I'm here to blog about Snowbound, Maria Alexander's second installment in her Yule Trilogy series. Usually when I write about the second book in a series, I'm quick to say, "it can stand alone." But that is not the case here. You really have no idea what's happening unless you've first read Snowed, (Bram Stoker Winner for Superior Achievement in a YA novel and Anthony Award nominee). Both books have wonderful cover art by Daniele Serra.
The good thing about that is that Snowed is Totally Awesome. You want a great heroine? You've got Charity Jones, 16, biracial, skeptic, engineering genius (I love the names she gives her robots and drones!) You want a handsome, mysterious, troubled hero? You've got Aidan, whose mysterious vibe matches Charity's energy in every way. Together they have to solve a mystery: who, or what, brutally murdered the school bully who had Charity in his crosshairs? I was so taken up by this book that I read it in almost one sitting, staying up well into the wee hours to keep reading. The combination of Gothic, suspense, and California suburban sunshine was delicious. The characters, including Charity's brother Charles, an even worse bully than the murdered one, were well-rounded and interesting.
Once you've read Snowed, you are ready for Snowbound. No more Gothic here: Aidan has been kidnapped, by his own horrific father, no less, and Charity is going to rescue him. Aidan's dark fantasy plot is paralleled by Charity's adventure plot. She's got a great team of friends helping her — the marvelous Judy, the diplomatic Michael, the protective Ricardo. While Aidan fights a battle against his monstrous father, as well as the monster inside himself, Charity and her team face the perils of a beautiful but killer Arctic and nefarious government militaries who are usually enemies but are in agreement that they want to control Charity and her mad skillz with drones, and the weapon Aidan and his father are hiding in their fortress in the Arctic.
Snowbound is the second in a trilogy. It ends with a cliffhanger, but it also ends on a satisfying note. Read these now so you're ready for the final installment when it comes out. Christmas will never look the same!
And if young adult fiction isn't your thing, but you like this kind of story, check out Maria Alexander's Bram Stoker Award-winning debut novel, Mr. Wicker.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY
“This sequel started with a bang and instantly hooked me…with twists and turns that led to an epic ending.” — J.L. Gribble, author of the Steel Empires series
"A wonderful read." Ann Daniels, World Record Holder for Polar Exploration and Motivational Speaker
Excerpt from Aidan: Chapter 15 of Snowbound
The elves retrieve the sleigh so that I can awaken it for the journey. Made from rosy Finnish pines and consecrated with potent spells, the magnificent, 20-foot-long, two-seated sleigh glides out of its secret port on the Russian side of the fortress. Scarred mammoth tusks are mounted to the front and back. Ancient runes grace the sled’s front lip, black as pitch yet calligraphic like medieval manuscript. They’re words from that lost language. I’ve seen such markings in some of the library’s books, but I can’t begin to translate them.
The sight should be exciting but it fills me with dread. The wind climbers seem at ease, though, chasing each other and playing in the ice flurries, rising higher in the air with each leap. In the dead of winter, the fortress is steeped in night save the spectacular wraiths of eerie green light dancing on the horizon. Do you see why I’m dismayed with humanity’s fantasies of this place? Bathed in this grisly light, I feel far more like Frankenstein’s monster preparing to flee the pitchforks and torches than jolly Saint Nick hopping in his sleigh to sprinkle presents beneath tinseled trees.
As I watched Father do many times, I slowly circle the sled, striking the surface with the lash, intoning words that have meaning for no one save the dead men in that permafrost crypt, and maybe a few gods. With each hit, the runes smolder and spark to life.
The wood grain crackles, and then the vessel hums with a bass trill so deep the vibrations creep under my skin. Bones buzzing. Teeth chattering.
Electricity races down the massive steel runners yet the ice beneath does not melt. The wind buffets the scene, obliterating the horizon with snow. A weird chorus of spectral voices rises around us.
Older than the eye of Odin, this terrible craft has brought naught but nightmares for decades. I’ll try to change that starting tonight — that is, if I can get the damned thing off the ground.
As you say, Charity: No pressure.
“Wind climbers! Let’s go!”
The animals line up so that the elves can harness them to the sleigh with the reins placed near the fortress wall. Undaunted by the hellish winds, the elves lift the reins together with military precision and coordination to harness each climber. For the first time, I wonder how old my siblings really are. Maybe this is a special ritual for them. I’ve never seen them work with this kind of deftness.
Anxious and beyond excited, I climb inside. The wide front seat cradles me with black velvet cushions. I sit down uneasily, reins in one hand, the lash raised in my right. With a flick of my wrist, the lash unfurls over the wind climber heads. A crack explodes in the air.
The wind climbers bleat helplessly.
I look to the elves. I thought they’d clamor to come with me, but instead they clot together, shuddering and whimpering.
“What’s wrong?” I ask. “Somebody tell me, please? I quite literally don’t have all night.”
One of my siblings reluctantly breaks away from the pack, eyes tearing. The rest gibber as he lopes toward me, extending to me the handle of the magical narwhal knife. He then tilts his head to one side and exposes his neck to me.
“What’s this for?” I ask with growing annoyance.
“Each new Klaas must baptize the sled in blood,” he says. “We want you to see Charity Jones. So, we offer ourselves to you.”
Revulsion washes up into my mouth. I can’t hurt him, Charity. But I want to see you so badly that my heart is torn in two. What am I going to do?
The elf remains in position, knife handle extended.
They expect this? They must have watched my father slaughter one of them when he became The Klaas, or at least heard about it.
The blade catches snowflakes. Its narwhal handle reminds me of not just my own death, but that of the innocent whale. Blood and tooth magic.
Do I love you, Charity, more than my own conscience? Could I do something unspeakable just so we can be together for a few hours? Would I still be the person you loved if I did?
No. I wouldn’t. I want to drag my father’s carcass out of that crypt and rip it to pieces. He was a bully and murderer from the beginning. And now this. Not that it was his fault. This ritual’s existed for some time, it seems.
But I bet he was a coward. What if he killed one of the elves because he was too craven to cut himself? That would explain a lot. It’s not like the Klaas can die here at the fortress — well, except apparently in the graveyard of the gods, where Charles stabbed me. Which begs the question: how much blood does the sleigh need? A whole elf? Or will some of my blood do?
I guess it’s time to find out.
With the blade tip, I rip open my left coat sleeve. Bluish veins stand out on my wrist, which I hold out over the sleigh lip. Don’t think. Just...
The elves shriek with surprise.
White light explodes behind my eyes. The blood sprays the wood, which drinks it up greedily. I slump over the sleigh front, blinded, legs weak, thunder in my ears, arm throbbing…
WHERE TO FIND IT
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Maria Alexander is a prolific fiction writer and poet. Her stories have appeared in numerous acclaimed publications and anthologies.
Her debut novel, Mr. Wicker, won the 2014 Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel. Publisher’s Weekly called it, “(a) splendid, bittersweet ode to the ghosts of childhood,” while Library Journal hailed it in a Starred Review as “a horror novel to anticipate.” Her breakout YA novel, Snowed, was unleashed on November 2, 2016, by Raw Dog Screaming Press. It won the 2016 Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a Young Adult Novel and was nominated for the 2017 Anthony Award for Best Children’s/YA Novel. She’s represented by Alex Slaterat Trident Media Group.
When she’s not stabbing people with a foil or cutting targets with a katana, she’s being outrageously spooky or writing Doctor Who filk. She lives in Los Angeles with two ungrateful cats, a Jewish Christmas caroler, and a purse called Trog.
HOW TO CONTACT MARIA
FEARLESS BLOGGER TOUR
This blog is part of a tour organized by the International Thriller Writer's Association FEARLESS BLOGGER tour. The Fearless Bloggers were created by Alison McMahan to help new thriller writers who were members of ITW promote their work. Blogs are written about new thrillers by thriller writers. All work is done on a volunteer basis.