Hiromu Arakawa no va a ser conocida únicamente sólo por el manga Full metal Alchemist sino que, ahora mismo, será conocida por ser la artista de la portada del libro Demon’s Lexicon, el libro de Sarah Rees Brennan.
El libro llegará a Estados Unidos y Reino Unido a primeros de junio.
La historia se sitúa en una Inglaterra moderna donde los demonios y la magia están presentes en el día a día.
Nosotros hemos conseguido el primer capítulo para que le echeis un vistazo pero está en inglés así que esperamos que podáis entender un poco al menos.
Pulsa para leer el capítulo 1.
Chapter One: Ravens In the Kitchen
The pipe under the sink was leaking again. It wouldn’t have been so bad, except that Nick kept his favorite sword under the sink.
He rescued it, wiped the steel, and absently tested the edge with his thumb while water flowed out onto the kitchen floor. Once he’d laid it aside, he realized the knees of his jeans were already soaked through.
Alan brought Nick his toolbox.
“Care to lend a hand?” Nick inquired without much hope.
“No, I’m too busy cooking,” Alan said. “You do the heavy lifting around here. I’m more the sensitive intellectual type.”
Nick raised his eyebrows. “Oh, get in the kitchen and bake me a pie, woman.”
He peered into the cupboard again. The pipes made an ominous gurgling sound, and the bottom of the cupboard became the site of the world’s tiniest waterfall.
“I can be a sensitive intellectual type as well,” he said at length. “If the other option is drowning under our sink.”
“Save us all from a watery grave or cook your own dinner. It’s entirely up to you.”
It was a compelling point. Nick could cook his own dinner, but Alan actually worked at being a good cook. He made everything from scratch, and the sizzling sound of food hitting the pan and the sudden rich smell of frying vegetables made his argument for him. Nick glared, which was effective when dealing with everyone but his brother. Then he took the knife out of his wrist sheath, laying it carefully alongside his sword, rolled up his sleeves, and got to work.
Aside from the sink, this house was pretty good. It was small, the color of cardboard that had been left out in the rain, and exactly like every other house standing in the military lines of the housing estate. Still, each house was separated from its neighbors by a decent distance. There was nobody complaining about strange noises in the night. That was worth any amount of leaks.
On the whole, Nick liked Exeter. There was a statue on the high street that reminded him of a knife, and he was learning to map the city out from that point. It was rare for them to stay in one place long enough for the landmarks to become familiar, but they had been here two months with no danger signs yet. They both had jobs, he was just about getting by at school, and Alan had even had time to find a new crush.
He would be sorry when they had to leave.
The pipe gave a long metallic groan, like an ancient robot about to fall to pieces, and Nick gritted his teeth and twisted the wrench hard. It was too old to be properly fixed; all he could do was try and hold it together until it could become the next tenant’s problem.
“Someday we’re going to live in St. Leonard’s and get away from all this.”
“Oh, sure,” said Alan easily. The chili was simmering and he was leaning beside the sink, arms crossed over his thin chest, watching Nick work. “When I win big on the lottery. Or when we start selling your body to rich old ladies.”
“If we start selling my body to rich old ladies now,” Nick said, “can I quit school?”
“No,” Alan answered with a sidelong smile, warm as a whispered secret. “You’ll be glad you finished school one day. Aristotle said education is bitter, but its fruits are sweet.”
Nick rolled his eyes. “Aristotle can bite me.”
Over their heads the floorboards creaked in a sudden, sharp sound, like boughs breaking. Nick looked up on reflex, but he knew what it was: it was Mum, pacing the floor in one of her bad spells. By the sound of it she was just getting started, and Alan would spend all his time up there with her.
Alan must have noticed Nick’s glance at the ceiling, because for some idiotic Alan reason he reached out with the obvious intention of ruffling Nick’s hair. Nick shied away.
Alan sighed, then Nick heard him reach for the radio instead, the small click as it went on, and the music that poured out and drowned the sound of Mum restlessly moving in the rooms above. Alan limped over to a cupboard and began to rummage around for something, singing softly under his breath. Nick ducked back in under the sink and let the sweet sound of the singing rush over him, let his mind relax while his hands were busy with practical work. Dinner smelled almost ready. Maybe his stupid brother would sit down and eat his own food before he saw to Mum, and maybe this would be an okay Thursday after all.
There was only an instant’s warning.
The talisman Nick wore always hurt him. It was a constant irritation, an anchor hung around his neck that hummed and stung, but now pain flooded through him like an electric shock with the talisman as its source. The bird bones built around the talisman, woven into a web of crystal and net, shifted to form a new pattern. It felt as if the new pattern were being slowly burned into his skin.
“Alan,” he ground out between his teeth.
Then the window exploded inward, a sharp burst of glittering shards caught in the fluorescent lights. Nick dropped the wrench and shielded his face with his arm, turning and glancing under his sodden sleeve to check that Alan had already hit the floor.
In through the window came an unkindness of ravens.
Their enormous iridescent wings were crammed against each other, the kitchen suddenly packed with feathers and the birds’ deep, hoarse cries. The air of the room seemed to be nothing but the wind caused by their wing beats, and they sounded hungry.
Nick crawled along the floor until he could grab his sword.
The hilt was slick against his wet palms, and he hefted it in one hand and reached out with the other to grab Alan by the scruff of his neck and drag his brother behind him.
Alan lifted his shirt and took his gun out of its holster.
“Don’t pick me up. You’re my little brother, and it’s shameful.”
“You’re a beanpole, and it’s too easy,” Nick returned, watching the birds carefully. They were starting to settle on the kitchen surfaces, the curves of their folded wings hunched
forward like shoulders, apparently watching him back. “I can’t believe you’re still using that stupid gun.”
“I like my gun,” Alan protested.
“They don’t always work!”
“Well,” Alan conceded, “that’s why I’ve got three knives on me.”
There were ravens between them and the door. Nick hefted his sword and swung, feeling a rush of fierce joy when the blow connected and cut deep. One raven fell to the ground with its chest bleeding, and the rest screamed and wheeled on them. Nick hit the floor again, rolling toward the wall with one arm over his head. Alan was beside him, and Nick figured that he could be more or less shielded between the wall and Nick’s body.
They stayed down, panting, and Nick tried to think through the blood pounding in his temples. These birds were obviously under the control of a demon, and there would be a magician watching to make sure the demon did its job.
Demons almost never possessed animals. They hated being trapped in bodies with such limited brains. Nick wondered how many human bodies the magicians had offered this one in return for the favor.
“You get the magician,” Alan whispered. “I’ll take the demon.”
“I’ll get them both,” Nick said roughly, and shoved Alan for emphasis. “You stay down.”
Nick rose and for a moment felt like he was out in the night and in a storm, except that the storm was made of feathers. He had to throw up his left arm to beat away two ravens
that went for his eyes. The talons of one bird scored burning lines down his cheek, and Nick knocked it away, forgot all about strategy, and brought the sword around in a brutal circle through feathers and flesh.
This time none of the ravens screamed. Four more descended on Nick, their talons sinking into his sword arm, and cloth and skin came away in strips. When Nick tried to shake them off, more skin tore away, and when he lifted his face so he could see what he was swinging at, a bird hurtled down toward him. Its curved beak was aimed directly at his eyes.
He got a sharp elbow in the back from his idiot brother, pushing him to one side. He recovered his balance, then spun and cut two birds down, sending the other three in mad, croaking flight to the ceiling.
By the time Nick turned back to his brother, Alan was already advancing, and Nick saw he had the leader in his sights. He went to Alan’s side with his sword at the ready, in case the gun didn’t work. Alan’s eyes narrowed behind his glasses. He took aim and fired.
He didn’t miss. At this range, the demon didn’t have a chance.
The body of the raven went down, and the demon that had been possessing it went up through the ceiling, its body an insubstantial black plume, rising like glittering smoke.
Now that birds were not trying to claw Nick’s eyes out, it was easy enough to spot the illusion. He was good at spotting magic. He’d tried to explain to Alan once that illusions were sharper, more real than the real world, more real than they had to be, but Alan had never been able to see it.
There was one bird now that was not milling about frantically like the others, but making directly for the broken window.
Nick pointed. “There!”
Alan fired again, and where a bird had been was a man falling.
As the body fell to the ground, the door leading to the hall opened and Mum stood in the doorway, her magicians’ charms shining with power, her hair falling like shadows over her face.
Alan was checking the man’s pulse, so Nick was the one who looked over at her and said, “It’s dealt with. We don’t need you.”
Mum stood in the darkened hallway, watching him with pale eyes, and said at last, “I didn’t come for you.”
She closed the door, and Nick heard her slowly climbing back up the stairs.
They both looked around, panting a little, in case there were any more surprises to follow. But after five minutes nothing else happened. Nick let his sword point drop and touch the floor.
It was over. They were left with about fifteen confused ravens, a dead magician on their kitchen floor, and the sound of their mother’s footsteps fading away.
While Alan salvaged dinner, Nick leaned against the kitchen counter and tried to keep out of the birds’ way. They might no longer be under the sway of a demon, but they were still animals with great big go-to-hell beaks and claws, and Nick had never really been much of an animal person. Animals could tell, too. Alan’d had a cat once, and he’d had to give it away after it bit Nick a few times.
They didn’t have to discuss it: this meant moving. Great. Nick had only just got Alan’s bookshelves up the way he liked them.
The cuts along his cheek and arm stung. Nick fingered the gash on his cheek and tried to judge how deep it might be.
“Don’t touch that,” Alan said, slapping his hand away without looking at him. “It’ll get infected. Dinner’s done, I think—let me patch you up and then we can eat. We’ll clean up afterward.”
Nick saw Alan shiver. The night air was blowing in cold.At least some of the birds were noticing the enormous space where the window used to be. A few had already left.
His cheek hurt, and he was starving. Nick fingered his talisman and scowled.
“Jump up,” Alan said, sweeping broken glass out of the way with his sleeve pulled down over his hand. Thank God the saucepan lid had been on their dinner.
Nick rolled his eyes and slid into a sitting position on the counter. Alan got down the first-aid kit, tilted Nick’s chin up, and started to pour the disinfectant carefully into the wounds. Alan always tried too hard to be gentle, which made everything worse. Nick set his teeth.
“Am I hurting you?”
“No,” Nick said. “That was the stupid birds.”
“They’re very intelligent, actually,” Alan told him as if he was under the impression Nick cared at all. He squinted and pinched the lips of the wound, taping them together. Then he set to work on Nick’s arm. “If you catch them young, you can teach them to talk.”
“I don’t see what the big deal about that is,” Nick said. “I can talk.”
Alan pushed him gently; he still apparently hadn’t absorbed the fact that Nick was twice as broad across the shoulders as he was, and that Alan would really have to try to hurt him. “Well, I caught you young too. Anyway, I think a raven might’ve been easier—”
There was a noise outside.
Nick placed his hand over Alan’s mouth, cutting off all that fond reminiscing nonsense, and slid off the kitchen counter. He pushed Alan aside, put a finger to his lips, and bent to scoop up his sword in one swift motion.
Then he walked quietly to the back door. Alan could not follow him. Alan was not very good at stealth, because of his leg, but Nick glanced behind him before he nudged the door open with his sword point. Alan had drawn his gun.
The door swung all the way open, and there was a sharp movement in the darkness. Nick lunged.
“Don’t hurt her!” yelped a boy’s voice, and Nick caught himself just as Alan flipped a switch and light flooded the little garden.
Nick stopped with his sword poised against a girl’s throat.
She and her friend had obviously been hiding under the kitchen window. Chances were good they’d seen everything.
To her credit, the girl did not draw back from the blade. She did not even flinch. She just looked at Nick, her dark eyes large and calm in the sudden light, and Nick realized how all this must seem to her: the window frame with only jagged edges of glass left in it, the ravens winging through the air around them, the dead body on the floor. The boy with the sword to her throat.
All she did was swallow very gently against the blade and say, “I heard this was the place to come if you had a problem that was . . . out of the ordinary.”
She looked familiar.
“Obviously that wasn’t true,” said the boy standing at her shoulder, taking a nervous step away and then back to her. “Obviously this is the place to come if you want to get murdered by lunatics. Um—we’re sorry to have bothered you! Is there any chance we could just leave?”
There was something a whole lot more familiar about his voice, which was light but wavered at crucial points where it was meant to be lightest and airiest. He was standing in the
girl’s shadow, but the light caught his earring.
Nick recognized that before he recognized the boy’s worried face, the spiky blond hair that the darkness had turned into a pale crown.
“Wait,” Nick said.
“O-okay. Is there any chance we could get off with a flesh wound?”
Nick shifted his stance so he could look back at Alan, and saw the girl brace herself and the boy grasp her shoulder, fingers going white. Alan was standing in the doorway with his gun drawn.
“I know this guy,” Nick said. “He’s harmless.”
“Sure?” Alan asked, squinting behind his glasses.
“Sure,” Nick said. “James Crawford. Trust me, if he was a magician, he’d be able to defend himself at school. He’s harmless. He’s useless.”
“He’s not—” the girl began furiously.
“Let’s not argue with the crazy person holding the enormous sword!” James Crawford said. “And—did you say school?”
He stepped away from the girl to look at Nick properly. “Oh my God, Nick Ryves.”
Nick still hadn’t lowered his sword. He was a little bit intrigued by the fact that the girl hadn’t moved away either.
She was still looking up at him, still determinedly calm. He knew her now. She was the weird girl in the class above him, who dyed her hair pink and always wore a lot of pentagrams and crystals. Right now she was also wearing giant chandelier earrings and a violently pink T-shirt that bore the words ROMEO AND JULIET WOULDN’T HAVE LASTED.
He avoided people like her. He avoided anyone who tried to be noticed. That had been one of Dad’s first lessons: Try to act just like everyone else. If you failed to blend in, the magicians would find you.
“You know him?” she asked James.
“Well, yes,” said James. “He hangs around with a pretty rough crowd at school, Seb McFarlane and that lot, but they’re smoking-behind-the-bike-shed-rough. This is different, there were gunshots. My life was going to flash before my eyes, but it decided to hide behind my eyes and quake with terror instead. I think we should just go.”
“I’m not going anywhere,” the girl said. “I saw that bird turn into a man! You saw it too, Jamie. You must have.”
“I don’t know what I saw. It could’ve been a hallucination. You get those from sniffing glue.”
“You’ve never sniffed glue!”
“I’ve smelled glue,” Jamie said after a pause. “In art class.”
Nick was about to tell them exactly what he thought of their babbling and exactly what he would do to them if they didn’t go away at once and never breathe a word of what they’d seen, when Alan moved from the doorway into the light.
“Mae?” he said, his voice incredulous, and then quickly, “Nick, put that sword down!”
Mae said, “Bookshop Guy?”
Nick looked at her, tilting his head and recalling Alan’s wistful speeches on the subject of the pink-haired girl who liked the Beat generation. He put two and two together and came up with the fact that this entire situation was ridiculous.
This was Alan’s latest crush, then.
Nick drew the sword slowly away from the girl’s throat and lowered it until the tip almost but not quite touched the ground, holding himself ready just in case. He let his gaze follow the blade, toward the ground and away from Mae.
“Whatever you want,” he said softly.
Jamie was staring at Alan. “You helped me find Catcher in the Rye today and now you shoot people?”
“He only shot one person,” Nick remarked. “But the night is young.”
Alan glanced at him reproachfully, then turned back to Jamie and smiled his slow smile. He’d tucked the gun away under his buttoned-up shirt, along with his talisman, and all trace of the boy who fired to kill and never missed was gone.
The smile spread just a little bit at a time, coaxing and sweet, persuading Jamie to smile with him. Jamie was wearing a shy, crooked grin before Alan was done.
“Forgive him, he has no manners.”
“I get by on good looks,” Nick said.
“I know all of this is pretty strange,” Alan continued, “but you came here for a reason, didn’t you?”
“We came here because—something really strange has been happening to Jamie,” said Mae, her voice hard. “I was expecting someone who could give us real occult help, though, not a guy who works in my bookshop and a school thug younger than I am. I wasn’t expecting birds that turned into men and weapons and weird necklaces. I don’t know what the hell is going on!”
“If you’re so disappointed,” Nick said, “get lost. We’re busy.”
The evening was getting colder and colder, as was Nick’s dinner, and he had to board up the window and call the garage to tell them he was quitting. He did not care what these people wanted, or what was going on with them, or why anyone would use the word occult when they didn’t have to.
He just wanted them to go away.
“No, no,” Alan said at once. “I know all this must look strange, but we can help you. We want to help you.”
Nick felt himself bound to correct this misapprehension. “I don’t. And we’ve talked about this, Alan. Don’t you think we have enough going on without opening up a charity shop for people who think they need occult”—he let his lip curl—“help?”
“Dad would have wanted us to help people,” Alan told him, and then addressed the others. “Look, please come in. I can explain everything.”
It was a testament to Alan’s powers of persuasion that they did not laugh in his face. It was a testament to Alan’s powers of looking nonthreatening that he could manage it with the door open on their destroyed kitchen, with a corpse on the floor. He rumpled his red hair and adjusted his glasses in an anxious sort of way, and he took a couple of steps back to the kitchen. He let them see the limp: he used that, the same way he used everything.
Mae and Jamie visibly relaxed.
Nick gave up, shaking his head and following his brother inside. Mae squared her shoulders resolutely and crossed the threshold into their home. Nick was standing in the doorway and stepped back about an inch, so she had to brush by him. She looked irritated and uncomfortable doing it, and he smirked at her. He saw her hesitate, as if she was about to turn and run, but Alan stood before her looking honest and inviting.
She stopped, reached up, and tapped the talisman lying against Nick’s chest.
“What’s this?” she asked, her voice a little softer.
“It’s a talisman,” Alan answered gently. “It warns him when magic is being used nearby, and it protects him from smaller spells.”
“Protects him,” Mae repeated. “So you’re talking about black magic, then? The kind that hurts people—that causes trouble.”
Nick laughed, looking at the broken glass and black feathers around them.
“There isn’t any other kind.”
“I have a feeling this is going to be one hell of an explanation,” Mae said, and walked into the kitchen and toward Alan.
Jamie still looked wide-eyed and extremely doubtful about what he was doing, but he dashed in after her.
Nick closed the door and found himself wondering what had brought this pair to their house. You had to be desperate to come to them.