Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Sundered by Ruthanne Reid : Character Interview & Excerpt



Harry Iskinder knows the rules: don't touch the water, or it will pull you under. Conserve food, because there's no arable land. Use Sundered slaves gently, or they die too quickly to be worthwhile.

The problem is, the Sundered Ones are dying out, and humanity is running out of time.

With extinction on the horizon, Harry searches for a cure: the Hope of Humanity, the mysterious artifact that gave humans control over the Sundered centuries ago. According to legend, the Hope can fix the planet, removing the deadly water and giving back the land.

But the Hope holds more secrets than Harry knows, and Harry has a choice to make. Either the Sundered survive and humanity ends, or humanity lives for a while, but the Sundered are wiped out.

The time for sharing the Earth is done. Harry never wanted this choice. He still has to make it. In his broken, flooded world, Hope comes with a price.


The world I know is flooded.
The water’s black. You don’t go in the water. You don’t touch it. If you do, it will get you, drag you down, and you’re gone. You’re only safe from the black water in boats or on land, at least if you’re a human. The Sundered can do anything they want in the water. Who knows why?
I believe the world wasn’t always this way — that once there was land that stretched forever and water that held no danger — but that doesn’t set me apart. What sets me apart, makes me different, is I believe it can go back to that.
“Hey, Harry!” Toddy, one of my younger Travelers, points at something. He straddles the black water, each boot on a different tuft, standing with the easy balance we all must learn or else we die. “There’s something over there!”
I hate the tufts – knobs of land sticking out of the water, covered with limp grass like dirty hair. If there are a lot of them, we have to carry the boats. “Coming! Hold on!” Balancing my skiff on my back, I hop toward him, nodding at my Travelers who move to other tufts so there’s room for me to leap past.
I don’t really give a damn what Toddy wants. Whatever he has to show me, it’s not the Hope, the reason I’m out here in this screwed-up place. But I’m young. I can fake interest.
The last space between us is water. I put the skiff in, untie the paddles, and skim toward him.
“There are eyes,” Tod says, crouching now as I float near. “Over there, in the water. It’s a Sundered One, I’m sure of it.”
Sundered? Here? “That’s weird. We’re not near any cities or catching grounds.”
“Think he’s unclaimed? He must be!” Tod whispers excitedly. “Can I claim him? If he’s unattached, I mean? Can I?”
“No.” Damn, I said it too sharply – there’s hurt in his eyes. “No,” I say again, more gently. “We don’t know what tier he is. What if he pulls a reversal on you?” I give myself points for not mentioning he flunked out of Sundered training.
Toddy nods, trying to be grown-up about this, but I’ve hurt him.
Later. I’ll fix it later. Now, I skim where he pointed.
I see more tufts. I see black water, still and dark as far as the horizon in all directions, swallowing my world. I see – there it is. Round eyes bulge out of water, over a hint of skin that looks freakishly orange.
This thing isn’t even close to high-tier. I just feel it, the way I’d know what kind of pie it was by putting it in my mouth. The Sundered One realizes I’m staring at it seconds too late, and ducks under as if it thinks it can hide.
Why is it out here? Sundered only run wild in the southern tip of the world. I can feel it’s unclaimed – that slick-slime mind, ugly and incomplete, parts of its psyche frozen and alive but not really functional, not really there. It’s so low-tier there’s no point categorizing it. Toddy might be able to handle it, but I already said no, and to go back on my word is to regress as a leader.
It’s free and unclaimed, and Sundered are worth money, so that means it’s mine.
I half-close my eyes, focus my will, and tighten my grip around that worn mind.
It reacts to me and tries to run away, but this one has been claimed before. It – his – mental spaces almost fit me, edges dulled, and it’s no effort at all to hold him tight. Into that mind, into those ruined Sundered thoughts, I plunge – and then I pull.
Pull with will and thought and purpose, like lifting a weakly struggling thing out of thick, sucking mud. The mind suddenly comes free as easily as lifting my own head, and I know he’s mine.
That was too easy. He won’t be worth much. “Come up and let me see you.”
He hears the words. Sundered have different ears than we do. Any vibrations seem to get through. He obeys and clambers onto the tufts.
He looks like a frog. An orange frog-man, with bumps all over, with a wide, flat mouth and big googly eyes too far apart for a man’s but not wide enough for an animal’s. His spine curves so much he almost seems meant to go on all fours.
Really low-tier.
Toddy gasps, my Travelers paddle closer to see, but I don’t look at them right now. I’m fitting my brain to this little guy’s. “Ugly, aren’t you?”
He sort of ducks twice, acknowledging what I said with a humility so low it’s self-hate, and I realize he’s got suction-cups on each fingertip and webs between his fingers. Wow. Really low-tier, then.
“What’s your name, Sundered One?”
“Gorish,” he says.
Toddy tells the others how he spotted this one, so it’s sort of his even though it’s not. I want to find that endearing. I want to. I can’t. I’ve been out here too long. “Hello, Gorish. You know you’re mine now, right?”
“Oh, yes, master,” he says, doing that ducking thing again and again and again.
An unclaimed Sundered in the middle of nowhere. This is really weird.
My mind goes in all the usual directions. Why is he here? Could this have something to do with the Hope? Am I missing some important clue because I’m messing around with him instead of watching?
Maybe there’s no Hope involved, and he just pulled a reversal on his former owner and got away.
Yeah, right. Not this little guy. He couldn’t fight his way out of a wash bucket. Maybe his owner died. That would explain his condition.
I can’t question him now, anyway. If I do it wrong, if I sound stupid in the eyes of my Travelers, I could lose them. “I need a place to make landfall, Gorish. You know anywhere around here like that?”
“Oooh, yes, master!” the orange guy says, and he starts to caper. He dives in and out of the water, back up onto the tufts, showing off, or – no, he’s just playing because it’s something he knows how to do.
This guy’s head is shattered. Whoever claimed him last was rougher on his mind than I am. “Lead the way, Gorish. It’s getting dark, and we have to set up camp by then.”
So Gorish does.
I say nothing as we paddle, my single-person skiff cutting through the black water. This wasn’t the direction I was going. Gorish is leading us completely away from the tufts, further west than I’d planned.
I see some land, tiny islands, nothing but bald mounds of mud. What we need  is a simple matter of size: what can handle eight people and all their gear, their tents, and a fire, but has a slope gentle enough that nobody rolls into the water in the middle of the night and vanishes forever?
Like all Sundered Ones, Gorish just knows where proper landfall is.
This one is almost flat, a mass of mess rising from the water. I whirl my hook-and-rope over my head and send it hard into the mud, anchoring myself so I can pull my boat to shore. My boots make sucking noses. This is one messy landfall.
Nobody cares.
Messy is worth solid land, worth the relief of space between us and the water. Tents and voices rise, and our boats line the shore like silent guardians.
We’ll rest well tonight. We’re going to need it.


This is an interview with the protagonist of The Sundered, Harry Iskinder. He’s nineteen years old and a little messed up, but he has good reason for it: humanity’s survival rests on his shoulders.


Where do you dream of traveling to and why?

For me, it’s not so much a “where” as a “when.” I had a pretty good education, and my favorite textbooks talked about our cities of the past.

Did you know what land was like? I mean, really like? You know the way the black water is. You can look out at it, and it stretches forever. You see it all the way to the horizon, and when you’re far from a city, you see nothing else.

Land used to be that way. Land!

So… there was this place called Paris, France. It was called the City of Lights, because… I guess it had a lot of lights, but the way they talked about it made it sound like a jewel. Like it was all glowing, a thousand white points shining in the darkness, and you could see it for miles around. It had music, and towers, and every kind of merchant you could imagine. And land. Wow. It had so much land all around it that they had real farms, and a river running through it – not like our canals, or at least I think it wasn’t – and it wasn’t surrounded by walls at all.

Can you even imagine a city out in the open? Like that? With land? I can’t. But I always wanted to go there.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I shouldn’t tell you that. I got in so much trouble before. But I guess it doesn’t matter. Everyone who was mad at me for it is dead.

I wanted to be a painter. I love creating things with colors, even creating new colors. I love making the images in my head, making them deep so when you look at them, you feel perspective, you feel distance, you feel like you’re far away from here.

So that was just dumb, I know. You don’t have to tell me.

What do you do to unwind and relax?
Um… I don’t. I don’t have time. I guess sometimes I go to the Soothsayers. They have dream-leaves, which they burn, and when you inhale that smoke, you have cool dreams.

Amazing dreams. Sometimes… sometimes, they’re true dreams. Of the future, or the past. I really like those things. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to do them often. 

What would you consider to be the best book you have ever read?
I don’t know. I don’t get the chance to read a lot. Honestly, the last ones I got to read were in school. I guess the ones that talked about the water being blue (they called it an “ocean” back then), or even clear. Ones that talked about “driving” and “skiing” and other activities people used to do when they had land. Those were pretty neat.

What would we find under your bed?
Maps. I hoard them. They’re our only chance to find the Hope and fix this mess.
What makes you happy?

Success. When I feel like I’m leading my Travelers well, or making good bargains at the markets, really proving I can take care of them and of me. It makes me feel like maybe I can find the Hope, if I keep trying. Like I’m able.

What is the next big thing?

What else? Keep searching. Fix this world, before the Sundered all go extinct and we die. Look, I know it won’t happen in my generation. I don’t care. It’s going to happen soon.

What is something people would be surprised to know about you?

Um… well, that painting thing will take people by surprise. I guess… maybe they’d be surprised to know I’m scared. And tired. And sometimes, I’m pretty miserable. It’s hard to have hope when all you see is black water.

I’m not gonna give up. So whatever people might or might not know about me, that’s the only thing that matters. I’m an Iskinder. One way or another, I won’t let us all die.


Ruthanne Reid was raised in the woods, but fortunately her isolation was offset by regular visits to New York City. She pursued music for years before realizing she wanted to tell stories rather than sing them.

Ruthanne has lived on both US coasts (she prefers the West one), is distantly related to royalty, and has sung in a thousand-year-old cathedral. Her favorite authors tend to be dramatic (J. R. R. Tolkien, Neil Gaiman, Patrick Rothfuss), but she doesn’t see this as a bad thing.

Writing in and around Seattle, she owns dust-covered degrees in music and religion, and is generally considered dangerous around household electronics. She belongs to a husband, a housemate, and a cat, respectively.

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Enter for a chance to win a Print or Digital copy of The Sundered.
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Giveaway ends October 27th 11:59 PM Central Time.


Ruthanne Reid said...

Thanks so much for hosting me today!

Kar said...

Wow! This book sounds pretty amazing! I loved the interview! made me wanna read the book :) Already loving Harry <3

Ruthanne Reid said...

Glad to hear it, Kar! :)

Stephanie Verhaegen said...

This book sounds awesome! Thanks for the giveaway. Also nice interview! :]

Autumn said...

I liked reading the character interview. :D This book sounds amazing, thank you for the wonderful giveaway.

D Mason said...

Sounds Great!

Goldenmane said...

That character interview was great! What choices that young man had to make! Sounds like a marvelous book that I would enjoy reading and I might even give it to my son to read.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for the contest :)

Jenn said...

This looks like a really good read! Thank you for the giveaway.

Dani said...

great giveaway, thanks :)

Dawn S. said...

This book sounds so interesting, I'm going to have to check it out soon!

Paula Myers said...

Sounds like an interesting read!