An act of defiance: anything to finally free herself from her mother's abuse.
An act of defiance: and young Bradamante unlocks her future as a warrior.
With the help of a mystical teacher, Bradamante learns the skills she'll need to survive in a brutal kingdom. She'll also learn that destiny can demand giving up the one that you love.
If the prophecy is true, Bradamante has the power to change the future of the kingdom. But will she follow the destiny she seems born to, or will she choose one of her own?
Robin Brande has written some of my favorite young adult novels, set in the modern era. With this new series, she turns to alternate world fantasy to take on some stunning topics—and to give us a great helping of girl power. I love it when Robin starts new adventures. The stories are always strong and surprising and impossible to put down. – Kristine Kathryn Rusch
"BOOK OF EARTH is the best fantasy warrior book that I have ever read. I have turned away from the fantasy warrior genre for years because all the stories seemed too formulaic. I only purchased this one because I am a fan of Ms. Brande's writing. I am so glad I read this book because it is an exciting read from beginning to end. The characters are rich, the story is fast with non-stop drama, and the writing is Brande's best. If you like fantasy warrior books, you will love this book. If you do not like this genre because of other books you have read, this is the book that will bring you back."– Amazon Review
"A delicious new novel by one of my favorite authors. I couldn't put it down. Seriously. And then, I didn't want it to end. I can't wait for the sequel!"– Amazon Review
"Action and adventure!!! I loved this book!"– Goodreads Review
Bradamante knelt in the mud and cut away all of her hair.
Rain peppered her bare scalp. The wind shoved at her in gusts, plastering her wet clothes against her skin. It was stupid, she knew, to kneel here in the storm—even in summer the combination of wet and wind could prove deadly. Her fingers were already wooden from the cold. But she continued working, pulling each new section of hair taut and slicing it away with her hunting knife.
Just one more section to go. She grasped the last hank of hair and sucked in a breath, prepared for the pain. The lump on the back of her head throbbed as the knife scraped across it. But then it was over. She was free.
She sat back and examined the heap of long brown curls before her. Twelve years of growth, minus a few of her brother's haircuts. Her head felt impossibly light and bare without its long cloak of matted curls. But it was better this way. She would get used to it.
Movement in the distance caught her eye. Even in the dark and the rain she could detect the smudge of a figure moving toward her. It could only be Rinaldo. He must have been searching for hours.
Bradamante gathered the wet hair into the hem of her tunic and rose onto stiff legs. Rinaldo still hadn't seen her. She set out across the field to meet him, strewing handfuls of hair as though they were seeds.
Rinaldo saw her, and broke into a run. He opened his cloak and sheltered his little sister inside. She shivered against his chest.
"Are you trying to kill yourself out here?"
"No." Even wet, the cloak was warm. Bradamante breathed in the scent of damp wool.
Rinaldo peeled away part of the covering to examine her. "Your hair." He reached out to touch her head, but Bradamante flinched away. "What happened?"
"I cut it."
"I wanted to." She clamped her teeth together to keep them from chattering.
Rinaldo hugged her in closer. "You need a fire. Come on. And then you're telling me everything."
Not everything, Bradamante thought.
Rinaldo led her from the field. At seventeen, he stood a head taller than his sister, but Bradamante made a point of matching him stride for stride. Once off the field, they turned onto the dirt road that led past the cottages toward their house. Water had pooled in the cart tracks, making the road a swamp of mud. But the earth was warmer than the rain, and Bradamante appreciated the comfort of it against her bare feet.
They trudged along in silence for several minutes before Rinaldo questioned her again. "What happened?"
"It doesn't matter."
"It matters to me."
Bradamante shrugged and walked on.
"I'm sorry," Rinaldo said. "I didn't think I'd be away for so long. I was so caught up talking with Father and Cyrus—"
"It isn't your fault," Bradamante said.
"But I should have—"
Rinaldo sighed. "What can I do for you?"
"Nothing. I'm all right."
"Why did you cut your hair?"
"I don't know. I just wanted to."
Bradamante glanced with envy at the cottages they passed along the way. She liked to imagine their lives—the families sleeping within, huddled five or six to a bed, children piled on top of each other, warm and safe beside their parents.
She wondered what they'd had for dinner. Maybe mutton stew, or maybe some of the elk she'd shot with her bow a few days before. After dinner the families might have spent the last of the light catching up on their mending or whittling or maybe spinning a little more thread. They would have gone to bed with the dark, exhausted from working in the fields, grateful to escape into dreams. Their cottages were dirty and cramped and smelled of smoke and grease, and Bradamante wished more than anything that she was turning toward one of those doorways instead of her own.
Rinaldo paused at the entrance to the great stone house. "They're sleeping. Get out of your wet clothes. I'll stoke the fire." He pushed open the heavy wooden door and the two of them crept into their house.
Lord Aymon's snores rumbled down from the open loft above them. Lady Aya slept soundlessly in the lower bedroom.
Rinaldo rooted in his trunk for a dry shirt and handed it to his sister. Then he busied himself with the fire. Bradamante moved to a dark corner, pulled the shirt over her head, and removed her wet clothes from underneath. The shirt was one of Rinaldo's, so long it fell past her knees. She didn't have any clothes of her own. She'd always worn whatever her brother outgrew.
Rinaldo unrolled two wool blankets and laid them in front of the fire. "Are you hungry?" he whispered.
"No." She was, but food would be too much trouble.
"Then lie down," Rinaldo told her. "Get warm."
Bradamante settled onto her blanket. She winced as the back of her head touched the floor. For a moment she had forgotten about her injury.
"Let me see," Rinaldo said.
"I'm all right."
"Brad," he insisted in a whisper, "let me see."
Reluctantly Bradamante rolled onto her side. Rinaldo examined her head in the firelight. "What did she do?"
"I fell. Please, Naldo, just leave it." Bradamante sat up and hugged her knees into her chest. Rinaldo rearranged the blanket around her.
"I'm sorry," he said. "I'm so sorry."
"When are we going to leave?"
"I don't know. Soon. You have to be patient."
"I am patient," she whispered, "but why can't we go now?"
"I told you—I have to find the right place. I can't just take you anywhere—it's not safe."
It's not safe here, Bradamante thought, but she didn't say it.
"And it has to be someplace I can find work."
"I can work," Bradamante answered. "Every village needs meat."
"They're not going to hire a girl to do their hunting."
"Then I can work as a servant."
"You don't know how to do any of the things servant girls do."
Bradamante quietly groaned in frustration. "Then I can hunt and you can pretend it's you. No one has to know. Let them pay you."
Rinaldo shook his head. "No. Not until I know it's safe. I'll find somewhere—I promise. But right now this is the best place for you."
They had had this conversation too many times for Bradamante to believe it would go any further. Too tired to argue any more, she lay back down. She turned onto her side and stared into the fire, hoping for inspiration. I'll do it myself, she thought. I'll find a way.
The fire burned down to ash while the two of them slept.
"Bradamante ... Bradamante ..."
The voice awakened her from a dream. Bradamante opened her eyes and searched the dark room. Rinaldo slept deeply beside her. No one else was near, yet still she heard the voice.
A woman's voice. Her mother's.
Bradamante pulled the blanket over her head and pretended not to hear. The rough wool scratched her tender scalp.
"Bradamante ..." The voice was strangely inviting and sweet. What new trick was this? Aya never said her daughter's name that way. In fact, Bradamante couldn't remember the last time her mother had used her name at all.
Bradamante propped up on her elbows and peered toward her mother's room. The voice seemed to have come from somewhere much closer than that, but how could it? She held her breath and listened harder. The only sounds were her brother's steady breathing and the rumbling bass of her father's snores echoing down from the loft.
"Bradamante!" The whisper was insistent now.
Too curious to ignore it any longer, Bradamante decided she would sneak just outside her mother's room, listen at the door, and decide then what to do.
She padded across the rough stone floor, careful not to wake her brother. At the doorway she listened to Lady Aya's shallow, rhythmic breathing.
There was no reply.
She stepped into the room and tried again. "Mother?"
Aya snuffled and burrowed deeper into her goose down blankets.
Bradamante turned to go.
A moan came from the bed. "What are you doing here?" her mother grumbled. "Get out."
"But you called me."
"Why would I call you? Get out."
With pleasure. Bradamante retreated to the main room and fed another log to the starving fire. Then she lay back down.
She had barely fallen asleep when the voice called again.
"Bradamante ... "
Bradamante threw off her blanket and stormed to her mother's room. "Why do you keep calling me?"
"Get out! Stop waking me, stupid goat!"
Bradamante fumed back to the fire.
"What's wrong?" Rinaldo asked sleepily.
"Nothing. Just a dream."
"You all right?"
"Yes. Go back to sleep."
This time the voice was beneath the blanket with her, timbling so closely into her ear she felt the vibration of every syllable: Brad-uh-mont.
She held her breath and listened.
The voice was quieter now, a whisper inside her head. "Bradamante. I'm here."
"Give me your hand. Come and see."