As much as eighteen-year-old Malorie Blackburn tries to reassure herself that death only visits the deserving, it doesn’t make her work as an assassin any easier. For her, killing is no simple or enjoyable task, but it pays, better than any other work she could find. Each assignment brings her closer to buying her freedom outside the kingdom, where the grief of her mother’s death follows her like a shadow. When a profitable assignment presents itself—to poison a boy at a masked ball—Mal jumps at the offer.
But she learns too late that the boy she has just poisoned is the heir to the throne. And once the prince realizes her ploy, he uses his Royal magic to curse her: once the poison reaches his heart, Mal too will perish. With the prince in a deep coma, Mal is determined to find the Everall, a flower said to cure all ailments. But to acquire one, she must enter a world she believed only existed in her mother’s fantastic, eerie tales, and find the Mage who has been missing for eighteen years.
With the aid of a charming thief, a runaway chieftess, and the prince who is now stuck in her head (quite literally), Mal embarks upon a tumultuous journey, where she not only learns the truth of her past, but discovers that there are others looking for the Mage too. Insurgents who rose to power in his absence; insurgents who want him dead. Mal needs to find the Mage—and the Everall—before the others get to him. If he dies, her life and the freedom she’s worked, killed for, will die with him.
At 92,000 words, MALEFIC is a young adult fantasy in the vein of THRONE OF GLASS and AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER. As I am Nigerian, much of the world is influenced by Nigerian culture, myths, and legends. And, as it features a black protagonist and a diverse cast of characters, MALEFIC is an #OwnVoices standalone novel with series potential. Amongst few others, it was also chosen to be mentored during WriteMentor 2019, an author-mentor match program.
It was a wonder Mal still prayed to Ngozi, the Saint of Luck. That sacred hag was never on her side. Of all the nights for this assignment to fall on, it had to be the one without stars.
Mal could hardly see as she navigated the market, barely missing emptied carts that usually held soft, freshly-baked agege bread. Her stomach grumbled, but she’d learnt from the first time she killed with a knife that it was wiser to stay empty-bellied. Blood and vomit were an unsightly mix.
The darkness was rich enough to taste and thick enough to consume any scream or cry with a single swallow. Which, in a sense, would only make her job easier. If killing could be made easier. She despised it, but it paid well, more than any menial job for a girl of her standing. Not that it mattered, since she wasn’t permitted to work anywhere else. She had to “keep her attention undivided” and “remain focused.”
Mal rolled her eyes and almost crashed into wooden display stand.
She cupped a hand over her nose as she passed the butcher’s shop. After all this time, the smell of blood still made her sick. She didn’t let go until she slipped behind the seer’s place, where herby whiffs of tea leaves overtook all other smells.
As she glided through the alleys and dirt roads of the market toward the fabric shop, her cloak flapped behind her like her own personal flag, and her long plait whipped against her back.
Mal despised the fabric shop. It reminded her of happier days, when her mother stitched pristine dresses and worked a needle like a wand. Every memory pricked and bled through her mind, forcing her chest to fist around her heart.
Were it up to Mal, she would avoid the shop altogether, but the rocks that lined most of its exterior had proven rather useful these past six years. Gloves secured, Mal scaled up toward the lowest window and retrieved a smaller knife from her belt. Sliding it beneath the lock, she shook it until the latch gave way and slipped into the room beyond.
The second her feet hit the ground, she paused, tuned her ears. There were voices. And the faint but definite sound of a lock being shimmied from the front entrance.
The last time she’d collided with thieves, she’d almost killed one of them—and five years later, he still brought it up. Constantly.
Thieves were like pesky flies she could never quite catch, following her everywhere, slowing her down. Most were inexperienced halfwits who couldn’t successfully steal even items handed to them.
They truly soiled the good name of bad people.