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Mark of the Phoenix

Mark of the Phoenix

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 47+ 5 Star Reviews

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Book 3 of the Animalians Hall series

Pax and her friends venture into the Danir jungles to master fieldwork amid the revived magesteel trade, but soon face mysterious deaths, corporate conflicts, and ecological disturbances hinting at an ancient apocalypse. To survive their third year at Animalians, they must unravel local political intrigues and ecological mysteries.

Synopsis

To learn the art of field work, Pax and her friends head to the jungles of Danir where the local fauna presents dangerous challenges to scientists reviving the defunct magesteel trade. But mysterious deaths, conflicts with the Phoenix Corporation agents, and environmental spasms that mirror an ancient apocalypse put the entire class in danger. Pax and her friends must navigate local political intrigue and solve ecological mysteries if they want to survive their third year at Animalians.

Chapter One Look Inside

Kali stopped midstride three blocks from home, hackles rising slightly as the long shadows of dusk made the end of the street difficult for Pax to discern. She could only make out a figure against the geranium bushes, and wondered if they were waiting for her. A botched feeding at the manticore dome had delayed Pax from her regular schedule as she'd had to rescue a frightened assistant who'd forgotten the pacifism amulet and had to dive into the pond to escape getting drilled with a tail full of spikes.
"Who is it?" she asked her foxlike companion, who'd relaxed from her initial bristling.
came the response.
"Bright hag?" asked Pax, moving again. If Kali wasn't warning her away, then whoever it was couldn't be that bad, even if she didn't understand Kali's description.
The shock of white hair bound into a braid that hung over the figure's shoulder was both familiar and a surprise, leaving Pax with a moment of hesitation until the person stepped into the fading light.
"Baba!"
Her grandmother strode into her arms, squeezing firmly, not at all the greeting Pax would expect from a woman her age.
"Pax, my dear," said Baba, eyes twinkling with mirth. She crouched to Kali's level. Her companion pressed her furry head against Baba, who closed her eyes briefly, then gave a warm smile. "Hello, Kali. You've grown since I saw you last."
Kali let her tongue wag out as she placed a paw on Baba's bent knee. She patted the foxlike creature on the head before returning to Pax.
"You look so different," said Pax, forehead wrinkling. "Like someone sandblasted the old paint off and gave you a new coat."
Baba touched her chin. "Don't worry, all my wrinkles are still in place."
Pax caressed her grandmother's stark white braid, then gestured towards her knee-length hemp tunic, which was bound at the waist with a thick brown belt. "You look like the hipsters in Portland."
A soft cackle exited Baba's lips. "I think it's the other way around."
"Still," said Pax, hooking her arm through Baba's. "Are you staying for dinner?"
Her grandmother's expression dimmed as she pulled to a stop. Her mouth wrinkled with thought, disappointment lurking in a dipped corner. "No, Pax, dear. I was hoping you'd be home earlier so we could eat together, but I have to go. I'm here on other business, but I wanted to stop by and see how you're doing." She narrowed her gaze, apprehension on her lips. "How is Hunters?"
Pax shifted her mouth to the side and shared a glance with Kali, who had sat on her haunches. "You don't approve."
Baba placed a palm against her chest. "I worry is all. That's the last place I thought you would end up." Her gaze flitted to Kali before returning. "You're both gentle souls. I wouldn't want that to change."
Pax bit her lower lip, ignoring her grandmother's lie. Baba well knew that Kali had hunted small critters as food when she lived in the shed. She'd even tried to get Kali to eat people food, but the foxlike creature wasn't interested, not on a regular basis, anyway.
"It's been...uhm"—memories of the dragon salamander fights came back—"not without its challenges. But I wouldn't trade it for anything. Animalians has been wonderful. Sure, I was expecting to be in Keepers, but I'm finding my way in Hunters." Wanting to change the subject, Pax gestured towards the Victorian at the end of the street. "What did you think? How were they?"
The heavy yet constrained sigh told a tale. Baba crossed her arms, eyes filled with memories.
"I'd been away so long that it was hard to tell." She narrowed her eyes at Pax. "What do you think?"
"I...I think they're better," said Pax. "Kali and I have been working with them all summer. They're not friendly, but at least the summer was bearable."
"That's good," said Baba, picking at the hem of her sleeve absently. "You know your father has no magical ability, and your mother next to none."
Pax pulled her head back. "You're not trying to tell me I'm adopted or anything?"
Baba rolled her eyes. "Merlins no. I'm sorry. You're absolutely their daughter. What I'm trying to say, very badly, is that I'm so proud of you. The Hundred Halls is not an easy place, especially with Invictus dead or gone. It's not like you had a magical upbringing like most have that attend the school. That you've done as well as you have is a testament to you."
A warmth rose to her cheeks. "And Kali," said Pax as her companion pressed a paw against her thigh.
Baba's eyes creased with silent appreciation as she smiled at Kali. "Of course, you too, Kali."
"How is Sweden? And your sister?"
"We haven't killed each other, so that's good," said Baba, chuckling to herself. "It's been good to be back, but I do miss my granddaughter."
"Maybe I can come visit sometime," said Pax.
Baba flinched slightly, her mouth twitching into a forced grin. "Of course, I would love that. Ines would adore Kali, and we'd have a grand time showing you around."
"What's the catch? I hear a 'but' in your voice," said Pax.
"Soon, but not yet," said Baba, checking the silver watch on her wrist. "You need to focus on school, on Kali's growth." The cryptic answer confused Pax, but before she could ask, Baba continued, "I'm sorry, I have to go. I wish we could have talked longer. I miss you dearly." She paused, flattening her lips. "Thank you for taking care of your parents. I know this has been difficult, but you're going to have to do that a little while longer. We don't abandon family."
Baba gave her a kiss on the cheek, smelling like sage, before sweeping off to a taxi that had rumbled up while they were talking. Pax stayed on the sidewalk while the yellow car disappeared around the corner, lights flashing across the houses, and her world returned to a grainy darkness.

Main Tropes

  • Urban Fantasy
  • Magical Academy
  • Found Family
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Wild Adventure

In this interesting, fast paced adventure, the 3rd and 4th years start their year in the field tagging animals and ends with a fight for their lives.