First and foremost, I'm going to admit my love of some of Mark's earlier work! I remember reading Toady, his first book, way back when, absolutely loving it and recommending it to anyone regardless of whether they enjoyed horror novels. Since then I've dipped in and out of his books whenever I've realised that he's released something new. Imagine my pleasure when I found out he was writing a new trilogy for one of my favorite publishers, the last of which was published by Titan on October 14th. To celebrate you lucky folks get to read a sneaky excerpt from the final book, The Wraiths Of War, and if you like it there's a chance to win a copy of The Wolves Of London (book #1 in the trilogy) down at the bottom! My review of The Wolves of London will be up on Thursday as part of my R.I.P. reading and make sure to check out the rest of the tour!
If you're not a horror/dark fantasy fan then maybe skip over the gory bits below!
The Wraiths Of War (Obsidian Heart #3)
As if Fate were mocking me, the Germans chose that very moment to start firing. I made myself as flat as possible, closing my eyes as my cheek smacked into the mud. At first I assumed the shots were nothing but routine - now and again in the dead of night, those on sentry duty, whether on our side or theirs, let off a volley just to prove they were doing their duty, and to let the enemy know they were still around and alert - but when bullets started splatting into the mud somewhere to my left, I realised I must have been spotted. Perilous though it was to move, I knew it was more perilous still to just lie there, because sooner or later I would be hit.
Trying to still the frantic terror of my thoughts, I lifted my head a fraction and looked around, searching for a place to hide or something I could use as cover. Perhaps ten yards ahead of me I spotted what looked like a shell crater - a black depression in the ground rimmed by a ridge of earth where the mud had been forced upwards by the impact. I waited for the initial burst of gunfire to subside, knowing there would be a slight pause between one volley and the next, and then, my ears throbbing, I scrambled up into a semi-crouch, ran forward and dived into the shell crater.
Although I didn't have much choice, I was all too aware that throwing myself into an unknown hole in No Man's Land was a move born of utter desperation. Full of future technology I might have been, byt I knew that if I landed on the jagged remains of a shell and slashed my belly open, then no amount of nanites could repair me. I knew too that if the hole were more than, say six feet deep and full of thick, muddy water then the likelihood was I would be sucked under and drown.
Luckily, though, the hole turned out to be only four or five feet deep added to which I had a soft landing. Not so luckily, the soft landing was a dead and rotting German soldier. How long he had been there I had no idea, but he stank to high Heaven and was crawling with maggots. He was lying on his back, his head - what was left of it - partially submerged in a pool of black water.
I landed across his midriff, part of which promptly broke with a gristly snap. Worse than that though, was the feel of his flesh through his uniform. Decomposition had caused slippage, which meant that the violent pressure of my body resulted in the flesh, which had become soft like old bananas, sliding away from the bone beneath. In my revulsion, I unthinkingly put my left hand on his chest to lever myself up and away from him - whereupon his rib cage cracked like a lattice of dry sticks and my hand plunged into a cold, stinking pulp of rotting internal organs.
I clapped my free hand, which was caked in mud but not guts, over the bottom half of my face to stop myself from screaming. Not that it was likely the enemy would have heard me. Above my head, loud enough to make the bones of my skull ach, the Germans were still blazing away. Ordinarily I would have covered my ringing ears and kept my head down until it was all over, but in the circumstances the gunfire seemed oddly divorced from me. Gagging, I withdrew my hand from the dead German's innards with a slurping plop, then plunged it into the pool of muddy water between his booted feet.
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