Responsibility was overrated. Sure, it sounded good—take control of your own life, make your own choices—but that also meant you had to pay for your own mistakes. And if your life and choices hadn’t gone the way you’d planned, well, then your mistakes might reach deeper than your pockets could afford.

I hoped mine were deep enough for the mess I’d caused.

I watered the lake violets in the front sunroom. Just busy work, but I had to do something other than sit in the town house worrying while my friends were out risking their lives. I should have been out there with them, but I’d been recognized on our last rescue mission and it wasn’t safe outside for me anymore. Not that Geveg had been all that safe in the five years since the Baseeri invaded, but being hunted by the Duke, his soldiers, Geveg’s Governor-General, and by who knew how many trackers, added a whole new level of danger.

“Is Aylin back yet?” asked Tali, lurking in the doorway. Some girls hovered behind her, a few Takers we’d rescued last week but hadn’t managed to smuggle off the isles yet.

“No,” I said, “she’s still out looking.” So was Danello, but Tali always worried more about Aylin, which was silly. Aylin could take care of herself—Danello was the one with the street smarts of a hen.

“Is it bad that it’s taking so long?”

I hesitated. “I don’t know. It depends if the recruiters are snatching people off the street again.”

The Takers behind Tali paled and backed away. None had been grabbed by the Healers’ League’s new “recruiters,” but we all knew people who had: pulled from their homes, dragged to the League, forced to heal—even if it killed us.

It was nine shades of wrong. The League used to invite only Takers with strong healing talents to become apprentices, those who had real futures as Healers. But now? You didn’t have a choice. The Duke demanded that any Taker with even a trace of healing ability had to serve at the League. The lucky ones were trained. The unlucky—they wound up in a small, windowless room somewhere being experimented on.

The Duke of Baseer had his war to win, whatever the cost to us.

Excerpt © 2010 Janice Hardy

About the book:

Part fugitive, part hero, fifteen-year-old Nya is barely staying ahead of the Duke of Baseer’s trackers. Wanted for a crime she didn’t mean to commit, she risks capture to protect every Taker she can find, determined to prevent the Duke from using them in his fiendish experiments. But resolve isn’t enough to protect any of them, and Nya soon realizes that the only way to keep them all out of the Duke’s clutches is to flee Geveg. Unfortunately, the Duke’s best tracker has other ideas.

Nya finds herself trapped in the last place she ever wanted to be, forced to trust the last people she ever thought she could. More is at stake than just the people of Geveg, and the closer she gets to uncovering the Duke’s plan, the more she discovers how critical she is to his victory. To save Geveg, she just might have to save Baseer—if she doesn’t destroy it first.

What people are saying:

In a story thick with ruses and political intrigue, Hardy keeps the focus human by returning to Nya’s moral qualms about having to hurt one person whenever she heals another, the tough choices leadership thrusts upon her, and her smart-aleck first-person voice. –Horn Book

Nya catapults through the pages like a super-charged action figure, but her first-person narration reveals inner conflict when forced to use her healing powers to injure and kill. Again, Nya confronts impossible moral choices as she fights to find her beloved sister. Relentless, gripping adventure. (Fantasy. 10 & up) –Kirkus

Release date: October 5, 2010

About the author:

A long-time fantasy reader, Janice Hardy always wondered about the darker side of healing. For her fantasy trilogy THE HEALING WARS, she tapped into her own dark side to create a world where healing was dangerous, and those with the best intentions often made the worst choices. Her books include THE SHIFTER, and BLUE FIRE from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins.  She lives in Georgia with her husband, three cats and one very nervous freshwater eel.