Last year I read Ace of Shades and King of Fools by Amanda Foody, the first two books in The Shadow Game series. The unique and gritty setting of the City of Sin, the character development, and my bi rep kept the story in my mind a year later. Read my review for the first two books in the series.
Thank you, Inkyard Press, for having me on the blog tour for the final book in this series, Queen of Volts!
Don’t miss the author q&a and an excerpt below!
Queen of Volts by Amanda Foody
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Release Date: September 1, 2020
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Thriller, Mystery
GAME OF THRONES meets THE DIVINERS in this thrilling fantasy — the highly anticipated final book in Amanda Foody’s THE SHADOW GAME series.
Return to the City of Sin, where the perilous final game is about to begin…The players? Twenty-two of the most powerful, most notorious people in New Reynes.
With no choice but to play, Enne and Levi are desperate to forge new alliances and bargain for their safety. But any misstep could turn deadly when a far more dangerous opponent appears on the board — one plucked straight from the city’s most gruesome legends. While Levi hides behind a mask of false promises, Enne is finally forced out from behind hers and as the game takes its final, vicious turn, these two must decide once and for all whether to be partners or enemies.
Because in a game for survival, there are no winners…
There are only monsters.
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About the Author
Amanda Foody has always considered imagination to be our best attempt at magic. After spending her childhood longing to attend Hogwarts, she now loves to write about immersive settings and characters grappling with insurmountable destinies. She holds a master’s in accountancy from Villanova University and a bachelor of arts in English literature from the College of William and Mary.
Q: What was the most challenging part to write in Queen of Volts?
A: The primary plot of Queen of Volts is a card game–twenty-two players, selected from among the most powerful people in the City of Sin. And every player has a target. As you can imagine, architecting such a game with twenty-two characters was incredibly complex, and I stressed about it for months over the drafting process. It was a complicated but rewarding endeavor.
Q: What was your most favorite part and why?
A: My favorite part was the fake dating arc. I don’t want to spoil it too much, but I absolutely loved the way these characters spun the classic trope.
Q: The Shadow Games series holds a lot of different POVs. Who was your favourite character to write through, and who was the hardest?
A: Over the course of the series, my favorite, steadfast character was Levi. His POV appears in all three books, and of all six of the various POVs over the course of the series, I see the two of us as the most similar. We are both analytical, and we react to conflict in similar ways. The most difficult character for me to write was Lola. She bit back at me with an anger and a resentment that I initially didn’t know what to do with.
Q: What inspired you to model New Reynes after Atlantic City?
A: I grew up in Philadelphia, spending a good chunk of my summers at the south Jersey shore, a place known for sandy beaches, saltwater taffy, and boardwalks. Atlantic City, Philadelphia, and New York already have such a rich, connected history of organized crime in the early 20th Century. I relished the opportunity to pull elements of that setting into a high fantasy world.
Q: How does it feel to be ending a trilogy, especially one as big and unique as this one?
A: It feels amazing, to be honest. From the beginning, my focus was always on creating a sprawling fantasy series that centered queer characters and teenage girls, and I’m endlessly grateful to my publisher for giving me free reign to accomplish that. Out of the six POVs in The Shadow Game series, three of them are queer, and the ratio also extends to the supporting cast. As a queer author, that means everything to me.
Q: What’s a typical writing day for you?
A: The absolutely best part about being a full-time writer is that I can wake up whenever I feel like it, which is usually a little after 8:30 a.m. I’m the sort of the writer who normally juggles multiple projects at once, so I usually split my day between Book A and Book B, hopefully with some free time for exercise and/or lunch in between.
Q: Where do you like writing and why? Favorite snacks and/or beverages?
A: I usually write in one of two places: on my bed, where it’s very comfy; or on the floor of my living room. I’m not a big snacker, generally, but I love tea. I often brew a quart of it the night before and sip green or oolong iced tea throughout the day.
Q: What was your last 5-star read and why?
A: Beyond the Ruby Veil by Mara Fitzgerald. Emanuela, the main character of this book, is nothing short of a queer icon. In the category of Girls-Who-Do-Not-Apologize-For-Shit, Emanuela has the gold medal. I love her dearly.
Q: How would your main character(s) fare with a stay-at-home order?
A: I’m going to stick to Levi and Enne for this one. I think that Enne would ultimately fare well, surrounded by her friends in the Spirits, also quarantined with her. She’d probably plow through her collection of Sadie Knightley novels. Levi would be restless and bored of defeating the other Irons at the same card games over and over again.
Q: Is there anything you can tell us about the book that is not a spoiler and not on the blurb? Something you’d like to share with us?
A: This book has a heavy emphasis on mental illness. As the third book in a trilogy, these characters have faced a huge amount of dangers and stress leading up to this finale, and it’s not the sort that any of them can simply brush off. They’re scared. They’re grieving. And it was important to me to explore how these traumatic experiences have shaped their various journeys. I don’t write assume that just because a character flees a line of fire that they’ve escaped it unscathed.
Q: What was your inspiration for writing the book?
A: I have always been fascinated with magic systems. As fantasy writers or fantasy writers, we often have such narrow expectations for the way that magic is described, but magic is ultimately magic. It has so much untapped potential. My inspiration for The Shadow Game series was a world where magic was currency. From that, I engineered an entire world shaped by greed.
Q: What came first, the novel or the title?
A: For Queen of Volts, the title. My editor actually suggested it on my very first call with her when she offered to buy Ace of Shades. She had it simmering for three years before Queen of Volts released!
Q: Which character/s do you relate to the most?
A: I relate to Levi the most–I often feel that he and I share a similar mixture of ambition and cynicism. I did also put a lot of myself and my manifestos into Enne. I love clothes, make-up, and so much of what our culture deems to be “girly” and therefore less than. But on a purely personal level, Enne and I are very different people. She is sensitive and reactive in a way that I am not.
Q: What do you like most about writing?
A: I love the immersion it offers into a fantasy world. It is so different than the experience of a reader. When I am describing a setting in my books, I am not describing everything I imagine–I am only describing what I deem is necessary. But I still envision every unspent detail in my own mind. In the scene, I am there. I see it all. I hear it. I smell it. That degree of imagination is addictive.
Q: What scene, in the book, are you most proud of?
A: That is incredibly hard to choose. There is a scene of Sophia and Harrison in a car that I love dearly. A scene of Levi and Tock. Countless scenes of Levi and Enne. I don’t know how to discuss them without spoilers, but they were all important to me, in their own ways.
Q: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
A: Even though I’ve been writing as long as I can remember, I did not consider myself a writer until I was 17, when I decided unequivocally that I wanted to be an author. Before that point, I had thought being a novelist was unpragmatic and borderline impossible. It took redefining my own image of myself to turn an impossibility into a goal.
Q: What would you like to say to aspiring/beginning writers in the community?
A: If you’re serious about writing, make it your study. Read books about craft. Read books lauded for their craft. I don’t think it’s important to study creative writing or attain any degree in it, but it is important to think of yourself as a student, to devour as much information about the craft as you can find. I personally always err on the side of taking myself too seriously. Otherwise, I might not get anything done.
Excerpted from Queen of Volts by Amanda Foody © 2020 by Amanda Foody, used with permission from Inkyard Press.
It was early morning when Harvey Gabbiano dug the grave.
Harvey didn’t like the cemeteries in the Deadman District, precisely because they were cemeteries. Most people didn’t know it, but there was a difference between a cemetery and a graveyard— graveyards were connected to a church. But the only place to find devotion in this neighborhood was at the bottom of a bottle.
This cemetery was a bleak, soulless plot of land, made bleaker by the drizzle that had soaked through Harvey’s clothes. Rusted industrial plaques marked each of the graves. There were no f lowers anywhere, not even weeds, and the unkept grass grew patchy and brown.
“It would’ve been easier if you’d burned it,” Bryce told him. He’d watched Harvey work all morning, but not once had he offered to help…or even to share his umbrella. Bryce didn’t see the point in helping with tasks he disapproved of, even if this task was important to Harvey.
“It’s holier to bury him,” Harvey repeated yet again. Even though Harvey was Faithful, he wouldn’t have gone to all this trouble had the deceased not been wearing a Creed of his own. He didn’t know many others who practiced the Faith anymore—it had been banned for so long now. “You don’t have to stay.”
“I’m staying. You’re funny, you and those superstitions of yours. I could use a laugh.”
Harvey didn’t know how Bryce could find humor in the situation. The November weather was cold. The cemetery was irreverent and depressing. The dead had not deserved to die.
But Bryce had come with him, and so, no matter the circumstances, Harvey couldn’t help but feel a little bit pleased.
“I’m not doing this to be funny,” Harvey responded, forcing his voice into a grumble. He pressed his bulky leather boot against the step of the shovel. The mud he lifted glinted with green shards of broken bottles.
“My mistake,” Bryce said dryly. “You’re doing this to be decent.”
Harvey absolutely was doing it to be decent. To be good. Because Harvey might not have been the person who killed this man or any of the other hundred who’d perished two nights ago at the party in St. Morse Casino, but as long as he remained hopelessly in love with Bryce Balfour, he would always have blood on his hands.
It was hard not to glance at his friend as he worked. Harvey hated to look at him. But he didn’t need to—he had long ago memorized every agonizing detail of his face, his figure, his posture. Bryce could be absent and still be Harvey’s distraction.
Harvey hated himself for it.
The body made a thump when he pushed it into the hole.
Harvey straightened, his back aching from the exertion, his fingers blistered even through his gloves. The hours of rain had made the dried blood on the body and clothes run again, and the flattened brown grass it had been lying on moments before was now flooded with red. Harvey watched as the puddles washed the blood away, and he murmured a silent prayer that the rain would do the same for his immortal soul.
“Harvey,” Bryce said sharply.
Harvey’s gaze shot toward him, and he flinched. Bryce hadn’t worn his brown-colored contacts since that night at St. Morse, when he revealed himself to be a malison, someone with the talent to create curses known as shades, a talent the world feared but hadn’t believed to truly exist. And despite always knowing what Bryce was, Harvey wasn’t used to this adjustment.
Bryce’s malison scarlet eyes were a reminder of how low Harvey had fallen.
But Harvey’s gaze didn’t stop there—of course it didn’t. It traveled across Bryce’s face, down concave cheekbones and lips chapped from kissing someone who wasn’t him. Down bony shoulders and a tall, skinny frame, over threadbare clothes and a black wool coat that draped shapelessly over him. Harvey lingered on the places he had kissed, on slender fingers and narrow hips and the smooth pale skin between. Those memories haunted him.
Bryce didn’t pay Harvey’s staring any attention. He never did. His concentration was focused on the card in his hand. He ran his thumb over its foiled gold back.
It was a Shadow Card, one of the cursed cards the Phoenix Club used to play the Shadow Game. Except it wasn’t. Shadow Cards were silver. This one belonged to a different game, one Bryce and his girlfriend, Rebecca, had devised themselves, one they had set in motion at St. Morse two nights prior. Harvey had helped them deliver golden cards to every designated “player” across New Reynes, and now all that remained was to wait for the star player to make a move.
“They’re here. I can feel it,” Bryce said hoarsely, squeezing the card so hard it bent.
By “they,” he meant the Bargainer. The City of Sin treated all of its legends with a hallowed reverence, and this one was the oldest, most famous of them all: the wandering Devil who would bargain for anything. Bryce had been obsessed with the tale for a year, ever since Rebecca had fallen sick. Despite every effort—ethical or otherwise—Rebecca wasn’t improving, and Bryce had convinced himself that her last hope for a cure was the Bargainer’s power. It was why he’d murdered all those people at St. Morse—a desperate, ruthless attempt for the Bargainer’s attention.
I’ll sell my soul, if that’s what it takes, Bryce had once confided in Harvey, back when his smiles weren’t so much like sneers, when he looked more like the boy Harvey used to love—the kinder version of himself, the one Harvey couldn’t manage to let go of. Though Harvey had never voiced his opinion, Bryce had lost his soul the moment he’d formulated this despicable plan.
They all had.
Harvey tried to ignore Bryce’s words. In the legend, the Bargainer approached people of their own choosing. The only way to summon them directly was through chaos.
Surely Bryce wouldn’t attempt such evil, Harvey had once told himself.
But he had, and since that night at St. Morse, all of New Reynes seemed ablaze. The Scarhands, the largest gang in the seedy North Side, had crumbled, their lord executed. Séance, the notorious assassin of Chancellor Malcolm Semper, had been unmasked as both the last surviving Mizer and, to the city’s shock, a seventeen-year-old girl from finishing school. Mafia donna Vianca Augustine had been shot dead, and her son had won his election. Luckluster Casino had burned, and the Torren Family empire along with it.
Thanks to Bryce, the City of Sin was in a state worse than chaos—it was in hell.
And now the Devil had returned home.
Even though Harvey was an accomplice in Bryce’s plans, the thought of all that had transpired—and all that was still left to unfold—filled him with dread. He tried to focus on the shovel and the dirt and the grave, on this one good thing, but his sins weighed heavy on his soul.
“Harvey,” Bryce snapped again. He never tolerated being ignored.
Harvey sighed. “How can you be certain the Bargainer is in New Reynes now?”
“I told you. I can feel it.”
At that moment, the rain began to fall harder, shifting from a drizzle into a downpour. Harvey’s brown corkscrew curls stuck against his fair skin, and he wiped the water from his eyes.
“Why haven’t they come to me yet?” Bryce rasped, his hands trembling while he clutched his umbrella. “I’m the one who summoned them. I deserve my bargain.”
“The legends never mentioned whether the Bargainer was prompt,” Harvey pointed out. He dumped another pile of mud into the hole.
Bryce’s lips formed a thin line. He trudged over to the grave. The body was now entirely covered with earth, but the plot was only half-filled. “That’s good enough. We should go back.”
“You can go. I’ll finish,” Harvey told him.
Bryce nodded and fiddled with his card anxiously. It was moments like these, when he looked so young and vulnerable, that made Harvey weak. Because even if Bryce Balfour had lost his soul, Harvey still kindled a hope that it could be found. That he could be the one to find it.
“Never mind,” Harvey murmured. “I’ll go with you.”
Harvey heaved his shovel over his shoulder, said a final prayer for Jac Mardlin and his unfinished, unmarked grave, and followed his friend home.