Mel Stephenson – YA Fantasy – BETWEEN SLEEP
To save her sister from execution, a girl from the slums must infiltrate a perilous and forbidden dream-realm to kill an immortal queen.
BETWEEN SLEEP is a YA fantasy, complete at 89,000 words and written from alternating POV’s, in the tone of RED QUEEN with elements of INCEPTION.
Fifteen-year-old Eda Winterbourne sticks to the shadows of the slum-streets of Loredom. Being invisible is key to her survival. With an unmarked grave her only prospect, the bond she shares with her younger sister is a beacon in an otherwise dark reality. So, when her sister accidentally kills their employer, Eda takes the blame without hesitation.
Instead of execution, Eda is imprisoned and forced into a poisoned friendship with Loredom’s lonely and immortal Queen Isobel. Eda’s sister is released but bound to the queen by a blood tie. One wrong move by either girl, and they watch the other die. Inside the castle walls, Eda’s given a new name, a new identity, a new life. Eda Winterbourne no longer exists. In her desperate hunt for clues on how to end the blood tie, she discovers an ancient dial that opens a dream world, where she allies with a captive ghost king who’s willing to help her destroy the queen.
But when the ghost betrays her, stealing and occupying her body, Eda is left trapped in the dream realm. Now, she must discover her power in being truly invisible and journey inside Queen Isobel’s savage mind to unlock the memory that will make the queen mortal again. Fail, and Eda will lose her sister forever, be cast into a hidden world where nightmares are real, and hopes for an unmarked grave are but a dream.
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I finish coughing up a lung, what’s left of it anyway, and wheeze in the grimy air of the pit we call home, number fifty-nine, Fetter Lane—the wrong side of town.
Phlegm marks the sleeve of my nightshirt, but it don’t matter, I rub it in good to match the crusted dirt already there. I lean over the edge of the bed for my Leaden. Unscrewing the tiny lid of the brown bottle, I lift my head a fraction and drink back a sip of… air. All gone. I drop back into my pillow. I’ll survive till Pa gets more from the Markt. I hope. Disease spreads like an infected wound here, in the stinky armpit of Loredom, not helped by the night air breathing its germs in through the broken window.
I squint through the gloom; Pa’s still asleep, his mound pressed against the grubby wall, lit by the glow of the street lamp spilling in through the scraps of curtains. Even in the dark it’s never too dark to see the insects crawling over the beds. The building would sooner collapse on his head (possible) before he woke up, unless that is, Ma Smith’s pea were to strike the window from her shooter down on the street. Only thing what lifts his head off the pillow. Don’t ask me, makes no sense, ’cept for the call of glimmer, not that he makes much. Better than nothing, spose.
Wedged beside me lies my ten-year-old sister, Clara; her clay-brown face so peaceful, so still—too still. My fingers rush to her cheeks. Cool, but not cold. I hover my hand over her parted lips: warmth fogs against my skin in a steady rhythm. Tucking the frayed edges of her large, thick blanket under her chin, I seal out the chill, and my worry eases back to its cave.
I flop into the pillow and fold my long limbs in like a paper crane so I’m small enough to fit under my child-sized patch of blanket. With my head tucked inside, warm breath bathes my face, but after a bit the stink becomes too much even for me, and I come up for air and roll onto my back.
My eyelids twitch but they don’t stay shut. Not that I’m trying too hard; death hides itself in the valley of sleep and the dread never goes away like the stains engrained in my clothes. See, sleep and death come from the same crooked family; guaranteed to come for your loved ones, sneaking up when they en’t got no fight, then taking them down. Awake one minute, gone the next, and nothing in between.
I slide my hand under my pillow and rest it against Ma’s book like it’s got a heartbeat. On the cover is a picture of a girl with brown wavy hair, wearing a white nightdress and blowing out a candle. Ma dreamed of reading to us one day, once she learned how. She never did.