Valiant

Valiant

by Merrie Destefano

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781640634251
Publisher: Entangled Publishing, LLC
Publication date: 12/04/2018
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 624,028
File size: 2 MB
Age Range: 14 Years

About the Author

Born in the Midwest, former magazine editor Merrie Destefano currently lives in Southern California with her husband, two German shepherds, a Siamese cat, and the occasional wandering possum. Her favorite hobbies are reading speculative fiction and watching old Star Trek episodes, and her incurable addiction is writing. She loves to camp in the mountains, walk on the beach, watch old movies, and listen to alternative music—although rarely all at the same time. www.merriedestefano.com

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

Traveling through time is kind of like dying.

It's terrifying. You never know when it's going to happen. When it does happen, it hurts so bad you don't want to survive.

Gabe just burned to death in a car wreck, Natalie was shot, I don't know where Justin is, and Billy was just possessed by a Xua. Usually Aerithin is here by now, but he's late, and I'm running.

The Xua are right behind me.

I've failed. Again. For the fourteenth time.

Back in the beginning, I didn't know who had attacked us or why. Aerithin tried to explain things to me, or at least as much as he thought I needed to know. The problem was I didn't always believe him, especially when he was talking about "cascading events." I thought he was talking about some weird alien religion, not a scientific anomaly.

Apparently, there are certain things that can never be changed, no matter what you do or how hard you try. Cascading events are like destiny. These are the events that set other things in motion. The launch of the Valiant, my meeting Aerithin, my supposedly meeting some guy named Noah in the future — according to Aerithin, those are all unchangeable.

I can't change them no matter how hard I try.

I know, because I didn't believe him. Not at first.

My first three jumps through time, I tried to stop the Valiant launch. I thought it was the pivotal event that needed to change in order to save our world, because the launch always led to Gabe's death. Save Gabe, save the world, right? It made sense to me, but the cascading-events thing always got in the way.

Normal people live and learn. Not me. I watch everyone I love die and I learn.

In the distance, a skyscraper tumbles to the ground, dust and debris flying into the sky, shadowing the city of Los Angeles. The sky darkens, and I can feel the end, can taste it on my tongue.

Right when I think I'm toast, Aerithin appears. He calls to me, and I jump onto his steed, that fiery lionlike beast, and together the three of us gallop away. There's only one place to go — back.

In an instant, we're racing through the Corridor of Time that separates the future from the past, and I think we're safe.

Then I glance over Aerithin's shoulder behind us and see that the army of Xua is chasing us, all of them running as fast as the beast we travel upon. Some are running faster.

All the breath leaves my chest. No. They've never done this before. They've never been able to follow into the Corridor.

And then I realize —

The Xua have learned, too.

"Faster!" I yell, leaning forward, my hands gripping the beast's long fiery fur.

It cries back with a thunderous roar.

The faster Xua are gaining ground, and I don't think we're going to make it, but we have to. If we don't, it's all over for everyone on Earth. The Xua will win, and everyone I know will be dead.

The door to my past opens up ahead of us. Just a little bit farther and I'll be there.

But the fastest Xua have already climbed onto Aerithin's fire-beast. One of them wrestles with Aerithin, trying to dislodge him, while the other Xua grabs at me. Its long fingers latch and snarl into my hair. I scream, turn, and bite its hand. Its glowing blood sprays on my face.

I'm not going to make it; I know it. They're going to kill us both.

"Jump, now!" Aerithin yells. His steed slams to a halt, and I fly off, tumbling toward the open doorway ahead of us. I roll, then hit the ground running. Another version of myself stares back at me through the mirror and, for an instant, I feel like Alice in Wonderland staring through a magical looking glass.

Behind me, Aerithin howls in pain, a horrific sound that makes me shake. I can tell by his soul-wrenching cry that he's in torment. They've caught him and they're probably killing him and I can't stop it. I have to escape. If Aerithin dies, I'm the last chance for my world —

I stretch one hand toward my reflection, and as soon as my hand touches hers, we merge. It feels like I've been slammed against a wall, like my bones are poking through my skin, and I'm being turned inside out. But I have no choice. It's this or we all die.

I'm in the past.

I'm crammed back inside my own skin.

For a few brief moments, I can still hear Aerithin screaming. Then it's quiet, except for my breathing and my heartbeat, except for the panic that surges through me.

My hands tremble.

I made it.

But they got Aerithin. Nobody yells like that unless ...

Please, don't let him be dead, I beg, even though I fear it's already too late. If he's dead, this is my last life, my last chance to save my brother, my last chance to save everyone.

Instinctively, I listen for the low growl of enemy ships circling through the skies overhead. The Xua have never come to Earth before the launch, but I don't know what to expect. None of this has happened before. They've never followed us through the Corridor of Time. They've never caught Aerithin.

Have they finally learned how to change destiny?

So many things I've gotten wrong, so many times I've failed. If this is my last chance to get it right, I'm screwed, because the Xua are already a step ahead of me.

CHAPTER 2

The first time I saw one of the aliens — the Xua — I thought they were all the same. They look alike with their long arms and yellow eyes and glowing silver skin, but they're not. Not at all. There are three types of Xua, and Aerithin made sure I understood the difference, because knowing exactly which type I was dealing with in a situation meant the difference between living and dying.

The first are the Jumpers. These aliens are the foot soldiers of the Xua army. Fast and determined, they're the first to turn into a vaporous smoke and enter a human host through the person's mouth. You'll know when a human is possessed by a Jumper — their muscles tense, their jaw hangs loose, and they hunch forward when they walk, like they're on a mission.

Jumpers can't hide what they are. There'd be no point anyway, because as far as they're concerned, they will possess you.

Second are the Hunters. They're the Xua's special-ops soldiers. Hunters are highly intelligent, methodical, and nearly impossible to evade. Unlike Jumpers, when they possess a human, they're skilled enough to manipulate their host's body. You'll never know there's an alien standing in front of you until it's too late. They can track a person for miles — that's their primary purpose, and they're extremely good at it.

A Hunter possessed Billy once. That's how he was able to find Gabe and me.

I need to avoid Hunters at all costs.

Finally, there are the Leaders. All Xua answer to them. These aliens are calculating and controlled, planning every attack and leading every battle. They don't care how many Xua they lose in a skirmish, as long as they win. A Leader led that first attack on my neighborhood.

Like Hunters, you'll never know a human is possessed by a Leader unless they want you to, though in my experience, they don't seem to care whether I know. And why would they? They're just as deadly as Hunters, and they have an army of Xua at their backs.

The possession itself is horrible. Being taken over by a Xua is like being possessed by a demon: you have no control over what you say or do. No matter which type you're dealing with, if a Xua takes full possession of a human, that human is dead. There's no saving them — a fact I learned that very first invasion. A Xua can leave a host's body and possess another person if it wants, but humans weren't built to withstand it. Our insides get ripped to shreds. Sometimes you can even see the claw marks on the body, torn apart from the inside out. Sometimes it's a full-body explosion.

Yeah, you can't come back from that.

I pull in a long breath and look around. It takes a moment for my surroundings to appear, for fog to give way to walls, for blotches of color to turn into furniture. I'm in my bedroom and, for a split second, I almost feel safe. There's a photo of Gabe and me from last Christmas on my nightstand, there's the vintage Anne of Green Gables book Grams gave me for my ninth birthday, there's the thrift-store stuffed bear Dad gave me when I started having panic attacks. He doesn't know they began when I first traveled through time. He doesn't know I travel through time, period.

Voices rise and fall in the kitchen. My parents. They're always arguing, and it's always a different topic.

I could almost relax into how normal it feels to be back home, for life to feel the same. But I know I can't.

First things first. There's one thing I have to do before I round up my crew and impress the urgency of the end of the world upon them. I have to check in on Gabe and make sure he's okay. Then I have to tell him the truth about all of this.

I've seen my little brother die fifteen times. He's drowned, burned to death, been shot, and stabbed. He's had his head chopped off, his eyes plucked out, and his skin flayed. He's died from a car crash and he's been poisoned.

Even though I know he won't believe me — heck, even I wouldn't believe what I have to say — he has to know how to fight. I wasted ten jumps trying to keep him in the dark and trying to protect him. On the eleventh jump, I lost it and told him everything. Ever since then, he's survived a little longer each invasion.

This time, I'm going to teach him how to fight. I didn't think he was ready before, or maybe I was just scared of letting him get too close to the Xua, but we're out of options.

I slip from my room as quietly as I can, but it doesn't matter. The volume of my parents' fight has escalated. Something just crashed in the living room — I think Mom threw a lamp or a beer bottle — so nobody is looking at me. I sneak down the hallway, past the shadows in the living room, a volatile moving-fighting performance, arms swinging, brows lowered, snippets of words spilling out.

"Our credit got shut down because of your gambling debts —"

"Maybe if you made more money —"

"Maybe if you didn't suck down all the profits —"

"What profits —"

I cringe, remembering a time when they didn't fight, back before all this started, before the Second Great Depression, before the invasion, before Gabe's first death. If I could pick a timeline to live in, that'd be the one I'd pick — the one where we were all a normal family, when nobody was pushing drugs, when Gabe was just a video-game-addicted boy, when I was a girl trying to graduate from high school and hold down a job at the same time.

When I was just a normal girl with a secret crush on a seventeen-year-old boy who's supposed to be my friend.

Justin.

There's never enough time to fall in love when you're trying to save the world.

The closer I get to Gabe's room, the tighter and smaller the hallway feels. The low hum of tech that's hooked up to SkyPower filters through the thin walls. I'm not sure if our low-income access to space solar power is a blessing or a curse with as many hours as my little brother spends playing video games.

My throat is dry as I open his door, not bothering to knock. There's no need to be polite when you've got the end of humanity hanging over your head.

My fourteen-year-old brother sits at his desk curved over his tablet, his thumbs flicking the controls as he plays one of his favorite video games. Headphones cover his ears, and he's lost in his own world, where he's in control and he can survive if he just practices hard enough.

I wish it were that easy.

"Hey," I say as I approach him.

He glances up, only slightly startled to see me.

"S'up?" he asks, dimples growing as his grin widens. He takes off his headphones and hangs them loosely around his neck.

Soft blue light flares from his screen and patterns from his game scroll across his face, revealing those brown eyes, the face that looks a lot like mine, the wild dark hair that neither one of us can ever keep under control, the cheekbones that look like Mom, the nose that looks like Dad.

Gabe stares at me, waiting for me to speak and, I swear, I want time to stop. I want to live forever in this moment where my brother is safe and happy and alive. Where we're just two kids from Santa Ana, not the only hope for our planet.

I grab his left hand and put something in his palm. It's a laser switchblade. My weapon of choice. It's old tech that can survive an EMP, a power outage, an earthquake, a flood, name your favorite disaster. Better yet, it's solar-powered and needs only about half an hour in the sun for two weeks of full-time use — handy when the government controls power consumption.

The most important thing? This baby can kill a Xua, even when it's in smoke mode and halfway down someone's throat.

"What the —" he begins, but then the geek boy he is stops to admire how cool this old-fashioned weapon is. He's fascinated by old tech and old sci-fi, two things that work in my favor. I look around his room, at his hand-drawn pictures of Superman and the X-Men, at the list of digital graphic novels he wants to check out from the library, and at the black-market photocopied poster of an old movie, Zombie Brides From Outer Space. A cardboard model of the Mars terraforming project rests on his nightstand, beside a partially painted, handmade clay model of the Valiant.

I wish, in at least one of these timelines, he wouldn't be so blasted enthusiastic about the pivotal event in our future that will kill him and change everything.

"Where'd you get this?" he asks, completely transfixed by the blade that glows with a short beam of red light when he snaps it open.

"It's a secret," I say.

He looks up at me, his eyes wide, excitement in his voice. "Whoa. Isn't this thing illegal? Any chance I can keep it?"

"Yup. I have one, too," I say.

He grins and turns it over in his hand. "Wicked."

"Let's go up on the roof, and I'll teach you how to use it."

"Seriously?"

"Yup. Come on."

* * *

Gabe and I practice for two hours. I make up a story that isn't a story. I explain that if someone's coming from another planet, maybe their physiology is different from ours. What if they're solid sometimes but a vapor other times?

"You mean like the monsters in The Urban Alien Trash Kings?" he asks.

"Uh, sure." I haven't seen that movie or read that graphic novel. I've never even heard of it, but if it gives him a point of reference, then we'll use it. "If they're in vapor form or, let's say they're like smoke — "

"Smoke! That's cool!"

I frown. "It's not cool. It's creepy. Anyway, if they're smoke and they're flying through the air, swing your laser like this." I sweep my blade up and to the left. "If you cut through their vapor trail — or whatever the heck you want to call it — they'll die."

Gabe does a couple of practice swings. I watch to make sure he gets it right. Before long, he's got more enthusiasm and each strike looks killer.

"And let's say this Urban Alien Trash King monster is flying toward you. It probably wants to get inside you and possess you —"

"Holy crap, that's so wicked. You should be writing graphic novels!"

"Gabe, pay attention!"

"Sorry. It's just, that was a great idea."

I sigh, then continue. "It will probably want to get inside you through your mouth, so keep it closed! Don't yell, don't talk, don't frigging sneeze when one of these things is nearby —"

"So much great detail, we should be writing this down. Seriously, this is better than the Trash Kings or Body Snatchers or The 5th Wave —"

I kick his leg. "Mouth closed or you're dead! Now, fight!"

He obeys, mouth clamped shut, chin jutting out, right arm swinging, red laser blade glowing. Then he surprises me. He begins to advance, one bold step at a time, like he's taking down an entire enemy army. He swivels at the hips to get an imaginary Xua to his left, whips back around to get one behind him, moves forward two steps and then takes down two more — one to the right, one in front of him.

My little brother is a frigging natural.

Now is the time to tell him. He won't believe me — not at first, anyway. He never does. Still, he has to know. I give him my best Big Sister stare, the one that always makes him freeze in place.

"There really is an alien invasion coming," I tell him. He snorts. "Yeah, right."

"The day of the launch, they're coming to kill us." He rolls his eyes.

"All our friends are going to die, Gabe. Even Mom and Dad —"

His face turns pale, his eyes widen, and I swear I can hear his heartbeat speeding up. "You're starting to freak me out."

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "Valiant"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Merrie Destefano.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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.

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Valiant 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
lenorewastaken 3 months ago
3 stars — OK, I know this is going to sound childish, but I’m not a fan of not knowing ahead of time if a book is going to be the first of a series or a standalone. Does it matter in the end? I suppose not. But I find if I think it’s a standalone (as I had with this one), as I get closer and closer to the end, I begin to panic wondering how it’s all going to get resolved in the end. The answer? It doesn’t. So for anyone else like me: this is the start of a series. Or at least, there is no resolution to the overall plot at the end. So hmmmm…this one had potential, and there were definitely aspects that I enjoyed. But it also suffered from being a bit confusing in places (especially if you pay attention to details). In particular, the whole time travel aspect was confusing. OK, so this is her like 15th try…but how far back in time does she go for each do-over? Because she makes it sound like she’s been doing this forever, but the impression I get from the last jump is that she jumps in a day or two before the Valiant event. And she always fails, which means she doesn’t keep her brother alive until morning. So that’s like 15-30 days. The way Sara talks about it, it seems like years. It was just inconsistent. And holy action Batman. I felt like we barely ever got any breathers. I like the breathers, b/c that’s when we get character development and all the things that are most important to me in a story. We got glimpses, but I’m not sure I could tell you who Sara was outside the context of the alien invasion. And for all that happened, it also kind of felt like nothing happened. Just a lot of encounters with the Xua. We did learn things now and again, but it felt a bit repetitive in the end. Gah. This is sounding so negative! It’s just that I got to the end of the story and I was so disappointed with my lack of answers, that I guess I’m focusing on that. I did enjoy the little bit of romance we got with Justin and Sara…Justin was super sweet. I did appreciate the strange futuristic world that was described, even if I was a bit disturbed with all the drugs and violence and gangs and stuff. And even though I didn’t learn nearly enough about them, I liked the range of secondary characters we got: Natalie, Justin, Gabe, Anna, and Carla. Honestly, I couldn’t help but think of the Terminator through most of it. And in the end, I’m not sure I was sucked in enough to continue on and get answers. I’d need a more balanced story in order to invest.
Bookbookowl 4 months ago
Actual rating 3.5 stars Although sci-fi is often very hit and miss for me, the premise of Valiant caught my attention. I enjoyed the outline of the plot, the non stop action and the twists near the end, but a fair bit of the book felt rushed and I just felt like I had SO many questions that were never answered. And I cared enough about this story that I really want them answered!  We didn’t get a lot of info about the technology in this version of the near future, and it seemed to play a big part. The skintags seemed to be a bit of a ‘do it all’ imbedded technology - news broadcasts with holographic images, TV shows, communication devices etc which really peaked my interest, but there was no real information about how they work etc and comments were thrown in, like the mention of ‘addicts’ (I assume to the skintag system like TV / social media?) but there was no storyline attached to it or explanation. Even the ‘Genetics’ like Julian and Carla needed a bit more to their story - how are they made? What exactly are they? I wanted to know more. The story starts with the launch of the Valiant to save the world but instead aliens invade at the same time. There was no real information on the Valiant or why the Xua were attacking. What did they want? Why were they after Gabe? Even the person Sara is told she is fated to meet - I wanted to know what his role was.  I’m really hoping there’s going to be a sequel that elaborates on all the questions!  I think the storyline of Valiant has a lot of promise, but I would have liked to see it fleshed out a bit more. Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy this story.  It's just that although I usually dislike long winded discussions and explanations in books and wish they’d just get on with it, Valiant felt like it needed to slow down a touch and give us a little more world building.
christokes 4 months ago
WOW. Valiant is a heart stopping ride, one that dunks you head first from the prologue and keeps you guessing with every twist and turn till the very last word. And just for the record, this had better not be the end. I cannot find anything about a follow up and I NEED MORE! Valiant has a brilliant set of characters: Sara, Gabe, Justin, Natalie, Billy, Carla, and Ella. This end of the world apocalyptic story is in a constant state of movement. And it is brilliant. The world building is good but you don't need tons of backstory. You jump straight into the danger and it never lets up. The fast pace and constant flow keeps the story from being stagnant. The story telling is intriguing and it kept me on the edge of my seat. When you think you know one thing, another comes to refute it. I couldn't put the book down! And now in the end I am at a loss. I didn't realize there would be more. I am left flailing in the end but MAN, what a ride. I cannot wait to see what happens next. Those last few pages had me second guessing so many things in the story and now I need to read again and see if any clues were left along the way. Merrie Destefano builds a world that seems not to far off from the world we know. She blends a dark future of an economic depression with one of sci-fi warfare. A group of relatable characters rises up to fight the invasion, and you never know what is coming just around the corner. If you love stories that are filled with action and gripping story telling, Valiant is for you.
onemused 4 months ago
"Valiant" is a fast-paced, YA sci-fi/thriller. Set in the future, during the second great depression, Earth has just launched a shuttle called Valiant to go to Titan and mine for resources. Immediately after the shuttle launches, the Earth is attacked by aliens known as Xua. The Xua can turn into smoke and inhabit human bodies, controlling them in a zombie-like state before killing the host. They inhabit and take over humans across the planet in one night, killing so many people. Sara is a teenager who is hanging out with her friends and brother when the aliens arrive. After they and her brother die, Sara is approached by the alien resistance who can take her back in time. All she knows is that she must keep her brother, Gabe, alive until morning or the human race will be lost forever. After multiple tries and watching her brother and friends die in a number of gruesome ways, Sara is down to her last chance and determined to do everything differently. The book primarily follows Sara on this final chance. This book was impossible to put down and gave me so many chills. The aliens are intensely creepy and frightening, and I completely got the thriller feel from the way they hunted Sara/Gabe plus the way the killed so many people. As for the characters, I really got into Sara and Justin, her long-time crush and friend who is a "Jenny" (a Genetic or genetically modified IVF person who was created by the military and then never used). The rest of the friends were more secondary. Natalie and Carla seemed pretty interesting, but I didn't get a good feel for Billy or even Gabe. I would have liked to get into the characters more, but with the pulse-pounding action and danger at every turn, I could see why there just wasn't time to do so. The future presented here also seems pretty interesting, but we only get tidbits due to the more pressing alien invasion. I am definitely hoping to learn more in future books. The ending has some closure but the overall story definitely needs at least one more book- there's a bit of a cliffhanger. I would most certainly like to continue reading, and I absolutely enjoyed/devoured this new book. It was so intense and good- which is why I finished it in less than a day. I highly recommend! Please note that I received an ARC from the publisher through netgalley. All opinions are my own.
Danii_045 4 months ago
Imagine your stuck on a time loop. You have one goal, to stop your brother from dying but if you knew what was going to happen would you also try and save a few others? Sara is given the chance to change history. She is visited by an alien who is again the invasion on Earth. He tells her what she needs to do but it isn’t easy. Sara wants to save the boy she has always had a crush on and her close friends. She has re-lived armageddon over and over. She has to find a way to save what’s most important. Every time the outcome turns out differently but Sara needs to work out how to change fate. Earth needs help but reaching out has consequences. Now Aliens have invaded earth. They are killing people and Earth is being taken over. This book is in the horror genres but there is some romance. It’s about survival and is supposed to get you thinking about what you would do. It’s an interesting idea and I like the acknowledgement section so don’t skip it! The ending leaves room for a second instalment. 4 stars out of 5. It’s quick paced and creative. The romance is sweet and the Earth take over is gory. *I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.