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The Nightland Express

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In antebellum America, two teens bury their secrets and join the historic Pony Express, and soon discover the mortal world is not the only one on the brink of war.

Young, poor, and orphaned in rural Missouri, Jessamine Murphy frets over her very pregnant sister, not at all sure how to feed their family until the baby is born, let alone after. When Jessamine comes across a recruitment poster reading "Pony Express Special Assignment: St. Joseph, Missouri to California. Two riders wanted. Orphans preferred," her tomboy heart skips a beat: not only for the ample risk wage, but for the adventure and the chance to track down their wayward father in California. Jessamine cuts her hair, dons a pair of pants, and steps into the world as Jesse.

At the Pony Express station, Jesse meets Ben Foley, a quiet but determined boy, so secretive about his origin story there is little doubt it must be turbulent, and they become partners. They are an odd pair—one excitedly navigating the world as a boy for the first time, the other a mixed-race young man trying to defend his freedom—yet their esteem for each other grows as they head west across the United States.

As they encounter mysterious portals that carry them miles in an eyeblink and unusual creatures with uncanny glowing eyes, it becomes clear that this is no normal mission. A second, magical realm exists just below the surface of the mortal one, intertwined since the beginning of time—but the divisive violence of colonization and war are tearing the two worlds apart.

As Ben and Jesse struggle to find themselves, they discover their unlikely alliance may be the only thing that will save them . . . and the creatures and environment of two struggling worlds.

About the Author

J.M. Lee spent his formative years searching for talking animals and believing he could control the weather. After pursuing nerdy interests in comparative film studies, screenwriting, and Shakespeare, he graduated with a much nerdier degree in linguistics. In addition to writing novels, he enjoys mentoring young writers, teaching his dog new vocabulary words, and updating his snooty coffee blog.

"Vibrant, lush, and clever . . . The journey across the Old West--and beyond--lets readers ask timeless questions about identity and destiny, and J.M. Lee answers them with kindness, hope, and a touch of magic." --Amanda Hocking, New York Times-bestselling author of the Trylle series

"Jesse and Ben's journey as Pony Express riders is thrilling, but their voyages of self--ones that defy maps, road markers, and what society would have them be--make the The Nightland Express truly shine. Make no mistake, there is no fool's gold to be found here: The Nightland Express is a poignant, gripping novel." --Lillie Lainoff, author of Junior Library Guild selection One For All

"With sparkling prose, a rich historical setting, and characters both enchanted and enchanting, The Nightland Express is a cleverly entertaining take on the Old West. The seamless integration of history and magic is enriched by an elegant, multifaceted commentary on identity and culture." --Jodie Lynn Zdrok, author of Spectacle and Sensational

"Set your heart to believe in this tension-filled, fast-paced, and ultimately hopeful story." --H. M. Bouwman, author of Minnesota Book Awards finalist A Crack in the Sea

"A magical tale filled with heart and spirit as it explores themes of identity and belonging." --Aamna Qureshi, IPBA award-winning author of The Lady or the Lion

Publisher: Erewhon
Pub date:
Length:
368 pages
Format: Hardcover