THE MERE WIFE
July 17, 2018
MCD Books - Farrar, Straus, & Giroux
From the perspective of those who live in Herot Hall, the suburb is a paradise. Picket fences divide buildings—high and gabled—and the community is entirely self-sustaining. Each house has its own fireplace, each fireplace is fitted with a container of lighter fluid, and outside—in lawns and on playgrounds—wildflowers seed themselves in neat rows. But for those who live surreptitiously along Herot Hall’s periphery, the subdivision is a fortress guarded by an intense network of gates, surveillance cameras, and motion-activated lights.
For Willa, the wife of Roger Herot (heir of Herot Hall), life moves at a charmingly slow pace. She flits between mommy groups, playdates, cocktail hour, and dinner parties, always with her son, Dylan, in tow. Meanwhile, in a cave in the mountains just beyond the limits of Herot Hall lives Gren, short for Grendel, as well as his mother, Dana, a former soldier who gave birth as if by chance. Dana didn’t want Gren, didn’t plan Gren, and doesn’t know how she got Gren, but when she returned from war, there he was. When Gren, unaware of the borders erected to keep him at bay, ventures into Herot Hall and runs off with Dylan, Dana’s and Willa’s worlds collide.
Listen. Long after the end of everything is supposed to have occurred, long after apocalypses have been calculated by cults and calendared by computers, long after the world has ceased believing in miracles, there’s a baby born inside a mountain.
Earth’s a thieved place. Everything living needs somewhere to be.
There’s a howl and then a whistle, and then a roar. Wind shrieks around the tops of trees, and sun melts the glacier at the top of the peak. Even stars sing. Boulders avalanche and snow drifts, ice moans.
No one needs to see us for us to exist. No one needs to love us for us to exist. The sky is filled with light.
The world is full of wonders.
We’re the wilderness, the hidden river, and the stone caves. We’re the snakes and songbirds, the storm water, the brightness beneath the darkest pools. We’re an old thing made of everything else, and we’ve been waiting here a long time.
We rose up from an inland sea, and now, half beneath the mountain, half outside it, is the last of that sea, a mere. In our soil there are tree fossils, the remains of a forest, dating from the greening of the world. They used to be a canopy; now they spread their stone fingers underground. Deep inside the mountain, there’s a cave full of old bones. There was once a tremendous skeleton here, rib cage curving the wall, tail twisting across the floor. Later, the cave was widened and pushed, tiled, tracked, and beamed to house a train station. The bones were pried out and taken to a museum, reassembled into a hanging body.
The station was a showpiece before it wasn’t. The train it housed went back and forth to the city, cocktail cars, leather seats. The cave’s walls are crumbling now, and on top of the stone the tiles are cracking, but the station remains: ticket booth, wooden benches, newspaper racks, china teacups, stained-glass windows facing outward into earthworms, and crystal chandeliers draped in cobwebs. There are drinking fountains tapping the spring that feeds the mountain, and there’s a wishing pool covered in dust. No train’s been through our territory in almost a hundred years. Both sides of the tunnel are covered with metal doors and soil, but the gilded chamber remains, water pouring over the tracks. Fish swim in the rail river and creatures move up and down over the mosaics and destination signs.
We wait, and one day our waiting is over.
A panel in the ceiling moves out of position, and a woman drops through the gap at the end of an arch, falling a couple of feet to the floor, panting.
She’s bone-thin but for her belly. She staggers, leans against our wall, and looks up at our ceiling, breathing carefully.
There’s a blurry streak of light, coming from the old skylight, a portal to the world outside. The world inside consists only of this woman, dressed in stained camo, a tank top, rope-belted fatigues, combat boots, a patch over one eye, hair tied back in a piece of cloth. Her face is scarred with a complicated pink line. On her back, there are two guns and a pack of provisions.
She eases herself down to the tiles. She calls, to any god, to all of them.
She calls to us.
Excerpted from The Mere Wife, copyright © 2018 by Maria Dahvana Headley
The continuing adventure of Aza Ray, Jason Kerwin, and the skybound country of Magonia.
Watch this space. :)
"Maria Dahvana Headley is a firecracker: she's whip smart with a heart, and she writes like a dream." - Neil Gaiman
From Publisher’s Weekly - STARRED REVIEW:
"...Headley, who co-edited Unnatural Creatures with Neil Gaiman, riffs like an improv comic through the factoids of a Google age, giving her characters retentive memories and lightning search skills. Like the best improv, the first-person narration is funny, furious, and vulnerable..."
MAGONIA: A NOVEL
April 28, 2015
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
PUBLISHERS WEEKLY BEST BOOKS OF 2015
PASTE MAGAZINE BEST YA OF 2015
Aza Ray Boyle is drowning in thin air. Since she was a baby, Aza has suffered from a mysterious lung disease that’s making it ever harder for her to breathe, to speak—to live. All the doctors can do is give her drugs and hope they keep her going. So when Aza catches a glimpse of a ship in the sky, her family chalks it up to a cruel side effect of the medication. But Aza doesn’t think this is a hallucination. She can hear someone on the ship calling her name. Only her best friend Jason listens. Jason, who’s always been there. Jason, for whom she might have more-than-friendly feelings. But before Aza can consider that thrilling idea, something goes terribly wrong. The sickness catches up with her. Aza is lost to our world.
And found, by another. Magonia.
Above the clouds, in a land of trading ships, Aza is not the weak and dying thing she was. In Magonia, for the first time, she can breathe. Better, she has immense power. And she can use it to change the world. As she navigates her new life, Aza discovers that war is coming. Magonia and Earth are on the cusp of a reckoning. In Aza’s hands lies the whole of humanity—including the boy who loves her. Where do her loyalties lie?
Maria Dahvana Headley’s soaring YA debut is a fiercely intelligent, multi-layered fantasy rich with symbolism and steeped in allegory. Aza’s journey pulls her deep into the question of home, of love, of self, and of just what it means to find them all.
“Aza Ray,” says someone, way, WAY too loudly. “Aza Ray, wake up.”
I put my head under the covers. Absolutely not. There will be no waking up for me, because it is clearly five AM, and this can only be cruel night phlebotomy. I have a spinny, achy head, leftover from whatever got me here, and yes, I remember some of it, and yes, some of it was bad, but it’s been bad before, but here I still apparently am, so it can’t have been that bad.
I’ve been sleeping like the dead. That’s a joke I’m allowed to make. Whatever drug they’ve got me on, it’s working. If they ask me, I can say pain scale zero, which has never happened before, not in my entire history of hospitals.
The voice gets sharper. This nurse has no sense of nice. Her voice is both way too loud, and way too high-pitched. I yank the covers higher over my face.
“AZA RAY QUEL. It’s time to wake up now!”
Something sharp pokes me. My bed shakes.
I reluctantly open my eyes and I’m looking at–
A HUMAN SIZED OWL, a, what? WHAT? A WORLD-CLASS HALLUCINATION.
The owl stretches long yellow fingers and runs one over my forehead. It clacks its beak at me.
“Still fevered,” it says.
WATCH THE OFFICIAL
MAGONIA BOOK TRAILER
This book, replete with descriptive language and a magical narrative, will appeal to fans of the fantasy genre. - Kirkus Reviews
"...this is fantasy with a swish of alt. history, and as such, it astonishes. As one of the witches - Chrysate - admits, "beauty was a tremendous part of her currency," and much the same could and should be said for Maria Dahvana Headley's genre debut. It is well structured, wonderfully judged and lavishly crafted. Queen of Kings is, in short, a much better and more beautiful book than perhaps it sounds. Read it. Weep, even." - The Speculative Scotsman
QUEEN OF KINGS: A NOVEL
History and mythology, passion and seduction, witches and warriors combine to bring the timeless story of Cleopatra to life like never before in this stunningly original and spellbinding debut.
The year is 30 BC. A messenger delivers word to Queen Cleopatra that her beloved husband, Antony, has died at his own hand. Desperate to save her kingdom and resurrect her husband, Cleopatra summons the most fearsome warrior goddess, Sekhmet, and against the warnings of her scholars she strikes a mortal bargain.
In exchange for Antony's soul, Cleopatra is transformed into a vampiric creature of mythical proportions, an immortal shapeshifter with superhuman strength and an insatiable hunger for human blood. And she is bent on vengeance against those who have wronged her family and her kingdom. Cleopatra journeys from the tombs of Egypt to the great amphitheaters of Rome to the ancient underworld-where she will meet her love once again, and where the battle between man and beast will determine the fate of the world.
Blending history, fantasy, romance, and the supernatural, Queen of Kings is a masterful feat of the imagination that fans of Diana Gabaldon, Patricia Briggs, Philippa Gregory, and Neil Gaiman won't want to miss.
WATCH THE QUEEN OF KINGS BOOKTRAILER