Title: The Order of the Key
Author: Justine Manzano
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Genre: Upper YA Urban Fantasy
Pages: 240 pages
Buy Link: https://amzn.to/3fgIgLR
Softcover Price: $18.95
Ebook Price: $6.99
Release Date: July 9, 2020
Jacklyn Madison never expected to be attacked by a beast on an evening snack run. Add a rescue mission enacted by a trained regiment of teenaged warriors, and her night officially becomes just like a scene from one of her beloved comic books. Turns out, her parents were once members of the Order of the Key, gifted humans that protect humanity from creatures spilling through inter-dimensional rifts. Unable to control her newfound abilities, Jacklyn and her family rejoin the Order.
After an attack on their headquarters leaves Jacklyn questioning their leadership, Kyp—the boy who led her initial rescue—reveals a darker secret. The Order’s leader may be corrupt, and Jacklyn’s questions could put her family in danger. Drawn into the search for proof, Jacklyn must use her guts and magical brawn to protect her family, her friends, and herself from the monsters spilling from rifts, and those hiding within the Order.
“He and the creature observed each other. This wasn’t a standoff between a predator and its prey, like those Discovery Channel shows my sister watched for fun. It was two predators, about to go toe-to-toe. I swallowed. That made me the prey.” ~ Jacklyn Madison
“Because . . .yeah, of course Mom could start a campfire with her hands. That matched up with the way this day was going. Not crazy. Not at all.” ~ Jacklyn Madison
“I’d gone out for a walk, run into monsters and soldiers that fought them, and healed a handsome guy with my fingers and the power of positive thinking. This was absurd.” ~ Jacklyn Madison
“He had a point. But, more importantly, I trusted the boy from the dream, the one who’d taken a blood oath to never leave me, only to have my mother yank me away. My once best friend.” ~ Jacklyn Madison
“That’s my sister, Gana. Mess with her and I’ll detach your favorite body part.” ~ Jacklyn Madison
“There were once many Keys. But that was before paranoia divided us. This left us vulnerable to the inter-dimensionals and swaths of our people were led to their demise. You see, Jacklyn, the last time a Madison decided things should be done differently, he nearly wiped out the entire Order. Do you want that on your conscience?” ~ Lavinia Franklin
“You’re already crying a ton, so I’ll take this as an opportunity to tell you I owe you an apology.” ~ Jaina Madison
“We’ll be stronger together.” ~ Kyp Franklin
“Something dark, like a bruise, bloomed in my heart.” ~ Jacklyn Madison
“I hate it. I was trained to kill things before I understood what killing meant. First the whys, then the hows, then the actual practice of it. I want out.” ~ Kyp Franklin
“I know you don’t need to be protected. But I need to protect you.” ~ Kyp Franklin
“Dude. I’m a monster hunter, and now I’ve joined a rebellion against other powerful monster hunters. I’ll be risking my life pretty much every day. Adding you to the mix won’t kill me any faster.” ~ Jacklyn Madison
From Chapter 8 of The Order of the Key
I’m being watched.
I felt it through the fog of my sleep, the idea that eyes were on me. Dimly, I remembered
I’d fallen asleep with Gana in the room, and relaxed, sinking back into sleep.
A wet, snuffling sound woke me right back up. I tensed. That was not Gana. That sounded like something else. . .something more animalistic.
My eyes flew open to find a shadow moving over the foot of my bed. It took a moment for my eyes to focus and my Aegis to kick in, but that sound was unmistakable. A Gorvhan climbed over my footboard and onto my bed.
I bolted upright but managed to keep myself from screaming. Gorvhans hunted in packs and I wasn’t eager to draw more my way.
Weren’t there wards to prevent this? It didn’t matter, because like it or not, a Gorvhan sniffed up my leg like I was a four course meal ready for consumption, and that needed to stop.
I inched up the bed. The oil slick, with its misshapen skull and empty eye sockets, stared back at me, silver teeth dripping saliva. Like a cat, it batted at my leg, muscles bunched, prepared to leap forward.
I gulped and flattened myself against the headboard, heart hammering, entire body convulsing against the idea of any saliva dripping onto me. It leaned forward and growled, rancid breath wafting into my face. I had to swallow the bile before it escaped.
My eyes darted around the room in search of a weapon. I hadn’t been allowed to keep my dagger, or any other weapon, because Lavinia said I needed to earn weapons by training with them. I didn’t necessarily disagree, but right now, I really needed to kill this thing with something.
It growled again and gnashed its teeth, just as my eyes landed on the heavy Batman bust on my dresser. I worked an entire summer at an ice cream shop to get that damn thing, and I didn’t relish the idea of denting it on a Gorvhan’s skull, but it was likely the heaviest thing in the room.
Unfortunately, the Gorvhan stood between me and my weapon.
Sharp silver nails scratched across the bedding as it pulled itself closer. When saliva dripped onto my arm, instinct took over. I swung my fist into its head hard, ignoring the crack and flash of hot pain in my hand as the punch connected. It crumpled under the blow, and I managed an uncoordinated kick in its side. Once it rolled off me, there was plenty of space to leap to my feet and run for the Batman statue.
I hefted it up and swung it down on the Gorvhan’s head once, twice, three times, cringing with every crunch, every splash of green ichor that erupted from the body. Every crack of its skull was another crack in my skillfully crafted collector’s item. The Gorvhan deserved it for entering my room uninvited, but Batman did not.
The door slammed open, and I whirled, new weapon at the ready.
It wasn’t another Gorvhan seeking dinner. It was Kyp, barefoot, in a t-shirt and flannel pants, eyes wide, hair messy. A spot of green blood marred the pure white of his t-shirt. That spot meant there was another Gorvhan in the Estate.
He rushed to close the door behind him. His eyes traveled over me, blinking, lingering on my legs for a moment, before moving back up to my face. His hand gripped the doorknob hard enough to turn his knuckles white. Then, the anxiety in his expression melted away, a crooked smile forming in its wake. “The Dark Knight has seen better days. Are you okay?”
I nodded, looking at the Gorvhan blood splattered across the long red Wonder Woman t-shirt I wore as a nightgown.
I had killed something. Not helped kill something, but killed it, without a second thought. I’d known I would have to eventually, but the reality of it had been hazy, an unformed thought. My vision blurred with tears.
Justine Manzano is a YA author and freelance editor living in Bronx, NY with her husband, son, and a cacophony of cats. Her novel, The Order of the Key will be available from Black Rose Writing in July 2020. She can normally be found at her website, www.justinemanzano.com,and she’s on all the usual social media haunts. If you’ve looked in all these places and can’t find her, she’s probably off reading fanfiction. She’ll be back soon.