A Seed Once Sown – A Misplaced Adventures Novel
by Jessica Raney
The seeds of a legend grow in tales told around campfires and in whispers in dark corners of taverns. Magdalena Verran is a legend, a hunter who never misses her mark or loses a bounty. But now that legend is about to come to an end. For over three-hundred years, she’s harvested souls as an indentured servant to a pair of bickering gods. With her team of horses and an impressive magical blue scythe for a hand, Mags is poised to deliver the last soul she owes, then her debt will be settled and the gods can go pick on someone else for a change.
But life—even one centuries old—is never that simple and reaping leaves behind scars on the families and the harvester. Before she can turn in her scythe, Mags’s past transgressions catch up to her in the form of a trio of young criminal wannabes. Saving them just might be a way to balance her sins. But between the involvement of the gods and the trio’s own recklessness, Magdalena finds her skills—and patience—tested.
Somehow Mags must find a way to avoid angering the gods further, complete her new bounty without adding more blackmarks to her soul, and save the trio of young adventurers who seem determined to wind up dead. Pulled in multiple directions, Mags’s legendary skills are put to the test. One misstep and she endangers the lives of her young companions and her own soul.
A resilient bounty hunter saves the life of three urchins in Raney’s brisk first installment of the young adult fantasy series Huntress and Harvester. Olive-skinned Magdalena Verran, called Mags, gathers souls for the sibling gods Matchi the Huntress and Kohoc the Harvester, using a blue cobalt scythe that magically springs from her arm. With 999 souls caught during her 300 years in servitude, Mags only has one more before she’s free. Delaying her imminent liberty are three young would-be highwaymen—stoic Ava, her irritating brother Eldon, and helpful lug Dane—who attempt to ambush her. After a stray crossbow bolt hits Mags, the trio leave her for dead. But her fast healing powers revive her, and she’s on their trail. Good thing, because they’ve been kidnapped by the bumbling chieftain Angmere and his crafty sorceress Geta.
Raney builds a traditional fantasy realm filled with taverns, brothels, angry gods, and smelly barbarians, but the strength of the story is the well-defined characters and the multi-layered quid pro quo plot. A screaming voice inside Mags’s mind compels her to save the kids, but Angmere will not release them unless Mags agrees to locate two women who stole something of value from him. To cement Mags’s participation, Geta summons Matchi and promises the goddess that if she allows Mags to take the job, Geta will reveal the location of the mysterious Black Archer. To sweeten the deal, Mags offers to extend her service to find the gods three more souls instead of one.
The simply written text propels the action at a comfortable speed, with dangers, secrets, and betrayals lurking about, and young adults learning to trust and grow. Even Mags, who prefers the company of her beloved horses to people, softens enough to make friends. This is an earnest start to a fantasy series filled with fun-loving characters, frequent humor, and questionable warriors. A delightful treat for young adult readers.
Takeaway: Spirited characters in a carefully crafted world will charm young fantasy readers.
Comparable Titles: Maya Motayne’s Nocturna, Robin LaFevers’s Igniting Darkness.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A
About the Author: Jessica Raney
Jessica Raney grew up in the hills of southeastern Ohio looking for the Mothman and every other thing that goes bump in the dark Appalachian night. These days she resides in Houston, Texas, and translates her love of Appalachia and dark things into stories that combine crime, fantasy, and horror into Appalachian Supernatural Noir. Her genre-blending series, Tooth and Nail showcases her love of all things creepy and quirky.
When not writing, she’s navigating Houston traffic and enjoying the Gulf Coast with a weird little dog named Gimli.
Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.