Wednesday, February 11, 2015

{Blog Tour w/ #GIVEAWAY} The Wicked Awakening of Anne Merchant by Joanna Wiebe

The Wicked Awakening of Anne Merchant
Book 2 of the V Trilogy
Joanna Weibe

Young Adult Fiction
Date Published: 1/20, 2015

Life and death, light and dark, spirit and flesh-on.  Wormwood Island, the lines are always blurred.  For Anne Merchant, who has been thrust back into this eerily secretive world, crossing the line seems inevitable, inescapable, destined.
Now, as Ben finds himself battling for the Big V and Teddy reveals the celestial plan in which Anne is entwined, Anne must choose:  embrace her darkly powerful connction to a woman known as Lilith and, in doing so, save the boy she loves...or follow a safer path that is sure to lead to Ben's destruction at the hands of dark leaders.  Hoping the ends will justify the means, Anne starts down the slippery slope into the underworld, intent on exploring the dark to find the light.  But as the lure of Lilith proves powerfully strong, will Anne save the others-only to lose herself?


Awakening of Anne Merchant

I know, when I look at Dr. Zin, that the devastating
effects of my faulty escape were even farther reaching than I’d worried.
Here stands a man who was once plastic surgeon to celebrity clientele, a
man who struck me as dazzling when I first saw him, a man who could
have been the poster boy for “the beautiful people”—and you would never
know this man is the same man.
Raw redness covers his neck in thick flame-shaped patches, the
tender-looking bottoms of which disappear under his shirt collar and the
sticky tips of which stretch over his jaw where they climb like thin claws
up the sides of his once-immaculate face. His broad shoulders droop under
the weight of a thousand invisible demons. The black bag he carries
dangles precariously on his fingertips, which have uncoiled from a fist
exhausted by clenching. His feet in their scuffed wingtips are wobbly. A
frown is carved into the flesh of his face. And his eyes—they are the most
irreparably damaged of all. Though not burned like his skin, they are puffy
with heartache and aberrantly dark; they are like the half-open flaps of a
dingy cellar, revealing a darkness stacked high with shadowy boxes and
crates packed to bursting courtesy of fifty years of soul-crushing experiences,
not the least of which happened the other night.
As I feel Hiltop’s hungry gaze observing my reaction to this weakened,
beat-down and scarred version of Dr. Zin—a version that is her own
Excerpt: The Wicked Awakening of Anne Merchant
making—I look away from it all. My horror will only please Hiltop more,
but what she thinks about me right now is the least of my concerns. Because
this is my fault. Dr. Zin’s life would
be perfectly normal, and Ben would be safe
in his father’s house, if not for me. I want
to tell him how sorry I am for what they’ve
done to him, what they did to punish him for his son’s actions. But my lips
are sealed. I don’t dare say a word, though I can’t help but think, God, is
there anyone on earth I don’t have to apologize to?
“What’re these kids doing here?” Dr. Zin asks in a slur that can only
mean one thing: AA is officially over for him.
Hiltop crosses the room to stand next to me and interlocks our arms
like we’re old friends. She explains cheerily to the parents, “We’re writing
a piece for the school paper.”
I jerk my arm free.
“What paper?” Dr. Zin asks her. She glares at him. “Oh, sure, um,
the paper.”
Under my breath, I hiss at Hiltop, “You burned him? Will your punishments
never end?”
“Burned Zin?” she whispers back. “On the contrary. He earned those
burns in the car accident he caused years ago. I’ve simply… allowed his
true self to shine through again.”
“You’re heartless.”
“Hush. He asked for them. As a reminder that he is responsible for
Ben’s situation.”
Dr. Zin speaks directly to Dia Voletto this time. “May I present Mr.
and Mrs. Robert Smith.” His voice cracks as he offers his black doctor’s
bag to Dia. “And the vials, produced in triplicate, of the blood of their son,
Damon, the next candidate for vivification at Cania Christy.”
The Smiths stand straighter and try to mask their excitement as the
stage is set for this moment they’ve been waiting for—this real-life act of
wondrous magic.
As I watch Dr. Zin swing unsteadily back and forth on his heels, only
skittishly looking my way, Dia opens the black leather bag, the very one
Teddy mentioned yesterday. He reaches into it. The Smiths gasp as he
withdraws a long, glistening vial of deep mahogany-colored blood. Damon
Smith in a bottle. Dia steps forward and wraps his hands around it.
Almost the moment he touches it, a piercing shrill fills the office, ripretweet
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Excerpt: The Wicked Awakening of Anne Merchant
ping my gaze from Dr. Zin. I clap my hands to my ears—the Smiths do,
too—as dense air whooshes over us, seeming to fly in from behind the plaster
walls. The chandeliers swing. Paintings rattle. Light-colored fragments
appear from nowhere and fly toward Dia, in all directions, and then fuse,
with a great sucking force that tugs at my skirt and shakes the books on the
shelves, into a glowing, growing sphere in the center of the room. Dia is
smiling. Dr. Zin just keeps rocking on his feet; he’s seen this a zillion times.
The Smiths, as thrilled as ever, cling to each other, welcoming this
unearthly synthesis. I shield myself from the flying spots of blue and white
light. Dia’s grin spreads. Hiltop’s eyes glisten—she almost looks emotional.
No one can tear their gaze away as a human is re-created before us, recreated
in a spectacle that is like all things on Wormwood Island: terrifying
and hypnotizing at once.
And then, in a whirl that leaves me choking on my own breath, it’s done.
Damon Smith stands in the suit they buried him in. His back is to me
and Hiltop; he’s next to Dia. His parents reach for him, but Dr. Zin holds
them back.
“Not yet.” Dr. Zin clears his throat and, flipping open a small notebook,
reads to the boy, “Damon Archibald Smith, welcome to the Cania
Christy Preparatory Academy. You died of leukemia approximately
five days ago in Boston, Massachusetts. You have been granted a second
chance at life here on Wormwood Island by the venerable Headmaster
Dia Voletto. To give you this chance, your parents have agreed to the following
terms of admission: to finance the construction of Cania College
on Wormwood Island and to guarantee its completion by the end of this
school year.”
For the first time, the mention of Cania College interests me. What if
there’s a chance that Ben can go there? If he’s decided not to throw himself
on Garnet’s mercy—to date her and leave me—is there any chance he could
graduate, move along to the college, and try his hand at winning life there?
But, no, surely that’s not possible.
Dia wouldn’t give us more time on earth. Why would he? Is he the
devil with the heart of gold? He sent Teddy away to look for a new home
for Mephisto. Is this all just about broadening their reach? High school
students weren’t enough. Next up? College students. And then what?
A junior high on whatever island Mephisto takes over? An elementary
school? A bank, hotel, grocery store, airport, stock exchange?
As Dr. Zin finishes his robotic speech, Hiltop joins Dia at his side.
Excerpt: The Wicked Awakening of Anne Merchant
“Please take a moment to absorb this information, Damon, following
which we will reunite you with your mother and father, answer your
questions and proceed with the rules of the school, the assignment of your
Guardian, and the declaration of your prosperitas thema.”
“It’s your turn now,” Hiltop tells Dia with a nudge. “Take control.”
She’s broken her cover, but the Smiths would never know it. Tears
stream down their faces and run into their mouths as they look at the boy
they surely thought they’d never see alive again, a boy who is free of cancer.
You can see them restraining themselves, clenching their fists and gritting
their teeth to keep from flinging themselves at him.
“Oh, Damon!” his mother cries.
Damon, I notice, has been rocking on the spot. And now, with the cry
of his mother, he pivots toward her. In a slow, swaying motion. He faces
Dr. Zin and his parents. I can’t help myself: I sigh with joy for the Smith
family. I get it. I get why parents give up so much for this opportunity.
But he doesn’t stop. He pivots toward me. Only when he faces me
does my stomach turn. Damon looks so frail and lost.
Too frail.
And far too lost.
When I was vivified yesterday, I felt wonky for a while. But not for
long. Did I look like Damon looks? His face is ghostly pale. His jaw is
slack, his head tipped unnervingly. His irises are thin yellow lines circling
his oversized pupils.
Something is very, very wrong.
When the Smiths stop sobbing with joy long enough to realize that
there may be little to be joyful for, the only sounds in the room become the
low wheeze that leaves Damon’s mouth in choppy spurts and the creaking
of the floor as he turns toward new noises.
“What’s going on?” Dia asks Hiltop through a clenched smile. “Why
does he look like that?”
Mrs. Smith echoes his concern, but louder. “Damon?”
Damon shifts on instinct toward each new sound he hears, pivoting in
the center of the room.
Mrs. Smith stumbles back. Away from her husband. Away from what
should be her son but clearly isn’t. The blood has drained from her face
just as it’s drained from Damon’s. Mr. Smith is no less horrified by the possibility
of what has happened here than his wife; he’s just slower to react,
slower to believe it could be so.
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“Tell me this sometimes takes a while.” Mr. Smith’s deep voice fights
a tremble. “Tell me it’s normal for my boy to seem so… soulless. This will
change. He’ll be his old self soon. Tell me, Dr. Zin. It just takes a minute
for his soul to meet his body. Isn’t that right?”
“It looks to me like the body of your boy is with us,” Dia says like some
sort of rookie policeman poking around the scene of a murder, “but his
soul’s long gone. Probably moved on to its next life.”
Dia raises an eyebrow in Hiltop’s direction, and I realize that Hiltop’s
walking our new headmaster through the vivification process; this is Dia’s
first time. She steps up swiftly to calm the Smiths, though her message
does little to end Mrs. Smith’s whimpers. The child they thought they’d be
holding is, once again, being taken from them.
A lump is in my throat. I can’t swallow it down.
“My apologies, but this happens from time to time, as I’m sure Dr. Zin
told you,” Hiltop says, flicking a stony glare as she walks by an unfazed
Dr. Zin. “Cania Christy cannot guarantee that every child can be vivified.
Naturally, understanding that we could not fulfill our end of the exchange,
your contract is now null and void.”
“What do you mean this happens? What do you mean no guarantee?
Why can’t you do what you said?” Mrs. Smith looks frantically at each
of us. She bounces on the spot as if torn between rushing to hold the animated
body of her son, a body that appears far healthier than Damon must
have been in his last days, and cowering
from the dismal monster that teeters in confusion.
“Where’s Damon? Where’s my baby
boy? What is this atrocity? Zin didn’t tell us
anything about—what the hell is this?” She shoots a stinging glare at me and
Hiltop. “Did you know this would happen, you little scamps? Is this some
sort of edgy story for your stupid paper?”
My tongue knots. Hiltop looks expectantly at Dr. Zin, who, inebriated,
shrugs like it’s not his problem.
“Would you like me to walk them out?” Dr. Zin asks Dia.
“No!” Mr. Smith insists. “No. That’s not the answer. There’s no walking
us out. No. No, make Damon be here. It doesn’t get simpler than that.
You said you would. What more do you need? What more can I give you?”
I drop my eyes the moment Mr. Smith fumbles to remove his watch,
as if this is one of those problems you can solve by hocking your Rolex.
When I dare to look up again, I find him with his hands fidgeting helplessly
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Excerpt: The Wicked Awakening of Anne Merchant
at his sides; his fingers are stripped of rings; his jewelry is pooled in Dia’s
hands alongside the vial of blood.
His wife bolts from the room. She slams the door and attracts Damon’s
vacant stare.
Mr. Smith’s reddened gaze falls on the boy. “Why is he like this?”
Hiltop nudges Dia, who hands the jewelry back to Mr. Smith and
says, “Each of our souls is on a continuum. It stops in bodies—in different
lives—along the way. Being Damon was just one stop on his journey. Usually
we’re able to vivify before the next stop. That wasn’t the case today.”
“Are you talking about reincarnation?”
“So, wait,” Mr. Smith sniffles, taking a silk handkerchief from his coat
and blowing his nose as his gaze rolls to and from the rocking boy. “Are
you saying that Damon—hold on, can you please do something to get rid
of this abomination? It breaks my heart to see him like this. Even if it’s just
his body.”
Dia holds the vial up and, without a thought, tosses it into the fireplace.
In moments, the glass heats enough to shatter, drizzling blood into the flames.
Damon Archibald Smith gradually vanishes; Mr. Smith turns his eyes away
like he’s been slapped, and I’ve gotta say that, as cool as I think I am with
death thanks to growing up in a funeral home, even I have to glance away.
Again, Mr. Smith blows his nose. When he turns back to Hiltop and
Dia, he looks more composed.
“I don’t want the contract to be null and void,” Mr. Smith says. “I died
the day cancer took Damon, so I’ll be happy for the distraction of building
your college.”
“We can’t bring your boy back,” Dia says.
“I will give you what you wanted—that college in the village—if you
will tell me this: whom has my son been reincarnated as? When we’re finished
building your college, I intend to move to wherever he is and watch
him grow.”
Dia begins to protest, but Mr. Smith holds his hand up to silence him
and turns instead to Hiltop.
“You,” he says to her. “You’re the one running this, right?”
“Until recently, yes. Now I’m more of an advisor.”
“And you, too?” He looks at me.
I stammer, “No. Not me. Not at all.”
“So you’re just a dead kid this actually worked on?”
Excerpt: The Wicked Awakening of Anne Merchant
Hiltop brings the conversation back on track. “I’m the one you want
to talk to.”
“Have you still got what it takes to track a deceased child’s soul? Can
you help me?”
I’m stunned at how much Mr. Smith knows. Do all parents know
there’s more to Cania Christy than a magic show?
“I am always open to… interesting exchanges.”
“Good,” Mr. Smith says. He glances at Dia, too. “Good. I’m not here
to judge. I just want to know what my boy is doing. Where he’s living. Who

he was reincarnated as. Tell me that, and you’ll get your college.”

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