Author: Justine Manzano
Title: The Order of the Key
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.
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
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.
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, 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.