A Dangerous Meeting Could Change Everything In This Excerpt From Sanctuary of the Shadow

Books Features Aurora Ascher
A Dangerous Meeting Could Change Everything In This Excerpt From Sanctuary of the Shadow

Prepare your TBR lists folks, the first buzzy romantasy title of 2024 is about to arrive this January. A fantasy debut from author Aurora Ascher, Sanctuary of the Shadow hails from the folks at Red Tower Books, the publisher behind Rebecca Yarros’s blockbuster Fourth Wing series. (Which is almost enough reason to give this one a try all on its own.) 

The story follows a woman named Harrow, gifted—or cursed, based on your perspective—with the power of prophecy, an ability that lead to all her people killed by an order from the queen of a neighboring kingdom. Forced into hiding, she takes refuge in a traveling circus where she can disguise both her abilities and her true identity. But when ringmaster Salizar captures a mysterious winged creature he claims is a wraith—one of the murderous beasts who serve Queen Furie—Harrow’s not so sure. Drawn to the being, who has no memory from before his capture, she vows to help him escape, a decision that proves key to unlocking many secrets from her past. 

Here’s how the publisher describes the story. 

For humans, the circus is a place filled with wonder and amazement. For Harrow, though, it’s a place to hide from those who slaughtered her entire clan. Disguising her abilities as part of her act has kept her true identity safe for years.

Until he arrives.

A strange new attraction with no name, no memory of who―or even what―he is, let alone an explanation for his odd yet deadly powers. But beneath the layers of anger and isolation, one glimpse into his inky eyes reveals a soul that calls out to the loneliness in her own.

And so she chooses him.

Harrow is drawn to the darkness, to her insatiable need to soothe the beast who threatens their very existence. But with every secret she unlocks from his past, another from hers whispers free as well―luring enemies who will stop at nothing to get their final revenge on Harrow. And she’s afraid she’s given them the perfect weapon against her…because he’s not what he seems.

But maybe it’s time they finally learn―neither is she.

Sanctuary of the Shadow will hit shelves on Tuesday, January 9. But we’ve got a sneak peek of the story to help tide everyone over until then, in which Harrow meets a monster that may just change her life. 

And his eyes…

The whites of them were not white at all but utterly black. The same inky black as his pupils. Two rings of flame comprised his irises. It was the only way to describe the reddish orange glow that seemed to flicker and churn like living fire.

Looking at those eyes, some chord of familiarity was struck within her, but it faded too quickly to grasp.

It was replaced with trepidation.

Every self-preservation instinct she possessed screamed DANGER. He was an Elemental, that much was obvious, but beyond that, she didn’t have a clue what he was. But she didn’t need to know to see that he was deadly. It was plain as day in the way he held himself with the poise of a predator, the menacing glint in his eyes, and the long, sharp canines revealed by the lip peeling off his teeth.

Her heart tried to crawl up her throat. Her lantern shook with the trembling of her hands.

And yet, as if from far away, she heard herself say, “Hello.”

HELLO? a voice screamed inside her head. What do you mean, hello? Don’t stand around making small talk! Get out of there! Run for your life! It was probably the voice of her survival instincts.

She ignored it.

“I’m Harrow. What’s your name?”

The male blinked. Once. Twice. As if he was as confused by her sudden sociability as she was. His head tilted, sending silky hair sliding over one shoulder and shifting the shadows on his face.

That tiny movement was so menacing, she had to swallow the scream that rose in her throat.

Without a doubt, he could kill her as easily as breathing. She ought to be listening to that petrified voice in her head.

She ought to be backing out of there slowly and running for her life.

As she entertained these thoughts, the strange, lethal man rose from his crouch, the powerful muscles of his thighs levering him gracefully up. Heart thundering, she tensed, ready to flee, but his liquid movements were just slow enough not to startle her.

Like a predator stalking prey.

He took a step forward.

She lurched back but froze again as his face came more clearly into the lantern light. He was no longer snarling and looked more inquisitive than murderous—if any expression could be said to be on his face at all.

She stared at him, fear momentarily forgotten. High cheekbones, a strong jaw, and a sensual mouth somehow softened the intensity of his piercing stare, though only slightly. But it was enough for her to realize…he was striking. His features were arresting. Regal. Proud.

Connection, the Water whispered. Important.

As if he sensed it too, he took another step. Still mesmerized by his presence, this time, she didn’t have to fight the urge to flee. This time, she took a step closer, too.

If he was a predator stalking prey, then she had been lured into his trap. Her palms were clammy, and her heart was trying to burst from her chest, yet she couldn’t have backed away to save her life.

“Can you understand me?” she whispered.

He blinked once. Somehow, it was answer enough.

Reprinted by permission of Red Tower Books, an imprint of Entangled Publishing. 

 Sanctuary of the Shadow will be released on Tuesday, January 9 but you can pre-order it now

Lacy Baugher Milas is the Books Editor at Paste Magazine, but loves nerding out about all sorts of pop culture. You can find her on Twitter @LacyMB

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