Welcome to Wendy Russo and her forthcoming novel January Black!
Sample of January Black
“I looked over your last test today,” the king said, now leading the group.
The Regents’ School expelled Matty that afternoon from its elite King’s Class. The infraction itself was insignificant. However, he had been admitted to the class on a probationary basis, and only because the king arranged his admission on behalf of the commandant. Matty’s latest test answers were the last of a long line of subtle “subversions” that his instructors would tolerate, his father be damned.
After a long pause, the king continued, “I found your answer to question six interesting.”
“Very.” The king turned to descend a sweeping staircase. “Unless you would rather have me believe that you were doodling.”
Matty was already in trouble. There was little use in holding back now. “The instructor is boring and the section is a joke.”
“And?” the king prompted him for more.
“He expects his answers, not correct ones.”
The king spun around at the bottom of the stairs, blocking Matty’s path. He crossed his arms. “You drew the atomic model for magnesium.”
“Yes, sir.” Matty said, meeting the king’s eyes as he stopped on the lowest stair. They were brown.
“It was a civics test,” the king said before walking away. Matty followed. “The question regarded the Assembly.” Downstairs resembled upstairs, except for a burnt orange wall in what Matty assumed was a sitting room. “Explain.”
“Twelve.” Matty looked around for something in the king’s home that would belong in the palace. He found nothing. “Twelve protons, twelve electrons, twelve prime regents.”
“So, the fact that magnesium is sour and highly combustible, that’s just a coincidence?”
While admiring the gleaming steel kitchen, Matty walked right into a wall. “Shit!” he cried out while grabbing his hurt shoulder. His heart stopped and splashed down in his stomach. He wondered if he blurted that as loudly as he thought.
The king’s reply was careless. “I do that all the time.”
“Really?” Matty asked. The desire to hide in a closet grew stronger by the moment as the king’s guardians tried not to laugh.
The king nodded but said, “No.”
Sixteen-year-old genius Matty Ducayn has never fit in on The Hill, an ordered place seriously lacking a sense of humor. After his school’s headmaster expels him for a small act of mischief, Matty’s future looks grim until King Hadrian comes to his rescue with a challenge: answer a question for a master’s diploma.
More than a second chance, this means freedom. Masters can choose where they work, a rarity among Regents, and the question is simple.
What was January Black?
It’s a ship. Everyone knows that. Hadrian rejects that answer, though, and Matty becomes compelled by curiosity and pride to solve the puzzle. When his search for an answer turns up long-buried state secrets, Matty’s journey becomes a collision course with a deadly royal decree. He’s been set up to fail, which forces him to choose. Run for his life with the challenge lost…or call the king’s bluff.