On the lead up to the release of author Reese Hogan’s debut novel Shrouded Loyalties, we are excited to be able to reveal the cover, as well as host an exclusive excerpt from the book, which you can read below.
Reese’s debut novel, Shrouded Loyalties, is a dark and paranoid military science fiction piece. Naval officer Mila Blackwood is determined to keep shrouding, her country’s most powerful secret, out of enemy hands. Shrouding is the ability to traverse a planet in seconds through an alternate realm. But spies are everywhere: her submarine has been infiltrated by a Dhavnak agent, and her teenage brother has been seduced by an enemy soldier. When Blackwood’s submarine is attacked by a monster, she and fellow sailor, Holland, are marked with special abilities, whose manifestations could end the war – but in whose favour…?
About the author
Reese lives in New Mexico, USA, and was discovered by Angry Robot through their open door submissions, last hosted in 2017 (it takes a long time to go through the hundreds of entries…). With a bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in journalism, Hogan has spent the last twenty years honing her craft by taking classes, listening to podcasts, and attending writing workshops and critique groups. She is passionate about music, especially alternative and punk rock, and adamantly believes that art can reach out in a way no other form of communication can.
Read an exclusive chapter excerpt from the book here:
The tingling from Blackwood’s dekatite mark was eating into her skin. If only that would stop, she could think straight. Was it just her? she wondered. Or was Holland’s acting the same way?
“Holland!” she barked.
He looked at her, his face coated in dust, and shouted something back. She couldn’t make out his words over the blasts from all around them. She held up her left hand and stabbed a finger at her palm. He shook his head and pointed the other direction: Keep going! She started to step closer, so she could shout her question in his ear, but at that moment, the sidewalk around them darkened. She looked up. Her stomach churned as she saw a black Dhavvie warplane swooping so low, she could actually make out the symbols on the bottoms of its wings – spirals in bright white. It barely cleared the twenty-story building across the street. As she watched, a shape detached from its undercarriage.
She threw out her right arm. The mark on her arm twinged, hard and sharp. A white, jagged slash rent the air, crackling with a terrible sizzle. The bright flare seared her eyes and heated her skin. It ripped through the fuselage of the plane. Another branch split from it, striking a direct hit on the falling bomb.
The force of the resulting explosion threw Blackwood against the wall of the office behind her. Pain shot through her left shoulder blade before she crumpled to the stone landing. Shocks rippled through her in quick succession. She curled on the stone sidewalk, hands clenched into tight fists at her midsection that she couldn’t unfold if she tried. Though her eyes were open, all she saw was smoke and the ghostly afterimages of the lightning bolt – a barbed incandescent streak driving down again and again in an unchanging pattern. Thunder crashed around her, almost as loud as the bomb had been.
Seconds later, the plane fell, wings and tail burning as it ripped down the side of a building a half-block away. Chunks of steel and glass shot through the air, along with billowing smoke smelling of gunpowder and hot metal.
Blackwood struggled to move, to get up, but her muscles clenched tightly back toward her body as if they had a will of their own. She trembled. She turned toward the wall instead and used her cramping fists to stabilise her body before forcing her legs underneath her, bringing her up as far as her knees. She didn’t know if the spasms wracking her were persisting shocks or uncontrollable shivers. She pressed her cheek to the wall, trying to muster the energy to pull herself up the rest of the way.
“Blackwood! I’m here.” Holland ducked low to get an arm around her back and pull her up. The pain in her shoulder blade made her gasp, but she pushed through it and kept her feet, though only with the support of Holland on one side and the wall on the other. She could hear the bombing again, breaking through the fading echo of the thunder.
“Are you hurt? How bad?” Half of Holland’s face was covered in blood. The gash was on his right temple; if the flying shrapnel had been a touch to the left, he would have lost the eye.
“No, I’m f- fine.” Blackwood closed her eyes and forced herself to breathe in and out deeply, to calm her racing heart. Every breath threatened to pull her from consciousness. Holland was right. It was me. I took out that plane. That bomb… if I hadn’t set it off so high in the air, it would have…
“Blackwood!” The next thing she knew, Holland was holding her up, hands pinning her shoulders against the wall. She realised he’d caught her from falling. “You – what you did–”
She nodded, and her head swam.
Holland stared at her, his expression stricken. “You almost killed yourself, CSO! You can barely move.”
“I’m okay.” She shoved away from the wall. Her surroundings spun sickeningly. Holland caught her just before she went down again. Another explosion sounded, its report echoing off the buildings around them.
“CSO, no way are we gonna make that bomb shelter.”
Blackwood grimaced, but the kid was right. “Get us in there,” she said, jerking her head at the building behind them. “It’s better than nothing.”
She crawled back to the wall as Holland ripped a handful of boards off the front door, near the bottom. She listened to the low thrum of concussions in the distance as wind whipped the heat of burning buildings across her face. She could hear a subtle difference in the reports now. Belzene planes fighting back, she thought at first. But no. Something deep in her stomach clenched. Artillery. Tanks. It wasn’t a good sign.
The next thing she knew, Holland was shaking her again. Blackwood drew in her breath, inhaling another lungful of smoke and dust.
“There’s a basement!” Holland shouted. “Nothing big, just something they used for medical supplies, but we should be safer there.”
Blackwood nodded. “You think this is the one?” she asked as she struggled toward the door.
The attack that captures the capital. But she kept herself from saying it at the last moment. No need to plant those thoughts, if Holland wasn’t having them already.
She couldn’t help casting one more glance overhead before heading inside. If Ellemko was taken… would she always wonder if she could have used this new power to save it?