We're less than a week away from the release of FROM BREATH AND RUIN by Carrie Ann, but you can read the first two chapters now!
About FROM BREATH AND RUIN
Available March 19, 2019
In her YA debut, New York Times bestselling author Carrie Ann Ryan dives into a world with magic and sacrifice with the Elements of Five.
Five hundred years ago, the Maison Realm was shattered, divided into warring kingdoms of elemental Wielders with fate and truth shadowed and uncertain. Now, factions of both the light and dark venture into the human realm in search of the prophesied Spirit Priestess who is said to Wield the Elements of Five and bring the two fractured kingdoms together.
Lyric has no idea that there’s a realm outside the human one she lives in. When fate and circumstances are pulled from her hands after an accident, and she finds out that nothing is at it seems.
There is a war surrounding her and when Lyric realizes that they are searching for her, she must rely on those she once trusted: a boy who isn’t who she thought, and a new realm of warriors who have come to protect her as she trains.
For the darkness is coming, and the Queen of Obscurité wants to ensure that the King of Lumière can’t get his hands on Lyric. And the only way to ensure that is if Lyric herself is no more…no matter the cost to prophecy.
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Read the first two chapters of FROM BREATH AND RUIN:
The dreams didn’t come often, but when they did, it usually took me far too long to realize I could find my way out of them. At least, most of the time, I could make my way out. Other times, no matter how hard I tried to shake myself awake or tear at the seams of what the dream could be, I was forced to live within them, in the nightmares that felt far too real.
My heartbeat thudded in my ears as I tried to get my bearings once again. The dreams were never the same in what happened or even where I was when they occurred, but there was a thread that seemed familiar, as if it were calling to me in a way I could never understand.
Sometimes, I was on the fringe, watching the court of royals dance and hide their daggers of both wit and steel. Then they’d bow and turn to smoke, the ashes of their lies and hidden admissions blowing away like dust in the wind.
Other times, I was in the middle of the action, hurtling from side to side as towers fell, and water rushed by. Air blew through my hair, whipping it into my face, the earth below me trembling as fire rained down on all of us.
Tonight, however, the visions weren’t either of those. Yes, I was in the present, the dream happening to me rather than me being a witness to an absolution I would never understand.
But I stood in a clearing, winter on my back, summer facing me down with wicked heat. Spring danced along my right side with a cool warmth that didn’t make sense, while fall brushed my left, its warming coolness confusing me even further.
There were two shadows in front of me, their arms outstretched, each calling my name in whispers. I could only hear their breaths, not their voices, so I had no idea who they were or what they represented in this dream that I knew would linger long after I woke.
“Lyric,” they called in unison.
And though that was my name, it still didn’t sound as if they were truly calling to me. Instead, it was as if they called to the person they needed me to be. I wasn’t that person, though. Wasn’t what they needed, and I knew I may not ever be.
And while I still had the same body shape as I did when I was awake—my slightly larger-than-average curves filling out my dress, and my height just below average so the bottom of my hem slid along the mud—I wasn’t truly me in the dream.
My blond hair blew in the wind, catching the light and making it look white at times, gold at others. The shade was always changing depending on how much sun I took in during the season, but in this dream, it changed with the direction I turned.
It isn’t truly me, I told myself again. This wasn’t my dress, this wasn’t my life.
Those shadows couldn’t actually call to me because I wasn’t me.
“Lyric,” the shadows called again.
“Wake up,” the one nearest the spring side demanded.
“It’s time,” the one closest to fall whispered.
And though they were both whispers, they sounded like screams in my ear.
I jolted awake, my sweat-slick skin clammy as I tried to catch my breath. My tank was soaked, sticking to my body, and my shorts had ridden up as if I’d thrashed in my sleep. Considering my comforter was on the floor, and my sheet was currently a knot at the end of my bed, I would say that was probably exactly what had happened.
I swallowed hard, narrowing my eyes at the clock, trying to see what time it was. The sun was already up, even though it wasn’t quite seven in the morning, but it was summer in Denver, Colorado, and that meant blue skies, bright sun, and the occasional rain that came out of nowhere.
I had my white curtains drawn, but they didn’t really block out the light, so I’d learned to sleep through the rays on my face long ago. I had to if I ever wanted to sleep in. And since I was also a teenager, sleeping in was part of life—especially during the summer.
I might be eighteen, out of high school and ready to start college in the fall, but I still felt like the teenager who wanted to sleep in and not have to wake up early for classes. It didn’t help that my walls were still a light lilac from when I’d been in my purple phase, and there was still lace on my curtains and the skirt of my bed.
My family made a decent income, but we were firmly in the middle of middle class, and these days, that meant there wasn’t money to update my bedroom to something a little less tween girl and a little more college-bound woman. I didn’t care too much, however. I wasn’t staying here long. Soon, I’d be in a dorm at the local university, an offshoot of the University of Colorado since there was no way I could afford Boulder’s campus. Plus, this way, I could still be close to home.
Because as much as I might think I was ready to start my new life and be an adult, the nightmares that had plagued me for as long as I could remember told me that I wasn’t as grown-up as I thought.
Honestly, what kind of teenager still needed a nightlight because she was scared of the shadows?
Me, apparently. Lyric Camaron, the walking embodiment of indecision and someone not quite ready for anything.
I ran a hand over my face, holding back a gag at how sweaty I was, and let out a sigh. The dreams hadn’t happened so often before, but now they came almost every other night, and I had no idea what they meant. I’d always had a vivid imagination, but my dreams took that to a whole new level.
I wasn’t a little girl anymore, and yet I still dreamed of princes and princesses, of magic and might. I dreamed of courts and pretty dresses, and flowers and rain. Still, I thought that was probably all just a front for what the dreams actually carried. A veil across the hate and lies and mystery of everything that came with them.
I’d always secretly wanted to write them down, to make them into a book or just a few stories, but for some reason, I’d held myself back. There was no use documenting what never made sense. The dreams scared me even when they shouldn’t, and writing them down would only make them more real.
And it wasn’t like writing would help me in my real life outside of the dreams. I needed to grow up, stop thinking about fairy tales that weren’t bright and shiny, and figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. Because I wasn’t a little kid anymore and, sadly, the time to make those choices had already started to pass me by, and I was struggling to keep up.
“Shut up, Lyric,” I mumbled to myself. It was far too early, and I still wasn’t awake enough for my mind to be going down that path. I’d likely be getting a very similar lecture from my parents over breakfast—and perhaps lunch and dinner—as it was.
They loved me, and I loved them.
And that meant I needed to be a better daughter.
The first step to doing that was getting out of bed and washing off the sweat that coated my skin. Then, I’d wash my sheets, air out my comforter, and maybe even go for a run so I could get the cobwebs out of my mind. I wasn’t a coffee fan since I tended to need far too much sugar to even like it, so I couldn’t have a cup of that to help. So, that meant chores and fresh air so I could get out of my funk, let the dreams lie where they needed to be—far from my reality—and get on with my day.
I could do that. Totally. If only I could get the images from the dream out of my mind.
Those two shadows had been in more than one of my nightmares, and I couldn’t help but think that they meant something. Who or what did they represent? Why were they important? I didn’t know if they were male or female or if they were truly people at all. If they were supposed to be love interests, then having them be either a man or a woman would only mean that my dream-self represented my real-self since I was attracted to both and had dated both in real life. But I still didn’t know what the dreams or the shadows in them really meant.
In a few, the apparitions had moved, and I could almost imagine them wanting to be even closer. They always held out their hands, as if I had to make a decision between them, to go to one or the other.
The seasons coming at me all at once seemed like another symbol for choice and change, as well. The same with the instances where I was covered in earth or water, air or flame. All of it indicated choice.
So maybe the dreams didn’t mean anything beyond what I already knew.
It was time for me to make a choice.
A choice regarding who I could be—who Lyric Camaron would be as an adult.
That choice seemed the hardest of all, and yet I knew it was important. All teenagers went through this, they all had to make decisions, no matter what course outside forces wanted them to take.
I knew there was a path laid out before me, one that would lead to a life not unlike the one I held now, one made of decisions that made practical sense. That was the one I knew I should take, the one that would be easier and yet far more thought-out.
And yet part of me wanted something different. I wanted to be a Lyric who wasn’t so middle-of-the-road as I currently was as a bisexual teenager living in Denver, Colorado.
There were choices I had to make. Clear-cut ones that had nothing to do with royals and elements, nothing to do with seasons and change.
I would make the right choice.
I had to.
And I would ignore the dreams and the idea that there could be something more for me. There hadn’t been before, and I wasn’t going to lie in wait for answers that scared me, translations of dreams that challenged me.
I would make my own way, make my own choices.
And they would be the right ones because they would be mine.
The dreams would go away eventually.
They would fade just like the young girl I used to be. In its place would be the future I needed, the one I craved.
I told myself I wouldn’t dream again. I couldn’t.
Because I didn’t want to know what those shadows meant. I didn’t want to know why they knew my name.
I didn’t want to know why it all felt so real. And, above all else, I didn’t want to know why I saw those same shadows when I was awake. Because those were the ones that scared me. The ones that were far too real.
I was Lyric, the girl with everything to look forward to. I wasn’t the girl who saw shadows, who had dreams.
I couldn’t be.
After I’d put my sheets into the washer, I set the load, took a quick shower to rinse off, and headed out for my jog. I’d decided to go with long, black leggings, a hot pink sports bra under two black tanks, and a black jacket that had air holes all through it and thumb holes in the sleeves. It was my favorite jacket of all time, and I was seriously disappointed when I went to buy another one and found out that they were no longer making them. There were already frayed edges on the cuffs and, sometimes, the metal on my purse got caught in the mesh of the body, making me wince.
The fact that I had such an emotional attachment to my running gear told me I needed to get out of the house more—and not just for jogging around the neighborhood. I huffed a breath as I slowly ran up the steep hill at one of the entrances to the sub-division, cursing the fact that I lived in a mountainous city. Sure, once you got outside city lines to the east, it was all flat planes and easy walking, but within the city limits and west toward the Rockies? Hills galore that did nothing but make my side ache as I ran.
I’d always been a runner, but never in an organized way when it came to school. I hadn’t played sports or joined the cross-country team. While I played soccer and T-ball as a kid, I hadn’t been particularly good at it, not enough to focus so much of my time on it. I’d even tried gymnastics and ballet as a little girl like most kids did, but it wasn’t my thing. And while I enjoyed running—still do—doing it to compete took the fun out of it for me. I was always a little jealous of people who could put in that effort and still have fun, but for me, sports wasn’t where it was at. I did well in school, knowing I’d need any academic scholarship I could get so I could go to college, but I’d had to work at anything not English-related. Writing I could do. Writing, I loved to do.
Differentials? Not so much.
I held back a shiver at that thought and pushed myself into my second mile. I wasn’t going to do any more than that today since I wanted breakfast, and I figured that most of the strain from my dreams was now gone. But I thought I might go out again later in the day after the hottest part of the afternoon for another run. Increments worked best for me and my attention span.
I thought I caught a shadow out of the corner of my eye, but as I whipped my head to look at it, nearly tripping over my own feet as I did, I figured it was just my hair and a trick of the light. I wasn’t seeing shadows outside of dreams. I wasn’t.
I just needed to get those weird thoughts and remnants out of my head and start my day off better.
My parents hadn’t been awake when I left for my jog, but thanks to the note I placed by the coffee machine, they’d know I was out of the house. I might be an adult, but I was still their child and living under their roof. There were rules to be followed, a curfew to be kept, and manners to be upheld. I didn’t know how I was going to handle living outside of their rules when I went to the dorms, but I also didn’t think I’d be the type to go crazy like so many of the stories I’d heard growing up. I didn’t want to flunk out of college when I hadn’t even chosen my major yet. And I sure as heck didn’t want to end up drinking the whole time and wind up with a minor in possession misdemeanor or something that would forever stain my record.
No, thank you, evil temptation and all.
By the time I got home, my parents were off to work, but I knew I’d see them for dinner. My best friend Braelynn, and my ex-girlfriend/friend Emory were coming over to eat with us, and I knew my parents were excited to see what the other two ladies planned for college. In Mom’s and Dad’s way of thinking, if I knew what others were doing, it would push me to make a decision. The problem was, the more they pressured me, the more I wanted to hide in my shell like a turtle and not make a choice at all.
The dream came back to me, and I tried not to frown as I poured myself some juice and put two slices of bread into the toaster. Just because I was once again having weird dreams that I tried to make sense of, didn’t mean they actually meant anything.
I had more to do today than think about nightmares that didn’t mean anything more than I needed to watch what I ate before bed. Sure, it was summer, and I was between jobs since the coffee shop I had been working at shut down unexpectedly, but I had other things in my life. Like that whole deciding what I wanted to do with my life thing.
But first, I would focus on my friends and the certain impending doom from the conversation that would surely happen over mashed potatoes and roasted chicken tonight.
Oddly enough, I wasn’t lulled into a sense of security once my parents came home and didn’t once mention school or my future. I knew the talk was coming, but they were giving me time to drop my defenses so they could pounce.
I didn’t know why I kept floundering whenever it came to making a decision about majors and life choices, but the enormity of it just seemed overwhelming. I was eighteen, an adult who could fight and die in wars, but I couldn’t drink. I could buy cigarettes and vote, but I was still technically a teenager.
Having to make a huge life choice when all I really wanted to do was explore and learn and find out what suited me felt so far out of my depth, it wasn’t funny. I knew thousands upon thousands of people did it every year, and many of them even went in not knowing exactly what they wanted to do—but they still had an idea.
Me? I knew what I loved, but I also knew that love wouldn’t pay the bills. At least that’s what I’d been told. And, frankly, I sort of believed it.
My mind had always been full of dreams and layers upon layers of vivid imagery my imagination would tumble over and over. I loved putting those visions into work, at least in my mind. Picking a major that worked with that, wasn’t something my parents were going to go for. The idea of doing it all on my own, or choosing a major and finding out that I wasn’t really good at it or didn’t like it anymore was just too much.
It was all too much.
I saw another shadow out of the corner of my eye, and I turned, trying to catch it, only to see my father staring at me instead. His eyes were wide since I’d moved so fast, clearly startled.
“Whoa there, Lyric. Didn’t mean to scare you.” I looked like a perfect mix of my parents, something that I’d never truly noticed until I got older. I had my mom’s blond hair and height, but my dad’s light brown eyes. Everything else was a complete mix of the two, and I’d always loved that I knew where I came from, despite not knowing where I was going.
Dad continued. “I was just wondering when Braelynn and Emory would be here.” Dad didn’t particularly like Emory. Not because she was gay, and I was bisexual—that part he was totally on board with, and I knew I had the best parents for that part of my life—no, he didn’t like her because she was my ex. He didn’t get how we could still be friends after she’d dumped me. Frankly, I didn’t understand it either. Sometimes, I felt like our friendship was fraying on the edges, but I didn’t think that had to do with our breakup. We were just finding out we were two different people, and everyone was moving on to college anyway. It sucked, and I didn’t know how I felt about it. I never did, really, when it came to Emory.
That explanation hadn’t been good enough for Dad. I still didn’t know how my mother felt about it since she was so good at hiding it, but she at least put on a better face.
“They’ll be here soon.” The doorbell rang, and I grinned. “And there they are.”
Dad nodded and moved out of the way so I could make it to the door before Mom did. My parents were great, but they were parents and liked to know exactly what my friends were doing at all times, even if it wasn’t their business. I was pretty sure all parents were wired that way, and I’d learned to deal with it.
Braelynn smiled widely at me, her shoulder-length black hair up in a ponytail so I could see the honey highlights she’d put in on the lower layers. Her moms hated it, and Emory called her a skunk, but I loved them.
“Yay for dinner. I brought rolls.” Braelynn held up a basket, and I moved back to let her in, knowing that Emory was right behind my friend.
“Yay rolls! I know Mom will be happy since you and your moms make like the best bread ever.”
“Totally true. I do have the best moms.” Braelynn winked and handed over the basket as Emory sauntered in. Why she had to saunter, I didn’t know, but whatever worked for her.
“I’m starving,” Emory said in way of greeting before leaning down to buss a kiss on my cheek. She’d done that before we began dating and hadn’t stopped. Since I didn’t care either way, I didn’t push her off. Once I started to care and put up those boundaries, she’d stop. That was who she was.
“I’m hungry, too,” I said. “Hi, Emory.”
Emory studied my face and frowned. “You didn’t sleep.”
I tried to school my features, but I knew I wasn’t good at it. “I’m fine. Let’s go finish setting the table.”
“Hmm.” That was all she said as she made her way into the dining room, saying hello to my parents as if she hadn’t broken part of my heart and left me wondering what I’d done.
And…I had no idea where that thought had come from. Maybe I really needed more sleep and fewer dreams about random shadows, seasons, and elements messing with my head.
By the time we were all seated at the table, Braelynn’s rolls like manna to us all, I was on edge since Emory kept studying me. I didn’t know why, and it bugged me because I knew this dinner would only get worse when my parents brought up the dreaded subject of majors.
They always did, and I knew there was nothing I could do about it other than choose a freaking major. But I didn’t want to make the wrong choice.
I couldn’t make the wrong choice.
“So, Emory, what did you decide to study again?” Mom asked, not even trying to be subtle.
Here we go.
Emory shrugged. “Photography with a minor in history. I want to work for the AP or something, going around the world, taking photos of the people left behind in war and strife.”
My parents nodded as if they totally understood and not just because they were happy Emory had chosen a direction for her life. It didn’t matter that it was dangerous and could end up being a career that didn’t keep her financially set, Emory wasn’t their daughter.
My best friend smiled sweetly. She was always so sweet, so gentle. I loved her to the end of the world and back and knew I’d chosen well on that first day of preschool when we shared our blocks.
“Vet school, eventually. I know it’s going to be hard, but it’s my passion.”
I winced at that word. Passion.
I didn’t have that, not that I could tell anyway. How was I supposed to know what to do when I still had so much to learn? I tried not to let any of those thoughts cross my face, however, because my parents turned to me, expectant looks on their faces.
They loved me. They truly did.
But they didn’t understand me.
And the thing was, I wasn’t so sure I understood myself.
About the ELEMENTS OF FIVE series
One thousand years ago, there was one realm of magic. The Maison Realm. It held five kingdoms with five kings or queens, who worked together to keep the Maison people safe and ensure the balance of magic. Over the last five hundred years following the Fall, the great war that began the fracture, many of the kingdoms’ inhabitants intermated, and the magics soon became tied to one another in pairs. Except for the Spirit Wielders. The two remaining kingdoms are now converging, and the veil between the two is fading. Only the human realm lies between the two, and no one there knows there is a war surrounding them.
Over time, certain children of the Fall began to leave their respective kingdoms to venture into the human realm in search of the prophesied Spirit Priestess who is said to wield the Elements of Five and bring the two fractured kingdoms together. For the realms are dying without their sister magics. And soon, there will be no more power left to rule the kingdoms, for there will be no more kingdoms left to rule.