The Order is the Key

The Order of the Key
Justine Manzano
Publication date: July 9th 2020
Genres: Urban Fantasy, Young Adult

Jacklyn Madison never expected to be attacked by a beast on an evening snack run. Add a rescue mission enacted by a trained regiment of teenaged warriors, and her night officially becomes just like a scene from one of her beloved comic books. Turns out, her parents were once members of the Order of the Key, gifted humans that protect humanity from creatures spilling through inter-dimensional rifts. Unable to control her newfound abilities, Jacklyn and her family rejoin the Order.

After an attack on their headquarters leaves Jacklyn questioning their leadership, Kyp—the boy who led her initial rescue—reveals a darker secret. The Order’s leader may be corrupt, and Jacklyn’s questions could put her family in danger. Drawn into the search for proof, Jacklyn must use her guts and magical brawn to protect her family, her friends, and herself from the monsters spilling from rifts, and those hiding within the Order.

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Excerpt:

Opening scene, The Order of the Key

 

In my dreams, I ran with my father. 

Or at least I thought it was my father. I never had the chance to meet him  before  he  took  off  and  kept  on  running,  right  away  from  Mom,  from  me,  from  kissing  away  boo-boos,  and  sneaking  me  cookies  from  the  cupboard  when  Mom  wasn’t  looking.  Or  whatever  it  was  people  did  with  their dads. I wouldn’t know. 

But in the dream, we were together. His voice light and teasing, an Irish brogue, an accent unlike anyone else’s in my life. He prodded me to hurry, to run faster, to keep up with him. The air was clear and we didn’t run on a track. Our feet snagged on fallen tree limbs and slick patches of wet leaves, through the clearing in a forest I didn’t recognize. We would take off, so fast it was like flying. 

It wasn’t real. For one thing, nobody moved that way. I wasn’t The Flash, though that would be awesome. For another, I’d lived in Bronx, New York my  entire  life,  and  the  only  stretch  of  open  green  space  like  that  in  the  Boogie Down was the Botanical Garden or the Zoo. They didn’t just let you blast through the trees there. 

In  the  Bronx,  there  were  track  meets  on  asphalt  schoolyards,  or  wood  gym floors with bad polish jobs. Which was where I pressed my fingertips, my heels resting on the starting blocks, waiting impatiently for the whistle to blow. 

Maybe that dream was why I loved running so much. 

If I won this eight-hundred-meter race, I’d get the sweet spot in the first city-wide competition of the school year. I rocked up onto my toes and back down. 

I could do this. 

At the shrill of the whistle, I pushed off, the soles of my shoes pounding the  floor  as  I  moved  across  the  track.  Sherri  Tilden,  the  contestant  beside me, had once thrown my bookbag into the pool during a party. It was one of the  rare  times  I’d  tried  fitting  in  at  a  school  full  of  jock  assholes,  preppy  overachievers  who  acted  like  FDR  High  was  a  one-way  ticket  to  Harvard, and drug-peddling losers. It was also why I grinned when I pulled ahead of her. 

How’s my dust taste, Tilden? 

I wasn’t big on bragging, but beating a bully was too much fun. I might be Queen Geekdom, and she may have destroyed my copy of Miss Marvel, Volume 1, but I was still the superior runner. So, there was that. 

I had that, but not much else. Not when the underdog, a freshman girl whose name I didn’t even remember, pulled in front of me as I started my second lap. 

Panic set in. I needed this race. I was a geek, not a nerd, as jocks often discovered when they asked me to do their homework and got Cs. If I had any hope in hell of attending a top school, it would be because I clocked the fastest lap, not for my killer test scores. 

My  lungs  burned,  and  my  feet  stumbled.  The  muscles  in  my  legs throbbed,  my  arms  pumping  as  I  tried  to  eat  up  the  distance.  We  left  the other competitors in the dust. But I couldn’t get past her. 

Sweat  beaded  on  my  forehead.  I  was  going  to  lose.  To  a  newbie  baby  freshman. No way. No superhero had ever won a battle by quitting. When the odds were stacked against them, they dug deeper until they found a way out. 

Dig  deeper,  Jacks.  Come  on,  you  got  this.  You  are  one  with  the  speed  

force. 

If I closed my eyes, I saw my father’s laughing green eyes as he beckoned me forward, the tree trunks a gray-brown blur as we sped by. 

My eyes shot open. A burst of energy flooded my veins, crackling within me like I’d grabbed hold of a live wire. The pounding of mMy eyes shot open. A burst of energy flooded my veins, crackling within me like I’d grabbed hold of a live wire. The pounding of my heart drowned out the roar of the crowd in the bleachers. Blackness swam at the edges of my  vision  until  all  I  saw  was  the  lane  disappearing  below  my  feet.  I  went  numb,  inside  and  out.  I  couldn’t  feel my legs move anymore. But I was faster. Faster than everybody. 

And then, I was done. Past the finish line, first place. The girl who had been just a drop ahead was now a good twenty meters behind me.

Author Bio:

Justine Manzano is a YA author and editor living in Bronx, NY with her husband, son, and a cacophony of cats. Her novel, The Order of the Key will be available from Black Rose Writing in July 2020. She can normally be found at her website, http://www.justinemanzano.com,and she’s on all the usual social media haunts. If you’ve looked in all these places and can’t find her, she’s probably off reading fanfiction. She’ll be back soon.

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