Writing Sample: Eidolon by Kate Stradling

Aitana from EidolonI hesitate to put this out there, because it creates a sort-of commitment to my readers, and one that might be a while from fulfillment. But, it’s my turn to supply a writing sample, and it seems appropriate to provide it from a current work-in-progress. Eidolon can mean either “a phantom” or “an ideal,” which makes it the perfect working title for this book.

As a warning, if you haven’t read Namesake, there’s a fairly decent spoiler for its ending in this excerpt. That’s pretty much all I’m going to say. Read on at your own risk. (Haha.)

Eidolon, Chapter 1

I hate my older sister.

All my life, my parents have let her get away with everything short of murder. Then they turn around and pressure me to fulfill their expectations.

“Jen is so difficult,” my mother always said with a sigh, and then she would squeeze my shoulders. “Aren’t we lucky that you’re so much easier to manage, Tana?”

I was easy to manage. I didn’t have any other choice, not when my sister flouted every small request my parents made of her. She didn’t study, she didn’t practice. I had to make up for it by doing twice as much work, bearing the burdens of her responsibilities along with my own.

And she had the audacity to nickname me “the golden child.”

I hate her.

Everyone else is terrified of her. I heard it all the time growing up: “Your sister’s so intense. I could almost believe she’s the goddess Anjeni in the flesh, jilted and angry.” My sister’s namesake, a figment of legend, supposedly restored magic to our people and helped shape our world. My own namesake is not so fondly remembered.

“Does that make me like Aitana in the flesh?”

The question inevitably causes a recoil. “What? No. You’re way too nice. And so talented. Your parents must have mixed up your names, Tana. When it comes to magic, you’re more like the goddess Anjeni than your sister is.”

I’ve always thought so too, though little good it’s done me.

By the time we entered high school, only a year apart, Jen had the mien of a delinquent—scowling face, sullen walk, hands in pockets, and a cigarette lighter at the ready, even though she never smoked.

(That I know of.)

She didn’t date, or join clubs, or socialize. She just glared at everyone. In our afternoon magic classes, she stared out the window, never so much as memorizing the principles. I mean, sure, she hadn’t sparked. Even I’ll admit that our parents were unreasonable about making her take lessons when she couldn’t put the subject matter to practice, but she could have at least tried.

Her senior year—my junior—she became more erratic. She hacked off her hair and dyed it orange, only for my mother’s stylist to swoop in and fix it before anyone could see. She fought with my parents. She openly defied her magic tutors.

And on the morning of her eighteenth birthday, she vanished through the Eternity Gate on Monument Hill.

Everyone thought it was an ancient, decorative stone arch. True, the legends claimed it was a portal to another world, but there was never any proof. In the aftermath of my sister’s disappearance, my parents forbade anyone from entering that section of the garden. The media pushed half a dozen conspiracy theories: that Jen’s disappearance was a political stunt, that one of our foreign adversaries had orchestrated an abduction, that a crime syndicate was holding her hostage. They speculated on devices placed near the Gate to emit the magnetic flare that had knocked half the city’s electrical grid offline. They speculated about the Gate itself, and how Jen might have activated it.

My parents, as the president and first lady of Helenia, held press conferences pleading for their daughter’s return, or for any word of her whereabouts. A cult of idiots sprang up, claiming that she had followed in her namesake’s footsteps. Her face was on every television screen and news source across the country.

She vanished, and yet I couldn’t escape her except in the privacy of my own bedroom.

Oh, who am I kidding? I couldn’t escape her there either.

My sister passed through the Eternity Gate into unknown realms, to an unknown fate. It’s a mystery how she activated the Gate, or why she would do such a thing. But she didn’t pass through it willingly.

I know because I’m the one who pushed her.

“No, Tana, don’t—!”

Her protest plays over and over in my head. I thought I was only pushing her down the hill like I had a dozen times or more since we moved into the presidential residence. I thought she was a quitter and that it wasn’t fair for her always to have her way with our parents, with everyone.

But I never meant to kill her.

For eighteen months, I harbored my secret. I dropped out of school, abandoned all my extracurriculars, holed up in my room, and chased away the gnawing guilt of what I had done. It wasn’t intentional. Jen had activated the Gate, so she probably meant to pass through it anyway.

But what would become of me if anyone learned the truth?

The world thought that I grieved for my missing sister. They assumed we were the best of friends.

And when she reappeared in a flare of light, with scars crawling up half her body and a man who refused to leave her side, everyone expected me to rejoice.

But I didn’t, and I won’t. I hate her even more.

Further Reading

Eidolon is seven chapters into its first draft, with no hard schedule for completion. You can read excerpts from its predecessor Namesake here, and here. Or, y’know, hop on over to Amazon and get the whole book.