Happy Saturday and welcome to my stop on the blog tour for THE LORDS OF NIGHT by J.C. Cervantes! I’m so excited because today I have an excerpt of the book to share with you! This book is truly amazing and I’m so excited to for you to find out more about it!
Series: Shadow Bruja #1
Published on October 4, 2022 by Rick Riordan Presents
Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade, Mythology, Retellings
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Fourteen-year-old Renata Santiago is the most powerful godborn of them all, a bruja with a unique combination of DNA. The Mexica blood from her dad's side gives her the ability to manipulate shadows. Her mom Pacific, a Maya goddess, gifted her a magical rope that controls time, and Ren recently used it to save a few gods from getting stuck forever in 1987. She brought them back to the present, but her BFF Ah Puch, the once fearsome god of death, darkness, and destruction, is now a teenager with no divine powers.
Ren is also a girl with ordinary hopes and dreams. She wishes, for example, that her blog about alien sightings would garner more respect. She's always been absolutely convinced that there's a connection between aliens and the Maya civilization. Plenty of online haters feel differently, and they call her a fake, a liar, and a loser.
When Ren receives an email about an alien sighting in Kansas, she thinks it may support her theory. She also suspects that the cinco--five renegade godborns--are up to no good. Soon she finds herself embroiled in a quest to prevent the troublemakers from awakening the nine Aztec Lords of Night. Problem is, none of Ren's friends are available to help her hunt down the cinco and the dangerous gods they are resurrecting. Ren has no choice but to team up with two strangers recruited by Ah Puch: Edison, a teen hybrid demon, and Montero, an eleven-year-old Aztec hunter. Succeeding in this quest will prove that Ren is no fake, liar, or loser. But it isn't just another challenge. It could well be an impossible one that leaves Ren questioning her very existence.
In the beginning (sort of)
Seven months before
Once upon a night, there was a girl who didn’t know who she really was. She didn’t know how her shadow magic worked, or even where it came from. Only that it was there, deep in her blood and bones, and maybe even deeper than that.
But to understand everything, it’s important to go all the way back to the sort of beginning.
It started like this.
There she was, all cuddled up on her bed with her weighted blanket, reading a book about Maya gods and magic and curses and some overly dramatic kid named Zane Obispo. She didn’t want the story to end, but it was inevitable. The end always comes.
Ren was just about to close the book when the last words on the last page started to glow a greenish gold. She blinked over and over, thinking—hoping—she could pretend the iridescent glow wasn’t really there. No such luck.
Someday when you least expect it, the magic will call to you. Then, like the need for breath, Ren had a sudden urge to say the words out loud. “The magic will call to me . . .” At first nothing happened. But then, four minutes and fifteen sighs later, a familiar tune being played on viola rushed from the kitchen, down the hall, and under Ren’s closed bedroom door.
Ren’s heart ballooned so big and so fast she thought it was entirely possible it might explode. This wasn’t just any song—it was her dad’s favorite, and he had written it especially for her. But that was impossible! He had died six years earlier and been buried with his beloved instrument.
Jagged stripes of lightning flashed outside. Anyone paying half attention would have thought an electrical storm was approaching. They weren’t unusual in Galveston, Texas. Something indeed was approaching.
The music grew faster, louder, more urgent. Ren was sure now. The melody was definitely coming from her father’s viola, the one that creaked when he played it.
In that first moment of panic, Ren wondered if she could take the words back, unsay them. Maybe if I repeat them backward . . . she thought just as another blinding white light flashed across the night sky.
Then came the scratching on the pitched roof. Her mind immediately conjured the image of a corpse trying to claw its way out of a wood coffin. Not that she would know firsthand what that looked like, but she had, regrettably, watched too many zombie movies in her thirteen years.
Ren knew the drill. She had practiced for this exact moment. She threw off her blanket, swung her legs over the side of the bed, and tugged on her red cowboy boots.
Just as she opened her bedroom door, her abuelo appeared in the hall. His gray hair was sticking up all over like a storm cloud. “It’s happening.” His low voice carried a strange tone that sent a shudder down Ren’s spine.
There will come a day when your shadow magic is discovered, her abuelo had told her. On that day you will have to leave. To run. To hide.
Ren felt sick. Had she done this? Just by saying those words? But it’s just a book. A book still in her grasp.
Ren was breathing heavily now. “Do you hear Papá’s music, too? It’s my song!”
Abuelo shook his head, his eyes roving the ceiling. “Mira,” he whispered, “we are going to get in the car very quietly just like we’ve practiced. ¿Me escuchas? And we are going to follow the music. Your music.”
There was no time for arguing or explaining, no time to grab her laptop with her alien blog articles or even change out of her spaceship-patterned pajamas before her grandpa nudged her into the garage and into the car.
The music got even louder.
Instead of using the remote control, Abuelo manually opened the garage door, slowly, carefully—each inch a lifetime. Lighting flashed again. A terrible growl clung to the night air.
Rain began to plummet from the sky as her grandfather slipped inside the car. He pulled the little Honda out gradually, checking the side mirrors every two seconds.
“Abuelo . . .”
“Shh . . .”
It was the dead of night. There was no traffic, no people, no life.
The rain came harder. The lightning flashed so bright it could’ve blinded the sun.
“Tell me which way the music wants you to go.” Abuelo wiped his forehead with the back of his hand.
Ren hesitated, not trusting herself with something so big. What if she picked wrong? But no way would her dad let her down when she was running for her life. She took a deep breath, tuning her ears to the instrument playing so clearly. “Turn right.”
Abuelo hooked a hard right, not bothering to slow down at the stop sign. “I know you can’t control the shadows yet.” He pulled in a long, ragged breath. “But that will change.
Your power will grow.”
“But where am I supposed to hide? And for how long?” Ren thought these were excellent questions since their drills had never covered this part.
Thlunk! Dark glossy wings spread across the length of the windshield.
Abuelo slammed the brakes. The Honda skidded and spun one hundred and eighty degrees, flinging the winged creature into the air.
What was that? Ren wondered. A huge bird? A massive bat? She white-knuckled the dashboard.
“You must stay calm,” Abuelo said.
Calm?! He wanted her to stay calm? How could she? Except that they both knew what could happen if she didn’t. Stress usually sent her into one of her absence seizures, and the last thing she needed right now was to pass out.
“Turn left,” she commanded.
Abuelo pressed his foot to the pedal.
A terrible snarl reverberated across the night.
Don’t look. Don’t look. Don’t look, she told herself. The moonlit bay came into view. Ren realized what was happening. “The music—Papa’s leading us to the water.” This was definitely not going to turn out okay.
“Of course,” Abuelo whispered. “Can you try to bring the shadows now? To slow down those . . . creatures?” ¿En serio? I can barely breathe! But Ren clenched her hands into fists anyway, because what choice did she have? She closed her eyes and focused, nearly popping a blood vessel in her forehead. It was no use.
Less than a minute later, Ren and her grandfather had bolted from the car and were rushing down a dock. The rain had slowed to a sprinkle, but the black wings . . .Ren could sense them drawing closer. The music was rising, growing louder with every step she took.
Suddenly, the melody stopped, forcing Ren to a grinding halt, too. She looked down at a dinghy knocking against the pier. She knew the answer before she asked the question. And all she could think was This is a dreadful escape vessel! Couldn’t I have a yacht instead?
“¿Eso es todo?” Abuelo wrinkled his nose.
Ren nodded as tears pricked her eyes. “There aren’t even any oars.” Or a blanket, or food. Or water. She tried not to think of everything that could go wrong—things worse than no food. Things like massive sharks with massive teeth and massive appetites. Why did I have to go and watch Shark Week?
“The magic will guide you.” Abuelo’s voice shook. “And wherever this boat takes you, you must always remember—” “That I come from an ancient line of the most powerful shadow brujxs
that have ever lived,” Ren finished, wishing she believed that was enough to keep her safe.
“You must go, Renata.”
She stepped into the boat awkwardly. She could do this. She had to do this.
There was another growl, deep and hungry. Then, out of nowhere, came a dark hideous fury of claws and wings and shiny black eyes.
Ren instinctively threw her arms over her head. There was an explosion of shadow. A thick web covered the moaning beasts, trapping them in midair. Ren could feel power pulsing in her fingertips like electricity.
The creatures thrashed inside the net of shadow, wailing with rage.
“Very impressive,” Abuelo said, managing a proud smile. “I don’t want to leave you, Abuelo!” Ren cried.
There was a rushed good-bye, a last embrace, a wet cheek. A promise to reunite.
The boat was swept out of the bay and into the sea as if magic hands were guiding it. A new sheet of shadow hovered protectively over the dinghy, making Ren invisible. She tugged her pajama hood over her head and pulled her knees into her chest, hugging herself and the book. Don’t think about the sharks. Her heart beat faster. Or those terrible monsters. Her pulse started racing. Or where I’m going. Her pulse was definitely off the charts.
No. Not now. No stress. Not now.
I need to stay awake. I need to—
The world went black.
The boat slipped across the water, in the direction of Renata Santiago’s destiny. And although her body was in it, her mind wasn’t. It escaped to a place of splendor, with pink and purple and silver skies. A jade crown on a silken pillow. This wasn’t a dream—it was a memory hiding in her heart.
A memory she didn’t know and wouldn’t recall until more than a year later.
What do you think about The Lords of Night? Have you added it to your tbr yet? Let me know in the comments and have a splendiferous day!