Sue Tingey, author of The Soulseer Chronicles, has very kindly agreed to write us a postin honour of the release of the omnibus edition next month. For fans of Laini Taylor and Deborah Harkness, The Soulseer Chronicles follow the adventures of Lucky de Salle as she is dragged into another world far from our own, where daemons rule and dragons fly . . .
To celebrate the release of a special omnibus edition of all three books in The Soulseer Chronicles on the 7th December I thought I’d write a little something to remind readers about the first book, Marked, and to introduce some of the main characters.
Marked tells the story of Lucky de Salle, a young woman who sees and communicates with the dead. Her gift, or some may say curse, has made her a loner and even her best friend Kayla is a ghost, or so Lucky thinks.
Lucky’s life has always been strange, but things start to get weirder when, over the course of one day, Lucky is threatened by a daemon assassin, approached by a smarmy businessman who professes to want her help and, within hours of a distraught young man called Jamie arriving on her doorstep, finds herself saddled with a lodger – and even she can’t understand how that happened.
Bewildered by how her life is rapidly spiralling out of control, Lucky is dumbfounded when Kayla drops the bombshell that isn’t a ghost at all – she is a daemon. As far as Lucky is concerned, having one daemon in her life is more than enough. Little does she know that very soon she will be surrounded by them. The next to introduce themselves are two very strange and quite scary people who she finds sitting on her sofa.
I would have turned to run, but my legs had stopped working and I had to grab hold of the doorframe to steady myself.
‘Mistress, we mean you no harm,’ the smaller of the two creatures said.
He was only about four feet tall with a head as bald as a baby’s and at least two sizes too large for his body. His face was pink and plump and his cheeks and chin had a softness to them that made me think of marshmallows. Impossibly large dark blue eyes bordered with long black lashes filled his face, while his lips were tiny: a deep red cupid’s bow. His mid-tan knickerbockers – knickerbockers! – came straight out of a Victorian costume drama; he wore them with a tightly fitting short jacket, long brown socks and leather shoes.
If it had just been him standing there in my living room, hat in hand, I might have believed him as he wasn’t scary at all, just . . . well, odd. But his partner was another thing altogether. He was close to seven feet tall and had to stoop to stand in my low-ceilinged room. His skin was a luminous emerald colour, offset by the ivory tusks sprouting from the centre of his forehead and the top of his snout and the large ivory fangs protruding between thick rubber-band lips. Smoke puffed from cavernous flared nostrils. In fact, his eyes were the only things small in his face: they were mostly hidden within his wrinkled hide.
He too wore a Victorian suit, but his mighty frame strained against the material and the collar of his white shirt looked like it was choking him.
‘Truly, mistress, we mean you no harm,’ the short one repeated.
‘Who are you?’ I managed to ask.
The short one smiled and I had to stop myself from flinching; Henri le Dent wasn’t the only demon around here sporting a fine set of dentures.
‘I am Mr Kerfuffle,’ he said, with a courtly bow, ‘and this is Mr Shenanigans.’
Although Lucky doesn’t know it, she has just met two of her daemon guard and, despite being very strange looking and definitely daemons, Shenanigans and Kerfuffle soon become two of her most trusted confidents.
Which brings us to Jamie. We already know there’s something not quite right about him. From the word go Jamie has lied to Lucky and manipulated her. He even mesmerises her to get his own way, the first clue that he isn’t the poor, bereaved veterinary student he has made himself out to be. Then, after a confrontation with the now fully daemonic Kayla, he reveals his real persona to Lucky, who can’t quite get her head around how he could possibly be a daemon when he looks so much like a fully paid-up angel, with his snowy white wings, blue eyes and golden-blond curls.
Jamie tells her that if she is to travel to his home, the Underlands, for her own protection she needs bodyguards. With Jamie, Kerfuffle and Shenanigans she has three, but she needs more. So the search is on and just when Lucky thinks things can’t get any stranger she’s introduced to her fourth guard.
Pyrites was, I suppose, a handsome dragon. His scales were a shimmering combination of reds, oranges and yellows, with the occasional fleck of gold. His eyes were an amazing emerald-amethyst-sapphire kaleidoscope glow, and that alone made it hard to imagine he could be dangerous.
Jamie led me closer. ‘Hold out your hand to him.’
I tentatively lifted my right hand towards his enormous snout.
‘I’d make it your left hand,’ Jamie added, ‘just in case.’
I snatched my hand back in alarm and the demons both sniggered.
‘Only joking,’ Jamie said.
‘Not funny,’ I said, but my three protectors obviously thought it was hilarious.
I ignored their laughter as best as I could and slowly held out my hand towards the creature. He raised his head from between his claws and stretched forward until his snout was just above me, then sniffed. With a tilt of the head that was almost dainty for a creature so huge, he shifted so his nose was just in front of my hand.
‘What do I do now?’ I whispered.
‘Pet him,’ Jamie replied. ‘Stroke his nose.’
I took a deep breath and then with my heart in mouth I ran my fingers across his snout. His head pushed up against my hand as if wanting more, so I traced my fingers across his scales again and a small puff of smoke erupted from his nose.
‘He likes you,’ Mr Shenanigans said.
‘He does? How can you tell?’
‘Oh yes,’ said the demon. ‘If he didn’t, it wouldn’t have been smoke.’
I laughed. ‘Yeah, right.’
‘Too right,’ Jamie said, and this time no one laughed. I swallowed hard. I was beginning to think if I survived forty-eight hours in this place I’d be lucky.
This leaves us with one more person to meet, Lucky’s fifth and final guard and someone else who is to become very important to her in more ways than one – the Deathbringer Jinx. And the title Deathbringer means exactly that; when Jinx visits the human world, death and destruction follow in his wake.
‘Well, hello,’ a voice drawled from somewhere in the shadows, and I looked towards the sound, but could see only darkness. I glanced at Jamie, who was also searching for the owner of the voice.
‘It’s been a very long time, brother,’ the voice said, and a figure peeled away from the gloom.
Just as Jamie was everything you might imagine an angel to be, this demon was the epitome of the Devil. At first his skin looked coal-black, but as the light from the lamps caught him in their glow I could see his face and bare chest were actually a shining dark maroon.
Short, sharp horns protruded from either side of his brow, and hair a few shades darker than his skin was swept back against his head – it wasn’t until he turned slightly that I could see it was pulled into a tight braid that fell to just below his hips.
He was wearing black leather trousers tucked into black leather boots, and had a tail that was long and thin with an arrow-point at the end that curled around past his thigh and waved back and forth as though on a gentle breeze.
His smile was dazzlingly white and his eyes crinkled with suppressed humour, his gold and green pupils glowing brightly.
‘So,’ he said, looking straight at me, ‘you’re who all the fuss is about.’ Jamie moved, putting himself between me and the devil-demon . ‘Aren’t you going to introduce us, brother?’
He took a step closer, and Jamie raised a hand. ‘Stay where you are, Jinx. Until I know your intentions I’m treating you as an unfriendly influence.’
‘James, my boy, if I wanted your lady-friend dead, it would be so. But as it happens, I’m thinking she’s probably of far more interest to me alive.’ Then he turned to me and studied my face. ‘It’s lucky that you hold no resemblance to Baltheza. I think I’d have been tempted to put you out of your misery for that alone if you had.’ He chuckled.
For a demon who apparently brought death and destruction everywhere he went he was pretty jolly – but then, I thought, why wouldn’t he be? It wouldn’t be him doing the dying, after all.
So Lucky’s closest companions are now daemons and it’s not long before she realises that she has more friends who care about her in the Underlands than she ever had in our world, but I think I’ll leave the last word to our heroine.
This world wasn’t my home yet, but I had a feeling it could be. The last time I had been in the Underlands I had spent most of the time yearning for the safety of my little cottage, and yet when I had returned to it, I’d found there was nothing for me there.
Perhaps here there was.
The Soulseer Chronicles, omnibus edition, is out December 7th and contains Marked, Cursed and Bound.