From Breath and Ruin
Book 1 in the Elements of Five Series
New York Times bestselling author Carrie Ann Ryan dives into a world with magic and sacrifice with the Elements of Five.
It is said the Spirit Priestess will one day unite the two Kingdoms of the Maison Realm. She will one day fight alongside Wielders and unlock the five elements of power.
It wasn’t until I nearly died that I realized they were talking about me. They tell me I have the power to save the world, and yet the war raging around me seems insurmountable. I must rely on those I thought shunned me long ago: a boy who isn’t who I thought, and a new realm of warriors who have come to protect me.
The darkness is coming, and the Queen of Obscurité wants to ensure that the King of Lumière can’t get his hands on me. And to make that happen, the Queen will sacrifice anything—including me.
From Breath and Ruin
The dreams didn’t come often, but when they did, it usually took me far too long to realize I could find my way out of them. At least, most of the time, I could make my way out. Other times, no matter how hard I tried to shake myself awake or tear at the seams of what the dream could be, I was forced to live within them, in the nightmares that felt far too real.
My heartbeat thudded in my ears as I tried to get my bearings once again. The dreams were never the same in what happened or even where I was when they occurred, but there was a thread that seemed familiar, as if it were calling to me in a way I could never understand.
Sometimes, I was on the fringe, watching the court of royals dance and hide their daggers of both wit and steel. Then they’d bow and turn to smoke, the ashes of their lies and hidden admissions blowing away like dust in the wind.
Other times, I was in the middle of the action, hurtling from side to side as towers fell, and water rushed by. Air blew through my hair, whipping it into my face, the earth below me trembling as fire rained down on all of us.
Tonight, however, the visions weren’t either of those. Yes, I was in the present, the dream happening to me rather than me being a witness to an absolution I would never understand.
But I stood in a clearing, winter on my back, summer facing me down with wicked heat. Spring danced along my right side with a cool warmth that didn’t make sense, while fall brushed my left, its warming coolness confusing me even further.
There were two shadows in front of me, their arms outstretched, each calling my name in whispers. I could only hear their breaths, not their voices, so I had no idea who they were or what they represented in this dream that I knew would linger long after I woke.
“Lyric,” they called in unison.
And though that was my name, it still didn’t sound as if they were truly calling to me. Instead, it was as if they called to the person they needed me to be. I wasn’t that person, though. Wasn’t what they needed, and I knew I may not ever be.
And while I still had the same body shape as I did when I was awake—my slightly larger-than-average curves filling out my dress, and my height just below average so the bottom of my hem slid along the mud—I wasn’t truly me in the dream.
My blond hair blew in the wind, catching the light and making it look white at times, gold at others. The shade was always changing depending on how much sun I took in during the season, but in this dream, it changed with the direction I turned.
It isn’t truly me, I told myself again. This wasn’t my dress, this wasn’t my life.
Those shadows couldn’t actually call to me because I wasn’t me.
“Lyric,” the shadows called again.
“Wake up,” the one nearest the spring side demanded.
“It’s time,” the one closest to fall whispered.
And though they were both whispers, they sounded like screams in my ear.
I jolted awake, my sweat-slick skin clammy as I tried to catch my breath. My tank was soaked, sticking to my body, and my shorts had ridden up as if I’d thrashed in my sleep. Considering my comforter was on the floor, and my sheet was currently a knot at the end of my bed, I would say that was probably exactly what had happened.
I swallowed hard, narrowing my eyes at the clock, trying to see what time it was. The sun was already up, even though it wasn’t quite seven in the morning, but it was summer in Denver, Colorado, and that meant blue skies, bright sun, and the occasional rain that came out of nowhere.
I had my white curtains drawn, but they didn’t really block out the light, so I’d learned to sleep through the rays on my face long ago. I had to if I ever wanted to sleep in. And since I was also a teenager, sleeping in was part of life—especially during the summer.
I might be eighteen, out of high school and ready to start college in the fall, but I still felt like the teenager who wanted to sleep in and not have to wake up early for classes. It didn’t help that my walls were still a light lilac from when I’d been in my purple phase, and there was still lace on my curtains and the skirt of my bed.
My family made a decent income, but we were firmly in the middle of middle class, and these days, that meant there wasn’t money to update my bedroom to something a little less tween girl and a little more college-bound woman. I didn’t care too much, however. I wasn’t staying here long. Soon, I’d be in a dorm at the local university, an offshoot of the University of Colorado since there was no way I could afford Boulder’s campus. Plus, this way, I could still be close to home.
Because as much as I might think I was ready to start my new life and be an adult, the nightmares that had plagued me for as long as I could remember told me that I wasn’t as grown-up as I thought.
Honestly, what kind of teenager still needed a nightlight because she was scared of the shadows?
Me, apparently. Lyric Camaron, the walking embodiment of indecision and someone not quite ready for anything.
I ran a hand over my face, holding back a gag at how sweaty I was, and let out a sigh. The dreams hadn’t happened so often before, but now they came almost every other night, and I had no idea what they meant. I’d always had a vivid imagination, but my dreams took that to a whole new level.
I wasn’t a little girl anymore, and yet I still dreamed of princes and princesses, of magic and might. I dreamed of courts and pretty dresses, and flowers and rain. Still, I thought that was probably all just a front for what the dreams actually carried. A veil across the hate and lies and mystery of everything that came with them.
I’d always secretly wanted to write them down, to make them into a book or just a few stories, but for some reason, I’d held myself back. There was no use documenting what never made sense. The dreams scared me even when they shouldn’t, and writing them down would only make them more real.
And it wasn’t like writing would help me in my real life outside of the dreams. I needed to grow up, stop thinking about fairy tales that weren’t bright and shiny, and figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. Because I wasn’t a little kid anymore and, sadly, the time to make those choices had already started to pass me by, and I was struggling to keep up.
“Shut up, Lyric,” I mumbled to myself. It was far too early, and I still wasn’t awake enough for my mind to be going down that path. I’d likely be getting a very similar lecture from my parents over breakfast—and perhaps lunch and dinner—as it was.
They loved me, and I loved them.
And that meant I needed to be a better daughter.
The first step to doing that was getting out of bed and washing off the sweat that coated my skin. Then, I’d wash my sheets, air out my comforter, and maybe even go for a run so I could get the cobwebs out of my mind. I wasn’t a coffee fan since I tended to need far too much sugar to even like it, so I couldn’t have a cup of that to help. So, that meant chores and fresh air so I could get out of my funk, let the dreams lie where they needed to be—far from my reality—and get on with my day.
I could do that. Totally. If only I could get the images from the dream out of my mind.
Those two shadows had been in more than one of my nightmares, and I couldn’t help but think that they meant something. Who or what did they represent? Why were they important? I didn’t know if they were male or female or if they were truly people at all. If they were supposed to be love interests, then having them be either a man or a woman would only mean that my dream-self represented my real-self since I was attracted to both and had dated both in real life. But I still didn’t know what the dreams or the shadows in them really meant.
In a few, the apparitions had moved, and I could almost imagine them wanting to be even closer. They always held out their hands, as if I had to make a decision between them, to go to one or the other.
The seasons coming at me all at once seemed like another symbol for choice and change, as well. The same with the instances where I was covered in earth or water, air or flame. All of it indicated choice.
So maybe the dreams didn’t mean anything beyond what I already knew.
It was time for me to make a choice.
A choice regarding who I could be—who Lyric Camaron would be as an adult.
That choice seemed the hardest of all, and yet I knew it was important. All teenagers went through this, they all had to make decisions, no matter what course outside forces wanted them to take.
I knew there was a path laid out before me, one that would lead to a life not unlike the one I held now, one made of decisions that made practical sense. That was the one I knew I should take, the one that would be easier and yet far more thought-out.
And yet part of me wanted something different. I wanted to be a Lyric who wasn’t so middle-of-the-road as I currently was as a bisexual teenager living in Denver, Colorado.
There were choices I had to make. Clear-cut ones that had nothing to do with royals and elements, nothing to do with seasons and change.
I would make the right choice.
I had to.
And I would ignore the dreams and the idea that there could be something more for me. There hadn’t been before, and I wasn’t going to lie in wait for answers that scared me, translations of dreams that challenged me.
I would make my own way, make my own choices.
And they would be the right ones because they would be mine.
The dreams would go away eventually.
They would fade just like the young girl I used to be. In its place would be the future I needed, the one I craved.
I told myself I wouldn’t dream again. I couldn’t.
Because I didn’t want to know what those shadows meant. I didn’t want to know why they knew my name.
I didn’t want to know why it all felt so real. And, above all else, I didn’t want to know why I saw those same shadows when I was awake. Because those were the ones that scared me. The ones that were far too real.
I was Lyric, the girl with everything to look forward to. I wasn’t the girl who saw shadows, who had dreams.
I couldn’t be.
From Breath and Ruin
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Reviews of From Breath and Ruin
“A modern classic.”
— Internationally Bestselling Fantasy Author Eric Asher
“If you are a fan of fantasy from SJM or Cora Carmack get From Breath and Ruin on your list!”
— Reads All The Books