On the deserted island of Nilaya, surrounded by endless ocean, there are no cities. There are no kings, queens, or princes, no cloudships or mistsea monsters — none of the wonders that fourteen-year-old Song dreams of one day seeing. With only her fussy Caretaker for company, Song lives for visits from Lan, her teacher and mentor, who brings her stories of the Verse beyond her island and of the Cantors, the heroes who protect it.
That is, until Lan forgets her fifteenth birthday.
Desperate to figure out what happened to him, Song seeks a way to escape her island, putting her trust in a mysterious boy who brings her the dire warning that Lan is in danger, and that the fate of the Cantors may depend on Song being able to find him. But rebellion is brewing at the edge of the Verse. As Song seeks a way to rescue Lan, delving deep into the power that connects her to the Cantors and their legacy, she soon learns how thin the line between hero and monster can be.
Complete at 84,000 words, THE SHAPE OF THE WORLD is an epic YA fantasy with touches of sci-fi — somewhat in the vein of Laini Taylor’s STRANGE duology, or Samantha Shannon’s THE BONE SEASON. It was recently shortlisted for Penguin Random House’s Write Now mentorship, and won runner-up in the competition for the #WriteMentor Children’s Novel Award.
With stories, articles, and poems published in outlets such as the webzine Riddled with Arrows and Malta’s culture and arts magazine Encore, whenever I’m not working full time as a bookseller for Waterstones, I tend to be scribbling one thing or another. I’m a graduate of UNCAsheville’s Creative Writing program in the States and hold an M.A. in Publishing and Creative Writing from Kingston University. SHAPE is the third novel I have completed.
I hope you enjoy reading the sample included here, and I’m looking forward to hearing from you. Thank you all for your time and consideration.
The Shape of the World
As far as Song knew, the world was very small.
In the mornings, when the drifting mistblooms brushed their lazy vines against her window and spread their leaves to catch the sun, she could look out from the highest tower of the House of Doors and see all of it spread out below her: the placid lagoon and the shedding trees and the steep, stone stairway leading down to the beach. And surrounding it all was the Endless Ocean—as restless and blue as a summer’s afternoon.
She had asked her Caretaker, Rael, about what lay across the Endless Ocean many times. And many times, Rael had responded:
“Nothing, my bright Song. That’s what makes it endless.”
But Song was certain that couldn’t be true. For the longest time, she’d made maps of the Endless Ocean, filling its empty expanse with the distant lands and strange people she’d read about in her books. She even went so far as to model it out of paper and glue, figuring that the only way for the ocean to truly have no end was for it to go in a wide circle, each of its edges wrapping around to meet its partner on the opposite side.
“A torus,” Rael had called it, when she saw. She’d laughed at Song’s cleverness and taught her the Word for it in the Language. Song had spent the rest of the afternoon practicing the Word, torus, Whisperingit over and over to conjure rings of wood and coral from the empty air.
On the morning of her seventh birthday, Song awoke to storm clouds gathering on the horizon. She threw open her window, taking in the harsh salt wind. In the distance, the fin of a whale cut through the Ocean’s clear water. Song watched it disappear beneath the waves before she headed downstairs for breakfast.
Rael was usually up and about before her, but today, the kitchen lay empty, the coals in the hearth barely glowing. So Song prepared some gulls’ eggs and carved a platter of fruit to take to the Caretaker’s study. As Song made her way from the kitchen, she heard Rael’s voice, recording one of her observation prisms, or maybe reading over her notes. Perhaps the Caretaker would not want to be disturbed at the moment. Song considered leaving the tray outside the door so Rael could eat alone—
When another voice sounded from within.
The platter of food fell to the floor with a wet crash, and Song immediately bent to pick it up. Rael stepped out of the study, followed by someone else—a stranger.
He was taller than Rael, and darker, with a harsh face that was all angles, his black hair pulled away from his face in tight-curled locks. Where Rael was pale and golden-haired and fidgety, with eyes like roasted betel nuts, the stranger was still and sure. And his eyes were blue.