We’re so happy to be hosting the cover reveal for Julia Ember’s debut novel Unicorn Tracks. Julia hosted the fantastic Queer YA Scrabble charity event this Summer, and Unicorn Tracks (coming from Harmony Ink Press, April 2016) sounds phenomenal! Along with the cover, we’ve also got an exclusive excerpt to share with ya’ll. 🙂 Read on!
After a savage attack drives her from her home, sixteen-year-old Mnemba finds a place in her cousin Tumelo’s successful safari business, where she quickly excels as a guide. Surrounding herself with nature and the mystical animals inhabiting the savannah not only allows Mnemba’s tracking skills to shine, it helps her to hide from the terrible memories that haunt her.
Mnemba is employed to guide Mr. Harving and his daughter, Kara, through the wilderness as they study Unicorns. The young women are drawn to each other, despite that fact that Kara is betrothed. During their research, they discover a conspiracy by a group of poachers to capture the Unicorns and exploit their supernatural strength to build a railway. Together, they must find a way to protect the creatures Kara adores while resisting the love they know they can never indulge.
is the GORGEOUS cover!!!
Isn’t it 10000000% gorgeous??? I just LOVE the artwork! And here is our exclusive excerpt!!! 😀
I felt out of place in the warriors’ gatherings with so many of Obasi’s friends and former brothers appraising me like an enemy. In Nazwimbe, when you were elected to the warrior’s guild by the Chief, the position was for life. The guild became your family. Before I left with Tumelo, I had told my father how I felt several times, but he always dismissed me. They understood, he’d comforted, they knew that what Obasi did was unforgivable. It’s all in your head, Mnemba. When will you stop believing the whole town is your enemy? But if that was the case, then why did I always feel like they waited for me to do something? Like their eyes held hope, pity, and accusation all at the same time?
Tumelo was the only one who understood, who had listened to me and noticed how differently they treated me after it happened. He’d come back from his studies at the guide’s academy in Mugdani and had found me a shell of the person I used to be. Come with me, cousin, he’d said, his eyes bright with emotion. Let’s see if we can put some spirit back inside you. I closed my eyes, listening to the sounds of the gathering horses and the roosters crowing the early morning. We had to get Tumelo back, whatever it took.
“One of our own has been taken,” my father began, raising his voice to a loud boom. All the men assembled already knew what had happened to Tumelo. My father had sent out runners the night before to make sure that all of them would be ready to leave at daybreak. But the announcement, the stirring of suspense and blood rage by the Chief’s speech—these were our traditions. Mama stepped behind him and settled his headdress over his dark braids. “My nephew and a foreigner who was his guest have been taken captive by a slaver’s group who would overthrow our beloved General.”
The warriors raised their clawed hands into the air and chanted, “We follow you.”
“You honor me,” my father replied.
At the noise of the bell, most of the villagers emerged from their huts, rubbing their eyes. They raised their fists sleepily, some of them covering yawns. A naked toddler ran out into the street, and his mother chased after him, grabbing him in her arms and belatedly raising her fist with a rueful grin.
Kara leaned over to me, so close that her soft hair brushed against my cheek. Mama had given her a new bag to hold the foal. He nipped my shoulder playfully. “What are they saying? Doing?”
I shrugged. “It’s a ritual. We always do it before the warriors leave the village. Back before Nazwimbe was all one country, and the Chiefs used to fight each other, it was a promise between the Chief, the warriors, and the town’s people that we were all bound together. Now it’s just tradition, and my father likes to continue it.”
Mama handed Father his Chieftain’s spear, and he raised it to signal the warriors to file out. She blew me a kiss and lifted Imrai so he could wave us off. Kara and I rode up alongside Father, with the men following behind us. I felt their eyes boring into me, and I wished we could go to the General without the ceremonial guard. General Zuberi commanded a force of men larger than the total population of our village. He didn’t need the warriors Father brought to ride out against Arusei, but for a Chief to greet his overlord alone signaled disrespect.
As we rode down the path, I could hear the dissenting murmur of conversation growing louder behind us. My father’s eyes remained in front, and he seemed not to notice the way a few of his warriors traded glances as we rode past the Pits. Fury bubbled in my chest, and I remembered once again why I had followed Tumelo and left the only home I’d ever known behind. What Obasi did had broken me, but it was the town—these men—who finally drove me away.
“What’s wrong?” Kara asked. She didn’t bother to whisper, but I doubted any of the warriors spoke her language anyway.
I ground my teeth and looked toward the Pits. “It’s like they all blame me. I mean, I know that everybody accepts it was Obasi’s fault… but still, whenever I come here, it’s like people keep expecting me to forgive him and set him free. Because he was a paragon. Because he wasn’t a bad person, before. Because he was their friend. They don’t understand that it’s not about them, and it never has been. It’s one of the reasons I don’t come home anymore.”
Even though he couldn’t understand the language, my father understood the anger in my tone. He turned in his saddle, pulled his horse up, and rode next to me. Following the direction of my gaze, he squeezed my arm and said gruffly, “I know what you’re saying, Mnemba, and how you feel. And I know that before you left home, I didn’t try to understand. Now I wish I had listened better about how some of the people here made you feel. Until Obasi takes his life, and he will, there are always going to be people who wish it was different. People hold out hope that the past can be healed. But the weight of this doesn’t have to rest on you anymore. Know that if in a moment of weakness, you give in and that animal ever claws his way out of the earth, I will be standing there to gut him.”
Emotion made me speechless. Silence fell behind us. I chanced a look back. The men who had been whispering stared at my father with gaping mouths. A few of the other warriors bore a smile that surprised me.
The man nearest to us looked between my father and me, then he whispered, “What’s bound in blood cannot be undone.”
Pain and hope swelled inside me.
Father looked toward the Pits and spat on the earth.
Title: Unicorn Tracks
Author: Julia Ember
Publisher: Harmony Ink Press
Available: April 2016
Author Twitter: jules_chronicle
Cover Artist: Megan Moss
Genre: YA Romantic Fantasy (F/F)