Award-winning author Sharon Shinn returns to the "fascinating world"* of Samaria in a richly romantic tale that begins where Archangel left off. In that time, the women who craved the attention of angels were known as angel-seekers, a term used with awe by some-and scorn by others.
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February 21, 2005
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Excerpt from Angel-Seeker by Sharon Shinn
It was still dark when Elizabeth rose, moving silently through the sleeping house. In the kitchen she stirred up the fire and lit a few candles -- the cheap ones, the ones that were good enough for the hired help but that wouldn't be tolerated in any of the grand rooms where the family dwelled. In a few minutes, she had the water boiling, the bread kneaded, and the porridge heating on the stove. The sun was beginning to make a sullen appearance over the horizon. By the look of the sky, heavy with fat-bellied clouds, this day would be as dreary as the one before, and the one before that.
And the one before that.
The field hands tramped in, their feet noisy but their mouths mostly silent, and settled themselves around the table. Elizabeth served them with a cool dispassion, nodding if one of them looked up and caught her eye but making no effort to converse or smile. Most of them had learned long ago that she wasn't your average farm cook, willing to flirt with a handsome new hand, softened by wheedling, happy to put together a special meal or a late dinner just because some brawny but brainless man grinned at her. Most of them had tried flirting with her anyway, because there weren't many diversions here on the sprawling farm. The nearest collection of buildings that called itself a town was a half-day's ride, and to get anywhere remotely interesting, like Semorrah or Luminaux, took a full three days and a knapsack of provisions. But they had soon learned, if they wanted dalliance, they were better off saddling up and riding across the low Jordana foothills and into the Blue City.
Elizabeth herself hadn't been to Luminaux in six months or more. The first few years she'd been at James's farm, she had pined for the gaiety of that most beautiful and luxurious of cities, and she had taken whatever opportunities arose to travel there for a brief holiday. But she had no money, so she just felt bitter and envious as she strolled through the azure streets, staring into the shop windows; and she had no true joy in her heart, so the constant thrum and backbeat of the music pouring out of the cabarets did not lift her spirits or make her smile. Luminaux just reminded her of what she had lost or what she would never attain, and so it was best for her if she did not return to Luminaux. She would stay, instead, mired forever on this limitless farm in the unexciting foothills of southern Jordana, and wish her life away.
"I'd take some more of that bread, if you've got any," one of the hands said in a neutral voice. Elizabeth nodded and cut another slice from the loaf.
"Anyone else " she asked. A few murmurs of assent, so she continued cutting till the bread was gone.
"And some tea. Thanks," said another man.
"Looks like another wet day," someone observed.
"Damn hot for this time of year," the first speaker grumbled. "Should have cooled off a bit by now."
"Winter'll come soon enough, and you'll be wishing for weather this warm."
She let them talk around her, not listening until they asked for something she could supply, scarcely noticing as they finished their meals and filed out past her. Personally, she did not care if it was hot or cold or wet or dry or summer or winter or day or night. It was all the same: dismal, dull, pointless.