Tuesday, August 12, 2014

RELEASE DAY: Rachel E. Carter "The Black Mage: First Year"

Before the age of seventeen the young men and women of Jerar are given a choice –follow tradition, or pursue a trial year in one of the realm’s three war schools to study as a soldier, knight or mage…
For 15-year-old Ryiah the choice has always been easy. Become a warrior and leave the boring confines of her lowborn life behind. Set to enroll in the School of Knighthood on the eve of her next birthday, plans suddenly shift when her twin brother discovers powers. Hoping that hers will soon follow, she enrolls with Alex at the Academy instead –the realm’s most notorious war school for those with magic.
Yet when she arrives Ry finds herself competing against friend and foe for one of the exalted apprenticeships. Every “first-year” is given a trial year to prove their worth –and no amount of hard work and drive will guarantee them a spot. It seems like everyone is rooting for her to fail –and first and foremost among them Prince Darren, the school prod-igy who has done nothing but make life miserable since she arrived.
When an accidental encounter leads Ryiah and Darren to an unlikely friendship she is convinced nothing good will come of it. But the lines become blurred when she begins to improve –and soon she is a key competitor for the faction of Combat… Still, nothing is ever as it seems –and when the world comes crashing down around her, Ry is forced to place faith in the one thing she can believe in –herself. Will it be enough?
Rachel Carter lives in Placerville, California with her fiancé and their two spoiled pets: a feisty feline named Charlie, and Zoey, an Australian Shepherd who gets jealous of her own shadow. She loves to organize –and when she is not color-coding her closet she is always looking for the next good book. She grew up reading about magic, hot bad boys, and lady knights. The Black Mage, her debut series, is a tribute to all the things she never stopped loving.

The Black Mage: First Year is the first book in Rachel’s four-book YA fantasy series with Astraea Press. Rachel invites you to visit her author page at www.facebook.com/theblackmageauthor.  She loves to hear from other aspiring authors or readers via email at rachelcarterauthor@gmail.com. Follow her on twitter @blackmageauthor and read her blog at http://theblackmagegirl.wordpress.com.

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"Don't look now," I said softly. Did I sound calm? I hoped so. It was hard to tell with the frantic beating in my chest. "But I think we are being followed."
My brother paled, hands freezing on the reins. Almost unconsciously, his head began to turn in the direction of my warning.
"Alex!" I hissed.
He jerked his head back guiltily. I hoped the movement would go unnoticed by the four riders trailing a quarter of a mile behind us. They hadn't appeared too concerned with our procession thus far, but the fact that the men were still following us after the last main road had ended left an unsettling taste in the back of my mouth.
It was getting dark fast. At the elevation we were traveling, there wouldn't be much light left for long. Already the sun had wedged itself behind one of the larger outcroppings of rock, and the rest of its rays were fading much too quickly for my liking.
I had hoped the party would stop to make camp at one of the few sites we had passed—after all, what weary traveler wouldn't prefer the comfort of a well-worn pit and nearby stream? I, for one, would have insisted as much if it hadn't been for the uncanny appearance of those behind us.
"How do you know they are ‘following’ us?" Alex whispered loudly. Our horses continued their steady climb into the dark hillside. "Shouldn't we be stopping soon?" he added. "I'm sure they'll continue on, and then you'll see your worry was all for nothing."
"Alex," I said through clenched teeth, "their saddlebags are far too light for a trek like this. That's not nothing."
I forced myself not to let my frustration show. It wasn't Alex's fault he didn't understand my concern. His faction was Restoration. He cared about healing people, not what it looked like to harm them.
"Only fools—or bandits—would travel so empty-handed. Four grown men are not fools, Alex. Even fools would have known to take that last main road to an inn…" I swallowed. "But a bandit, they wouldn't need to bother with packs since, well, because they would be taking our own instead."
My twin slowly mulled over my words. I wondered if he would believe me. I wasn't exactly known for my easygoing temperament. I hoped he didn't think this was just another one of my "rash judgments" as our parents were wont to assume.
As I waited for Alex's response, I pretended to check the footholds, giving myself an opportunity to spy on our shadow once more. Though the men were much harder to identify without the broad light of day, there was still no mistaking the glint of steel bulging from one of the men's hip. Only a soldier or knight was allowed to bear such metal.
A chill ran through me. I doubted he was either.
"Right," Alex said abruptly.
In as much nonchalance as one could muster under the circumstances, I faced my brother stubbornly. "Alex—"
"I believe you."
Oh. I paused.
"What should we do, Ry?" Gone was his relaxed smile, and in its place a timid frown…and an unsure, flickering blue stare. At first I didn't recognize the expression—he looked so much younger than his fifteen years. But then I realized it was fear producing the vulnerability in my brother's eyes.

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