddings-like. Eddings gave gods personalities and histories, etc. I did like the world-building that was done. And the feminism, yo! There was essentially just two male characters who had any lines. Even the king didn't have any lines. And only one male actually served a purpose. Well, I guess the other did too but only to help set up one of the main females so things could work out for her. I did like the knights and how individual they were. LGBTQIA abound! I did adore Kalanthe and Olsa. And Terriam and Branthear. I wanted to get to know Erris more! Now I just want to go re-read David Eddings and see what Sparhawk is up to. :)
I thoroughly enjoyed the world building in this novel, especially the different kinds of magic and how people learned to use their own magical abilities. The author puled me into this world and had me traveling along side these well-developed characters on horseback. The female/female romance was well done and their relationship developed in a sweet and loving way that I appreciated. What detracted me from this novel was the layout. I found it confusing at times and had to reread places to figure out which character was talking/thinking. I also found the back and forth between "before" and "after" confusing. Overall, this novel was a fun fantasy/romance to immerse myself in and the main characters Olsa and Kalalanthe were well drawn and popped off the pages.
What a wonderful homage to David Eddings. I loved picking out all the little references, and I'm sure I missed some even at that. My favourite was "Whose turn is it to do the cooking?" Sir Branthear asked, as the last tent peg was driven home. "Yours," said Sir Uleweya, though I wasn't sure how she'd arrived at that conclusion. The story is easily understandable by someone who's never touched a David Eddings book, too, making it the best of both worlds. Although those people should really be ashamed of themselves, and rectify that situation as soon as possible. I think this book may have knocked A Thousand Nights from the top of my 'Novels by EK Johnston' list, which I didn't think was possible. It's just amazing. A fabulous read. Receiving an ARC did not affect my review in any way.
So......I'm going to preface this by saying that I'm super torn on this one, because representation matters! and what this book is trying to do is so important, and I value that so much, but in the end, it's still a book, and I feel like it was trying too hard, so hard in fact, that the story got a little lost in the trying. It's somewhat of a little bit of a jumbly mess of transgender representation, LGBTQ+ representation, a F/F love story representation, that the world building, magic building and plot just kind of got lost in the love story. Kalanthe Ironheart and Olsa Rhettsdaughter are in love. But Kalanthe Ironheart has to pay off her knight contract, or something like that, because, of something?, and the dual timeline of some quest they went on to destroy the old god (they're heroes of the realm, did you know that?), while simultaneously switching back to current day Kalanthe trying to find a husband to satisfy her knight debt while Olsa is running around being thief of the realm and the godsgem isn't done with these heroes yet..... it's all pretty confusing. It's not a bad read, it has moments of cuteness, and the story ends up tied up with a neat little finished bow of happiness for everyone, but I just feel like in trying to be a book of representation, the story got lost. The story should be the main point, and if someone happens to be something, all the better, let it flow with the story line. It doesn't have to jump screaming off the page every single chapter because then it becomes patronizing instead of representative. Just my two cents.