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PW #356: Young Adult Fantasy #ownvoices: DUSK BEFORE DAWN

Thursday, 2 November 2017  |  Posted by Brenda Drake

Manuscript Status: Finished

Mentor Name: Laura Pohl

Mentee Name: Roseanne Brown


Category: Young Adult

Genre: Fantasy #ownvoices

Word Count: 95,000


EMBER IN THE ASHES meets CARAVAL in African-myth inspired fantasy. To save his sister’s life, teen refugee Malik enters a magical competition to gain the trust of the princess he must kill – not knowing Princess Karina plans to sacrifice the winner to resurrect her dead mother.


After two months of clandestine travel across the Odjubai Desert, Malik Hilali’s legs nearly gave way beneath him as he emerged from the false bottom of the wagon. Splotches of purple and green danced across his vision, and the noise of the wagon’s wheels still rumbled in his ears, drowning out all else.

No one batted an eye at the sudden appearance of Malik and his sister from their hiding place. Refugees were born this way every day in the tent settlement beyond Ziran’s outer wall; two new ones hardly made a difference.

However, Nadia’s mouth fell open at the spectacle around her, and Malik was too slow to stop her from darting off the moment her feet touched the ground.

Chasing her around crowded donkey pens and enormous jeweled caravans, Malik kept his peripheral vision on the Sentinels standing on platforms around the settlement, the soldiers’ obsidian armor glinting in the sun as they barked orders at the crowd.

Malik caught Nadia several yards from a mighty acacia tree, where a griot stood before a motley group of listeners. Nadia’s dark eyes widened as the traveling storyteller beat out a rhythm on her djembe drum, inviting anyone and everyone to come listen.

“Abraa, abraa!” the griot called out, her voice warbling though the scorching desert air. “Come and gather, a story is about to begin!”

As much as Malik longed to lose himself in the griot’s tale, this was not a day for stories.


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