A Dancer Makes a Deal with a Dark Force In This Excerpt From I Feed Her to the Beast and the Beast Is Me

Books Features Jamison Shea
A Dancer Makes a Deal with a Dark Force In This Excerpt From I Feed Her to the Beast and the Beast Is Me

Plenty of stories start with dark bargains and Jamison Shea’s I Feed Her to the Beast and the Beast Is Me is no different. Though it does actually feature a literal deal with the devil—-or at least a force that looks a whole lot like it.

A story set in the cutthroat competitive world of professional dance doesn’t necessarily need the supernatural in order to be a nightmare, as talented ballerinas struggle to survive in an industry where politics and tradition often carry more weight than skill or ability. Race and class-based privilege is rampant, and wealth and nepotism offer the real keys to success. I Feed Her to the Beast and the Beast Is Me follows Lauren Mesny, a Black impoverished dancer determined to be not only be the best member of her Parisian dance troupe but to hold on to her success once she’s achieved it. 

But when she’s taken into the city’s underground Catacombs and told to offer just a drop of her blood for access to the power she’s always longed to attain, she’ll slowly begin to discover there are much more frightening things in the world than failure.

Described as a villain origin story that mixes Ace of Spades with House of Hollow, this slow-burn horror tale not only delves deep into a world that profits from exclusion but explores the cost—both literal and figurative—to giving everything you are to a world that will never love you back.

Here’s how the publisher describes the story. 

Laure Mesny is a perfectionist with an axe to grind. Despite being constantly overlooked in the elite and cutthroat world of the Parisian ballet, she will do anything to prove that a Black girl can take center stage. To level the playing field, Laure ventures deep into the depths of the Catacombs and strikes a deal with a pulsating river of blood.

The primordial power Laure gains promises influence and adoration, everything she’s dreamed of and worked toward. With retribution on her mind, she surpasses her bitter and privileged peers, leaving broken bodies behind her on her climb to stardom.

But even as undeniable as she is, Laure is not the only monster around. And her vicious desires make her a perfect target for slaughter. As she descends into madness and the mystifying underworld beneath her, she is faced with the ultimate continue to break herself for scraps of validation or succumb to the darkness that wants her exactly as she is—monstrous heart and all. That is, if the god-killer doesn’t catch her first.

I Feed Her to the Beast and the Beast Is Me hits shelves on August 29, 2023, but we’re excited to be able to bring you an exclusive excerpt right now.


“I’m back,” I announced, my voice bouncing around the jagged red stalactites.

There was no one around to answer, of course. Only that same tinny version of “Waltz of the Flowers” that plucked around inside my skull as soon as I sat down, still out of tune, out of time. The wicked dark’s way of greeting me. I was careful not to wet my knees this time as I leaned forward to bargain. And I was ready to heed Joséphine’s instructions exactly, to drink it in instead of letting it swallow me whole.

With the same rusted blade, I cut the back of my hand, moving fast to fight the shaking. Thinner skin, more blood vessels, more time, I reasoned. I tossed the blade aside, and its sharp clatter echoed against the walls. Having tasted power and success, knowing it could do what it promised, there was no chance I could will my hands to be steady or patient.

It was as if my body craved more.

Thick red ran down my knuckles in rivulets, and I forced myself to wait longer. I wanted the river to hunger for me the way I longed for it. But when the surface rippled from the falling drops, in the silence, doubt hit—I was worthy once, but would I be gifted again? Would it say no?

Well, I wouldn’t give it a choice. There was no way I could walk out with nothing, not after tasting possibility. Just because Coralie had lost didn’t mean I had to stop climbing. In fact, Coralie needed this as much as I did, because if the ballet promoted me quickly, if I ascended as fast as Joséphine, it would make room for Coralie among the apprentices. She’d do the same for me if my future dangled by a thread.

I could help her with this just like I helped her with her parents last night. We were in this together, forever.

Hissing, I sliced the back of the other hand, just to be sure. Skin broken right below the wrist bones, jagged and sloppy, smarting with need, and instantly, lightning flashed beneath the surface in answer.

Do you want to be a god now? asked the voice that rumbled in my spine.

“Yes,” I breathed, my hands trembling as I cupped the liquid. The heat stung my icy fingertips. “With more blood and my will to dance again to prove I’m still serious.”

My pulse pounded in my ears as I waited for its reply. The silence seemed to drag on, to thicken and wrap around my throat like a noose. I could feel it smiling from deep among the pit of blood, savoring how I shifted on my knees and winced from two desperate gashes. I didn’t know how much more I was able to give.

Three months, the dark god decreed, jolting me from my trance, as you worship at my altar.

I sagged with relief. Or exhaustion. Or blood loss.

Better than three days, better than nothing at all. I couldn’t be more eager to accept, steeling myself against the bitter, acrid warmth as I drank deeply. The taste, where the blood came from—none of it mattered where I was going. To the ancient thing that commanded it, I would only be grateful. I would take anything it offered me. I needed the power to buy myself time, to let it finish guiding me along, to turn the ballet to my side—

My breath caught.

Electricity surged through my veins, climbing up from the incisions in my hands. My arms burned, and my lungs seized. My jaw clamped shut, while my blood roiled until everything went dark. I threw my head back and tensed, every muscle on fire and alive. The wicked god had taken more and hurt more this time, infiltrating every inch of my body, but I wasn’t afraid. As it poisoned my blood, it dissolved my fear too. My anxiety, all my doubts incinerated to nothing. Until I was sanctified.

Even as the pain delivered me to the ground, writhing, back bowed, gritting back a scream, it held my steadfast loyalty because I knew I wasn’t alone.

For once, I had help.

I Feed Her to the Beast and the Beast Is Me will be released on August 29, but you can pre-order it right 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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