Authors: Kelly Meding
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Praise for Kelly Meding and the Dreg City novels
“A fast-paced adventure.”
—Charlaine Harris, #1
New York Times
“Gritty, imaginative, and a terrific read.”
—Patricia Briggs, #1
New York Times
“Action-packed, edgy, and thrilling…. You won’t want to miss this one.”
New York Times
“A phenomenal story… utterly addictive.”
—Jackie Kessler, critically acclaimed author
“Thrilling…. Especially impressive are her worldbuilding skills.”
“[An] excellent series.”
—Bitten By Books
“Will keep you on the edge of your seat.”
—Book Lovers Inc.
For all the girls who ever closed their eyes
and dreamed of being a superhero.
his book is the culmination of more than sixteen years of work—from the first inkling of an idea to the final product in your hands. A lot of people touched this manuscript over the years, and I’ll probably forget to thank someone, but here goes.
Mega-hugs to my fabulous agent, Jonathan Lyons, for believing in a trunked manuscript and helping me smack it into submission shape. More hugs and chocolate to my editor, Jennifer Heddle, for falling in love with my take on super-heroes and making this book even better than I imagined.
To the amazing peeps who read this book in its various stages: there have been a lot of you, but especially to Melissa, Sassy, and Nancy. You three were troopers. A special thank-you to Jeaniene Frost for seeing something special in my query and first pages, and for offering some amazing advice to a novice.
And even though they don’t know me, thank you to Marv Wolfman and George Pèrez for creating a comic book series that captured the imagination of a preteen and launched her obsession with superheroes. This book wouldn’t exist without your Teen Titans.
Finally, thanks to my dad for having that copy of
The New Teen Titans
#9 in your box of comics, and for letting me swipe it.
he bronze man’s head was melting. It oozed fat splats of liquid metal and swirled down the front of his old-fashioned suit jacket to puddle at his feet. Some of it hit the bronze duck below him, adding layers of new metal that mutated it into a nightmarish goose. The molten metal cooled and hardened as it hit the sidewalk. Mayhem’s heat blasts were concentrated above the statue, and metal needs a constant heat source to stay liquid. I learned that in class.
Gage had told me the statue was of a once-famous man who wrote stories for kids. I don’t know for sure, but if Gage says so, it must be true. He’s in charge while the adults are fighting for all of our lives, and he kept us quiet and hidden. For a while.
Until Mayhem found our hiding place.
“We have to run for it,” Gage said.
I didn’t want to run. We’d been running for hours, from the southernmost point of Central Park to where we were now. I don’t know how many blocks, but a lot, and it was raining, too—light, chilly rain and heavy, splattering rain.
Sometimes it stopped and just blew cold wind; then Ethan would use his Tempest powers to try to redirect it so we didn’t freeze.
Hours of it, and I was exhausted. We all were. Each time the Banes gained ground and pushed the last of the grown-up Rangers north, we kids ran ahead and took cover. We were there to fight if we had to, but the grown-ups didn’t want us to—not until absolutely necessary. At fifteen, Gage was the oldest; I’m the youngest at ten-almost-eleven. He says we’re the last line of defense for the city of New York.
We’re the last line of defense for the rest of the country.
And we’re just a bunch of kids.
Mayhem kept blasting.
Ethan stepped out from the shelter of the stone wall, all wiry and red-haired and cocky thirteen. He raised his hands to the sky. A blast of wind shot away from him and swirled toward Mayhem. She was a good hundred yards away, across a cement hole that had once been a lake or something, near a statue of a bronze girl on a mushroom. The statue was losing shape, turning into goo from her being so close to it.