Exclusive Excerpt: Trial by Song by Alicia Gaile
PUBLISHER: Alicia Gaile
RELEASED: August 3, 2017
GENRE: YA, PARANORMAL, URBAN FANTASY
LENGTH: 261 pages
As the youngest of seven brothers born with magical gifts, Jack's often felt he has something to prove. But revealing their powers makes them targets of the fae, who will stop at nothing to hide their existence from mankind. So when Jack sneaks out on Halloween to compete in a local Battle of the Bands, he breaks his family's cardinal rule to guard their secret at all costs. But old enemies have returned and new dangers are awake. When Jack gets dragged through a portal and winds up in Faerie, he stumbles across an ancient relic he simply can't leave behind. And escaping from Faerie is only the beginning as the harp's former owner is determined to see that Jack pays for his crime. With magic and monsters closing in from all sides, Jack must sever his ties to Faerie before the fae's legendary Wild Huntsman comes for his soul.
Dangling from his second-story window, Jack stared up at the yellow eyes carved into the sentinel balanced on the sill. From this angle, the pumpkin’s crooked grin looked sinister. Rather than repel spirits from the Otherworld, it leered as if to say they'd already come in.
Under its flaming gaze, Jack was man enough to admit that he'd made a mistake. He wasn't strong enough to climb back inside to safety. His arms shook just trying to keep his chin above the ledge. With every second his guitar strap rode up his chest. Already it had a stranglehold across the base of his windpipe.
He eyed the distance to the ground. Naked spears of withered forsythia jutted up, brittle sentries in closed ranks to keep him from sneaking away.
His sneakers scraped the wood siding trying to find footholds. He held his breath, hoping his family inside couldn't hear. His left hand slipped.
One moment he dangled fifteen feet in the air, and the next his heels slammed into his mother's flower bed so hard white-hot darts stabbed up through his ankles and his breath whooshed out in a shrill hiss.
“You know,” said a mild, mocking voice from behind him as two hands slid under his arms to hoist him to his feet. “When people say ‘break a leg’ you're not actually supposed to do it.” His brother, Logan, patted the dirt off him. Jack shook him off quickly to check that his guitar was alright. Logan swung his green gaze from Jack to the window and back again.
“I get that this is your first time sneaking out and all, but don't you think out the window is a bit melodramatic?”
“Didn't have much choice. Mom’s still awake, and her door's wide open. Douglas got called out on patrol. She's been in there pacing for over an hour. She'd be blowing up your phone too if she didn't think it was buried beneath a pile of clothes in some cheap motel around here.” It helped that Logan was twenty and free to do as he pleased. Logan buffed his fingernails against his tan sweater with a flash of teeth.
“It's still early.”
Jack limped past him to the driveway where Logan's faded, white Mustang idled. The trunk yawned open, but Jack laid his acoustic guitar across the cracked leather back seat and fastened the seat belt over it for good measure.
"Really?" Logan's reflection shook its head in the rearview mirror as he slid behind the wheel. Jack tightened the belt until the guitar rested flush against the cushion. He ran his thumb over the faint signature below the bridge. "I know how you drive. I could buy ten cars for what that guitar's worth." But Logan wasn't listening. His face had gone very stiff. His eyes fixed on Jack's bedroom window. Jack whirled around to see their mother's flannel-clad figure leaning out at them.
Despite being close to sixty their mother, Edna Sorley, seemed to defy middle age. Its only signs were the ever-widening streaks of gray hair she was too busy to color, and the trench-like frown lines earned over decades of wrangling her seven sons.
She jabbed her finger down at them.
"Get back in the house right now, do you hear me? I expect this from him, but you, Jack?"
Jack clenched his fist and looked at the ground. If he raised his head he'd have to face the betrayed expression that held him back every other time he'd tried to chase his dream. Logan watched from the driver's seat, waiting to see what he would do.
Jack gritted his teeth.
Far away as she was, his mother saw the exact moment she lost him.
“Don't even think about getting in that car! Do you hear me? Jack? Jack!”
Jack didn't hesitate again. He dove into the passenger seat. Logan grinned and threw the car in reverse. They barely cleared the driveway before Jack's pocket buzzed. 'Keith,' the name of their oldest brother, flashed across the outer screen. Jack stuffed his hand-me-down phone into his pocket and pinched the bridge of his nose. As soon as one call went to voicemail, a new one came in.
Logan wrinkled his nose with sympathy.
"I feel for you, man—I really do. Just remember, come March she can't legally ground you anymore."
They bounced over deep ruts where chunks of well-worn asphalt had broken loose. Taking his eyes from the road, Logan leaned over to inspect his teeth in his side mirror. They hit a bump that sent their stomachs somersaulting. Logan grinned, but Jack pressed his fist against his forehead, trying to convince himself that if Logan hadn't killed himself in the four years since he got his license he could keep the record going for at least one more night. He was in enough trouble without Logan wrecking the car.
"She can't help herself." Jack defended their mother out of habit. “The fae have been more active than usual lately. Haven't you noticed?"
"Nope," Logan said, popping the 'p'. He leaned forward to drape a brown wave of hair over his eyes using the rear view mirror. Just when he seemed satisfied, another rut made his head bounce and his hair tumbled back to the way it looked before. Jack resisted the urge to check on his guitar.
"Every time I'm uptown I see goblins lurking in the shadows. The park is crawling with hags, and a band of spriggans set up camp in the woods behind the school. Vinny had to throw out his entire harvest this year because the fae put a curse on his land. Even Keith couldn't save it. Keith!”
"You know how he is. Maybe he didn't want to risk interfering. A lot of farmers had bad yields this season. Someone would notice if Vinny's crop wasn't affected." Jack studied his faded sneakers.
"Winterthorn is back."
Logan mashed the breaks.
The shriek of skidding tires raised the hair along Jack's arms. He tasted burnt rubber, and the smell stung his eyes.
Alicia Gaile is the author of YA contemporary fantasy and fairy tale retellings. She wrote her first fairy story at the age of twelve after visiting the an old-growth forest in Ohio with her aunt where she came across a meadow with a fallen tree practically begging for fairies to come out and play. After receiving a Creative Writing degree from Georgia College and State University in 2011 she began writing early versions of Trial by Song while living abroad in southeast Asia. She currently resides in El Paso, Texas with her family and two dogs.