In the icy, monster-plagued world of the Frost, compassion might get a person killed, and Lia Weaver knows this better than anyone. After the monsters kill her parents, she must keep the family farm running or risk losing her siblings to reassignment by the village Elders. With dangers on all sides, she can't afford to let her emotions lead her astray. But when her sister finds a fugitive bleeding to death in the forest, a young man from beyond the Frost named Gabe, Lia does the unthinkable.She saves his life.Giving shelter to the fugitive could get her in trouble. The Elders have always described the advanced society of people beyond the Frost, the “Farthers,” as ruthless and cruel. Lia is startled to find that Gabe is empathetic and intelligent—and handsome. And she might even be falling for him.But time is running out. The monsters in the forest are growing bold and restless. The village leader is starting to ask questions. Farther soldiers are searching for Gabe. Is compassion—and love—worth the risk?Finally, when a startling discovery challenges everything she thought was true about her life, Lia realizes exactly what she must do.
A branch snapped in the woods to my left. I flinched, turning my head in an effort to locate the source of the sound.
But silence wrapped the world once more. The shadows lay still and gray across the snow. Empty.
“It’s still light,” I whispered aloud, trying to reassure myself. In the light, I was safe. Even the smallest child knew that much.
The monsters didn’t come out until after dark.
I moved faster anyway, spooked by that branch snap even though a blue-gray gloom still illuminated the path. A shiver ran down my spine. Despite our often-repeated mantras about the safety of the light, nothing was certain in the Frost. My parents had always been careful. They had always been prepared. And yet, two months ago they went out into the Frost in the daylight and never returned.
They’d been found days later, dead.
They’d been killed by the monsters that lurked deep in the Frost, monsters that barely anyone ever saw except for tracks in the snow, or the glow of their red eyes in the darkness.
My people called them Watchers.
Color danced at the edges of my vision as I passed the winter-defying snow blossoms, their long sky-blue petals drooping with ice as they dangled from the bushes that lined the path. They were everywhere here, spilling across the snow, drawing a line of demarcation between me and the woods. Every winter, the snows came and the cold killed everything, but these flowers lived. We planted them everywhere—on the paths and around our houses—because the Watchers rarely crossed a fallen snow blossom. For some reason, the flowers turned them away.
I touched the bunch that dangled from my throat with one finger. My parents’ snow blossom necklaces had been missing from their bodies when they were found. Had the monsters torn the flowers off before killing them, or had they even been wearing them at all?
Another branch snapped behind me, the crack loud as a shout in the stillness.
I hurried faster.
Sometimes we found tracks across the paths despite the blossoms. Sometimes nothing kept the Watchers out.
My foot caught a root, and I stumbled.
The bushes rustled behind me.
Panic clawed at my throat. I dropped my sack, fumbling at my belt for the knife I carried even though I knew it would do no good against the monsters because no weapons stopped them. I turned, ready to defend myself.
The branches parted, and a figure stepped onto the path.
It was only Cole, one of the village boys.
“Cole,” I snapped, sheathing the knife. “Are you trying to kill me with fright?”
He flashed me a sheepish smile. “Did you think I was a Watcher, Lia?”
I threw a glance at the sky as I snatched up my sack and flung it over my shoulder once more. Clouds were rolling in, blocking out the sun. The light around us was growing dimmer, filling the path with a premature twilight. A storm was coming.
His smile faded a little at my expression. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I should have called out to warn you.”
“We’re supposed to stay on the paths,” I growled, brushing snow from my skirt. I didn’t want to discuss my irrational panic. I’d been walking the paths through the Frost my entire life. I shouldn’t be jumping at every stray sound like some five-year-old child.
Cole pointed at two squirrel pelts dangling from his belt. “Quota,” he said simply, adjusting the bow hanging on his back. He moved past me and onto the path. “Speaking of which, we’re going to be late for the counting.”
“You’re a Carver,” I said, falling into step beside him. “Not a Hunter.”
“And you’re a Weaver, not a Farmer, but you still keep horses and chickens,” he said.
I shrugged, still annoyed with him for startling me. “My parents took that farm because no one else wanted it. It’s too far from the village, too isolated. We keep animals because we have room. I don’t bring them into the village on quota day.”
“The quota master gives my family a little extra flour if I slip him a pelt,” Cole said. He glanced down at me, his smile mysterious. “Besides, the forest isn’t dangerous this close to the village, not in daylight.”
“The Frost is always dangerous,” I said firmly.
Cole tipped his head to one side and smiled. He refrained from disagreeing outright out of politeness, I supposed. Having dead parents usually evoked that response from people. “I can take care of myself,” he said.
I looked him over. He was tall, and he carried the bow like he knew how to use it. He might be called handsome by some, but he was too lean and foxlike for my taste. He had a daring streak a mile wide, and his eyes always seemed to hold some secret. His mouth slid into a smirk between every word he spoke.
Our gazes held a moment, and his eyes narrowed with sudden decision. For some reason, his expression unnerved me.
“We’re going to be late,” I said, dodging, and hurried ahead.
I could hear him jogging to catch up as I rounded the curve. Here the path crawled beneath a leaning pair of massive boulders and alongside a stream of dark, turbulent water. I scrambled around the first rock, but then what I saw on the other side of the river made me freeze.
Shadowy figures in gray uniforms slipped through the trees, rifles in their hands. There were two of them, sharp-eyed and dark-haired. Bandoleers glittered across their chests.
Cole caught up with me. I put up a hand to quiet him, and together we watched.
“Farthers,” I whispered.
“What are they doing this close to the Frost?” Cole muttered.
I just shook my head as a shiver descended my spine. Farthers—the people from farther than the Frost—rarely ventured beyond the place where the snow and ice began. They had their own country, a grim and gray place called Aeralis, and we knew only rumors of it, but those rumors were enough to inspire fear in us all. I’d been as far as the roads that ringed their land once. I’d seen the horse-drawn wagons filled with prisoners, and the sharp metal fences that marred the fields like stitches across a pale white cheek.
The men crept down to the bank and stared at the dark water. They hadn’t seen us.
My brother Jonn raised his head from the yarn in his lap at my entrance. He looked just like me—lanky limbs, a narrow, shrewd face framed by pale, red-blond hair, a stubborn sweep of freckles across his nose and cheeks like speckles on a bird’s egg. We were twins, and we looked it.
“Where’s Ivy?” I swept my gaze across the main room of the house. Dried laundry draped across my great-grandmother’s furniture, laundry my little sister had been supposed to fold and put away before I got home. A curl of anger kindled in the pit of my stomach—we were barely making quota, the winter storms were upon us, and she wasn’t even keeping up with the basic chores I gave her. She was almost fourteen—she was old enough to do her share of the work.
Jonn raised his eyebrows. “I haven’t seen her all afternoon. I thought she was with you.”
A little piece of my insides froze at his words. Our eyes met and held, and a million wordless things passed between us. I went back to the door and opened it.
Darkness was falling along with the snow. I hadn’t seen my sister in the village, and she hadn’t been in the barn. It was a small farm—just a round clearing in the woods, really. There was no sign of her in the yard. I shouted her name, but the wind snatched the word from my lips and flung it away. The Watcher Ward rattled above me, and the sound was like bones shaking.
My heart beat fast. My lungs were suddenly empty. I took a shaky breath and then exhaled slowly before turning to my brother.
“I’m going out to find her.”
Jonn looked at the fire. I knew he wouldn’t argue with me—he wasn’t the type to voice disagreements, especially not with me—but his whole face tightened and his lips turned white. “The Watchers…”
“It’s too early for Watchers to be out,” I said. “There’s still light left. Besides, nobody’s seen one in months.”
That was a half-lie, as their tracks were spotted almost every week crisscrossing the paths or wandering around the edges of the village where the border of snow blossoms was planted to keep them out. But it was a half-truth, too. We hadn’t seen them recently.
But Jonn and I knew better than anybody that there was still a risk.
“I’m going,” I said.
He didn’t reply, but I could tell by his expression that he was furious that he couldn’t go. He wasn’t mad at me. It was just the way things were. There was no point in wasting time talking about it, so we didn’t.
I pulled on my cloak again and struggled into my heavy boots with the snowshoes for walking on top of the snow. Opening the front door, I threw one final look over my shoulder at Jonn before ducking back out into the wintery evening.
It had grown colder since I’d been inside, or maybe that was just the wind stealing the warmth from my body. I padded through the dusting of snow that covered everything, cupping my hands over my mouth to call her again. “Ivy!”
Most of the time fear was just like a rat in my belly, gnawing and gnawing a hole in the same place day after day whenever I’d let it. But now the rat had turned into a lion, and it was tearing me apart from the inside out. I reached the edge of the yard, where the trees formed a wall of brown and green, and I stopped. The wind shivered through my hair.
“Ivy!” I screamed again.
She was always wandering the farm with a dream in her eyes and a song in her mouth. She had a head full of thoughts about things that didn’t matter and never would, and she didn’t have an ounce of sense when it came to our survival. I wrapped both arms tight around my middle to hold in the fear, and I sucked in another breath to call again when I heard it, lost against the wind.
She appeared out of the shadows suddenly. Her cheeks were bitten red with cold and her long dark hair was wet with melting ice. She stumbled, grabbed my hands. Her mittens were missing. “Hurry,” she breathed, tugging at me. “Quickly.”
“Ivy Augusta Weaver,” I hissed, torn between joyful relief and flickering anger. “It’s almost night time. There is a storm coming. What were you thinking? Where have you been?”
“There is a boy,” she panted, ignoring my scolding. “In the woods.”
But she was already plunging deeper into the forest, and I had no choice but to follow her, a new worry filling my mind and replacing the short-lived relief I’d felt. A boy in the woods? Who had gotten himself lost in the woods at a time like this? One of the farmers’ sons, perhaps?
We were the last farm in the Frost. There was nothing beyond us to the north but the Empty, and to the south there was only the Farther World. What was anybody doing at the edge of that?
Ivy and I continued into the forest. We ducked around branches and scrambled over icy roots. The shadows were thick, and they painted our cloaks a deep indigo.
Ivy reached a giant rock at the mouth of a clearing and stopped. “There,” she said, pointing with a trembling hand.
I could just make out the crumpled form. In my anxiety, I saw only isolated details. A thin, wet shirt, a pair of shoulders, a face almost hidden by the snow. I took a step forward, trying to place the face…and then I saw the sharp features, the dark hair, the slightly tanned tone of the skin. I halted as my blood turned stone-cold. Time became protracted and dense, like swimming underwater. Sound was muffled. My chest felt tight.
You must be strong, Lia. My mother’s voice rang in my head. I remembered her wind-weathered face, her chapped hands gripping mine, her earnest eyes as they scoured my face for weakness. There could be no weakness here in the Frost, where we clung to life between the mountains as desperately as a drowning man clings to a stone.
“He’s not one of ours,” I said, turning to her with sudden fierceness. “Ivy…”
“He’s hurt,” she said.
“Don’t you understand?”
She just looked at me. I drew in a deep breath.
“That is a Farther.”
Ivy’s eyes widened a fraction at my harsh words. The wind blew between us, spraying ice against our faces. She blinked. I didn’t.
Of course she knew what that was—every person in our village knew who the Farthers were, even those who’d never caught a glimpse of them across the river. We barely ever spoke of them, but they inhabited everyone’s nightmares all the same.
I nodded curtly.
Ivy struggled to understand what I was implying. “But he’s hurt,” she managed, as if that was the only concern. “And it’s getting dark.”
“We must protect ourselves,” I said.
Ivy swallowed hard.
I glared at her. “No.”
She looked back at the figure lying in the snow. I glanced at the sky again, trying to calculate how much time we had left before the sun sunk completely behind the trees, and we were no longer safe from the things that prowled in the darkness. The Watchers never moved across our yards or around the town perimeter during the sunlight hours, but some had reported seeing them during the narrow span of twilight that joined the day and the night, and it was rumored that they wandered freely in the deep of the forests even during the day.
The wind howled through the trees and tugged at my cloak. Snow fell sideways.
“But he’s hurt,” Ivy whispered again, breaking into my thoughts.
I closed my eyes briefly. My sister was the kind of person who brought home baby birds who’d fallen from their nests and raccoons with thorns in their paws. But we couldn’t simply take a Farther and bandage him up like a lost puppy. “The Elders say—”
“I know they’re dangerous. I know what the Elders say.” Ivy’s voice was as brittle as ice. “But are you telling me you’re going to leave him out here to die? After what happened to Ma and Da?”
I bit my lip so hard I tasted blood. Ivy looked at me with her big brown eyes and the fear in my gut snarled. What would the villagers say? This is dangerous, my mind screamed at me. This will endanger the family!
The figure in the snow stirred. “Please,” he whispered, his voice just a hiss.
I stepped to his side, crouching down to touch his face. His eyes opened a crack, and then…
He looked at me.
I felt hollowed out and filled up again as our gazes collided—mine and this Farther from beyond the edge of my world—and then his eyes shut as he passed out again, and I was released from the spell of them. I stepped back quickly, but the damage was already done. There was already an ache in my chest from the knowledge of what we were about to do.
He came out of nowhere, hitting me hard from one side and knocking me over. We rolled together across the floor and he came out on top, his hands on either side of my head, holding my wrists down against the stones. His burning eyes bored into mine.
I couldn’t seem to find my breath. The whole world slowed down, and I realized with perfect clarity that he might kill me.
“Don’t scream,” he hissed.
I shook my head.
“How far is the village?” He whispered it, the words harsh and raspy in the air between us. I could see his mind working behind his eyes—was he calculating how long it would take him to try to struggle away on his own, how long before they found my lifeless body?
I was neither brave nor stupid. I told him what he wanted to know. “The village is less than a mile.”
He grimaced, and I realized he must be half-mad with the pain. Maybe if I moved suddenly, I could throw him off and get to the door…
He must have sensed my plan, for he pressed down harder on my wrists, keeping me pinned. “And the gate?”
“What gate? You mean the village gate?”
He didn’t explain. “The mountains, then.”
“The farm sits in its shadow,” I gasped. His hands were cutting off my circulation. “But killing me does nothing to help you. You are too weak to get far, and the Watchers fill the woods.”
His eyebrows drew together sharply, and he coughed. He was weakening—I could see it. “Kill you?”
His grip on my wrists slackened. I saw my chance, and I took advantage of it.
I slammed my elbow into his face. The Farther cried out, falling sideways like a puppet with its strings cut. I scrambled up for the door and yanked it open.
I turned. He was crumpled on the ground, his limbs shaking. I could see that he had no strength left.
“I’m sorry if I hurt you,” he gasped. “I just needed answers.”
I lingered, not running but not relaxing, either. “You would kill me for information, then?”
He pressed a hand against his side and wheezed a bewildered laugh. “I’m not a murderer of farm girls. Not even those who plan to harm me.”
“Harm you?” My words were sharp. “I’m sticking my neck out for you. I’m putting my family in danger for you. I’m sheltering and feeding you—and for what? It’s you who just tried to harm me.”
“I just needed information about my location,” he said, wincing at my words. He struggled up into a kneeling position and raised his dazzling blue eyes to mine. Blood colored his lip red. “I won’t try anything again, I promise, even though I know you want me dead.”
It was my turn to laugh, breathlessly. “You make no sense.” I grabbed the herbs from my pocket and brandished them at him. “I came to bring you these for your wound. I’m not going to kill you. I just want you gone before you can cause any more trouble.”
His expression turned inside out—the planes of his face softened in surprise, and his eyes widened slightly. But then they slitted shut, and I could tell he didn’t believe me. “You’re lying.”
“Why would I lie?” I snapped. “If I wanted to kill you, I’d have done it by now. I could have simply left you in the snow, or refused to clean your wounds, or refused to feed you.”
He was silent, considering this. Some of the wild terror on his face eased at the logic of what I’d said. “Why haven’t you? Left me to die, I mean?”
I didn’t answer that, because I didn’t know how to put my reasons into words. I didn’t even quite know what the reasons were.
Describe Frost in one sentence.
A fierce girl learns falls in love with the enemy while struggling to protect her siblings in her icy, monster-filled world.
How did you get the idea for The Frost Chronicles?
Frost was originally supposed to be a short story set in the world of another book series that I have yet to write. In that version, Gabe’s character had magic abilities, and Lia started out as an orphan living alone (eventually I added a brother, Jonn, but he was much younger). In the first version, the Frost wasn’t very frosty either. It was an evergreen, mountainous region, not the frozen wasteland from the final version. Basically, the whole thing was unrecognizable except for the core story of a girl who helps a boy fugitive despite her misgivings about it and her social conditioning to fear him.
There are 5 books in the series. How many books did you plan to write?
Frost started out as a short story, but it kept growing and growing until I had enough content for a book, then several books. I thought I would write a trilogy, but by the time I’d finished Thorns, I knew there would be more story. I planned to have only four books in the series up until I was half way through Bluewing, and I realized there was no way I’d get it all wrapped up in that book. So, I never planned to write five books, but I’m glad I did.
What’s your favorite thing about the main character, Lia?
She is kind of ruthless, and I like it. She’s strong and determined to do what needs to be done. I admire that. She lives a hard life and she’s a survivor, but at the same time, she’s able to change and become a better person because of her experiences. She isn’t brittle or inflexible.
Are you anything like Lia, personality-wise?
Not really, other than the fact that we’re both logical in our thinking, and I think we share a fierce desire to protect the people we love. I’m a lot more like Ivy. I love taking care of animals, reading books, and daydreaming. Growing up, I was always that kid wandering around with her head in the clouds. Not very Lia-like.
The series is finished. Are you writing anything else for the Frost world?
I’m actually planning to work on one more novella set in the Frost, told from the perspective of Anne, Lia’s friend. Her story evolved into something very interesting over the course of the series, most of it behind the scenes, and I think it’s something that would be fun to explore further.
What book are you reading now?
Requiem, by Lauren Oliver. Fantastic book. Every word she writes is poetry.
Do you read a lot?
Yes! Although lately I’ve been reading more nonfiction. I try to read voraciously and widely, though—it’s important to stay exposed to lots of genres and styles as a writer.
Where do you like to write?
I usually write at my local public library, or a coffee shop near my house. I like to lose myself in the noise and atmosphere of quiet hustle and bustle—it keeps me focused and somehow filters out my own mental distractions. When I’m at home, I tend to procrastinate with Youtube or Netflix too much.
What is your writing process like?
I usually start with an outline, or something that you might call an outline if you squinted at it just right. I hate outlining, but it’s a useful way to organize preliminary thoughts and make sure you have a clear direction for the story. Then I sort of ignore the outline and just start writing. I almost always write in order from start to finish, but it depends on the book. If there’s a scene I’m itching to write and I see it all perfectly in my head, I might skip ahead and get it down on paper. When I’m done with the first draft, my editor and my beta reader get their hands on it, give me feedback, and then I revise. Rise and repeat. Most of the writing process comes down to revision and editing.
What was it like to write Frost?
When I write, I get immersed in the world of the story. Frost is set in a cold, dangerous place, so I lived in this mindset of chilly, grimness. When I’d finished the series, I started work on a new series set in about as different a place as I could imagine—warm and tropical. That became my Secrets of Itlantis series.