7 min read

Exclusive Preview: SALVAGE

A Cover Reveal and Excerpt from R J Theodore

On a planet cracked open by ancient magic, outlaws and pirates are the only ones with what it takes to save Peridot from its next apocalyptic threat.

In February, Flotsam kicked off a science fantasy series that blends alchemical magic, alien invasions, and roguish airship crews. In July, Salvage continues the adventure with all the trilogy-peaking ferocity of The Empire Strikes Back.

Here’s what readers have to say about the Peridot Shift:

“I can't stop thinking about the world of Flotsam. Science-fiction, alchemy, and airships. It's magic.” — Mary Robinette Kowal, author of the Lady Astronaut series

“Rich language and imagery blend with a complex world, a story told with humor and heart, that left me breathless and wrung out. I want to know what's in store next for this crew and their already shattered world.” — Ronda, reader

“A unique world like I’ve never seen before with an action packed story and a lovable crew of characters. A great installment in this exciting series!” — Laura, reader

This second edition of Salvage has received updated edits and a beautiful new cover from award-winning illustrator Julie Dillon.

Salvage releases on July 5. Book three in the Peridot Shift trilogy, Cast Off, will follow in December.

Add Salvage to your tbr here. Order it from your local independent bookseller, or order it via Bookshop.org to support independent booksellers throughout the US and the UK. For international shipping, you can try Barnes & Noble. And if you need to order from the Bad River Website, here’s a link that will leverage your order for good.

R J Theodore (she/they) is an author and graphic designer. Her short fiction has appeared in MetaStellar and Fireside Magazines as well as the Glitter + Ashes and Unfettered Hexes anthologies from Neon Hemlock Press. Learn more at rjtheodore.com.

An exclusive excerpt from Salvage

Talis passed a handful of desks where clerks scratched away at many double sets of ledgers. Their job was to creatively tax the difference in weights and payments so the harbormaster’s office would get its share of the profits from smuggled goods. The clerks were consumed with this meaningful work and ignored her entirely.

“Good morning, Nisa.” Talis dropped the Bone captain’s purse on the dock manager’s desk with a heavy metallic clink.

“Getting better.” Nisa lifted the purse and transferred it between her hands three times.

Like all her people, Nisa had a tough chitin shell masking most of her face. Hers had lovely gradients of gold, peach, and mottled cream. Her red-streaked black hair was carefully combed into six small buns stacked in two neat columns down the back of her head, continuing the line from the largest of her forehead spikes.

The dock manager was smartly dressed in a silk blouse and cravat, waistcoat, and velvet pants gathered at the knee above her stockings. Her shoes, propped up on the supports of her wheelchair, were leather punched with intricate designs over the toes. Enormous brass buckles glittered in the interior lamplight. Just because the nerves in her thin legs were unresponsive didn’t mean she wanted her lower half to go unnoticed.

Lippen was prosperous, and in the two years since Talis arrived, Rakkar buckles had only gotten shinier. Nisa, along with most of her Lippen neighbors, were getting rich off the alchemy that absolutely, no question about it, one hundred percent, did not take place in Lippen.

The corners of Nisa’s mouth creased with satisfaction as she opened the pouch and poured its contents into the porcelain tray of her scale.

“Bone coinage, copper and silver, with turquoise and pink feldspars. Ten ounces. This includes the bribe?”

Talis nodded. “Light stuffing with tinker illicits, but their cargo was mostly harmless.”

In Cutter ports, you had a maze of laws to navigate between, or else disguise your cargo and hope to sneak it past. Not here in Heddard Bay. Here, there was a clear understanding of just what sort of goods might arrive to and depart from the docks. Here, customs inspections only made sure dangerous items were well-secured and expensive items taxed to the thousandth decimal place.

Knowing better than to lean against Nisa’s desk, Talis pretended to peruse the reservations schedule while the other woman sorted the payment into piles and made notations in her two open ledgers. Nisa then wheeled her chair to the drop tubes at the far wall. The tubes were installed a half arm-span too high for the normal level of Nisa’s wheelchair. She spun the adjustment wheel on one side until her seat rose high enough for her to deposit the currency.

Talis watched the manager in her periphery. Nisa made the coin deposit, and the whish-whunk of the tube system carried it off to the vault below ground, deep within Lippen’s banking district. The security was admirable, except it made the whole system terribly complicated to crack for those with an eye to make an unauthorized withdrawal. Complicated, but not impossible. Not when one had an engineer like Sophie on her side.

Nisa returned her seat to its usual height and noticed Talis studying the berthing assignment chart.

“The Folly’s overdue.” She attempted to sound casual, but Talis knew better. Over two years, Talis had learned to read Rakkar posturing better than she ever had before. She also knew what it meant when Nisa slipped out of her coin-counting tone and dialed up the doting aunt routine.

Sure, Talis had a knot in her stomach over Bill’s tardiness, but not for the reasons Nisa openly suspected. “I told you, he’s twice my age and not my type.”

“Experience can be a very good thing.” Nisa had five children and was on her third long-term romance, complete with a contract of partnership and a declaration of joint business investments. “Which I can see you appreciate, by the way your eyes light up at the mention of his ship.”

Talis laughed. “He’s a reminder of home, Nisa. I’m not looking for romance.”

Nisa hadn’t grasped that idea before and only clucked her tongue and shook her head now. She didn’t know why, but Talis hated to disappoint her.

“I do like Bill’s cat, though.” She almost rolled her eyes at herself, knowing Nisa would seize on that opportunity.

Nisa smiled as broadly as her chitin mask would allow, flashing rows of small, perfect teeth, convinced of her victory. “Every lasting partnership starts somewhere.”

Talis scoffed. “Tell you what. When he brings me word that the imperials have pulled their heads out of their bilge pipes, I’ll give him a right proper kiss and let him take me out to dinner.”

Her true interests in Bill were twofold. One, since he’d found her crew and their lifeboat on the docks of Heddard Bay, he had been her sole source of reliable news from outside Vein skies. The empire had sealed off the borders and any word from home could be months old. The information that hopped between so many Vein radio towers was all-but unreliable. Bill brought her fresh news, before the color and life had been drained out of it—or, if not quite fresh, only as stale as the length of his transit from here to there.

Two, he was going to get them home. His humble-looking ship was engineered with an extended buoyancy range, ideal for the kinds of maneuvers it took to get around—and under—border patrols. It was their only chance at getting back without being arrested within minutes. Bill would get them through—and for a friendly fare, so they wouldn’t be left destitute once they got home.

Talis focused on the schedule for the first time. “Lotta traffic scheduled for the next week. That’s a bit unusual, isn’t it?”

Nisa made a distracted sound of assent instead of answering. Talis looked over her shoulder. The other woman had drifted back into her bookkeeping.

So Talis left the confines of the harbormaster’s office and returned to the docks, where she could feel the cold breeze caress her face and tug at her jacket. One day, they’d leave Heddard Bay behind and let the real winds whip about them. It was the promise Talis had made to herself, and to her crew who’d given up so much on her account.

Dug, who’d lost his goddess because of Talis. Well, to be fair, not lost completely. The deposed Bone Alchemist was around somewhere, reduced to a squawking, furious raven and bereft of her former powers. It was Talis and the others who’d truly lost their god, Silus Cutter, who was murdered by the Yu’Nyun. But at least Talis didn’t carry any personal responsibility for that.

She was responsible for Sophie, whose dreams of building the most ambitious airship in all four skies had gone down to the trash layer of flotsam with the money that was supposed to pay for it.

And Tisker. Tisker, who followed Talis wherever she led, his faith in her never slacking with the change in the wind.

And their winds had changed, damn it to all five hells. Some days, she lost a sense of the wind entirely. Days like today, when she had to board someone else’s ship and the smells and sounds of it made her body ache with old memories, Talis could work herself into a right sour mood about their situation. But it was one they’d come to as a group. Together. And together was all they had after Wind Sabre dropped to flotsam.

It was just the four of them, as it had been for years before the wreck. Just . . . without a ship. The underground city of Lippen had become their home for the time being.

No. Talis bit her tongue as if it could stop the thought. Heddard Bay, Lippen, and the tiny room they rented there were not “home.” The whole situation was temporary. A refuel stop on the way back to their life. A longer stop than anticipated, to be sure. And might be longer yet if Bill didn’t check in soon.

In the meantime, care for yourself and the people around you. Believe that the world can be better than it is now. Never give up.