43. THE READER – Young Adult Fantasy


Mentor Name: Renée Ahdieh

Mentee Name: Traci Chee


Category: Young Adult

Genre: Fantasy

Word Count: 96,000


When her only remaining relative is kidnapped, Sefia vows to save her. But rescue means learning to read in a world where literacy is forbidden and sacrificing the boy she loves to the secret society that destroyed her family. NEVERENDING STORY meets HIS DARK MATERIALS, with swashbucklers and sharpshooters.


There were redcoats on the road. The gravel path that cut through the jungle was more crowded than usual, and the mounted Royal Navy soldiers rode above the sea of foot traffic like lords in a parade.

Of course, Sefia had never seen a lord or a parade, because Nin went out of her way to avoid them. But she recognized power when she saw it.

Their fine red jackets were unblemished, their black boots polished to a high shine, and their sword hilts and gun grips glinted in the morning light. Any law-abiding citizen would have been happy to see them.

“On the lookout for thieves,” someone said. “With so many folks going in and out of town today, there’s bound to be bandits on the road.”

Sefia grinned.

Nin glared at her.

Around them, the shoppers carried baskets and towed rattling carts with burlap nests for their infants, the parents calling sharply after dirt-smudged children when they wandered too far. In their trail-worn gear, Sefia and Nin blended in well enough, and no one gave them so much as a second glance.

But they were not like the others.

Sefia passed a hand over the hidden pocket of her vest, where she kept the last few rubies from a stolen necklace alongside her lock picks. Though she was only thirteen—and a scrawny thirteen at that—she’d probably committed more crimes than all the others combined, save Nin.

“Must have a new officer in town,” Nin muttered. “Overzealous weasel.”

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