THE HOLVER ALLEY CREW
Marshall Ryan Maresca
Streets of Maradaine #1
ISBN: 9780756412609 | ON-SALE: March 7, 2017 | DAW MASS MARKET | $7.99
The exciting debut to Marshall Ryan Maresca's Streets of Maradaine fantasy series
The Rynax brothers had gone legit after Asti Rynax's service in Druth Intelligence had shattered his nerves, and marriage and fatherhood convinced Verci Rynax to leave his life of thievery. They settled back in their old neighborhood in West Maradaine and bought themselves a shop, eager for a simple, honest life.
Then the Holver Alley Fire incinerated their plans. With no home, no shop, and no honest income—and saddled with a looming debt—they fall back on their old skills and old friends.
With a crew of other fire victims, Asti and Verci plan a simple carriage heist, but the job spirals out of control as they learn that the fire was no accident. Lives in Holver Alley were destroyed out of a sadistic scheme to buy the land.
Smoldering for revenge, burdened with Asti's crumbling sanity, the brothers and their crew of amateurs and washouts swear to take down those responsible for the fire, no matter the cost.
It’s a cardinal rule that you’re not supposed to respond to your criticisms or reviews. You just let them be, and that’s for the best. And I agree, because once a work is out there in the world, it needs to stand on its own. You can’t be all, “YEAH, but I meant…”
That said, here’s a snippet of an email I got about The Thorn of Dentonhill and The Alchemy of Chaos:
Veranix gets off too easy in his battles. Not physically but emotionally and mentally.
And that? Valid criticism. I won’t challenge it if someone feels that way, because their interpretation of how someone should handle being in violent exchanges can be very different from mine.
But that said, the first thing I thought when I read that?
“Oh, you’re going to really like The Holver Alley Crew.”
As it says in the blurbs, Asti Rynax is broken. He was a spy, but he’s been through things that have shattered his psyche. He knows this makes him a danger, both to himself and his loved ones.
Despite that, he tries to go straight, tries to live a normal life with his brother’s family. And for a while, it works.
Until the Holver Alley Fire. While trying to save his friends, save his shop, Asti gets caught in a brawl with a handful of street thugs looking to use the chaos to rob the local chemist. And when that fight goes bad, he loses control. The next thing he knows, he’s covered in blood and clutching at his own brother’s throat, the thugs dead at his feet.
From there, he tries to hold it together, but he knows he has this ticking beast within him, a rage than defied reason. And it keeps growing, becomes harder and harder for him to hold in.
Verci, his brother, has the wife and child, the model of normalcy that he hopes for. And when Asti realizes that there’s no chance for his own sanity, then he decides there still is one thing he can fight and keep himself together for: making sure that Verci’s family has a chance for a clean, and straight life.
And if he can hold on long enough for that, that might be enough.
Marshall Ryan Maresca grew up in upstate New York and studied film and video production at Penn State. He now lives Austin with his wife and son. His work appeared in Norton Anthology of Hint Fiction and Rick Klaw’s anthology Rayguns Over Texas. He also has had several short plays produced and has worked as a stage actor, a theatrical director and an amateur chef. His novels The Thorn of Dentonhill and A Murder of Mages each begin their own fantasy series, both set in the port city of Maradaine. For more information, visit Marshall’s website at www.mrmaresca.com.
Asti Rynax couldn’t sleep. The bedroll wasn’t the problem. He’d slept plenty of nights in jail cells, road ditches, even trapped inside a wooden crate. The problem was sleeping on a hot wooden floor in the single-room flop, his younger brother, brother’s wife, and crying baby just ten feet away behind a thin cloth. He craved his own flop, his own space, without families, babies, or smoke.
Asti sat up, smelling the air.
Definitely smoke. And not from the oil lamps. Asti sprang to his feet. “Verci. Wake up.” “What, what is it?”
Verci was out of the bed, crossing over to Asti in a flash, despite being naked. Asti’s eyes went to the slight paunch his brother was getting. Married life was taking its toll on his normally lean body. “You’re right.”
“It’s just the Greenfields’ kitchen,” Raych mumbled from the bed.
“No, it’s too strong,” Asti said. He glanced back at Verci. “Put something on.”
Verci waved him off, taking another smell. “Much too strong.”
Asti touched the door. It was warm. Cautiously he cracked it open. The hallway glowed with crackling flames. He dashed back over to the kitchen and grabbed the bed- roll and blanket.
“Blasted saints,” Verci muttered. “Raych, wake up.” “What—”
“Get up. Get the baby.” Each word was like an arrow. Verci grabbed his pants off the back of a chair and pulled them on.
Asti held the blanket over his face. In the hallway the flames were licking up the walls and ceiling, wooden sup- port beams already cracking. Asti swung the bedroll at the fire, beating it down. Useless. The smoke was getting thicker, the fire hotter, despite his efforts.
“Can you get to the stairs?” Verci called.
Asti pushed forward. The stairs leading outside were only eight steps away. Eight impossible steps. He could race past the fire to reach them, if he went right this moment. The stairway was engulfed, but he could leap down the flight. He would reach the bottom with a few singes and roll on the ground when he landed, snuffing out his clothes if they caught flame on the way down. He could do it, and be outside and safe in seven seconds. He imagined the whole plan in an instant, his body tensing in anticipation.
Verci could do it too, if he called out, told him to run, to go now. Raych and the baby could never make it. He beat down the instinct to run.
“No chance,” Asti replied. The fire filled the hallway, racing along to block him from the apartment door. Lungs and eyes burning, he beat a clear path back and slammed the door shut.
“How bad is it?” Raych asked. She was out of bed, wrapped in a loose dressing gown, caramel hair framing her pretty face, with the baby clutched to her.
Asti could barely speak through hacking coughs. “Very,” was all he managed. He shoved the bedroll under the crack in the door, blocking the smoke that was starting to pour in. “How are we going to get out, then?” she asked. Her voice cracked with fear. Asti didn’t answer, but he heard a slight snort from his brother. Verci covered it with a cough, but Asti knew exactly why he laughed: Verci never walked into a room with- out immediately finding every way to get out.
Verci went over to the trunk by the bed and opened it up. While he rummaged through it, Asti pulled on a shirt and boots and grabbed his pack. Everything in the apartment that he owned was in the pack.
“Plan?” he asked Verci.
“That window,” Verci said, pointing to the one by the stove. “But not yet.” He pulled out an empty pack from the trunk.
“Verci, what are we—” Raych started.
Verci tossed the empty pack to Asti as he went over to
“Give me Corsi and get dressed,” he said. “We have to move quickly.”
“Quickly?” She looked stunned, but relinquished the baby to Verci.
“Put that on, Asti,” Verci said, crossing over to the kitchen with the baby. “Wear it across your chest.” Asti did it, and Verci put his son into the pack. He tightened the straps on the side so the baby was snug, close against Asti’s body.
“Verci Rynax, what the blazes are you doing?” Raych asked, pulling on a cotton dress.
“Keeping our son safe,” Verci said. He turned to Asti, “Get the window open and get out there.”
“If you think I’m going to let my baby . . .”
Verci went back to the trunk. “We need to climb down from the window, Raych. You can’t do that while carrying him.” He pulled on a shirt and grabbed another pack.
“Then you carry him!”
“I’ll be helping you, love,” Verci said. He threw a few more things into the pack. Smoke was filling the room. “No time to argue.”
Asti went out the window. There was a slight ledge, only a few inches, just enough for him to stand on. Above him there was only smoke and darkness; he knew both moons were roughly half full, but he couldn’t see them. The street below was chaotic, people shouting and pointing, running around in their nightclothes while the fire crackled all around. Directly below him was the canvas awning of Green- field’s locksmith shop, stretched wide and tight.
“Awning, slide, street?” Asti called to Verci. “Right,” Verci said. “Move.”
“Hold on, little man,” Asti said, rubbing the head of the baby. For his part, he was quiet, his big blue eyes staring up at Asti.
Asti sat down on the ledge, his feet a short drop from the top of the awning. Keeping one hand on the ledge, he dropped off, using his arm to keep his full weight from hit- ting the awning. Once his body was on the canvas, he let go, sliding down over the lip of it. A second later his boots hit the dirt. He stumbled forward, almost needing to fall into a roll, but he clutched at the baby and lurched backward, keeping his balance. Several people on the street cried and cheered.
Up on the ledge Raych cried, “I’m going to break my neck if I do that.”
“No, you won’t,” Verci said.
Asti looked back at the building. The whole place was on fire, smoke pouring out the windows. Verci lowered his wife onto the awning. Her eyes were locked on Asti, focused on the bundle strapped to his chest. Asti looked at the baby again, who was gurgling and smiling.
“He’s fine, Raych. Come on.” Asti held out a hand, though he knew it was a meaningless gesture. Verci stretched out, easing Raych down the awning until she was as far as he could get her without stepping on the awning himself.
“Ready?” Verci called.