Born to Spy
On the Lawn
A New Spell
A New Day
any thanks to all the Unwanteds at Aladdin who put this book together, from the highly visible to those behind the scenes. Special thanks to my editor, Liesa Abrams, who helps me see all my plot and character blind spots, and to Stuart Smith and the entire sales team, whose early enthusiasm for this series was so encouraging. Thanks as always to my amazing agent, Michael Bourret, who is a Gibraltar-sized rock in my life. And heaps of thanks to my assistant, Casey, for keeping me organized.
I am in awe of Owen Richardson for his gorgeous artwork and Karin Paprocki for her stunning cover design. Together you’ve made Artimé come alive in ways I could only imagine. Lauren Forte, you never cease to amaze me with the attention and love you give my books, every single time. Thank you.
To the scores of booksellers talking about this series . . . I’m so grateful for the way you have embraced the first book and put it into the hands of your customers. Special thanks to Unwanteds Gayle Shanks, Brandi Stewart, and the awesome folks at Changing Hands; Daniel Goldin and the amazing staff at Boswell Book Company; Becky Anderson, Jan Dundon, and the Anderson’s Book Shop team; Sally and Camille at Pooh’s Corner; my local East Valley B&N booksellers, including Sibley and Missy, who have been there for me since the beginning; and to the B&N folks at my home-home store in Holland, Michigan. You all rock.
To the teachers and librarians who have book-talked The Unwanteds with the magic words, “sent to their deaths,” I thank you. To the team of Ed, Cindy, and Lynn back home, I thank you. To amazing people like Paul Hankins (who waits at the mailbox), Mr. Schu, Sarah Andersen, Jillian Heise (Thanks, Paulette!), and all the others whose wise words I follow daily, thank you for doing what you do. You are changing lives.
Belated thanks to the inspirational authors of my youth, some living, some gone but not forgotten, whose fantastical worlds influenced the creation of mine: Roald Dahl, E. B. White, Madeleine L’Engle, C. S. Lewis, Norton Juster, and Julie (Andrews) Edwards. I’d call you all Unwanted too, but I’m afraid you’d punch my lights out. Instead, readers may find the occasional hat tip to you throughout the series.
Everlasting gratitude to my Unwanted family and friends who have offered so much support for my little stories. Matt, I wouldn’t want to do this job without you in the opposite corner of the library. Kilian, your illustrations are wonderful. You and Kennedy helped inspire this series and I’m so grateful for your help with magic spells. You guys are truly the best’there are no better kids in all the land. All the land, I say!
To you, dear reader: it doesn’t matter whether your creativity lies in the arts or in apologies, in sciences or in sports, in numbers or in nature. If you think for yourself, even the least bit, I assure you that you are most certainly doomed. Welcome to Artimé.
he sun was low over the sea off the shore of Artimé, making the distant islands look like flaming drops of lava on the horizon. An enormous winged cheetah named Simber came into view, flying over the nearby jungle. Clinging to his stone back were four Unwanted teenagers: Alex Stowe, Meghan Ranger, Samheed Burkesh, and Lani Haluki, all slipping and sliding and shrieking while they tried desperately to hang on. As they approached the lawn, Simber dove, nearly losing Lani off his back, but at the last moment grabbing her around the waist with his tail.
Mr. Today looked up at them as he walked toward the mansion from Artimé’s entrance. An angry-faced, broken-looking woman walked alongside him. The head magician held up his hand to signal Simber, who immediately spanned his wings to catch the air, and floated to the ground in a slow, surprisingly gentle sort of way. The beast took a dozen long steps before coming to a full stop, and then he knelt to let his passengers down. The four slid off and flopped to the grass, breathless and laughing.
Simber growled. He stood again regally on all fours and started walking away. “Therrre, now leave me alone,” he said, pretending like he hadn’t enjoyed any of it.
“Thanks, Simber,” Alex called after him. The wind had twisted Alex’s dark brown hair into tangled curls. He raked his fingers through it. It was getting long, and Alex had good reason for not cutting it. He didn’t want anyone to mistake him for his twin brother, Aaron, ever again. He stood up and reached out his hand.
Lani grabbed it and pulled herself to her feet. She adjusted her component vest, and then smoothed wisps of straight black hair back into her braid. “I almost died,” she said matter-of-factly. “Good thing Simber caught me with his tail or I’d be completely dead right now. Not sure I’m ever doing that again, Alex.”
“We would have saved you,” Alex said. “Right, guys? I would have, anyway.”
When Meghan and Samheed didn’t answer, Lani and Alex turned to look at them. Samheed’s grin was gone. His face paled and he stared past the others, toward Mr. Today and the woman who accompanied him.
Meghan reached out for Samheed’s arm. “What’s wrong?” she whispered. But she knew. They all knew, once they followed Samheed’s gaze. It was the same thing that had happened over and over again in the past months, ever since Mr. Today had removed the gate between Artimé and Quill. Now Wanteds and Necessaries could visit and even reside in the land they never knew existed, and see the children they had once condemned to death’the family members they had thought were long gone.
The old mage, his hand on the woman’s elbow, stopped her several yards from the group of teens. He turned and spoke to her with an earnest look on his face. The wrinkles around her eyes grew deeper, and then she nodded reluctantly and stood firm, crossing her arms and tapping one foot slowly on the footpath, as if she had to be somewhere. Mr. Today approached alone and stood in front of the four friends, a kindly, sympathetic look crinkling about his eyes, and he said in a gentle voice, “Samheed, my boy. Your mother has come by to see you.”
Not All Tea and Roses
n the months since Artimé and Quill had opened
up their border for the first time, after the deadly battle that showed Quill that
creativity could hold its own in a fight, there had been many instances such as the one
currently facing Samheed. In fact, it was all Mr. Today could do to accomplish his
normal magely duties, what with the newly installed door knocker to the mansion being
clacked all the time by frightened-looking visitors, unaccustomed to the bright colors
and wandering creatures of Artimé. Daily Mr. Today was met with Necessaries who wanted
to escape their slavelike conditions in Quill and take up residence in the magical world
of Artimé. Even a Wanted or two who felt the urge to rebel and ride the cutting edge of
society joined them. Besides, the food and the landscape of Artimé were definitely more
appealing than the newly fractured goings-on in Quill.
But at this moment, Samheed stared at the mage, his eyes as wide as a
beavop’s at the hour before dawn. “What does she want?” he asked in a quiet voice. “I
have nothing to say to her.” And while his tone was solid, he trembled inside, because
he knew why his mother had finally come.
“She didn’t say,” Mr. Today said, “but I assume she’d like to talk about
Samheed nodded, and then stood on tiptoe to peer over the tall mage’s
shoulder. “She doesn’t look happy,” he said. “But then, I guess she never did.” He
glanced tentatively at Alex, and then at the girls. “What do you think?” he asked
gruffly. Samheed was not one to enjoy asking for advice.