Mara and Esher Hill

She’s stubborn, prone to untidiness and will do everything she can for her family. Having become a sorcerer from fear of lovelessness, only to learn that her shape of love was always enough as is, why wouldn’t Mara Hill then use that magic to help her brother survive? It was only a problem in hindsight, since she never figured to have need of such power herself. Nor did she think that she’ll have put Esher in a position where he’ll feel obliged to pay her back with his soul. Maybe she should have asked him first…

He listens more than he speaks, is never parted from his dogs and wishes he were best known for locking his amorous friends in the cellar in order to continue his reading. He’s talented enough with a blade and a horse that his life shouldn’t have been complicated, even cursed with a brain at odds on the idea of living, but his sister thought to save him and instead rendered the town’s knowledge of his depression the least of Esher Hill’s problems. To save Mara’s life, he’s going to have to work with a company of strangers in the most dangerous place in the Marchverse, strangers with little interest in seeing him survive himself, never mind the weird magic of the Gast…

Beginning forty-five years before Tes arrives at the College, the Mara and Esher Hill stories also feature a young Kit March, Faiza and the future Professors Roxleigh, along with a fellowship of queer, trans, neurodiverse and a-spec characters fighting monsters and, sometimes, each other.

Faiza and the Professors Roxleigh are non-narrating minor characters in The Unnatural Philosophy of Kit March, while Kit is a narrating protagonist.

The Sorcerous Compendium of Postmortem Query

Cover image for The Sorcerous Compendium of Postmortem Query: A Marchverse Short Story by K. A. Cook. Cover shows a cemetery at night, with various tombstones in the foreground, surrounded by grassy rises and green bushes, with a tumbledown stone fence and trees in the background. A lit candle sits on the ground at the front of the cover, showing a glow of orange light illuminating grass and part of a tree branch. Cover and author credit are written in a white, fantasy-style text, the type bright against the dark sky and shadowed leaves.Necromancer Mara Hill has waited weeks for the Thinning: the one night the dead walk freely amongst the living. Her wandering great-aunt, Rosie, was wise in the way of magic and the world, and Mara knows of none other to ask. Books and magic alike haven’t restored her fading love, and Benjamin Lisabet is too wonderful to risk losing. Why can’t Mara keep herself from falling out of love whenever the girl she yearns for dares love her back?

She’s sure that Aunt Rosie’s spirit will offer up needed advice. She just doesn’t expect a deluge of deceased villagers set on unravelling everything Mara knows about what it means to love and be in love.

Contains: a sapphic, lithromantic trans witch fearing her shape of love; a bisexual aunt who adores girls; an aro-ace trans brother armed with pokers; a wealth of casual queerness; and a world learning to be bold about its own diverse aromanticism.

Links: Web Draft

Sequel Works: Love is the Reckoning

Love is the Reckoning: a Marchverse novelette

Cover of Love is the Reckoning: A Marchverse Novelette by K. A. Cook. Cover shows a cartoony-styled indoors tavern scene with a lot of different brown wood textures: wood panelling on the walls, wood floor, a square wood window frame, a crooked wooden table in the centre of the image and a wooden stool and a wooden barrel sitting in front of it. A candle stub sits on the window frame, looking out to dark green trees against a star-lit sky. The table bears beer glasses, a green wine bottle, a brown bottle of spirits, orange liquid in a glass, a plate of biscuits and a plate bearing a wedge of yellow cheese with red rind. A wooden log rests against one side of the window frame, an unsheathed longsword against the other, and a sack sits against the wall underneath the table. A cage bearing a twisted, vine-style plant sits in the top right-hand corner, above the table. Text is written in a white, handdrawn, fantasy-style type.

Esher Hill left his home and kin a crying wreck of a man, too depressed and dysphoric to care what his people make of him. If he’d had his way, that would have been the end of it.

His sister Mara, the village witch, made sure he didn’t.

Two and a half years later, Esher owns two dogs, a blade, a career and a new body—the shape of masculinity he always felt he should be. A miracle Mara refuses to explain. A miracle the Sojourner’s priests reject and fear. A miracle, say the Grey Mages, that cannot exist without something precious sacrificed in exchange: a soul.

Returning home in search of his sister and the truth isn’t just a matter of enduring stares, whispers, explanations and the condescending pity from those he left behind.

Love holds edges sharper than Esher’s sword, for nobody wins but demons in the sale of souls.

Contains: a graysexual, aromantic trans man fighting his own mind; the trans sorcerer of a sister who loves him; a grizzled aro-ace mayor and barkeep; and a heavy reliance on schemes and manipulations in the absence of simple communication.

Links: Web Draft

Prequel Works: The Sorcerous Compendium of Postmortem Query

Sequel Works: The Crew of Esher Hill

The Crew of Esher Hill: a Merchverse serial

Cover of The Crew of Esher Hill: A Marchverse Serial by K. A. Cook. Cover shows cartoon-style vines, trees, mushrooms and plants in a swamp theme with lots of aqua and blue-green tones for the plants and leaves, and purple-brown tones for stumps and branches, giving everything an uncanny, unnatural feel. A clear, glowing sphere sits on a stump at the bottom right of the cover. Test written in a white, handdrawn, fantasy-style type.

Esher Hill’s dying sister once gave her magic to save Esher’s life. Saving Mara means venturing into the Gast, a dangerous place of magic walled off from the rest of the world, in search of an ancient elfish relic.

He won’t survive the Gast alone.

Faiza Hiba Khalil studied dragons and artefacts to escape the pressures of title and family. They leap at the opportunity to use their knowledge on Esher’s quest—even if they have no idea how to use the sword that accompanies their fire-proof armour.

Marie and Sarie Roxleigh know two things: they are women and they are wed. Astreut disagrees. In the wilds of the Gast, they may find power enough to make their safety—but they have no reason to trust Esher and his crew.

Kit March is a magician and trickster with quick words, an affinity for narrative and a heart filled with guilt—but Kit’s magic is designed to impress and entertain, not protect.

Indigo has mastered horses, weapons and a biting absence of fear, but nothing else about hir life will ze share. Ze serves the Grey Mages, not Esher—but ze alone knows where and how to find the artefact that will save Mara’s life.

Esher can’t risk a single mistake, but his crew may be more dangerous to Esher than the Gast.

Contains: an assortment of characters occupying shades of trans, non-binary, queer, asexual, aromantic, mentally ill and autistic; conflicting goals that threaten to run this quest off its rails; and a strange rainforest where flora merges with fauna and unnamed demons wander.

Links: PDF | EPUBChapter Posts

Prequel Works: Love is the Reckoning, Ringbound

Sequel Works: Old Fashioned, The Unnatural Philosophy of Kit March

Forthcoming stories include A Quest of Spheres and Phalanges, a novelette depicting Esher’s first meeting with Faiza, Indigo and the making of his deal with the Grey Mages; and A Census of Dragons, a short story about Faiza’s previous life as a princess and dragon scholar.

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