In Regency London, young cousins Penelope, Gretchen, and Emma have come into their own as the latest generation of Lovegrove witches. They have faced dangers from both this world and the world beyond and they’ve survived it all together.
But now they are no longer together.
Penelope has been kidnapped by a murderous madwoman, trapped in an ancient cellar full of bones, and forced to use her talent for reading objects to locate the remains of long-dead evil witches. Her captor plans to use the bones to reanimate their dark spirits in living bodies and unleash them on an unsuspecting world.
And the only hope to stop such a nightmare rests with Gretchen, Emma, and every witch in London as they struggle to reach Penelope before darkness falls forever . . .
The Bone Witch is the 3rd book in the Witches of London Trilogy, which also includes The Secret Witch and The Whisper Witch.
About the Author
She is the author of the Drake Chronicles, Haunting Violet, the Witches of London Trilogy, and Red.
Read an Excerpt
Moira woke up to a view of Ogden's rather sizable arse.
She was slung over his wide shoulders, wishing for the first time that she was the type of girl to wear bonnets. The vicious hat pins that kept them in place would make an excellent weapon. As it was, her hair was a tangle that could be used to trap her if he caught hold of it.
The bottoms of her feet itched in warning, as if she wasn't already perfectly aware that she was in trouble. Honestly, sometimes magic was useless. Her familiar, Marmalade, hissed in her chest. Or perhaps that was just her breath exploding out of her lungs as Ogden lumbered on, jolting and jostling her like a sack of flour.
She considered biting him but he was thick enough not to notice. Not that he was a halfwit, just bleeding tough. Not for nothing was his familiar a beetle, all carapace and stubbornness.
Biting was plan B then.
She tried to remember what had happened, all while attempting not to cast up her accounts. She didn't care about her dignity or the mess — only that it would give away the fact that she was conscious. It was her only advantage at the moment.
At least they'd kept the May ball from burning to the ground with all of its fancy guests frozen inside. She recalled the stink of smoke, the way her gargoyle Pip had smashed against the ceiling, trying to lead them to the hypnosis spell that held everyone in thrall. Luckily, Gretchen was a Whisperer, and able to find a spell of her own to counter it. Luckily too, that she wasn't one of those useless, curtsying debutantes.
Although that hat pin, again, might come in handy.
And though they'd stopped the sacrifice, they'd been too late to save Penelope from being taken into Greymalkin House. And too late to save the Greybeards breaking their oaths to the Order of the Iron Nail. Not that she cared much about that — she was more than happy to punch one in the eye, oath or no oath.
But now the magic of the Greymalkin Sisters seared the streets of London.
And Godric had been murdered by Sophie, the same debutante who had killed Strawberry.
"Hurry up," she heard Atticus snap at Ogden.
Biting it was, then.
Because Ogden didn't do anything unless Atticus ordered it. And Atticus was a prat.
Before she could properly bare her teeth, the earth cracked open like a boiled egg. There was a strange sound, like a storm bottled too long, or horse hooves on glass. Fissures appeared in the mud of the alley. Ogden stumbled to a stop, losing his hold on Moira. Momentum popped her off his shoulder and she bent her knees to land in a crouch. Not for nothing had she been running the rooftops since she was a child, and she hadn't fallen off her feet in years. She wasn't about to start now, no matter Ogden's size.
He cursed as the buildings swayed lightly. "Oi! come back here."
"Likely," Moira snorted, darting out of reach. Her head hurt, as though she'd drunk too much goblin ale but her feet were steady. The ground however, was not.
"Get her," Atticus demanded. His hat toppled off his head as the ground heaved. He went pale and darted out of the alley. "Bring her!"
Ogden said, sidestepped another fissure opening near his boots. It spoke to his loyalty to Atticus that a little earthquake wouldn't stop him. Or to his fear, more likely.
"Tell Atticus to sod right the hell off."
"He wants the glass eye you stole for One-eyed Joe. That's all." He ducked as a gargoyle swooped by, awakened by the magic bubbling under the ground. "You shouldn't have pushed him off that bridge. He wants vengeance."
Moira paused. "How the bleeding hell does he know about the glass eye?" She shook her head, then thought better of it when pain lanced her temples. "Never mind. I don't care."
"He's willing to pay. Handsomely."
"Oh, he'll pay all right."
Ogden was beginning to sweat. Atticus's temper was right foul when he didn't get his way. "Why don't you run away like your Coward-King," Moira sneered, even as she fought back a wave of queasiness. Her head still hurt and the ground deciding to behave like the sea wasn't helping.
"He's not a coward!"
She snorted. "He is and you know it."
"And what are you then? A Madcap princess?"
"What am I?" she repeated. "I'm pissed off." She kicked him between the legs, even as her gargoyle attacked the top of his head. "Really pissed off."
The earth shifted again, hurling spears of violet light. Ogden turned and ran without another word. That kind of purple light only ever meant one thing: trouble.
"Now what?" Moira muttered. Pip bobbed around, agitated. He wanted to join the other gargoyles arriving for the feast of magic. "Well, go on then."
"Over here," Gretchen suddenly shouted from the mouth of the alley, just as s a portal finally opened completely, shooting more light into the sky.
Of course. You could count on two things with unpredictable, hazardous magic: gargoyles and Gretchen Thorn.
The unearthly lavender glow spilled over her borrowed breeches and Tobias standing beside her looking proper and unmussed, despite the fact that she'd seen him transform into a wolf not two hours before in order to break Lord Beauregard's hypnosis spell.
"Haven't you had enough yet?" Moira called out, holding herself up against the nearest wall. The earth was a stampede of horses.
Gretchen glanced over, scowl clearing when she saw Moira. "I told you Mayfair balls were tiresome." She sounded like her usual self, but Moira could see the haunted quality to her eyes, even from a distance.
When the portal began to hum, the nearby windows shattered. A horse broke free, and galloped down the street, carriage bobbing behind like a toy. Someone screamed.
And then the first hellhound climbed out of the portal, snarling and dripping acidic saliva. He was the size of a pony and looked a cross between a dog and particularly ugly gargoyle. Pip shot away, less interested in gorging on the kind of magic currently flooding the alley. Portals were unpredictable, uncontrollable. Deadly.
"Sodding hell," Gretchen said, sounding more like a Madcap than a debutante.
Tobias tossed Moira a look. "You should run."
"Don't worry about me," she tossed back. "I'm armed." She had a pouch of iron nails and banishing powder given to her by Cormac, the last time she'd stumbled on an open portal.
She considered a magical cleansing of some sort. She clearly needed it.
"And you should watch that pretty coat of yours," she added as the hem of his frock coat began to smolder. Hellhound saliva did that sometimes. Tobias sliced the air in front of him with an iron dagger until the beast jumped back, clacking its jaws.
"Gretchen, get out of here," he said.
"Now's not the time to get a sense of humour," she shot back. "Give me some iron."
He threw her the dagger, just as a hellhound leapt at her. She buried the blade in the underside of his jaw, turning her head so as not to get splattered. Tobias swore, using the end of his iron-tipped walking stick to shove the body away. It fell apart into smoke, stinking of sulphur. And here Moira had thought those canes just an affectation, like monocles, and taking snuff. She made a note to steal one for herself, if they survived the night.
"I can close it," she said as the swamp-green sludge of dark magic oozed into the alley. It smelled like the cesspits in summer. She gagged, tucking her nose into her cravat. "Why is it never spirit-kittens that come through?" she added under her breath.
She dumped salt in front of the portal, trusting two Mayfair fancies to guard her back. Again. She had the rowan berries and the nails and the witch's blood. "I need that crystal flint," she shouted. "And the tinder!"
Tobias looked surprised that she knew about, then mildly suspicious, but he tossed it to her anyway, along with a pouch of dried herbs. A hellhound leapt over her, catching her hair. It yanked free, then drifted past her nose, on fire. "Bollocks!"
Gretchen positioned herself in front of Moira, too close to the portal. Everything about her turned violet. Tobias growled low in his throat. Or maybe, that was a hellhound.
"On your left!" Gretchen shouted the warning just as a rope of glowing saliva swung past Moira's head, blistering as it hit the ground by her hand. The shadow of a hellhound shivered over her. Barking turned to an aborted squeal. She tried to concentrate on making a flame with the crystal and not the fact that beasts literally from hell were breathing on her.
She struck the flint, sweat dripping down her neck. The tiny flame finally caught the tinder of twisted hay and lavender stalks. She added the rowan berries, the iron nails. "Gretchen, down!" Tobias barked.
Gretchen ducked into a crouch next to Moira. Tobias's walking stick whistled over their heads. Something that looked like a serpent with wings hissed at them, before Tobias cleaved it in half. Magic and acidic blood ate through the mud, creating new fissures. A drop landed on Moira's hand. It burned her breath away. She couldn't even scream. The smell of her own scorched flesh clogged her nostrils.
"Salt it!" Tobias snapped, decapitating what she could assume was a basilisk. Her eyes were blurry with tears of pain. Gretchen grabbed some of the salt before it could burn completely, slapping it on Moira's wound. Pain braided with pain, white as the sun when you stared at it too long.
She flicked the blood running into her palm onto the salt fire, trying to catch her breath. "There's your witch's blood," she croaked. "Ready!"
Tobias went low, sliding her a ceremonial dagger from his boot. It had a vial of salt in the hilt, jet in the pommel, and symbols engraved into the iron. It fairly pulsed with purpose when she stabbed it into the banishing fire.
She dodged a rope of indigo fire, like a dragon's tongue coming from the portal. The edges of the opening quivered but didn't close.
The spell wasn't working.
"Something else is coming through," Tobias said grimly. "Something strong. The spell's not enough."
There was no time left to discuss options. The salt-fire began to peter out. The light from the portal intensified and the hum turned a buzz that set Moira's teeth on edge. Spirit-wasps edged in a sickly blue glow rushed out of the opening by the dozens. Someone's familiar was being sent ahead to clear the way.
"We can use ..." Gretchen trailed off, listening to the voices of dead witches in her head for an alternate spell. Her head snapped back and she pressed her palms to her ears. "Stop shouting!"
The wasps attacked, showering them like poisoned arrows. They stung, leaving waves of fatigue and bone-weary sadness. Pip darted to and fro, gobbling them up, but there weren't enough gargoyles in London.
"Not good," Tobias said. "It's a Sister, must be."
Gretchen's arms were covered in welts and she was grey with sorrow. She murmured her brother's name, even as she tried to back away from the onslaught. Tobias knocked her to the ground, covering her with his body. He stretched his hand out to Moira. "This way," he said. "Moira! I can protect you."
But Moira's grief was playing her memories of Strawberry with her little mouse-familiar. Strawberry with her shyness, her determination to be a better Madcap. Her gentle nature and deceptively innocent smile. Her reddish-blond hair and patched dress.
Standing right in front of her.
Strawberry had died promising to protect Moira, and here she was, shining bright as any magic lantern in the goblin market. Sophie might have had her killed, but Moira had made sure Strawberry's bones were burned so they couldn't be used to trap her spirit. She wasn't Sophie's victim, not anymore.
And now, Moira could weep, bitten by wasps, or she could follow her friend. The fact that she was dead and slightly transparent didn't make her any less of a friend. She couldn't speak, the dead never could. Only spirits like the Sisters could do that, simple ghosts were echoes, memories, a pause between here and there. Still, there was no confusing Strawberry's expression: follow. Now.
Moira crawled after her, the wasps tearing through Strawberry's glowing silhouette. She still wore the bloodstained dress she'd been murdered in. Moira swallowed the hitch in her throat. Strawberry was right here, right now. Follow. Now.
"I need thread, or a ribbon." Gretchen said, trying to wriggle out from Tobias's body arched protectively over hers.
"Fresh out of hair ribbons," Moira muttered. "Are you daft?"
"Something red would be best," she insisted. "Tobias, move."
More wasps boiled out of the portal.
With Strawberry to focus on, Moira found she could think again. There was a wasp in her hair but she managed to stab it with an iron nail. She pushed into a crouch. "Pip," she called out. He raced towards her, bobbing like a fat stone bumblebee. "Shield."
Pip and the other gargoyles formed a line between the witches and the warlock's familiars. They chomped down on the wasps until the smell of burning lemon balm overpowered the stench of wet alley and hellhound breath. That one was too close, lips lifting off sharp teeth as long as daggers. Tobias's walking stick pierced its left eyeball. It shrieked, acidic smoke erupting from its socket.
"Rope then," Gretchen shouted. "Anything!"
"I have an idea!" Moira shouted back, using a window frame to scramble up the wall of the building on her right. Madcaps understood heights and hiding, and spells too hungry to ignore. They spent their lives avoiding Greybeards, didn't they? They hid ladders and rope and magical supplies on the rooftops sometimes, just in case.
She was grinning, even as a wasp stung the back of her calf, reminding her that her best friend had died on a rooftop just like this one. That she was alone.
Strawberry hovered, urging her to keep going, to keep climbing.
Moira pulled herself over the edge, onto a rooftop terrace with iron railings. There were pots of daffodils and a trellis of strawberries, but no rope. She glanced down between the buildings at the wasps, the violet light, another hellhound clambering out of the Underworld. She leapt onto the next building. It was a hat shop of some kind, creaky and clogged with dead leaves. Perfect.
Below, the portal pulsed once, twice.
And then a woman emerged, crowned with dark wasps, wearing a French gown with panniers and thick with embroidery. There was a line of red at her throat, dripping delicately, like ruby beads. It was the mark of the blade of a guillotine.
She climbed out of the portal, as though it was a set of marble steps. She smiled a hungry, terrifying smile.
Marmalade shivered inside Moira's chest, trying to make herself smaller, invisible.
"Lovely," Seraphine said.
Tobias thrust a jet-inlaid wheel pendant in her direction, amulet of Greybeards everywhere. She laughed softly. With his other hand, Tobias deployed his real weapon: white horse banishing powder. The bundle exploded into a horse made of smoke and salt and moonlight.
Seraphine sighed, then vanished.
Her wasps remained. She hadn't been truly banished; she wasn't gone, only elsewhere.
Moira shook off the feeling of warlock sorcery clinging to her and raced along the roof. She finally found a covered basket with a few soft apples, a bundle of salt, iron nails, and a spool of white thread for mending.
"Oi!" she yelled down to Gretchen. "Got something!" She tossed the spool down to Gretchen. "But it's not red."
Gretchen used her iron dagger to pierce her fingertip, and smeared her blood on the thread. "Now, it's red." She grinned up at Moira. "I ask you, what would London do without us?"
Moira grinned back. "I never —" She stopped abruptly when a wind chime of stolen bells tucked near the basket of Madcap supplies shivered a very particular and familiar warning.
She raced to the edge of the building, counting Keepers as they marched down the middle of the street, armed with daggers and wheel-pendants to drain a witch's magic
"Keepers coming," she called down even as Strawberry faded away. "Too many to fight."
Gretchen narrowed her eyes. "There's no such thing."
Penelope was trapped in a house of bones and teeth.
Hours ago she had been dancing with flowers in her hair, crowned Queen of the May, like a girl in a novel. Now Gretchen was surrounded by bewitched Greybeards, Emma was allegedly in the Underworld, and Penelope was locked in a house that might, quite literally, eat her up.
Gothic novels were fine in theory, but she had no wish to be trapped in one.
Cedric slumped in a gold damask chair with bruises on his jaw. One of Lucius's Keepers had brought him in. He had blood on his sleeve, ropes around his wrists. It made her want to scream. Ants marched around his boots, disorganized but plentiful. His magic called creatures to him and already the mice and the rats were probably stirring in the walls, even as Greymalkin House transformed around her.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Bone Witch"
Copyright © 2017 Alexandra Harvey.
Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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