GtPGKogPYT4p61R1biicqBXsUzo" /> Google+ Excerpt: The Shadows of the Monolith: Book One by Jonathan N. Pruitt + giveaway | I Smell Sheep

Thursday, October 5, 2023

Excerpt: The Shadows of the Monolith: Book One by Jonathan N. Pruitt + giveaway

The Shadows of the Monolith: Book One
by Jonathan N. Pruitt
Fantasy, Grimdark Fantasy, Horror, Satire, Politics
October 3, 2023
Publisher: Spinner Loom Press


With each new dawn, the celestial body known only as ‘Calamity’ draws closer – and with it the end of the world. Humanity’s only hope from oblivion rests in the menhirs, towering bastions of scholarship and imagination which cast long shadows across the lands. The scholars within the menhirs devote themselves selflessly to the discovery of new magic that will help avert the impending apocalypse … or so the masses have been made to understand.

In a society divided between those with occult potential and lay citizens, Tara Langcraw is recruited into the Amber Menhir with great interest. The long-awaited heiress of a bloodline bearing the rarest of the six magical disciplines, time manipulation, she is expected to flourish within this noble citadel of learning, as are her friends and fellow recruits, Roland Ward and Peony Bianchi.

They soon find, however, that those who fail to meet expectations, or who dare to challenge the prevailing order, put more than their marks on the line. For the menhir squirms with rivalries, and those who stand against the status quo may not stand for very long.


Fast Friends
Countless rows of gnarled grapevines, some laden with fruit, glistened in the midday sun. Seeing them sent a pang of pride through Tara. Riding apart from the others, she drank in the hues of gold, crimson, and chocolate speckling the leaves. She adn’t ridden this far out from her manor in some time. Apart from fields and a few small vassal villages, there wasn’t much to see.

Tara studied her fellow riders. The Architect and the menhir servants babbled amongst themselves, paying the heritage vines around them little heed. It was clear to Tara they knew little about winemaking; otherwise they would have been impressed. Ahead at the confluence of the Spring Road and the Langcraw estates, more menhir servants on horseback gathered, each of them clad in the customary grey robes. The servants adjusted their cowls as they spotted Tara and her escorts. Ms. Ash cued her horse to trot, passing by Tara to greet the other servants. Beside them rode a boy in plain trousers and a green shirt bearing scrollwork. He rode atop a workhorse; his considerable height and weight seemed to demand it.

Tara took stock of the boy. Given his lack of scholar’s robes, Tara concluded he must be the promised Ward ascendant.

The boy twisted in his saddle and beamed at the riders as they approached.

“Ms. Langcraw, this is your first ascendant colleague, Mr. Roland Ward,” Architect Blanchet announced.

Roland Ward boasted a tanner complexion than any field-worker Tara knew. A dense constellation of freckles and moles dotted his two helpings of brow.

“It’s good to meet you, T-Tara. I hope your ride was nice,” Roland offered.

Tara wasn’t confident in how to respond. His odd breathing before words caught her off guard, and her skin went hot as she searched for words of her own.

“I like your coat,” he added.

Tara gave him a cool nod. “A pleasure.”

She kept her features still as she examined him. Ms. Ash and the others glanced between the two soundless ascendants. Tara found herself wishing, not for the last time, that she were alone. She took in a breath and shot the Architect a pleading look.

“Well, there will be plenty of time for you to become acquainted later,” called Architect Blanchet. “We should be going, or we’ll miss dinner!”

Roland’s face beamed again at the mention of food.

As the caravan headed east, Tara situated herself alone at its tail.

She watched Roland Ward as he made small talk with each of the menhir servants and the Architect. After their second afternoon stop, it seemed it was her turn for Roland’s attentions. Tara spotted his approach and spared him a feeble smile. A huge grin split his face. Tara looked away, suppressing a sigh.

“How’s your ride going?” he called, drawing his mount beside hers.

“Fine,” she replied. She studied the apple orchards lining the north side of the road. She wished to be alone, but she didn’t want to appear heartless either. At least, not before she had a better measure of Roland.

Roland grinned at her. “You seem like you m-might be thinking about something important.”

Tara did not answer. He hadn’t really posed a question.

“Maybe you’re worried about your aptitudes?” he asked. His face twisted up with concern, which only made Tara want to vanish even more. Was he pitying her? “I w-worry about mine too. My family says

that’s normal for ascendants.”

Tara rolled a shoulder to relieve some tension from the long ride and insipid conversation.

“Do you think you’ll be like the rest of your f-family?”Tara sighed. “Whatever do you mean?”

The boy’s eyebrows shot up. “I mean . . . you know,” he stumbled. “With your aptitudes.”

“You are not making sense,” Tara replied, with a bit more iciness than she intended.

“I mean, the aptitudes we’re supposed to learn at the menhir,” he clarified. “The th-th-thaumaturgical kinds.”

Tara turned away from him and suppressed another sigh. “My bloodline is strong. I will develop the same aptitudes as my mother, grandmother, and so on. It is why I am here.”

Roland scrunched up his face. “You’ve never thought it might work out different?”

“No, Roland,” she assured him. “My family has transmitted their aptitudes with absolute fidelity. Our records go back thousands of years. Ask Architect Blanchet to see them, if you’re doubtful.”

He blinked at that. Perhaps he was worried for himself? Perhaps he wanted to develop a sense of solidarity with her? Tara could not be sure.

“S-some ascendants show different aptitudes than their parents,” said Roland. “I’ve heard some ascendants don’t show any thaumaturgical aptitudes at all.”

Tara had never heard of one of the Wards being denied full admission to the menhir for thaumaturgical barrenness, though the phenomenon was not unheard of. Still, Roland’s concern suggested his lineage might not be as firm as his family projected.

“I suspect those kinds of ascendants stem from poor developmental environments. That is not the case with the Langcraw line,” said Tara, letting an edge creep into her voice. “Do you have any other personal questions for me?”

He barreled on, “Will you really live forever?”

Tara groaned, then hated herself for doing so. “Nobody knows how long they will live, Roland. Not you, not me. I may be thrown from this horse and sever my spine. We could be killed by bandits from the Independent Cities. It’s the same for all of us.”

She gave him a stony look, hoping his curiosity might be stayed. “Not like that.” He chuckled. “I mean, you know, if nothing bad happens to you, won’t you just go on living?” No one had ever conveyed to Tara how the typical noble knew about the Tilters of the Hourglass. Larus seemed to understand the gist. Langcraw servants had to. Generations of servants grew and died, While Eva Langcraw remained unchanged. It was not the sort of thing people overlooked.

“You’ve g-got to tell me!” Roland pleaded. He sounded like a child.

“Not exactly,” she said, rolling her eyes. “Assuming I manifest the aptitudes of the Tilters, I will age slower than most, but parts of me will age more than others.”

Tara scowled at herself. She hadn’t meant to reveal the last bit. How soon she forgot her mother’s warnings.

“What about you?” she parried.

“Oh,” he replied with a shrug, “my f-family are farmers. We’re Weavers of the web through and through.”

Seeming satisfied with the fruits of his interrogation, Roland took to ferreting out bits of lunch from his teeth with his tongue. When that failed, he made obnoxious sucking sounds to excavate the stubborn bits. After a long while at that, Roland turned his attention back to Tara.

About the Author
The Amber Menhir, book one of The Shadows of the Monolith series, marks the debut of high fantasy author Jonathan N. Pruitt. A lifelong educator who has taught around the world, Pruitt enjoys spinning spellbinding tales of dark magic and political intrigue. When not toiling away on writing projects, Pruitt can be found traversing about the great outdoors. For more information, visit

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