GENRE: YA historical fantasy
Seventeen-year-old Charley Stilton has a choice: Accept the high society Boston marriage arranged by her grandmother or fight to be an alchemist. Option A is dreadful, but Option B may be deadly.
Gold dusted my windowsill.
The flakes shimmered in the weak March sun and made my heart beat a staccato in time with the horse hooves below and the sputtering dirigibles above. Gold. By the Nameless Monk, how I needed it. Gold meant coins; coins meant fresh ingredients. And that meant one more chance to find Papa.
I gathered my skirts up in one hand and crouched. My knees popped after having stood for so long at my hideaway work table, so loud the double crack startled me. I threw a hand out against my wardrobe to steady myself.
Grandmother. I cast my eyes to the ceiling, but the floorboards above remained silent. I was convinced she used Volta Brass Ears to listen in on me. The flared horns at the end of those snaking metal hoses could pick up even the flutter of bee’s wings. Or a granddaughter secretly practicing alchemy. But even she couldn’t suspect stiff knees signaled a heretic at work. I hoped. I swallowed back the creeping fear and leaned into my wardrobe.
I’m Charley, I reminded myself. Not Charlotte. Charley. The silks, taffetas and tweeds of my skirts and dresses rustled in answer when I pushed past them. I’m an alchemist. I will prove the worth of women, and all Scholarship will acknowledge me. Repeating Papa’s long-ago words stiffened my resolve.
My fingers rasped against the wooden slats at the bottom of my wardrobe, feeling for the catch.