For those who aren't familiar with it, The Crooked Letter is kinda urban New Weird on a massive scale. It's been compared to China Mieville, Philip Pullman, Ursula K Le Guin, Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Michael Moorcock, yada yada, and it won both the Aurealis and Ditmar Awards the year it was released (the first fantasy novel in the history of the awards to do so). Chronologically speaking, it's the first book in my Change series, and stands as a prequel to The Stone Mage & the Sea, The Blood Debt, and The Changeling. It's also my attempt to take all the world's religions and wrap them up in a crazy Darwinian package that even an atheist like me might be tempted to believe. It was the most difficult book I ever wrote, and now it's free. Check it out!
Hadrian forced his eyes open. The world shimmered in front of him. Seth was an indistinct shape moving arrow-straight
between leafless trees, out of the frigid park. Hadrian made a sound like a growl and got his legs working. His balance was shot. Stag- gering a little at first, then with more determination, he resumed his chase. Pain fuelled his anger, and anger fuelled his strength. Exhala- tions exploded from him in clouds. He didn't know what he planned to do once he caught up with his brother, but that he did catch up was vitally important. The rest of his life faded into the background as this single instant loomed in significance. His hands curled into claws. The taste of blood mingled with the iciness of the city on his exposed teeth, setting them on edge. His breathing sounded like a long, sustained roar in his ears.
Buildings rose around him, growing taller and darker as though glaciers were sliding vertically from trampled soil. His determination grew. Seth was acting like he was to blame--and that was so ludicrous it almost didn't bear challenging. But he had to challenge it, or his brother would have things his way again. Hadrian had spent his entire life in the shadow of someone who didn't play by the rules. The time had come to stand up for himself.
Seth vanished precipitously down a flight of steps. Hadrian was about to follow when a hand grabbed his coat from behind. He jerked to a halt, startled, and rounded to push his assailant away.
"Hadrian. Jesus!" It was Ellis. He lowered his hands at the fright in her hazel eyes. "What the hell's going on? Have you two been fighting?" "He went down there." All thoughts had been focussed on catching
his brother, but her presence penetrated his obsession. His words were muffled, nasal. He realised for the first time how he must look to others, with blood all down his face and T-shirt, running like a madman or a murderer on some horrible mission. He felt like a monster.
"Jesus." There was no sympathy in her stare, just alarm. She took his arm, not to comfort him but to contain him. He was shaking. His eyes felt swollen, full of hot tears. "He hit you! Did you hit him? Do you want to hit him?"
"I--" What had seemed so clear a moment ago was falling apart like gossamer. He shook his head in confusion. "I don't know."
"F***ing boys." She softened slightly. "I should get you to the hotel, clean you up. He'll come back when he's ready." Her stare shifted to something behind him, and her face tightened. "No, let's keep moving. Down there." She tugged him in the direction Hadrian had gone. "Are you okay?"
"Yes." He was far from sure of it. "Do you think we're being fol- lowed again?" he asked, although behind him he saw nothing out of the ordinary.
She pulled him down the stairs. His legs threatened to buckle, and he kept up as best he could. Fluorescent lights cast surreal shadows as they hurried underground. Signs in foreign languages slid by. An esca- lator whirred at the end of a long tiled tunnel, and they took it deeper into the earth, to a subway. There, the air was dank and thick with fumes. People converged on either side of a row of turnstiles, jostling, blank faced. Hadrian tightened his coat around himself to hide the blood on his T-shirt, but his nose was still bleeding. Some of the com- muters noticed and their faces came alive for a moment with surprise.