If you are a regular reader of this blog, then you will know I'm a big fan of George Mann's work, I adored the Wychwood books and reviewed them HERE Wychwood Hallowdene and I'm also a fan of the brilliant Newbury and Hobbs series check out my review of The Revenant Express
So I was thrilled to be asked to host an exclusive extract of George's newest book Broken Things. You can learn more about this fabulous book and purchase a copy at this link Broken Things and just look at that stunning cover art. This extract has certainly intrigued me, so read on if you want to know more.
Broken Things extract
By George Mann
The Greenwood marked the northernmost boundary of the Wolkin’s territory—a densely packed knot of oaks that stretched, uninterrupted, for twenty or more leagues. Living in such close proximity, the trees and the tribe had forged an almost symbiotic relationship—for centuries the Greenwood’s outermost fringes had provided the Wolkin with a sustainable supply of wood, and in turn, the Wolkin offered a steady stream of tributes to the Great Oaks at the heart of the forest.
Nok had never liked the place. There were things in there that stirred at night—shrill cries that rang out from deep amongst the moss-stained boughs and sodden air, voices that seemed to originate in Nok’s nightmares. Voices of the long dead returned to haunt her. Worse, perhaps—such sounds reminded her of the one voice she longed to hear, but never would again.
She hugged herself as she trod the narrow path through the trees, her boots leaving shallow impressions in the mossy loam. The air was thick and damp, making her skin feel slick and cold. Dew pattered down from the overhead leaves, drumming on her head and shoulders.
The deeper she delved, the more her hackles prickled. She felt eyes upon her from all directions. While she understood that she was perfectly safe—the trees would make sure of that—intuitively she fought the urge to turn and flee. Nothing about the Greenwood felt safe.
Ahead of her, she could hear them whispering to one another, an inhuman soughing that was all the more eerie because of the organs employed to make it. Mouths that were never meant to form such sounds, throats that had been twisted and contorted into new shapes.
Nok swallowed and pressed ahead, bunching her fists by her sides, so hard that her nails dug into the calloused flesh of her palms.
What did Trith-tree want? Why summon her now?
Here, the sunlight barely breached the canopy, falling in thin shafts that seemed to pick out the snaking roots, the dark hollows, the warrens underfoot. It dappled Nok’s face and arms, but what should have felt warming, reassuring, only reminded her how far from the village she had come. Out here she was alone, and she might as well have been on a different island.
She glimpsed movement and hesitated, fingers brushing the top of her boot, reaching for her knife—only to realise it was nothing but a branch, sagging in the gentle breeze. She fought for calm, breathing deep, steadying her overwrought heart.
Nearly there now. Soon it’ll be over.
It was the stench that hit her first—the sweet, sickly aroma of rotting meat. She gagged, keeping her lips pressed tight together, repressing the urge to eject her breakfast. She wished she’d thought twice about eating the damn bird.
Now the figures were emerging from the gloom as she walked on—human forms, bound to the gnarled boles of the Great Oaks, shifting and trembling erratically, as if some ancient god were attempting to animate them in an approximation of human movement, but failing in every meaningful way to get the details right.
Nok tried not to look at them as she walked amongst them; the remnants of Wolkin dead, bound to the trees in tribute, given over to the tree spirits to merge with them in a strange semblance of the afterlife.
This was the Wolkin’s graveyard, the place where she would eventually end her days. The thought appalled her. To have the tree’s roots burrow deep into her inanimate flesh, extending its web through her muscles, her nerves, violating her skull to infest her brain. Filling her veins with sap. To resurrect her as something else; a gestalt, a parasite, living on through the tree, sharing her memories with those of the ancient oak. To become the puppet of something else, something divine.
She knew it was a great honour. For generations, the Wolkin had submitted themselves in this manner, and the trees had blessed them. The people of her tribe could live on, in a way, and their loved ones might visit them here, in the Greenwood, and so never truly feel their loss.
All except Frik, of course.
She kept her head down as she walked, hurrying her step. Outstretched fingers brushed her arms, and the mumbling, moaning of the dead—again, that terrible whispering—was all she could hear, swirling around her in a rising cacophony. Homunculi flitted to-and-fro, a cloud of spiteful messengers and wardens, darting between trees, whispering in ears that were now as much wood as flesh.
To her left, a figure that had seemingly petrified since her previous visit some weeks ago—the tree had now replaced so much of the original person’s flesh that their form was frozen rigid, locked forever in place, a wooden statue where once there had been a man. This was Sarek-tree, one of the oldest of the Wolkin, from the time of Wol himself. His eyes seemed to follow her as she hurried past, and she did not know whether to pity or revere him.
And then she was there, standing before Trith-tree in the grove, and all at once, everything seemed all right.
The figure that wore her mother’s face appeared to be asleep, head lolled to one side, arms hanging loosely by her sides. At the sound of Nok’s voice she stirred, turning to face the girl, her lips curling slowly into a smile. Moss had crept up one side of her face, and her left shoulder and upper chest had almost entirely been replaced by new, supple shoots, tightly weaved to resemble working muscle.
“You’re late, child.” Her voice was like the creaking of ancient wood.