cover image First, Become Ashes

First, Become Ashes

K.M. Szpara., $27.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-250-21618-2

Members of a secluded cult grapple with sudden immersion in the outside world in the intense latest from Szpara (Docile). Lark has been raised as an Anointed, taught that strict discipline and pain will unleash his magical powers, and that one day he’ll be called to fight monsters. He’s eager to leave the compound in Baltimore’s Druid Hill neighborhood, where he lives, to put his training to the test, but two months before his 25th birthday the FBI raids the compound with help from Kane, Lark’s former lover and a closet nonbeliever. Lark flees and stumbles into a fan convention where he meets Calvin Morris, a cosplayer who longs for magic to be real and who agrees to help Lark search for monsters. Meanwhile, FBI agent Miller pursues Lark with the help of Kane and Deryn, Lark’s sibling. Calvin witnesses Lark performing what seems to be genuine magic and agrees to help Lark recharge his powers through pain as they hurtle toward an uncertain showdown. Szpara intercuts the thrilling chase with flashbacks to the abuse and sexual violence Kane and Lark endured in the Fellowship of the Anointed. The rotating viewpoints showcase Lark’s intense certainty, Kane’s guilt, Deryn’s bitterness, and Calvin’s urgent credulity. Szpara mixes trauma and magic to mesmerizing results. Agent: Jennifer Udden, New Leaf Literary. (Apr.)