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PW #366: Young Adult Chinese fantasy (reimagining) #ownvoices: THIS MOTH WILL NOT BURN

Thursday, 2 November 2017  |  Posted by Brenda Drake

Manuscript Status: 1-month delivery

Mentor Name: Leigh Mar

Mentee Name: Alyssa Carlier


Category: YA

Genre: Chinese fantasy (reimagining) #ownvoices

Word Count: 77,000


When sixteen-year-old thief Mo stabs a runaway witch-princess, she’s cursed to wear her face. To break the curse, Mo braves the unfamiliar world of witchcraft where she must survive the assassin hunting the princess—and equally dangerous, her own desire for power.

A Mulan and Swan Lake reimagining.


Once upon a time, they called the city Hong Kong. Mo called it a graveyard.

As she climbed higher up the long-abandoned skyscraper, Mo could see a handful of traffic lights scattered along the maze of roads. Far below her they sparked on, off, on, off. She’d scaled these skyscrapers for three years, but she’d never pinned down the rhythm.

The wind barely rattled the steel-and-glass windows. Mo swung between the rusting window ledges, slinking up the skyscraper. She broke three fingernails on her way to the first broken window. She’d forgotten to trim them again.

The room stank. Mo knotted her grey scarf around her face. Skirmishes in the abandoned skyscrapers broke out every day between the soldiers of the guangfujun—the light-restoration army—and the northern witch-troops. Scavengers like Mo hurried to the scene after the fighting ended, but before either side brought their corpses home.

Time to get to work. Mo whistled as she prodded through the bodies methodically. A purse of coins, hardly stained at all. Twin jade bangles from a tattooed arm with no body. A gold tooth gleaming in a smug grin. Mo pried it out with her knife.

It wasn’t stealing. The dead owned nothing.

Mo’s pockets were only half full when a strangled cry came from the floor above. She crouched behind a crumbling pillar, reaching for her knife. If it was only the guangfujun who found her, they’d laugh her off. But the witches knew not to underestimate teenage girls.

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