Ahead of its upcoming release, check out an exclusive excerpt from Isabel Ibañez’s debut novel Woven in Moonlight right now.
Woven in Moonlight, which hits bookshelves on Tuesday, January 7, spins a fantastic tale of revenge and revolt set against a rich Bolivian backdrop. In it, an ancient relic turns the lives of the aristocratic class inside out when they’re forced from their homes and lives of comfort.
The expert below demonstrates just how desperate things can get. When trying to serve her people, Ximena, the Woven in Moonlight‘s main character and current leader of her people, finds that the situation is more dire than she thought. With food running out and patience running thin, the clock is ticking on how long Ximena will be able to control and support her people.
This excerpt is a wonderful introduction to the magical and intriguing story of Woven in Moonlight.
But don’t take my word for it…
Here’s your exclusive sneak peek at Isabel Ibañez’s ‘Woven in Moonlight’
My banged-up spoon scrapes the bottom of a barrel that should’ve held enough dried beans to last for three more months.
No, no, no.
There has to be more.
Sickness churns my stomach, and my knuckles brush against bare wood as I coax a handful of shriveled beans into a half-empty bag. I wipe dirty hands against my white trousers and ignore the sweat dripping down my neck. The kingdom of Inkasisa is in the middle of her stifling wet season. Even though it’s night, there’s no escaping the muggy heat.
“Something wrong, Condesa?” asks the next person in line waiting for their ration.
Yes, in fact. We’re all going to starve. Not that I can say this out loud. It goes against everything I know to do as their leader: A condesa should never show fear.
I school my features into what I hope is a pleasant expression, then turn to face the long line of Illustrians waiting for their evening portions. Drawn faces stare back at me. White clothes hang off gaunt frames, loose and big like the tents the Illustrians sleep in next to the keep.
My whole life, I’ve trained for situations like this: manage expectations, soothe people’s worries, feed them. It’s the condesa’s job.
We’re standing in the round storage building with the door propped open, allowing for people to crowd around as I sort through the provisions. Luna’s light casts rectangular patterns on the dozens of empty barrels piled on their sides, while a rickety wooden staircase leads up to the armory housing swords, shields, and bundled arrows. All we could carry when we fled for our lives the day La Ciudad Blanca fell.
What would Ana, our general, want me to say? Manage them. You’re in charge. Don’t forget what’s at stake. We need to survive until we can take back the throne.
I glance at the door, half expecting to find Ana’s broad shoulders leaning against the frame, moonlight reflecting off the silver wisps in her hair. But she’s not there. Ana left four days ago on a mission to chase a rumor about Atoc, the false Llacsan king—a rumor that, if true, guarantees our victory.
She promised to be back by yesterday.
An arm brushes against mine. Catalina, silently reminding me of her presence. The knot in my chest unwinds slightly. I forgot she was standing behind me, ever helpful.
“Bring me the wheat, por favor.” I gesture toward the wall the barrels of rations are lined against. “And the cloth bags over on that shelf.”
She obeys, grabbing the supplies off the shelf first and handing them to me, her dark eyes lowered. Then she darts toward the barrel.
“Condesa?” a woman asks. “Is this all that’s left?”
I hesitate; the lie waiting on the tip of my tongue tastes sour and wrong. My gaze returns to the dwindling piles of food at my feet: husked corn, a half-filled bag of rice, and an almost empty basket of bread. Not nearly enough.
A lie won’t feed all these people.
“We’re short on some supplies,” I say with a tight smile. “No beans, I’m afraid, but—”
Next to me Catalina stiffens, pausing in her attempt to drag the wheat barrel to my side. Normally it takes the effort of two people, but somehow she manages by herself. Which means this barrel isn’t full either.
The woman’s mouth drops open. “No beans? ¿No hay comida?”
“That’s not what I said.” I force my smile to remain in place as I come to a split-second decision—our best and only option. “We have to be careful with what we have. So here’s what’s going to happen: Starting immediately, everyone will receive less than half their usual ration, per family. I know it’s not ideal, but it’s either that or we starve,” I say bluntly. “Your pick.”
Voices rise up.
“Less than half?”
Another woman shouts, “How can there be no food left?”
A headache presses against my temple. “We do have some food—”
But the woman’s words travel down the line, catching fire in the dark, until fifty people clamor for attention, wanting answers, wanting their rations. They wave their empty baskets in the air. Their loud cries boom like thunder in my ears. I want to duck for cover. But if I don’t do something, I’m going to have a full-blown riot on my hands.
“Reassure them,” Catalina hisses.
“I can’t offer what we don’t have,” I whisper. Catalina shoots me a meaningful look. A condesa should know how to maintain control of any situation. “I’m doing my job. You do yours.”
“Your job is my job,” she snaps.
The people’s cries swell, bouncing off the walls and threatening to strike me down. “¡Comida! ¡Comida!” The crowd stomps their feet and pushes in, hot breath brushing against my face like heavy smoke. I fight the impulse to step back.
Someone in the crowd yells for El Lobo, and I tense, hoping no one else sings that stupid vigilante’s praises. Every time something goes wrong, someone inevitably brings up the man in the mask. The trickster.
“El Lobo can help us—”
“He steals from Atoc’s coffers all the time—”
“He’s the hero of Inkasisa—”
Oh, for goodness sake. He’s a man in a ridiculous mask. Even my niñera could prank that puffed-up idiotic pretend king. And she was eighty the last time I saw her.
“We want El Lobo!” someone shouts.
“That’s enough!” My voice rings out, sharp as the edge of a blade. “No one speaks his name in my presence, understood? He’s a scoundrel who plays pranks on the false king. That kind of reckless behavior could get us killed. The vigilante is dangerous and not one of us.”
Someone throws a rock at a window. Glass shatters, and moonlight-touched shards fly everywhere. Faces blur as my vision darkens and I can only make out hints of mottled cheeks and flailing arms as the crowd bellows for the vigilante. They press forward until Catalina and I are almost backed against the wall.
“Condesa,” Catalina says, her eyes wide and frantic.
My mouth goes dry. The words don’t come. I glance at the empty doorway, willing Ana to appear. But more people push into the building.
“I need . . . ” I begin.
“¿Qué? ¡Más fuerte!”
“I need you all to remain calm,” I say louder. “Shouting or throwing rocks won’t fix the—”
Their protests grow louder and louder until I can’t distinguish what they’re saying. My legs wobble, and it takes every ounce of will left in me just to remain upright. It’s not supposed to be like this. Ten years ago my people were the aristócratas of Inkasisa. But our way of life, our culture, is gone, like pages torn from a book. No more visits to the plaza to hear live music while strolling with friends in our long skirts and fancy leather shoes. Or walking Cala Cala, the prettiest path overlooking La Ciudad, where you can pick figs and peaches while enjoying the vista. Birthday fiestas are a thing of the past, existing only in my memory, but sometimes I can still taste my abuela’s torta de nuez, a rich walnut cake smothered in creamed coffee and dulce de leche.
Another rock sails toward a window, jarring me from my thoughts. Shards of splintering glass ring in my ear. My nerves threaten to eat me from the inside out. An empty feeling in the pit of my stomach makes my head spin.
Catalina touches my arm and steps in front of me. “What the condesa means is that we have a plan to get more food underway. For now we have plenty. Everyone will receive the usual amount.”
I cut her a warning look, but Catalina ignores me. So does everyone else. Her words work like a balm over a blistering wound. The crowd quiets and holds out their baskets, mollified, shuffling around her like chickens clucking for feed.
“Why don’t you all step back in line and I’ll sort out the food? Have you on your way so that you can put your children to bed, and have something to cook for your families tomorrow, all right?”
They file into a straight line like obedient schoolchildren. I step away from Catalina, my shoulders slumping. They don’t want me or the bad news I carry. I can’t give them what they need, so I give them what they want instead—Catalina. Their friend.
Something I can’t be as their supposed queen.
She knocks the lid off the barrel at my elbow and scoops up a handful of wheat. “Who’s first?”
Catalina distributes heaping portions of wheat and bundles of husked corn until only a smattering of provisions remain. Then she reaches for the barrels that contain the last of our supplies—for emergencies only.
I stand off to the side, my fists clenched and my mouth shut. I can’t manage a polite smile even if I try. Ana normally leads undercover raids to La Ciudad to steal food, but since she’s not back, who knows how long it’ll be before we get more supplies? At the rate Catalina’s giving out rations, we have mere days left. And just who does she think they’ll come after when everyone discovers how close to starving we are?
Certainly not to their friend.
Catalina spares me a brief glance, then she picks up a small bowl by her feet filled with a handful of dried beans, ground wheat, and an ear of corn. Her own ration she set aside earlier. She hands it to the next person in line.
“I need air,” I say curtly. Without looking at her, I head toward the door. The remaining crowd parts so I can pass. Glass crunches underneath the soles of my leather boots. I avert my gaze from their watchful eyes, but I feel their disappointment anyway.
The condesa has let them down.
About ‘Woven in Moonlight’ by Isabel Ibañez
A lush tapestry of magic, romance, and revolución, drawing inspiration from Bolivian politics and history.
Ximena is the decoy Condesa, a stand-in for the last remaining Illustrian royal. Her people lost everything when the usurper, Atoc, used an ancient relic to summon ghosts and drive the Illustrians from La Ciudad. Now Ximena’s motivated by her insatiable thirst for revenge, and her rare ability to spin thread from moonlight.
When Atoc demands the real Condesa’s hand in marriage, it’s Ximena’s duty to go in her stead. She relishes the chance, as Illustrian spies have reported that Atoc’s no longer carrying his deadly relic. If Ximena can find it, she can return the true aristócrata to their rightful place.
She hunts for the relic, using her weaving ability to hide messages in tapestries for the resistance. But when a masked vigilante, a warm-hearted princess, and a thoughtful healer challenge Ximena, her mission becomes more complicated. There could be a way to overthrow the usurper without starting another war, but only if Ximena turns her back on revenge—and her Condesa.
Woven in Moonlight by Isabel Ibañez will be available on January 7, 2020. You can preorder your copy now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, The Book Depository, or Indiebound. Also, don’t forget to add it to your Goodreads “to read” shelf!