Monday, January 4, 2016

THE WOODEN PRINCE (Out of Abaton) by John Claude Bemis | Read the 1st Chapter / Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

Happy Marvelous Middle Grade Monday! Today's spotlight is for an upcoming  release from Disney Hyperion, The Wood Prince (Out of Abaton #1) by John Claude Bemis. A retelling of the story of Pinocchio. I love retellings, and I'm really looking forward to reading this one! Today I've got a sneak peak of chapter 1! Before you read it, here's a little bit about the book.


By: John Claude Bemis
Published by: Disney  Hyperion
To Be Released on: March 15th, 2016
Pre-Order from: Amazon | B&N | The Book Depository 
Add it to Goodreads

A rich and fantastical reimagining of Pinocchio that that puts a fresh new twist on the classic in an enchanting, action-packed tale for middle-grade readers.

The automa Pinocchio has always been duty-bound to serve in the floating palace of Venice's emperor. So when Pinocchio finds himself locked in a trunk and delivered to a new master-a wanted criminal and alchemist named Geppetto-he is curious about everything around him. But most curious is the way Pinocchio seems to be changing from a wooden servant into a living, human boy. Before Geppetto and Pinocchio can uncover the mystery surrounding the automa's transformation, Pinocchio is stolen away. Determined to find Geppetto again, Pinocchio begins a harrowing journey across the Empire, where danger in the form of half-beast outlaws and winged airmen abounds for a lost automa.

Meanwhile, Princess Lazuli, the daughter of the ruler of a magical kingdom called Abaton, is also on a quest through the emperor's territory. Her father, Prester John, has been captured by the Venetian Empire, and Lazuli is desperate to rescue him. With the emperor's airmen closing in fast, Lazuli learns the only hope for saving her father-and her beloved home-lies in Pinocchio and Geppetto.

In a masterful reimagining of Pinocchio, John Claude Bemis weaves an enchanting, thrilling adventure for middle-grade readers in the first installment in the Out of Abaton duology.

I can't wait to read this one. I love that it's part of a duology. This chapter 1 sneak peak has me hooked! Get a sneak peak into John's upcoming release, The Wooden Prince. 


The Elongated Nose

By the time Pinocchio arrived in the village of San Baldovino, he was bursting with impatience to get free. Being locked in a trunk shouldn’t have bothered him. He was an automa, after all. Back in the palace where he came from, Pinocchio had been locked in closets and stored away in cupboards with the other mechanical servants all the time. It had never bothered him before.

But since he’d been locked in this trunk, he was changing. Pinocchio shouted and tried again to kick the inside of the trunk, but with his wooden knees pressed into his wooden chest, he was too cramped to make much of a kick. He wriggled and twisted, tangling his smock shirt and tearing his leggings, until he became aware of muffled voices outside the trunk.

“Let me out!” he cried.

A moment later came the sound of squealing nails being pried from the lid. Then the trunk was opened. Pinocchio stretched out his legs and sat up with a puff of relief. Two figures stared at him. The closest was an automat butler with chipped paint on his wooden face, wearing a moth-eaten black suit. The automa butler held the ax that had been used to open the lid. The other was an elderly man with a bright red nose and watery red eyes that struggled to focus on Pinocchio.

“Otto, give us more light,” the old man wheezed.

The automa butler tipped back the crown of his head, exposing a gas flame that hissed to life from his skull. The orange light illuminated racks and racks of wine bottles filling a cobweb draped cellar.

“It’s just an automa, Captain Toro,” the old man called. “Put down your gun. It’s no danger to us.”

Pinocchio realized that a third man was in the cellar. He turned to see an imperial airman in dingy armor, great mechanical wings folded against his back. He had a long-barreled musket aimed at Pinocchio.

The airman lowered his gun. “But, Don Antonio, why would someone try to sneak an automa into the village in the dead of night?”

“I have no idea,” Don Antonio said, his breath wet and raspy.

“Outlaw vermin, most certainly. Why else would they have run when I came after them? Something suspicious is going on with this puppet.”

Don Antonio held a goblet of red liquid in his shaky hands. Pinocchio recognized this as wine. He had served it plenty back
in the palace, but the guests usually sipped it. They didn’t guzzle it the way Don Antonio was doing.

Don Antonio wiped his mouth on his sleeve. “What scoundrels delivered you here, automa?”

As an automa, Pinocchio had to answer people honestly, even if they weren’t his master. Unless, of course, his master had given him orders to lie, but that wasn’t the case now, so he replied, “I don’t know, signore, I never saw them.”

“Then where is your master?” Don Antonio asked.

“I don’t know that either.”

Captain Toro gritted his teeth. “Do you even know who your master is?”

“Yes,” Pinocchio said with an eager smile, glad to be able to answer this question. “Geppetto is his name.”

Don Antonio gasped, sputtering some wine. “Your master is Geppetto? Geppetto Gazza the traitor to the empire!”

“I don’t know,” Pinocchio said. “I’ve never actually met him. But before I was locked in the trunk, I was told I was being sent to my new master and that his name was Geppetto.”

“Is this Geppetto here in San Baldovino?” Don Antonio asked, his eyes wide.

Pinocchio was feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the questions and the strange faces Don Antonio and Captain Toro kept making. He had never been any good at interpreting human expressions. No automa was—it wasn’t part of their design. Otto, thankfully, just stood placidly over by the wine racks with the ax, the flame flickering atop his head.

“I don’t know where Master Geppetto is,” Pinocchio said.

“Please forgive me, signore”

“Traitor, eh?” Captain Toro said. “If I’m not mistaken, this Geppetto is our lord doge’s high alchemist.”

“Former high alchemist,” Don Antonio corrected. “He’s been on the run since his betrayal. You need to better keep up with the news from the capital, Captain Toro.

Captain Toro made one of those strange expressions that Pinocchio was struggling to understand. Did lowering one’s eyebrows and gritting one’s teeth mean he was glad to get Don Antonio’s suggestions? Pinocchio was determined to figure it out.

“I keep up with news from Venice,” Captain Toro growled. “And I can assure you, I will get reassigned to our capital and away from this dusty backcountry one of these days.

“I’m sure you will, Captain,” Don Antonio said. “Possibly sooner than later. Don’t you see? These weren’t half-beast outlaws who delivered the automa, not if it’s for the traitor Geppetto. They must have been Abatonian spies! And if you foil their attempts, then I suspect our lord doge will be very pleased with you, Captain Toro. Especially if, in fact, the traitor Geppetto turns out to be hiding in our very midst.”

Captain Toro jerked upright. “Yes, I should search for him now. ” Don Antonio held up a hand. “And risk failure? You are but one airman.”

“I can handle one former high alchemist.” Don Antonio shrugged, a gesture that Pinocchio decided he liked. He tested the movement out a few times while Don Antonio spoke.

“Are you sure, Captain Toro? Would it not be more prudent to deliver the news to Venice and return with reinforcements?

Captain Toro grumbled.

Pinocchio tried to mimic the noise. Both Captain Toro and Don Antonio looked at him with raised eyebrows. He decided to stay quiet.

“What about the automa?” Captain Toro asked.

“I’ll hold it here in my cellar,” Don Antonio said. “And just to be safe, I’ll order the guards to seal the village gates. No one will enter or leave until you get back.”

Captain Toro nodded approvingly. “It will take several days to reach Venice and return.”

“Then fly swiftly, good captain,” Don Antonio said, lifting his now empty goblet.

Captain Toro picked up his musket and hurried up the stairs. Don Antonio poured another glass of wine. “Well now, my little automa friend, let’s see what we can do with you. Come over here so I can get a better look.

Pinocchio climbed out of the trunk. Don Antonio wasn’t his master, but there was no reason not to obey his orders. He vaguely remembered that before he was locked in the trunk, back when he served in the palace, he had been given all sorts of orders: Bring the tray of spiced meats to the ballroom. Fetch the guests’ luggage. Wave the feather fan for Her Ladyship

Pinocchio stood before Don Antonio. The old man broke into a wet cough that nearly doubled him over. Don Antonio wiped his knuckles across his mouth and wheezed, “Aren’t you just a mystery? I’ve never seen such a finely constructed automat. You’re no crude Hungarian model, like my Otto. No, you came from one of the great workshops of Florence or Milan, I’d gamble. Perhaps you are one of Master da Vinci’s Vitruvian designs. Just look at your frame.”

Something made Pinocchio suspect that Don Antonio wasn’t actually asking him to look at himself. But he decided that orders were orders, and held out his hands to inspect them. He’d never really noticed how he was designed before and certainly had no idea what workshop he’d come from

“Mahogany for strength,” Don Antonio said. “And if my eyes don’t deceive me, there’s holly, too, for lightness. You must be geared inside with the most delicate of machined parts. The alchemist who designed you was a master. And his elementals, who transmuted your wood and metal to flex like muscle and skin . . . Oh, fine work indeed. And such rich clothes. You must be quite expensive, eh?”

Pinocchio shrugged.

Don Antonio gave a laugh that became the sickly cough again. “Funny expressions they’ve given you! Shrugging your shoulders. Ha! I’ve never seen an automa do that. Oh, to have an automa like you . . . But alas, there are better things than a princely servant.”

Don Antonio was eyeing him up and down in a way that made Pinocchio’s gearworks feel strange. He’d never felt this before. In truth, he’d never felt any sensation before his whole ordeal with the prisoner and the trunk. What was going on with him? Whatever it was, at that moment Pinocchio desperately wished he could get away from the old man. But he was an automa, and automa had to do as they were told.

“Yes, there is a better use for you,” Don Antonio said, reach ing a gnarled hand toward Pinocchio’s chest.

“Your fantom. What I would give for that! Let’s just open you up and take a look—”

But before the old man could touch his chest panel, Pinocchio’s hand shot out and grabbed Don Antonio’s wrist. He hadn’t meant to do this, and it surprised him completely.

“ARGH!” Don Antonio cried out. “You’re crushing my bones! Let go of me, you fiend!”

Pinocchio couldn’t let go, no matter how much he wanted to.

Something about Don Antonio reaching for his chest panel had caused him to grab the old man. Watching with horror as Don Antonio struggled to pull free, Pinocchio realized how strong his earworks made him—so much stronger than a human, especially an old one.

“I’m sorry,signore. I don’t know why I’m doing this. I can’t help it! Really I can’t.”

His nose began to grow. Little by little it inched out from his face. Pinocchio knew what this meant. Automa weren’t supposed to hurt any person, unless their masters ordered it. And the mark of an automa who caused harm or wasn’t following orders prop erly was an elongated nose. Oh, why couldn’t he let go? Why couldn’t he be an obedient automat?

Don Antonio wailed in agony and dropped to his knees. “Otto, help me!”

The mechanical butler was there in an instant, struggling to pry Pinocchio’s grip from his master’s wrist. But it was no use. Pinocchio couldn’t get free.

“The . . . ax!” Don Antonio managed.

Otto picked up the ax and reared back with it. Pinocchio furiously tried to get his fingers to let go of Don Antonio, but they wouldn’t obey. Otto swung. The ax bit deep into Pinocchio’s arm. Naturally it didn’t hurt, but as the iron blade lodged into his wood, Pinocchio felt his gearworks go slack and his vision dim. Direct contact with iron—or with lead or any other base metal disrupted an automa’s functions. Pinocchio knew that well enough.

The blow from the ax finally allowed him to release Don Antonio. Pinocchio fell with a clatter on the stone floor. His vision came back into focus. He stared dimly up at the ceiling,past his horrid long nose. All sorts of feelings flooded through him, feelings that he had no name for, feelings that made the wooden surface of his face seem to burn and made his gears feel mangled.

“Are you injured, my master?” Otto asked in his monotone voice.

Don Antonio whimpered. “My arm . . . I think I can move it. Nothing seems broken.”

“Very good,” Otto said. “What should I do with the automat?”

“Lock that thing back in the trunk,” Don Antonio snarled.

Pinocchio wanted more than anything not to go back in that dark, cramped box. But he couldn’t disobey. His nose was long enough already.

Movement was beginning to return to his gears, but Pinocchio allowed Otto to place him inside the trunk. As Otto began to hammer the nails back into the lid, Pinocchio heard Don Antonio say, “After you’re finished, send for Signore Polendina.”

“The shopkeeper?” Otto asked.

“Yes, the shopkeeper” Don Antonio said with what almost sounded to Pinocchio like a chuckle. Why would he laugh? That was puzzling. “I’ve been wondering about our village’s new shop keeper,” Don Antonio went on. “If we are properly persuasive, Otto, I suspect Signore Polendina might have much to reveal about the traitor Geppetto’s whereabouts.”

I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves. ~ Anna Quindlen

Good children's literature appeals not only to
the child in the adult, but to the adult in the child.
~ Anonymous ~