"A thrilling and complex tale about the most difficult stage of a revolution: what do you do after you win? Highly recommended both for the story it tells as well as how it tells that story. Wilde takes risks that pay off hugely.” Ken Liu, Hugo and Nebula Award-winning author of The Grace of Kings
The Towers are in disarray, without a governing body or any defense against the dangers lurking in the clouds, and daily life is full of terror and strife. Nat Densira, the wing-brother to Kirit (Skyshouter, Spirebreaker, no-longer-of-Densira) sets out to be a hero in his own waysitting on the new Council to cast votes protecting Tower-born, and exploring lower tiers to find more materials to repair the struggling City.
But what he finds down-tier is more secretsand now Nat will have to decide who to trust, and how to trust himself without losing those he holds most dear, before a dangerous myth raises a surprisingly realistic threat to the crippled City, in Cloudbound.
"I long to know more about the world and where Wilde's imagination will soar next. In the meantime it's all I can do to slow-clap this powerfully engaging debut: Wilde's world and charactersas is entirely appropriateblew me away." NPR on Updraft
3) Horizon (September 2017)
About the Author
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By Fran Wilde, Miriam Weinberg
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2016 Fran Wilde
All rights reserved.
As children, we learned early that the clouds were dangerous.
Turns out the city wasn't all that much safer.
Between three towers, the council platform hung suspended, its thin profile on the horizon the only thing protecting the city from itself now. Councilors paced, barely visible at this distance, preparing for their morning votes, while I peered at them through sharp cracks in the Spire wall. I wanted to be out there, in the open sky, leading. Making Laws, rediscovering our past, keeping tower from fighting tower. Not here, accompanying Kirit Skyshouter on a cloudtouched expedition into the Spire's remains.
But Kirit and I dangled from tenuous ropes in the Spire's dim afternoon light anyway. We swung within the cracked walls and over the deep gaping center of the Spire because the council and my mentor, Doran Grigrit, had asked it of me.
"No one else can find the codex, Nat, and few want to go in the Spire as it is. She's offering to help," he'd said on the council plinth earlier that morning. "The Singers knew how the city grows, why it roars. How the towers rise. We're on the verge of a new age, with new discoveries, but we need to retrieve as much knowledge from the past as we can, before the Spire cracks further and our opportunity is lost. None of the other Singers have been near as helpful in this effort, not since the new Laws. Take her in."
And here we were.
I hummed a verse of a popular song.
The Spire cracked as a Shout rose up,
freed the city, freed us all.
"Knock it off, Nat. I'm trying to count tiers." Her voice was rough, even when she spoke. The healers said it could stay that way forever.
"That's Councilor Densira to you, Skyshouter."
These days, children sang of Kirit the hero. She was that. She was my wing-sister too, and would always be. But she had faults, and a stubborn streak, and her friends stood a fair chance of getting killed. I knew all about that. Worse, she'd been acting strangely in the past few moons, since the fever. Distant. Obstinate.
"What deal did you cut with Doran?" I said, then sneezed. Bone dust everywhere, even so many months after Spirefall. A cold east-spun wind whistled through the cracks running the Spire's outer wall. The stuff silted the dim light.
She didn't answer. Singers hadn't been keen on helping the council or the towers much lately. A fair number of towers hadn't wanted to help the Singers in a while either. And no one was sure whether Kirit was Singer or Tower any longer. Probably not even Kirit herself.
I took my eyes off of her for a moment to squint at the carvings we swung near. Panels depicting winged battles, skymouths attacking with grasping tentacles and rows of glass teeth, tower fighting tower. Singers and their carvings. Their tattoos. The city was well and done with all of that.
Life was better lived in the open towers, not in this walled one. Out in the sky. Not trapped in the Gyre's echoes at the Spire's center, where I'd nearly died not that long ago. Where Kirit had nearly killed me.
And where I'd tried to kill her in turn.
I sneezed again and the rope swung.
She made it sound like I was sneezing on purpose.
"It's the dust." I kept the irritation out of my voice. The city's hero wouldn't be able to blame the newly elected junior councilor from the northwest quadrant for botching her search. I wouldn't give her any reason to complain.
Besides, I was curious. My mother, Elna Densira, had spoken of the codex with a mix of reverence and fear since Kirit and I were children. She'd said the pages contained our city's survival in numbers: lists of what towers needed shoring up, a record of appeasements. I wanted to see what the city's roars and rumbles over time looked like. I couldn't imagine the heft of it.
We had nothing like that in the towers. Too heavy to carry up, too hard to maintain. Only the Spire and the Singers could keep records like that for generations. But instead of sharing their knowledge, they secreted it away. They practiced crimes against the city in its name.
We knew that now.
After Spirefall, searchers had cut carvings from the Spire walls and sorted through rubble, but the codex eluded them. Then more tiers collapsed, and rumors of rogue skymouths in the Spire began. Most wouldn't go near the Spire now, even if the new Laws didn't forbid it.
If I helped bring the codex back today, that would make me, if not more of a hero, more of a leader, despite having only nineteen Allmoons.
Kirit continued her descent on the gently swaying rope and I followed, inching down the rough fiber. The silk of my footwraps caught on a splinter.
What remained of the Gyre's winds were hollow sounds: bone shards knocked from balcony edges that skittered and bounced down the walls, the flap of a whipperling struggling to stay aloft and in the light, my breath coming fast as I lowered myself down the rope. Once a place to fight for the right to speak, the Gyre resonated now with ghosts and loss.
I gripped the twisted fiber and sinew rope tightly enough that my knucklebones showed hard and pale beneath my skin.
"I wish you'd brought newer ropes," Kirit said.
"Complaining? Not very heroic, Skyshouter." So many songs praised her deeds, her words, her sacrifice. She should know the city had bigger troubles than old ropes.
"If I'd had access to supplies, I would have brought my own ropes," she snapped, looking up.
She always hated when I teased.
In the sunlight, the web of scars across her scalp and face from her burns gleamed silver. I bit back my frustration, and felt a twinge of regret. I swallowed that back.
"Council gave us these." Most of the council had. Three councilors actually, from three separate towers and three different quadrants. These days, that represented a lot of cross-city cooperation. When Doran Grigrit, my mentor; Vant Densira, my tower leader; and Hiroli Naza, Lead Councilor Ezarit Varu's apprentice, first told me what Kirit wanted to do, I'd balked. I'd been tracking runaway Singer fledges since Spirefall and working to address the unrest that was blowing through the city. Important things.
But curiosity won out, and my sense of honor. Lead Councilor Grigrit trusted me to keep an eye on Kirit, and not give her any special treatment. Meantime, Vant had asked me to grab as many Lawsmarkers as I could find on the way, as a service to Densira. We needed those.
"I wouldn't tell Ezarit you're going, or with whom," Vant had cautioned.
Fine by me. Ezarit had enough power to drop me into the clouds if she wanted, even without full control over the council. I was merely a junior councilor. If she had no power over her daughter's doings? That was her problem, not mine.
The bone walls creaked and the dust increased. I imagined myself falling again, wings torn, down the Spire's depths. A feeling I could generate all too easily. And yet? I didn't feel fear here.
Maybe I'd agreed to return in order to prove that to myself. To prove it to her. That I was not afraid of the Gyre, or the Spire, or Kirit herself. Neither afraid nor angry enough to cloud my judgment as a city leader. That was important to know, especially now.
The rope groaned and I paused, looking for the sturdy gallery tier the artifexes claimed still existed. Kirit hadn't stopped. She wouldn't ever stop, not without a solid bone wall right in front of her. "The ropes can take it, but the walls can't, Kirit. Time to pick a tier and get going."
She stayed on the rope. I bristled despite myself. "We shouldn't even be in here. No one else is allowed in. Soon no one will be."
"You can go back to chasing Lawsbreakers if you want." Still descending.
"Not today." She was always like this. I braced for more argument. "You said you'd be quick. Let's just hurry." Besides, Doran Grigrit had hinted there'd be extra tower marks in it for me if we returned with what Kirit sought. "If something happens to the city's hero on my watch, I'll never rise beyond it."
Surprising me, she laughed, but the sound had a brittle edge. "And I'll never rise beyond it if a city councilor gets hurt in my presence."
She was right. The songs that called her Skyshouter would quiet further, while those calling her Spirebreaker or worse would become even more popular. I didn't want that for her. She'd suffered enough. We all had. She was gaining my sympathy, but she kept talking. "Elna would have my wings for it. And Ceetcee and Beliak too."
Her bringing Ceetcee and Beliak into this, much less my mother? Clouds.
"This is city business, Kirit. If you care so much about what Elna thinks, you should visit." She didn't know anything about us anymore. We'd sent whipperling notes that Elna, who'd helped raise Kirit, was completely skyblind. That Ceetcee would be a mother before next Allsuns. There'd been no reply. Meantime, Ceetcee and Beliak helped me care for Elna as she learned her way in a darkened world. They were caring for me too. And I them.
"Seriously, Nat. You can wait safely up top. I'll be right there. You have enough Lawsmarkers, you don't need to salvage any more. You'll barely be able to fly home with that." She'd missed my point completely and was eyeing my salvaging satchel. The word "safely" burned.
"Always seem to need more these days." I tried to keep my voice light, but this was harder than I thought it would be. We had so much unsaid between us. "I can carry more than you think."
Deep in the Spire, an enormous crack sounded, then tapered off to a rip like battens piercing silk. Echoes of bone striking bone reverberated as a piece of a tier tumbled into the depths. Over this sound rose a rush of wings. Gray- and brown-bodied wild dirgeons and two midsized gryphons shot up from the Gyre in a cloud of beaks and feathers. My favorite messenger bird, a whipperling named Maalik, burrowed into my robes with a squawk.
"Watch out!" The escaping flock surrounded the ropes and rocked it. Scratched us in their passage and were gone in another cloud of bone dust that left us coughing and struggling to cling to the swinging rope.
I held on tight, but Kirit slipped, her feet scrambling to wrap the line again. She grabbed too late for the rope with her knees and dangled for a moment from her fingertips. Her wings, half open for safety, buoyed her in the Gyre's breeze, and I struggled to keep my balance as the rope swung wildly. The gallery wall we'd anchored to creaked.
"Easy!" I whispered through gasps for clear air. Whether I spoke to me or to her, I wasn't sure. Below us, the dark pit rippled with shadows.
If I had to, I could dump the satchel I carried into the Gyre and grab her before she fell too far. I hadn't found anything I couldn't bear to lose yet.
Except Kirit. I couldn't let her fall. Birdcrap. I shifted my grip on the rope, readying to help if she needed me. Her Spirefall injuries hadn't healed well.
"I've got it." Her voice was level, tightly controlled now. Still her arms shook as she gripped the rope. She turned her face away so I couldn't see her discomfort.
She hooked a ledge with her good leg and climbed over a solid-enough-looking gallery wall. "I wanted to search this tier next anyway."
Maalik cackled and climbed to my shoulder, pinpoint claws never breaching my silk robes. He tested my earlobe with his beak, gently. Yes, bird. Still here. "Some help you were."
Tossing my spear, bow, and carry bags onto the tier, I followed her. The Lawsmarkers I'd found, plus a few metal scraps, clacked and screeched as the bags hit the floor.
Searchers had turned through the rubble. But scavengers had been here too. The signs were all over. The cages far below, broken during Spirefall, had been pulled to pieces to remove the precious wire mesh inside.
Rubble began to shift and slide as Kirit made her way into the alcove. Bone dust billowed, and she coughed again. "Too much dust," she muttered. "You were right."
At least I was right about dust. Maybe now I could find out why she'd been distant. Ceetcee would want to know why she hadn't answered our messages. "How's it downtower at Grigrit? Dusty there too?" I remembered cleaning a downtower midden once with her, so long ago. I wrinkled my nose at the memory.
She grunted. "Damp. Doran's kept us on the lowtower's dark side. Cold there."
She could have had a hero's quarters once she recovered from her Spirefall injuries, but she'd chosen to live downtower. That must have made her very bones ache.
"Are you maybe a little cloudtouched?" My joke fell flat. I kept going. "Who'd want to live that far down by choice?"
"Singers and fledges don't have a choice," she snapped, but kept sifting rubble. So much for conversation. It didn't look like she knew what she was looking for, that was for sure.
"If the council hadn't taken the Singers' wings," Kirit began again, "I could have used Wik's help here. And Moc and Ciel's."
In previous searches for the codex, Wik had provided nothing, especially under guard. But I didn't say so. "The Singer twins?" I shook my head. "They don't listen. Won't stay in their classes. If we brought them to the Gyre, they'd probably turn scavenger and disappear."
"What? It's been going around." She blinked at my tone, and I bent to hide my dark expression, gathering my weapons from the tier floor instead. Once we'd been closer than friends. Almost siblings. But even then, we'd teased and squabbled. Things were harder now.
"Scavengers aren't hurting anything," she finally said, avoiding a bigger fight.
"They're thieves." She caught my look and frowned. I frowned right back. "I have responsibilities now, Kirit. All Lawsbreakers weaken the towers. Scavengers are Lawsbreakers. They cause disorder that we can't afford. You'd understand if you were on the council." I sounded like Doran and Ezarit when I said things like that. Strong. A leader.
Kirit had been offered a seat straight off, and her choice of mentors. Council had even kept the seat open while Kirit endured her Spirefall wounds and the resulting bone dust infection that nearly took her leg. After Allsuns, when she'd finally recovered enough to hear the offer, they'd asked again.
And she'd said no.
The city needed her, her family needed her, and she'd refused. I hadn't. Nor had Ezarit and Doran. Hiroli hadn't, even though she'd lost her family in Spirefall. She still wanted to help fix the city. In council we learned to debate, worked to keep towers from splitting off or severing bridges, tried to govern without the Singers, even defended towers from raids and riots. It was hard work, and we gladly did it. But not Kirit.
A verse of The Rise came unbidden, the melody learned from years of repetition, the words those she'd tried to teach me in the Gyre.
The city rises on Singers' wings, remembering all, bearing all;
Rises to sun and wind on graywing, protecting, remembering.
Never looking down. Tower war is no more.
The city was coming apart: each tower for itself. As the songs warned.
"Hurry, then," I said. But she dithered, turning this way and that. Searching. "Kirit, really. If you don't know where to look, let's end this. Whatever you want from Doran, there's got to be a better way to get it. I have a vote to prepare for." I hadn't meant to say that last bit.
"Vote? More Laws? Because of the riots?" She must have heard the rumors. There'd been market riots over food, over fair trades. Over Singers walking past. The most recent on Varu, two days ago. There'd been so many skymouth losses during Spirefall, and too much anger from survivors.
"You'd know if you were on the council, instead of making expeditions like this one." It came out sharp and fast. Maybe I'd meant it to. I wanted to fight with her about this — her responsibility — about everything.
Even here, in the Spire's ruins. Especially here.
She met my gaze for a moment. Her shoulders squared. "There haven't been any riots on Grigrit," she said. "Doran runs a tight tower." But then she sighed. "Let's do what we're here for, and argue about that later. The codex should help. And then you will tell me who's getting new Laws this time."
All of them, I wanted to say. All the Singers. Including the Nightwing Wik. We'd get Rumul too, if we could find his body.
Excerpted from Cloudbound by Fran Wilde, Miriam Weinberg. Copyright © 2016 Fran Wilde. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Part One: Disappeared,
2. Bone Eater,
3. Heart of the City,
4. Singers' Rise,
5. Balance, Gravity, Justice,
6. A Hole in the Wind,
10. The Council,
Part Two: Stolen,
13. Ash and Mist,
Part Three: Found,
17. Ghost Tower,
18. Council Fall,
19. The Artifex,
Part Four: Hidden,
25. Nest of Thieves,
28. The Towers,
Part Five: Bound,
33. Bone Forest,
Tor Books by Fran Wilde,
About the Author,