Book One of The Skylark’s Saga
A Saskwyan flight mechanic with uncanny luck, seventeen-year-old Robin Arianhod grew up in the shadow of a decade-long war. But the skies are stalked by the Coyote—a ruthless Klonn pilot who picks off crippled airships and retreating soldiers. And as the only person to have survived an aerial dance with Saskwya’s greatest scourge, Robin has earned his attention.
As a Pilot, Robin is good. But the Coyote is better. When he shoots her down and takes her prisoner, Robin finds herself locked into a new kind of dance. The possibility of genuine affection from a man who should be her enemy has left her with a choice: accept the Coyote’s offer of freedom and romance in exchange for repairing a strange rocket pack that could spell Saskwya’s defeat, but become a traitor to her country. Or betray her own heart and escape. If she takes the rocket pack and flees, she could end the war from the inside.
Filled with intrigue, forbidden romance, and a touch of steampunk, The Skylark’s Song soars in this new duology from the award-winning author of The Accidental Turn Series.
The whole glider jolted as they dove out of the cloud cover, the wooden frame shrieking in protest.
“Did they just godsdamn ram us?” Robin yelled as the aircraft spun sideways like a tossed playing card.
“Skimmed us with the leading edge of his wing—Robin, watch out!”
The screaming tear as a massive swath of canvas came away from the side of the glider pulled her attention from both horrified revelations. The suck of the atmosphere tore her hands off the handle. Her feet were ripped out from under her, and she had just enough time to grab on to the leather strap connected to her harness before she was yanked out into the open sky.
Fear surged against the roof of her mouth. Then her tether snapped taut, the straps of her harness digging into the joints of her hips, inertia swinging her limbs wide.
“Hells!” she screamed, giving voice to the sudden, grinding pain. She grabbed on to the tether and held on—her carabineer shivered with strain but held. She wasn’t going to drop.
Something silver flashed past Robin’s feet, and she looked down along her body. An aeroship pulled up beside them, so close the wingtip nearly brushed Robin’s foot. The Klonn pilot turned his face up to her. He wore a silver helmet, the nose elongated to resemble the snarling snout of a lupine creature.
It’s him! It’s the Coyote! Gods protect us, Robin prayed.
Welcome to Ink & Magick. I’m your friendly neighborhood witch. What kind of spell can I get for you today?
"Magic? Spells? Listen, I may be Sealie and I may buy my luck from the gods, but don't think I'm sucker enough to buy a spell from someone. Magic. Pah."
Interviewer: Hello, Robin. Thank you for joining us.
Robin: Well, yeah. Hi. Just...you’re sure no one followed you? I’m hiding out in Lylon, right now, the capital city of the Klonn Empire, and you know, the last thing I need is someone ratting me out to the Night’s Watch.
Interviewer: I wasn’t followed.
Robin: Oh! You speak with contractions! Are you from Saskwya? Are you a Sealie like me, or an upperlcass Benne?
Interviewer: Uh, neither.
Robin: Oh, I see! From outside of the warring countries. I don’t blame you for keeping it close to the vest.
Interviewer: Right. Exactly. Well, Robin - Skylark - we have some questions about your background and your ambitions, if you don’t mind.
Robin: Well, the Skylark is supposed to be nationless and classless, a hero for all the people, you know? That’s the reason for the feathered goggles and everything. But I figure it’s gonna have to come out that I’m Sealie one day, so yeah, go ahead.
Interviewer: What’s your favourite childhood memory?
Robin: This will probably sound really mawkish, but I remember the day Papa bought me that book of cross section illustrations of Air Patrol crafts. I must have been four or five? We weren’t at war yet, but tensions were high and the gliders and zeppelins used to crisscross over the sky all the time. I didn’t know it of course. I just thought other people liked the idea of flying as much as I did.
I’d lay in the back garden by the hives and stare up at the shadows against the clouds and think about air speed, and the wind direction, and how wonderful it was that people had figured out to get right up close to the gods, just like bees do.
Interviewer: And what’s your favorite meal?
Robin: Mama’s honey and wild oat cakes. I haven’t had them in a while. I don’t know if I’ll ever have them again. Oh, gods, this is torture. Can you ask me about something else? Something that doesn’t have to do with everything this war has stolen from me?
Interviewer: Right. Sorry about that. What's it like to fly with your rocketpack WINGS?
Robin: Oh! It’s brilliant! It honestly is. It took some getting used to at first, but it was a great excuse to just fly for hours and hours. Obviously it takes a lot of upper-body strength to shoulder into the turns, but luckily I have lots of opportunity to, you know, do exercises in the dark in my hide-out.
What I love best is the fresh air in my face. I mean, I have the goggles to protect my eyes, but the feel of the wind on my skin just makes me feel so alive. Free and able to go wherever I want, whenever I want. When I’m up there, there’s no war, no Coyote, no Air Patrol and no obligation. Just me, the sky, and WINGS.
It’s a rush, is what I guess I’m trying to say.
WINGS is agile and as pretty as a queen. And the note she makes when all of the stabilizing blades are deployed is like something from a tale about gods-gifts—cyclical and pure and it just makes me want to sing along.
Interviewer: What do you sing with WINGS?
Robin: Oh, gods, no. No, I don’t sing. Nobody wants to hear that.
Interviewer: Fair enough! If you could go anywhere, where would it be, and why?
Robin: Hmmm. The obvious answer should be “home,” but if I gave up now, what would everything I’ve been through be for? And if I ran away somewhere else, took WINGS with me and just tried to forget the war was happening… no, I couldn’t do that. Not with everyone suffering so much. And I don’t mean just the Sealies like me. I’ve been in Klonn long enough now that I can see the poor of this country suffer just as much as my people. This whole damn war has gone on for too long, and it’s time for it to end. Staying here, being the Skylark with WINGS, I can make a difference. Maybe I can’t end the war all on my own, but maybe I can inspire others to push for peace.
Interviewer: Speaking of the Skylark, you’ve become a symbol of the peace that the Benne of Saskwya and the noble houses of Klonn refuse to discuss.
Robin: Rudding hells, have I? Ugh.
Interviewer: So, if you could say one thing to the people of Klonn, what would it be?
Robin: Wake up. I mean, what is the war for? Because some Klonn ruler thinks what they worship is more important than who the Benne worship? Is that it? Why has it gone on so long? Ten years! Ego? Greed? It’s ridiculous. Klonn has sent an entire generation of their sons and daughters to be slaughtered in the forests between our nations, and nothing has changed, or been gained, or improved. It’s petty and it’s ridiculous. I’d tell the people of Klonn to refuse to fight, refuse to work in the factories, refuse to perpetuate this senseless, useless slaughter and make their King accountable.
Interviewer: And to the people of Saskwya?
Robin: To the Benne? The same. The exact same thing. Omens. It infuriates me how much those scrubbed up cows let themselves get led around by the nose ring.
And to the Sealies I’d say, find a way to say no. To get out. We’re only the underclass because the Benne think we are. If we were gone, if we were away, they couldn’t rule over us, could they? And we wouldn’t have to fight for them. I know it’s not really as easy as that—what would we eat, where would we go, how could we afford to get there? We need the jobs, lowly and disrespected as they are, that the Benne give us so we can buy food, so we can survive. But it’s a terrible cycle and if we could just get away… well. Maybe that’s what I’ll fix after I single-handedly end this war. Hah. That was sarcasm, by the way.
Interviewer: And do you think the Skylark can single-handedly end the war?
Robin: Of course not. But that won’t stop me from trying.
Interviewer: I have one last question here from Shawn L. Bird. She asks: "Robin, I know you were desperate to fly. Why did you dream of taking to the skies? Was it for freedom? Escape? power? Your kind are usually on the ground. What makes you so different?"
Robin: I don’t think I’m so different. Lots of Sealies want to be pilots. The only difference is that by some fluke of tragedy, I was the one who got to fly a Glider.
I think a lot of us long for the sky. Sealies used to roam. We used to go wherever our hearts and hives led us. And now we’re trapped in Benne cities, doing Benne jobs, stuck in the mud. I think it’s totally understandable that I long for the sky and everything it means to us. That I was born with that longing just means that maybe the gods think the same way I do.
Interviewer: Wow. Well, thank you for speaking with me today. Good luck in book two, Robin.
Robin: Thanks. I have a feeling I’ll need it.
J.M. Frey is an author, fanthropologist and professional smartypants. With an MA in Communications and Culture, she’s appeared in podcasts, documentaries, and on radio and television to discuss all things geeky through the lens of academia. Her life’s ambition is to have stepped foot on every continent (only 3 left!)
Her debut novel Triptych was nominated for two Lambda Literary Awards, won the San Francisco Book Festival award for SF/F, was nominated for a 2011 CBC Bookie, was named one of The Advocate’s Best Overlooked Books of 2011, and garnered both a starred review and a place among the Best Books of 2011 from Publishers Weekly.
The Skylark’s Saga was signed to a shopping agreement for an animation series in 2018, and book two of the duology, The Skylark’s Sacrifice, soars into bookstores September 2019.
Find out more about getting your copy of The Skylark's Song on her website.