I am a huge fan of faerie tale retellings, so when Emily asked me to review World of Shadows a while back, it was perfect. I’m still working on my review (let me tell you now, it is worth the read!) Until then, here’s an excerpt from the story itself.
In this urban fantasy retelling of Beauty and the Beast, modern-day teenager Beila Durand is plagued by nightmares that lead her to discover – and wind up trapped in – a cursed underground world. The invisible people that live in this medieval village depend on Beila learning the truth behind their curse – and why she is the only one who can set them free.In her quest for answers, however, all she seems to find are more questions. Where do the echoing screeching at night originate? Who is the isolated man that speaks with Beila from the shadows of his cloak? What does this New York girl have to do with any of it? And will she ever find a way back home?
And finally, the excerpt! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
“Hello?” I call out cautiously.
The hood turns sort of toward me—facing the floor to my right—but the figure remains seated. “Yes.” The voice is low, a male’s.
The side of the cloak makes a wide gesture. “Come in, welcome.” He sounds young and not at all frightened like the invisible woman I heard before. In fact, he almost sounds unhappy, resigned, possibly even bored. Most notably, of course, he speaks clear, easy English.
“May I ask…where am I?”
I nod and take a few steps forward, then take a deep breath and repeat, “Yes, I thought so, but where?”
This time the hood faces me directly, still completely covering the man’s face. He remains silent for a minute before pushing against the curved arms of the chair and standing quickly, like the President or a king just walked in the room. Again, he is silent and motionless for a long minute.
“It’s Beila. I’m Beila Durand, from New York.” Another minute of silence passes, and I feel like he’s examining me. Perhaps I wouldn’t feel as awkward if I could see him—his eyes, his face, even his general form to confirm that he’s human. It’d be nice just to make sure I can see him, that he’s not invisible too. Or maybe, if he would only speak, then this place wouldn’t seem so stifling. “And you are?”
The hood nods quickly. “Ah, yes, of course. My apologies. I am…well, perhaps it is best for me not to say. Call me whatever you like, I suppose.” At least he’s polite.
I take another step toward him to close some of the distance between us. The cloak side makes another wide gesture, this time seeming to indicate the chair. I shake my head and sit cross-legged on the floor, so he takes the chair. It seems a little too much for me to sit in this mystery cloak man’s throne.
“Is your name dangerous?”
The hood shakes. “No.” Then it leans back ever so slightly before dropping forward. “Actually, it is. Now that you ask, yes. It’s…best for you to not know about me. Not yet, that is.”
Yeah, that’s not weird at all. “Okay then. Next question…why am I here? Oh, and you still never said where here is.”
“Those are questions I cannot answer for you.”
My eyebrows bunch up. “That makes three. Is there anything you can tell me?”
“Only that these dreams are very important, to all who live in the tunnels. Our lives are in your hands.”
“Our? You mean the griffin too, then?”
There is no response, no movement of the cloak.
“And the invisible people, with the cold hands that speak French? They live here too, right?”
I wait for him to speak. I’m beginning to wonder if he will when he clears his throat. “You have done well to learn this about our world. But I cannot answer questions for you. You must learn the truth for yourself.”
He likes that I’ve figured this stuff out, but he won’t help me any. Interesting. “So they do live here—the invisible people, and the griffin—here with you, in tunnels. But you can’t tell me anything about them, or you.”
“To tell would be grave. The truth must be sought for us to be saved.”
So many new questions come to mind with that statement. I focus on just one. “What do you mean, saved?”
The hood shakes and I nod. “I get it, no questions. Well then, if you’re not going to tell me anything, why am I even still here? Why doesn’t anyone come to take me to the cave? Or why don’t I wake up—something like that?”
The hood nods again, past me rather than at me this time. “You may leave whenever you like.”
When I turn around, all I see are the massive doors. Closed doors. I turn back around. “So I just up and leave, then? The cave’s out there?”
“When you step through the doors, you return to your home. The cave is unnecessary from here.”
“Huh. Unnecessary.” I push off the floor and stand, brushing the dirt off my hands onto my pajama pants. It’s only then that I realize I’m in my pajamas, with my hair down and unbrushed, as if I climbed straight out of bed into this room. I wave to the cloak, suddenly a bit self-conscious. “Well, guess I’ll be going, then, if that’s it.”
The cloak rises from the chair and steps forward. “Before you leave, milady.” Suddenly a necklace dangles in front of my face, right there in thin air. I look at the cloak-man, who just points to it and nods once. I take it and hold it out in my palm, trying to get a better look at it in the torchlight. It’s some sort of golden pendant on a chain. The pendant is an oval, with the design of a ribbon tied in a bow carved on top and a fancily scrolled loop carved on either side, connecting the pendant to the chain. Matching scrollwork curls along the bottom of the oval. The center of the pendant features a portrait painting framed by a thin gold line. The painting is of a young man, with nearly-shaved dark blond hair and eyes the same color. He’s wearing armor that’s elaborately carved and painted in red and black designs. The piece isn’t like anything I’ve ever seen in the city, and I’ve been to quite a few unique shops.
“A necklace. For you, Beila Durand. Take it with you when you leave.”