fantasy, found family, young adult, female authors, slow burn, page turner, epic fantasy, thought provoking, forced proximity, adventure books
“The island is real, isn't it? It's not just natural elements...it's alive."
The broken island of Dernketh is alive. It's also evil and very intelligent, tormenting all it shipwrecks, feeding on their suffering - and its' favourite victim .... is Finn, the broken boy.
Finn has spent his entire miserable life on the island. Storm-wracked and broken, haunted by everyone he has lost, he has turned numb, refusing to love or hope, preferring to hide in his dark world, his only friend a piano. Every day the island tries to get him to play its' sick games saving people and every day he fails - until one day he changes everything when he saves a girl from jumping off a tower.
And the island is not happy about that.
Finn has never won against the island before and is terrified. Why has the island let the girl live? Is she cursed? A trap? The girl, Lark, decides that she will save Finn - whether he wants it or not. He does everything to stay away from her but Lark is relentless and like a moth, he finds himself helplessly drawn to her light. But it's worse than he feared as, to his horror, Lark stubbornly starts to unravel a dark and sinister mystery. What is the story of the Dragon's Breath? What is the outcast Bern hiding? And worse, what is the dangerous secret that a dead man has protected - a secret that the island will do anything to stop them discovering?
A heart-racing, young adult fantasy, brimming with danger, mystery, found families and slow-burning first love all set on a wild and terrible island.
Hi, I'm Kitty Sonder. I’m an author and artist who loves to fill the world with the stories and characters in my heart. My dream is to bring people escapism and hope through my art and writing, especially in times of darkness.
Dernketh the Broken Island is my debut novel, a young adult fantasy featuring an evil island, a broken boy and a stubborn heroine who will stop at nothing to help the people she loves. And the island will do anything to stop her, especially when she starts to discover a terrible secret...
When I’m not writing you can find me drawing happy pets, or see me being knocked off sea walls by random dogs (they sense I’m one of them), and binge-watching Korean dramas. Come and say hi on my Instagram @kittysonder or check out my website for drawings of the characters and information about my books: www.kittysonder.com
Format : paperback
Page Count : 717
The island was watching.
It had been all morning, almost like it knew what I was going to do.
My mother was holed up in her room, so no one stopped me as I creaked open the cabin door and crept onto the dark sand. Usually, the wind would be upon me in seconds, dragging me the length of the island on my face, or maybe dropping me on the ruin at the top of the Tor like one memorable birthday – but today, nothing.
The sea rocked back and forth, singing a discordant lullaby while the wind picked innocently at some seaweed. Calm, innocent disinterested, But I knew it was listening, I could feel it, that icy presence clinging to my skin like a wet shawl.
“Come on then,” I muttered. “Eat me.”
I stumbled across the beach, closer to the sea edge, my eye twitching like a moth in a web. If my mother glanced out of our cabin’s window. If she saw me...
I ground my teeth. If she saw me she’d probably sigh with relief and go and sleep with whatever man was left in the village.
Another step. If I –
The sea moved. Faster than a flash flood it devoured the black sand and was at my feet in seconds. I staggered backwards, falling to the sand with a cry. Its foaming tongue lashed out, missing me by inches – then the sea rolled backwards in a fit of giggles, leaving my thundering heart to fill the silence.
It could have dragged me under before I could scream. Or made the wind snap me in half like a brittle fishbone.
But it didn’t.
It always left me.
I swirled around as the teenage boy spoke, and quickly whipped my head away, but it was too late – his face branded itself into my mind. Even though I’d only caught a snatch of his tear-stained face, I knew.
He was one of them. Which meant it was time to go.
I stood up but I must have shuddered or done something that showed I cared because the sand shifted beneath me and gripped my feet. Cold water settled in my stomach.
Please, not again.
I jerked my leg and the sand, delighted, tugged back.
“I’m not playing your stupid game!” I growled.
“You a castaway too?” the boy asked, still watching me.
If only I was so lucky.
I gave in and sat on the damp sand, hoping he’d shut up and go away. If I didn’t speak maybe he’d grow bored and go and fester in the village.
Still, I couldn’t help but glance at him.
He couldn’t have been here long; he still had flesh on his bones, even a full stomach. But his green eyes that glared at the sea were so empty like they’d been picked clean by birds. Some people here lasted mere days, like mayflies, others months. Some, like me, had been here since the beginning, born into this hell. The more miserable you were, the longer you lived. It almost made me want to be happy.
The boy’s gaze slid across the water and along the beach. Despite myself, I followed his gaze. The black sand seethed to a halt at the start of the sloping cliff. Some days it looked like a ramp you could take off from – but he wasn’t looking at that. Everyone who stood here looking so empty came for one thing – the tower.
The building burst from the sea’s edge like a shattered black bone. Nearly a hundred metres high, built of crumbling bricks – even the clouds shuddered away from it.
He wasn't the first. He wouldn't be the last. Half the time I wondered if I'd find myself at the top, staring down at the ragged rocks.
For a split second, he turned his back on it, jerking in surprise as our gazes met. His eyes weren’t completely dead; a spark of anger fought in the puddles. For a moment I thought he might be different. But he swirled around, walking then running towards the tower.
Great. Now I had his face in my head too.
The sand nudged my feet.
Not today, island.
I tried to stand but the sand gripped my trousers, holding me like Velcro on the beach. I covered my ears, tapping out music notes against my head, my dark brown hair whipped around my head. into my eyes.
But I still glanced at the boy. He was already halfway to the tower. The sea had been waiting for me to look, and a wave snatched at his fleeing ankles. He leapt a mile in the air. He’d been here long enough to hear the stories then. Like it would help him now.
The wind jabbed my back. My fingers played faster. I looked again. The tower’s shadow swallowed him whole.
The wind shoved the back of my head. What you going to do, Finn?
Three minutes and it would be over. I just had to sit here and deal with it, then I could beachcomb, sit on my rock and let the world go to hell.
Play the game, Finn.
He hovered at the door, his hand frozen on the handle.
Why couldn’t I let myself give up, just once?
“Goddammit,” I said, and ran after the boy. The wind whooped in excitement, tearing alongside me, the sand spraying like a shark’s dorsal fin was ploughing through it. The boy stumbled and my heart froze, but it was only playing with him.
I reached the tower. Barnacles smothered the smoky bricks like clogged blood, the tide line reaching to the top. My hand closed over the boy’s red jacket but he stumbled over the doorway, leaving it swinging in my hand.
“Wait!” I yelled. “Don’t do it.”
“The island’s taken everything!” I panted. “Don’t let it take you too!”
Fire burned in his voice. “Easy for you to say when you’re one of them!” He swung around, eyes blazing. “Marked, am I? Cursed. I’ll kill myself before they can touch me!”
No wonder he was here. The marked were the island’s favourite prey.
People were constantly torn away, but if all but a few members of a family had been killed, the remaining people were considered cursed, marked. The island had chosen them so the villagers abandoned them, sometimes forcefully chasing them from the village. I didn’t believe for a second the people were marked; it was one of the island’s twisted games, but without food or shelter, the “marked” died anyway, giving fuel to the stupid superstition. My fist tightened in hatred at the villagers. But what did it matter? Everyone’s stories were the same in the end. And they always ended the same way, too.
“Then don’t let them win!” I shouted at the boy – but I’d done this a thousand times before. They never listened.
“Play whatever game you want. I’m not letting this place kill me.” I lunged for him but he fled into the belly of the tower, the door slamming behind him.
I stopped. His jacket slipped from my hand and the wind tidied it away.
“But that’s how you let it win,” I mumbled. I heard his footsteps pounding on the stairs. “That’s how you make me lose.”
Did I win? The sea rushed up to my feet like a puppy eager for praise.
It had won. It always flaming won. Why did I even – ?
I stiffened. What the hell was I doing?
I was out of the shadow in seconds, the sand snatching at my legs. Don’t glance back. But I did. Above me a tiny figure wobbled on the jutting ledge. A shock of ginger hair caught the light.
I tore into my cabin and threw myself across the room. My piano huddled against the opposite wall, dust dancing in the streams of sunlight. She smiled a welcome with all eighty-eight teeth.
Her soft white keys brushed my fingers, breathing with me as I sat on the wooden stool. Fire raced from my heart into my fingers and I started to play. Softly at first, then, as I pictured the boy walking to the tower edge, violent, an out-of-control boat smashing down rapids and over waterfalls.
The sound swelled into the room, sealing me in a bubble. My fingers tore up the keys until even my thoughts were consumed and died in the burning crescendo. Finally -– my fingers slowed to a stop.
I tensed. Listening.
The wind wailed, but inside was the soothing silence that only falls between the end of one song and the start of another.
I’d done it.
My arms gave way and I slumped over the piano, the cold keys caressing my burning skin, my heart pounding against the wood.
After a few moments, I glanced through the window at the beach and stiffened. The boy was on the sand, but he wasn’t dead,. He stumbled from the tower in a daze.
I lurched upright. He hadn’t done it. He -–
The sand swallowed him whole. One moment he was blinking in the sun; the next only his jacket flapped on the beach.
My hands turned to claws. My piano keys whimpered.
The wind slammed itself against the cabin, shrieking and bashing the roof like a child with a stick.
The door burst open and the wind shot in, sucking my piano sheets into the air. my piano sheets were sucked into the air.
The wind jerked my chair. I hit the floor lying and lay there unseeing as it slashed my body and face with sheets of paper and screamed with mirth at the top of its lungs.
“‘Save them, Finn. Stop them dying. Oh, too bad. You lost.’”
I was never playing with the island again.
Everyone could go to hell.
I inched the cabin door open, squinting as the rising sun spilled burning red fingers across the sea. I hadn’t left the house for a week,; the island would have missed me. I waited for the wind to catapult me across the beach or for the sand to blind me.
I pushed the door open and ventured onto the sand, my skin crawling, waiting for the attack. The sea was a sleeping baby, a perfect azure like the pebbles that edged the beach in the north. I crept right to the foaming edge and it didn’t react.
I frowned, almost willing for something to happen.
A few moments later, it did.
Another one arrived.
A girl. She stood at the edge of the sea, rocking back and forth like a creepy puppet. She wore a crumpled pink hoody and battered white trainers. A dirty pink dress flapped around her bird-like frame.
The island couldn’t leave me alone for one flaming second. Well, she could do what she wanted. I was done.
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