Author: AJ Eversley
Genre: Sci-Fi, Dystopian
Marked. Hidden. Trained. But the terror awaiting is greater than any of them can imagine.
Sienna has spent her entire life inside the DEZ, a glorified orphanage for unwanted Marked kids. Finally, she’s only months away from graduation. For over a year she’s worked hard to prepare for life outside the DEZ, but being the arena’s champion isn’t always an easy task…even for the notorious Blaze. Fighting in the Underground isn’t about the thrill or the glory, though Sienna has achieved both, it’s about the money—and a way out.
When an explosion rocks the city of Cytos, the Marked kids find themselves at the center of a brewing war. Desperation brings Sienna into the arena one last time, only her opponent, the Wraith, won’t be so easy to defeat. And for Sienna, failure is not an option.
Jayla is a Watcher. She's been tasked with keeping her city safe from an enemy the citizens don’t even know exists. For over 150 years the Watchers have kept them safe, but a darkness has awoken, and even the shadows have gone quiet in fear.
When Jayla fails to stop the explosion at the Genetics Lab, she and her team vow to find those responsible. Soon they discover the Marked kids are at the center of it all. To figure out what's going on, Jayla will have to step back into the arena and become something she thought she’d tried to forget. She must become the Wraith, even if only for a night, to acquire an ally and a way into the DEZ. But can she do it without losing herself again?
Peace has always been the goal, and they’ve succeeded for a long time, but at what cost? How long can a deadly secret be hidden from the world? This isn’t a fight for glory and riches…this is a battle of survival.
Chapter One: Sienna
“Blaze, Blaze, Blaze,” the crowd chanted.
My heart thumped hard against my chest in anticipation, but any fear I once had disappeared the moment I stepped in the arena. This was what I was good at, what I was made for. Maybe not intentionally, but if I had been given a gift—an advantage—who was I not to use it?
The arena silenced as the Maestro stepped forward. He tapped once on his mic before speaking. “Ladies and Gentlemen, my fellow humans and esteemed Carbons. I welcome you all on this monumental occasion as we watch our Champion, Blaze, take on The Beast.”
The crowd went wild, cheers and boos and screams surrounding me, but my focus narrowed on The Beast. An apt nickname, if it weren’t so obvious. She looked more like a beast than a woman—that was clear enough—but I would expect nothing less from these vagabonds who came here every weekend to bet on the fights.
A few hours ago when I’d entered this place, I wasn’t thinking about my opponent or how large the payout might be tonight. The only thought running through my mind was simple—don’t lose. It was the same thought I had each time I entered the ring. And it was the fear of failure that had made me their champion.
This was the world I lived in, where a seventeen-year-old girl prepared to fight. For sport, not war or conflict. For fun.
I squeezed and flexed my hands, zoning in on my opponent. The black tape covering my knuckles and wrist trailed up my forearm until it covered the crisp, black marks stained across my pale skin just below my elbow. My first identifiers.
The black mask across my eyes was secured at the back of my head under the tightly braided hair falling down the middle of my back. The mask hid my second identifier from view—my eyes. Two narrow slits were all I needed to assess my opponent, to pick out potential strengths and weaknesses.
The Beast stood across the cage, rotating her wrists and cracking her neck, as she sneered down on me. She was nearly a foot taller and probably double my weight—all muscle—but I wasn’t worried. They didn’t pay me to worry. They paid me to win.
My eyes closed, and the Maestro’s voice faded. The roaring beat of the music washed out as my focus centred on my breaths—deep, slow, intentional. A calm swept through me.
“Blaze, Blaze, Blaze,” the crowd continued, referring to another of my identifiers, the one I let them see. They hadn’t given me the name for a fire burning inside me, or because I could create flames with the flick of my wrist like some Carbons once could.
No, I was human.
Rolling my shoulders, I flipped my hair over my back. The name they gave me came from the red-orange locks flowing behind me like a whip of fire. It was the only thing I would let them see, the only part of me known to them. Because if I revealed any more of myself, they would tear me apart.
The Underground was nearly full tonight, and people still filtered in, pushing against each other to get a better view of the cage. A large crowd meant a large payout, so I welcomed the attention. These people had come to watch their champion defeat the giant. I was their champion, so I acted like one. The corner of my lips curved into a low, wicked smile, and they ate it up. Screams and cheers filled the room. Music pounded with a heavy beat fuelling the crowd even more. It fuelled me.
The crowd moved in closer, pressing up against the caged walls meant to keep us in, but soon I would be leaving victorious. The only options were to win or die trying. Failure was not an option.
I scanned the crowd. Humans, mostly workers who probably couldn’t afford to throw away money on this useless sport, made up the bulk of the mob. Some Carbons had come out tonight, too. They were elite, human-like machines who had been integrated into society after the war nearly a hundred and fifty years ago. We were meant to respect them, accept them, but I saw them for what they really were. Terrifying, spoiled, near immortal creatures who could wipe our species off this planet in the blink of an eye if they felt like it.
“Let the games begin,” the Maestro shouted over the screams of the crowd.
A bell rang, and I pushed off the cage and stepped forward to face my opponent, a cocky swagger in my stance as I waited for her to make the first move.
The Beast wasted no time, dropping her shoulder and aiming full speed for me, but I danced out of the way. She was enormous. Her reach probably doubled my own, which meant I was better off using my quickness to avoid getting too close. She crashed hard into the cage. The crowd roared and banged on the metal she leaned against.
I kept my feet light, taking a few steps back. The Beast pushed off the cage. Closing the space between us lightning fast, she swung a heavy fist toward my face. I dropped in time for it to soar past me, getting two quick punches to her side before skipping back out of reach.
Alcohol and overused cologne filled my nostrils. Blood from earlier fights covered the soles of my bare feet. These people had come for a show; I would give them one.
I tested a kick to her leg, but the Beast only cracked a toothy grin, closing in on me quicker than I anticipated. Her shoulder slammed into my chest, and I was thrown against the cage wall. My breath caught in my lungs, and a slight ringing filled my ears.
What makes your featured book a must-read?
EverMarked is full of action scenes and twists and turns that will glue you to the page. The characters are well developed and complex and you’ll be routing for Sienna and Jayla the whole way through.
“Evermarked is a compelling dystopian fantasy I couldn't put down. The characters (both main and minor) are so well-written with each having their own backstory, I connected with them on various levels. Some I hated on sight and some I adored. I kept rooting for both Sienna and Jayla as they had their own agendas and motivations. The plot moves at a fast pace without being too complicated. At the center of the plot beats the heart of a coming of age story. Fans of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series will love this book and series. The ending was a bit of a cliffhanger but it sets it up for the next in the series. Highly recommend!” Five stars- N.N. Light
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As an avid reader from a young age, it only made sense that one day I would write my own stories. I grew up in a small town in central Alberta Canada where there wasn't much to do but read, cheer on the Oilers and attempt to enjoy the long winter months. After high school, I attended college where I played 4 years of college basketball and eventually went into Recreation as a career. I stayed at the college I graduated from, before making the move to full-time writing. My first book series, The WATCHER Series, was self-published in 2017 and later picked up by Aelurus Publishing to be republished. The three-book series, along with a second four-book series EVERMARKED, set in the same world have been released in 2020. Currently, along with finishing up the above series, I am working on my first YA Fantasy word titled THE SIX THRONES (check out a sneak peek in my blog at www.ajeversley.com) which I hope to have out soon as well! Find out more about me on my Instagram, facebook or twitter page, or join my newsletter for instant updates!
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