Magic, Family Drama, and a Chaotic Kingdom Collide in Rory Power’s Adult Fantasy Debut

Magic, Family Drama, and a Chaotic Kingdom Collide in Rory Power’s Adult Fantasy Debut
A crop of the In a Garden Burning Gold cover. (Image: Del Rey)

Author Rory Power earned acclaim for her YA fantasy novels Wilder Girls and Burn Our Bodies Down, but in 2022 she’ll be making her adult fantasy debut with In a Garden Burning Gold, a tale of magical twins that’s inspired in part by her Greek heritage. Gizmodo is excited to reveal the cover and first excerpt from Power’s forthcoming novel.

First up, a synopsis to introduce you to the characters:

Rhea and her twin brother, Lexos, have spent an eternity helping their father rule their small, unstable country, using their control over the seasons, tides, and stars to keep the people in line. For a hundred years, they’ve been each other’s only ally, defending each other and their younger siblings against their father’s increasingly unpredictable anger.

Now, with an independence movement gaining ground and their father’s rule weakening, the twins must take matters into their own hands to keep their family — and their entire world — from crashing down around them. But other nations are jockeying for power, ready to cross and double cross, and if Rhea and Lexos aren’t careful, they’ll end up facing each other across the battlefield.

Here’s the gorgeous cover! The cover design and illustration are by Faceout Studio/Tim Green, based on images copyright Bridgeman Images, copyright Getty Images, and copyright Shutterstock.

Image: Del Rey Image: Del Rey

And here’s a first look at the second chapter of In a Garden Burning Gold. It captures a family moment that’s both sweet and foreboding.

Chapter Two

Alexandros

Lexos watched from the doorway as his sisters stood side by side, rolling out dough for the pita. Chrysanthi was chattering away, her hair catching in her mouth as she described her most recent project for Rhea — some special way the sealight hit the olive trees near midnight. He’d heard it before, had been dragged out of his bed to come and look, Lexos, come and see, but Rhea was always better at giving Chrysanthi the smiles and questions she was looking for.

Usually, at least. Today he could see Rhea’s attention was elsewhere. She was doing her best to listen to Chrysanthi, but every few moments she glanced at the doorway, shoulders tight.

She was safe for the moment. Their father was out, making one of the trips Lexos wasn’t yet allowed to follow him on. He would be home before dinner, but with any luck they had another hour of peace.

Rhea and Chrysanthi had finished with a layer of dough and Rhea was carrying it to the end of the table, where the others were setting. When she’d finished draping the sheet of dough over the rest, she reached for the bell hanging from the wall and rang it once. The sound carried far throughout the reaches of the house, calling to whichever servant might hear.

“Eleni will bring my bag,” she said to Chrysanthi over her shoulder. “And then we can get started with the filling.”

Since they were small Rhea had been the best of them at collecting her words, cupping her hands together as she told a story and watching the seed of it crystallize in her palms. Their mother had taught all of them how, had called it a gift given only to their family line, but of the four children Rhea was the only one who remembered the process.

Kymithi, they called the candies. Not biscuits and not fruit but somewhere in between. Rhea’s were all sugar and cloves, crisp on the outside with a soft middle. Lexos’s, when he tried, always came out tasting bitter. Sometimes, in the evenings when he was waiting for the stars to burn through the sky, he would try it again. But the kymithi always came out wrong.

Maybe, Lexos thought, Rhea had better luck because she actually had stories to tell. All Lexos could ever say was he’d been to a meeting with Baba, and he couldn’t say very much more about it, and wasn’t that too bad. 

Eleni ducked into the kitchen to put Rhea’s beaded bag on the counter, and left just as quickly, a harried look on her face. She was probably preparing with the other servants for Baba’s return. There was a sound from somewhere in the house, the scrape of furniture on the stone floor, and Lexos had to keep from flinching. Baba wasn’t due for another hour at least. There was time, still.

“What was he like?” Chrysanthi was asking, and Lexos came further into the room. He drew his coat tightly around him against the chill of the stone and settled onto a bench by the oven.

Rhea began to drop the kymithi, candied with maple sugar, into a ceramic bowl as Chrysanthi hung off her. Under her apron Chrysanthi’s deep yellow gown was an old castoff of Rhea’s. Rhea had embroidered the crimson swirls adorning the bodice a long time ago, back when she was still as young as she looked, and you could tell the stitchwork was unsteady if you looked closely. Rhea had tried to throw the dress out, but Chrysanthi had begged and begged until Rhea let her keep it.

His sisters. One bright and smiling, the other with a sharpness to her even as she led her consorts in their wedding dance. He would miss this when Rhea was gone again.

“He was nice enough,” Rhea was saying as she poured herself a cup of kaf, the rich, bitter drink Thyzaks favoured at all hours of the day. “Brown hair, brown eyes.”

“But what kind of brown exactly?”

Lexos could see Rhea struggling not to laugh and got up, coming to lean against the kitchen table. “Horseshit brown,” he said, popping one of Rhea’s kymithi into his mouth.

Ftama,” Chrysanthi said with a gasp, slapping Lexos on the shoulder, but Rhea snorted and let him steal another kymitha.

“How are they?” she asked.

Lexos bit down and closed his eyes, let the soft centre of the kymitha melt on his tongue. It tasted of sweet bread and early morning wind sneaking through a slightly open bedroom window. He swallowed quickly — no need to for the rest of whatever scene Rhea had chosen.

“Good,” he said. “If perhaps a bit intimate.”

“Well, what did you expect? I have certain responsibilities.” Rhea picked through the bowl of kymithi to weed out a few of the undersized ones. They were small and round, each coloured slightly differently but all with the same amber sheen. If Lexos looked closely, he could see something flickering at the centre of each one.

“You’re so lucky,” Chrysanthi sighed, and Lexos wandered around to the other side of the table. He’d heard this a thousand times before, and would likely hear it as many times again. “Why couldn’t I have been Thyspira?”

Long ago, Lexos had wished for Rhea’s freedom himself — the lure of the world, the attention, the flowers tossed before your feet — but it had only taken a few trips across Thyzakos with his father to convince him otherwise. Chrysanthi might not realise, but she was lucky to stay at home, wrapped up in her work, in the beauty of it.

“Privileges of the eldest, koukla,” Rhea said absently as she began to lay the sheets of dough at the bottom of a baking dish.

Privileges of the eldest, indeed. Lexos had a few of his own that he would rather not think about.

Excerpt from In a Garden Burning Gold by Rory Power reprinted by permission. Copyright Del Rey.

Rory Power’s In a Garden Burning Gold will be out April 5, 2022; you can pre-order a copy here.