A Girl Is Eager To Push The Limits of Her Illegal Magic In This Excerpt from This Dark Descent

Books Features Kalyn Josephson
A Girl Is Eager To Push The Limits of Her Illegal Magic In This Excerpt from This Dark Descent

One of the most popular subgenres in the world of YA fiction over the past few years has been the magical competition. Whether strict tournaments, straightforward races, or complicated games, stories that pit a handful of friends against one another, or ask an entire town to take part, these tense, twisty adventures are both thrilling and fun to read. (Don’t be surprised if you tear through one in a day or two is what I’m saying.) The latest buzzy addition to this group is This Dark Descent, a new YA fantasy from Kalyn Josephson, the author of The Storm Crow.

The story follows Mikira, the daughter of a famous horse breeder who’s desperate to save her family farm—and her father’s life after he’s suddenly arrested thanks to a dangerous rival who wants to use his skills. To free him, she’ll have to team up with an unlicensed enchanter in order to win a dangerous cross-country horse race known as the Illnir that’s as famous for its high body count as it is for its life-changing prize money. Described as Peaky Blinders meets The Scorpio Races, This Dark Descent got a little bit of everything: Swoony romance, complex political intrigue, generational family grudges, and feisty heroines, all firmly grounded in fascinating elements from Jewish folklore. 

This Dark Descent will hit shelves on September 26, but we’ve got an exclusive look at the story right now to help tide you over until then.


“Most of the history of that time was lost during the Burning,” Damien continued. “As were, supposedly, the books the Heretics used to gain their power. They were called the Racari, and they were said to have belonged to the four Harbingers. Some stories say the Heretics stole them, others that the Harbingers left them behind when they departed from humanity. Sendism and Kinnism differ quite dramatically on the subject.”

It felt strange to know that information herself. After weeks of reading books she’d only ever dreamed of having access to, she knew that while Kinnism believed the Harbingers moved on once they’d taught humanity all they could offer, Sendism preached that humanity drove the Harbingers away with their greed and lust for power, a sin all souls had to atone for when they died.

“Do you think this is one of those books?” She felt foolish asking it, but whatever the spellbook was, it wasn’t normal.

It is strength, said the voice.

“Shira thinks so.” His gaze dropped to the book. “Would you let me inspect it?”

Her reflex was to refuse. Parting with the book, leaving it in someone else’s hands—she shut the thoughts away. They weren’t hers, just like the voice that whispered in her ear. The spellbook was doing something to her, and she needed to understand what, preferably without revealing that she was hearing voices.

“You may,” she agreed. “But in exchange, I’d like your help furthering my magic.”

He smiled, a soft, tentative thing that looked out of place on his cool features. She liked it. “You don’t have to bargain with me, Arielle. I’ll give you whatever you want.”

She looked up at him, and he stared back with an intensity that she’d come to crave. It was like having a rifle trained on you. It made her feel real. Here. Alive.

Damien joined her on the other side of the desk. She tracked every inch of space disappearing between them, swallowed her anticipation when he stopped before her. “I don’t know what you intend to do when this is over.” His voice was soft, intimate, like a song played only for her. “But you are welcome here as long as you wish to stay.”

He offers power, whispered the voice. He offers strength.

Ari hadn’t thought about what came after the Illinir. Their goal was so grand, their plan so dangerous, that life after it felt impossibly far away. But a license would alter everything. She could open an actual shop, work legal enchantments she could sell honestly, perhaps even control her magic enough to feel comfortable returning home to face her family.

Except she didn’t want to stop making golems.

She loved everything about it—the art of sculpting, the power of her magic, the challenge of getting it all just right.

All save the memories it tore free each time.

But she couldn’t go on as she had been. Risking herself as an unlicensed enchanter had been worth it when she needed the money to survive, but it was only a matter of time before someone found her out. If she worked here with Damien, though, she’d be safe. More than that, she’d have everything she needed to push the boundaries of her magic, and someone who wanted to explore them with her. She’d already begun to practice identifying enchantments to help Mikira with her knives—what else was she capable of?

A tentative smile spread across her lips as she imagined it. “I’d like that.”

Damien shifted, a tension she hadn’t noticed before slipping away from him. Had he—did he look relieved? He laid a hand atop her own, and she turned her palm to meet his. Relishing the heat of his touch, she laced her fingers with his, closing tight.

“But if I’m staying,” she said, “I want to understand what it is I’m getting involved with.”

A shrewd smile turned one corner of his lips at the challenge, and she felt his satisfaction like a thrum deep in her belly. It had taken time for her to realize it—that Damien Adair liked to be challenged. That when she or Mikira pressed him, no matter how he deflected, he respected them for standing their ground. It was something Ari had once thought herself incapable of, but as she tugged Damien with her to the sitting area and he willingly came, for the first time she wondered if she was capable of more than just standing firm.

Perhaps she could push back.

This Dark Descent will be released on September 26, 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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