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Death and Resurrection

The award-winning writer of Tea with the Black Dragonand other acclaimed novels returns to fantasy with the intriguing story of Chinese-American artist Ewen Young who gains the ability to travel between the worlds of life and death. This unasked-for skill irrevocably changes his life—as does meeting Nez Perce veterinarian Dr. Susan Sundown and her remarkable dog, Resurrection. After defeating a threat to his own family, Ewen and Susan confront great evils—both supernatural and human—as life and death begin to flow dangerously close together.

“I love R.A. MacAvoy’s books. Always have and—if Death and Resurrection is any indication—I probably always will. Do yourself a favour and pick this up. You won’t be disappointed!”
—Charles De Lint

Read an excerpt below.

About the Author: R.A. MacAvoy is the author of twelve novels. Her debut, Tea With the Black Dragon, won the John W. Campbell Award, the Locus Award for best first novel, and a Philip K. Dick Award special citation. It was also nominated for the Nebula Award, the Hugo Award, the Ditmar Award, and listed in David Pringle’s Modern Fantasy: The Hundred Best Novels. Born in Cleveland, Ohio, she has been married for thirty-three years to Ronald Cain. They live in the Cascade Foothills of Washington State.

MacAvoy clearly still has the talent for the ingratiating characters and revealing detail that made her first novel so delightful; almost every chracter is handled with wit and grace…Death and Resurection turns out to be far less portentious adventure romance than its title implies…and almost inevitably more enjoyable…it’s good to have her back.—Gary Wolfe, Locus

MacAvoy’s expansion of her 2009 novella “In Between” will please fans of her thoughtful hero Black Dragon, though new protagonist Ewen Young goes past philosophical to passive. Ewen, a Chinese Buddhist, just wants to be a painter and practice kung fu, but fate has other plans. He’s always had a touch of the spiritual, whether it’s an empathic bond with his twin sister or a psychic retreat he can share with others. When a brush with death kicks it up several notches, he ends up reluctantly guiding an investigation and a school as well as building a relationship with a strong-willed Native American vet and her body-hunting dog. Ewen’s (and MacAvoy’s) refusal to explore the origins of his powers takes the tone of the book further from most Western speculative fiction and toward magical realism or mysticism, which will delight some readers and irritate others.—Publishers Weekly

Death and Resurrection is the first novel by R.A. MacAvoy in quite a while, and although it is science fiction/fantasy, there is a romance subplot that becomes more rewarding as the novel proceeds, and I think that romance readers in general will be interested in MacAvoy’s work for its distinctive and likable characters.—Fresh Meat

Excerpt from Death and Resurrection:

Between one moment and the next Ewen was fully awake. He sat up, listening, peering around in the light of a new-risen moon, and the black dread came up in him. He disciplined it as he had before, but it welled up again. This time the object of fear was not in his mind.
It was outside.

He examined the darkness and now it was painted with the faces of bears and monsters. They were quite realistic, for—as he knew—they had been painted by his own imagination. His heart was pounding, and he felt a shred of fear that it might break open from the old scar of the summer, and out here there would be no medical science that could put it whole again. This thought, too, he disciplined.

Beside him Resurrection stood, stiff and lean, like the statue of the wolf suckling Romulus and Remus, and her growl echoed through the cabin like the engine of a Harley.

Susan gasped, sat up and whispered, “I had a nightmare . . .” and then “Oh God. Oh shit! It’s here.”

The dog shot a deep amber glance at her human and her growl rose into a series of thunderous barks. She backed into Susan, straddling her.

“It’s fear,” shouted Ewen over the barks. “It’s only fear.”

“You goddamn well bet it’s fear!” Susan cried back and she was shaking. “That doesn’t mean it’s less dangerous!”

Ewen leaned over and touched her over her heart. “Step away from it,” he said, very slowly. “Let it move past you . . . I’ve been in situations like this before,” he added gently. Once, he added silently. And then it took a cop to haul me out of it.

Better not to tell her that part. Someone had to be cool and calm. Someone.

She looked at him, her face edged and delineated by the light of the moon, and she put her hands to her own breast, over his. Her shaking slowed. The voice of the dog, which had risen to a siren’s wail, also slowed, deepened, and again became a threatening roar.

Susan glanced at her dog and took an immensely deep breath. “You’re right. I gotta get over this. There’s something here and I can’t punk out this way now. Or ever. I’m the boss and it isn’t fair to Rez.”

Ewen almost grinned as she echoed his thoughts. She pushed his hand away from her and turned around in her bag, reaching beneath her for the cedar boughs. She pulled one free. “Here,” she said. “Rub this on yourself. Your hands. Your head.”

Ewen was busy: looking and listening. Feeling. But though he had no confidence in Susan’s own Indian magic, he saw that Susan needed something to do. In moments such as these, something to do made the difference between fight and panic. Ewen rubbed the soft needles into his hands and hair, and then wiped his aromatic hands over his face. It smelled good. Felt good. Not as good as a sharpened broadsword would feel in his hand, but good. He looked at Resurrection, who was now bounding repeatedly over them, from one side of the cabin to the other. Her eyes were shining, but she still growled.

Ewen wiggled out of his bag. He put his hand on the door latch. “I’m going to get out of here,” he said.

Susan’s eyes widened. “Out there? Bad idea! Ewen, that’s a very bad idea.”

“If something comes, I’ve got no room to meet it in here,” he answered, and he popped the door open and jumped out. What was actually in his mind was: It will follow me. It always follows men. It’s probably been following me since I went to the temple. I won’t lead it in here.

Outside it was very cold and crystals of ice sparkled on the dirt of the runway. The crackle of his own breath made Ewen strain for any other sound. He walked away from the plane, feeling his body heat sucked up by the night. Whatever it was, the cold was its ally.

Standing under the moon, Ewen did a breathing technique taught to him, not by his fighting uncle, but by Theo the pacifist. Tibetan snow-meditation. Heat-yoga. He raised the heat in his belly and sent it down his arms and legs. He felt it like a fire in his limbs. Hearth-fire. He looked about and waited.

The thing approached Ewen from behind, but when he leaped around, it was behind him still. This presence was not just fear: it was a lightless center that moved the air around it, and scraped over the ground. Ewen darted to a large tree and put his back against it. The thing spread slow fingers of itself around each side of the trunk, coming again from behind.

Across the runway stood another tree, its cascading branches reaching almost to the ground. It was a cedar. On an impulse, Ewen sprinted the width of the bare earth, slipping and sliding on the ice. He ducked under the spread of the tree, which was fragrant even in the frozen night.

It came straight for him and under the moonlight he could see it, though it tricked his eyes. It had a head of dissolution, of rotting death. It turned his guts to water and his stomach cramped.

The vision came into his mind of a drum made from a human skull Theo sometimes played. It had seemed a tasteless act to Ewen, once. But he remembered Theo saying to young Teddy, “It’s what we’re made of, son. We come and we go. It’s all okay.” Ewen visualized the rotting face as only a different form of the skull by Theo’s altar. A different form of his own face. The cramps in his stomach loosened. He moved a step away from the cedar trunk to see the thing better.

Behind him he heard Susan chanting something he did not recognize and the low howl of Rez. “Rub the cedar oil on your hands,” she called to him. “I’ve put magic in it.”

Susan’s Indian magic. Ewen felt a moment of pity for her and then remembered how pitiful his own story would seem to any number of people, had he been brave enough to share it. He hadn’t been brave enough, but now he rubbed his hands together. “Susan’s magic,” he growled with as much authority as he could muster.

And the thing moved away from him. For a moment he felt almost euphoric, but then he saw it was turning toward the airplane. This was not what he had intended, whether Susan’s magic surpassed his own or not.

The dog, howling, charged out of the plane to meet the heavy rotten thing. Wolf-like, she slashed with her teeth at the decayed flesh and her momentum carried her right into the blackness within it.

“Rez!” screamed Susan. She jumped from the plane and ran forward.

I am the boss she had said. And, It isn’t fair to Rez.

Ewen bellowed “No!” and he, too, ran from his place of safety. He saw the dog pitched out of the mass of darkness. Rez spun in the air and came down on the runway, skidding on the frozen ground. “No! No! It’s me you want!” he shouted. “I’m the holy man! I’m the man of power!” He was so frantic that he didn’t even hear himself shouting these absurdities. He ran and skidded, and came to the plane with legs spread to catch balance, sailing like a snowboarder over the ice.

Susan stood over the limp form of her dog, with only a cedar bough for weapon. She shook it in front of the encroaching shape of horror and she shouted, “You cannot come here! You cannot come!”

The thing turned its head back toward Ewen. “Throw me a branch,” he called to her. “Throw me a cedar branch. Magic it!” Without hesitation she reached back into the cabin and brought one out: a long and sturdy thing. She threw it at Ewen and the cedar bough made a lazy circle in the air toward him. She threw well.

The thing—the rotten monster—extended one heavy limb in a swipe at the spinning cedar. There were long, chunky claws at the end of its arm, if arm it was, but they did not reach the branch. Ewen grabbed it from the air and hefted it. This weapon was front-heavy, but then so was a broadsword. He tore a few of the lower twigs from it and strode toward the monster.

Which then took the shape of a bear—a bear not out of nature but straight out of Ewen’s worst imagination. It was much higher at the shoulder than Ewen’s head. It was black; it reeked and it roared.

Bear techniques, thought Ewen. I should have learned cedar broadsword against a monster bear. I missed that class.

It raised an arm the size of Ewen’s body and swiped its spiked claws at him. He leaped back and came down in a high-back stance, with his weight on his rear leg, and as the claws swept by him he lunged, sweeping down and to the right with his feathery weapon. The monster screamed. It reared up, so very, very high, and then struck with its other arm.

Now Ewen was no longer seeing the branch as a piece of rough wood and needles. He was seeing a Chinese broadsword, and he was very comfortable with a broadsword. He continued the sweep up, making a circle, and sliced into the other arm as it came at him. There was even a little red flag at the end of his broadsword. For some reason that gave him confidence.

The bear-thing stood like a man—a giant—a building—and it came down at him with all its terrible mass. Ewen bounced back, and found he was stopped by a heavy bough of his cedar tree stronghold and could go no further. The thing came down over him.

An image rose in his mind, and it was not one of broadsword work, or of martial arts at all. “Sam Gamgee!” he cried and flattened himself on the ground beneath the falling terror, his “broadsword” propped straight up beside him against the earth.

It was huge blackness and weight and fear, but the fear in it was not all his own fear. The shriek he heard was deep and deafening, and it was not from him at all.

About the Author: R.A. MacAvoy is the author of twelve novels. Her debut, Tea With the Black Dragon, won the John W. Campbell Award, the Locus Award for best first novel, and a Philip K. Dick Award special citation. It was also nominated for the Nebula Award, the Hugo Award, the Ditmar Award, and listed in David Pringle’s Modern Fantasy: The Hundred Best Novels. Born in Cleveland, Ohio, she has been married for thirty-three years to Ronald Cain. They live in the Cascade Foothills of Washington State.

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