Excerpt from Merrow by Ananda Braxton-Smith, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Merrow by Ananda Braxton-Smith X
Merrow by Ananda Braxton-Smith
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  • Published:
    Nov 2016, 240 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl
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"Our second was again a beautiful child. This time a daughter, with ears like pink shells and a good, strong shout on her! We enjoyed her for a month, hidden in our home and giving the news to no one. I slept her next to my bed to make sure.

"But there was no escaping it. One night I went to bed, and when I woke she had followed her brother. The Others had come and silently taken her from my very side. This time the impostor seemed more human, but it didn't fool me. This red-faced monster with its rolling eyes wasn't my daughter. As I said, a mother knows her child.

"This time I didn't try to find help. There was no point. I just had to let her go, and that time was the worst of my life. Pherick didn't speak for weeks and spent most of his time out in the cove. I only went to the village for the market and didn't stay to chat. I was changed by it all, and entirely done in. That was when I stopped visiting down there, and met your mam and Ushag. Ven used to come up and sit with me." Ma stopped and looked at me with her bleary eyes. "She could sit like nobody I've known. Quiet and calm as a warm bath.

"It was her as told me what people used to do about changelings in the old days. It was of no interest to me anymore, as I'd decided never to have another child, but it was a comfort to have someone even pretend to believe me. As it turned out, she was right, and I have every good reason to be thankful to her.

"In spite of deciding to remain childless, I was expecting again within the year. I spent my time fretting and picking at my food, and Pherick spent his fixing locks and bolts, and sharpening his blades. I told him that if the Others wanted to come in, locks and bolts wouldn't stop them, and he told me that's all I knew, for the Other Ones were done in by iron. His preparations put the heart back into him, and I couldn't bring myself to take that away from him, but I knew we were as doomed in this next babe as in the other two. Flying in the face of nature, I grew thinner as I neared my time.

"And then Scully was born. He wasn't a fat, healthy baby like the others, but he was quiet and sweet, and he fed well, so I had my hopes. I thought maybe the Others wouldn't want this one, as he wasn't their usual type, but I was wrong. They came in the second month.

"I woke one day and there he was. Gone."

I looked at Scully. He had his face turned to the fire and the shadows playing there hid his expression. His fingers moved on his knees like pale spiders.

"They'd come through the rat holes and left a white twig in Scully's place, like it wasn't even worth cutting a proper log for him. This time I sat by the twig as it wailed, and for days I prayed. I prayed to the Little Brothers' god (who was likely to know what it is to have a son in trouble), in spite of knowing the Others to be godless and therefore unlikely to be under Chris-tian orders. I prayed to the saints, them having more freedom of movement, as it were, than Himself, who plainly can't be seen to be mixing with the Other sort. I prayed to Breeshey and the Good Mother Mary and to the Nameless One Herself, and all the rest. In the middle of all the praying, I fell asleep.

"I must have dreamed a memory of Ven's stories, because I was all at once awake in the night and I knew what to do. I picked up that wailing twig. It looked at me with knowing, watchful eyes, and it said to me, 'What art thou doing, Mammy?' and then I threw it in the fire. There was one terrible cry, the fire blazed out of the hearth, and I fell senseless.

"When I woke in the morning, Scully was back and hungry. We never saw the Others again. But there was one thing I hadn't considered.

"It's a simple fact that Other time is different from ours. In the three days he'd been gone from our world, in the Otherworld, he'd lived seven years and was almost a grown-up. He'd lived with his Other mother and learned their Other ways for all that time, but he returned to us as he'd been when they took him; he came back a baby. And we were strangers to him! It took time for him to settle. Having to repeat his first seven years over made him bad-tempered for a while, and he'll always be a bit Otherwise — but praise be to God, it's a beautiful thing, and comes in useful too.

Excerpted from Merrow by Ananda Braxton-Smith. Copyright © 2016 by Ananda Braxton-Smith. Excerpted by permission of Candlewick Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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