Review

“A deftly crafted and thoroughly fun read … especially and unreservedly recommended for elementary school, middle school, and community library Fantasy Fiction collections.” —MBR Midwest Book Review

The Xami, Guardians of Sericea

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The hoofbeats stopped. There was some heavy breathing but no sounds of alarm.

“Dee? Come out from those bushes. You called us.” A familiar voice that resonated like an oboe rang out.

“Zi!” Dee pushed back onto the path. Four Xami, the size of enormous horses, stood saddled and wearing headgear. Their scaled bodies, flanks heaving with exertion, rippled with jewel tones in the sunlight.

Mai now stood on the other side of the path, her eyes wide and her mouth hanging slightly open. “Oh my, they’re beautiful,” she breathed. “I never thought I’d be privileged enough to see one.”

“Am I ever glad to see you.” Dee rushed toward Zi, the Xamu who had carried him along the Silk Road to the Imperial Palace, and flung his arms around his neck. “And hello, Ai,” he greeted the Xamu who had carried Lucy.

Lucy was already running toward Ai.

“And who are the other Xami? Why didn’t you come the last time I tried to call you? You said you would. What took you so long?” Dee said.

Zi’s furry eyebrows lowered. “We didn’t take long.”

Dee sighed, trying not to be irritated with a creature who was so long-lived that anything less than a decade wasn’t worth mentioning.

“We couldn’t come the last time you called because one of the six remaining Xami had just been killed by the queen’s elite archers.” Zi’s voice shook. “Now we are only five, and the fifth one is injured. So, we four”—he nodded to the rest of the small group—“have responded to your call.”

“What!” said Yidi, sharply. “That’s so wrong. It is terribly bad luck to harm a Xamu.”

“Particularly for the Xamu,” muttered one of the new Xami.

“How could she?” Lucy’s voice wobbled. She seemed on the verge of tears as she burrowed her fingers into Ai’s thick ruff. “Who could harm such magnificent creatures?”

Ai shrugged. “It’s not the first time,” he said. He sounded weary and grief stricken.

“Our deepest condolences,” Mai said quietly.

“Yes,” added Yidi. “And we will try to right this wrong,” he promised.

Zi nodded his head. “Thank you. Now,” he went on in a businesslike tone of voice, “let me introduce you to the other Xami. Ai you already know. The others will tell you their names.”

“I am Fu.” Yellow antlers sprinkled with purple stars bobbed as the largest Xamu extended his right foreleg and bowed his head. Fu said in his deep rumbly voice. “Why have you called us?”

Dee quickly filled the Xami in on the recent events.

“Yes, we understand,” Zi said. “We will help you get to Anxi.”

“This one’s mine.” Yidi grinned as he strode forward and fastened his pack to Fu’s saddle. Once mounted, he ran his fingers through the Xamu’s thick yellow ruff tipped with purple. “Hello, Fu. I like your colors.”

“Yellow is the color of royalty and purple is the color of love, strength, and spiritual awareness.” Fu said in his deep rumbly voice. He turned his great heat and gazed at Yidi with eyes the color of old gold. Dee thought he looked ancient and wise.

Another Xamu with orange antlers dotted with black stars stepped forward. “I am Mu, I will carry this young woman.” His long eyelashes fluttered at Mai who had been still standing in amazement.

She pulled herself together to rush toward the Xamu with a look of glee on her face. She lifted herself into the saddle and stroked the side of his neck. “I can’t believe this,” she said over and over as the Xami set off at a brisk trot.

Excerpt from The Caves of Wonder


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