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About The Book

Penny Dreadful meets The Gilded Wolves in this captivating young adult historical fantasy sequel to the “bloodily spectacular” (Chloe Gong, #1 New York Times bestselling author of These Violent Delights) The Bones of Ruin that follows immortal Iris as she desperately tries to thwart her destructive destiny.

Iris Marlow can’t die. For years, she was tormented by her missing memories and desperate to learn her real identity. So when the mysterious Adam Temple offered to reveal the truth of who she was in exchange for her joining his team in the Tournament of Freaks, a gruesome magical competition, it was an offer she couldn’t refuse. But the truth would have been better left buried.

Because Adam is a member of the Enlightenment Committee, an elite secret society built upon one fundamental idea: that the apocalypse known as Hiva had destroyed the world before and would do it again, and soon. But what the Committee—and Iris—never guessed is that Hiva is not an event. Hiva is a person…Iris.

Now, no matter how hard Iris fights for a normal life, the newly awakened power inside her keeps drawing her toward the path of global annihilation. Adam, perversely obsessed with Iris, will stop at nothing to force her to unlock her true potential, while a terrifying newcomer with ties to Hiva’s past is on the hunt for Iris.

All Iris wants is the freedom to choose her own future, but the cost might be everything Iris holds dear—including the world itself.


Chapter 1 1
November 23, 1884

On the other side of the world…

TWO HOURS PAST MIDNIGHT, A woman with too many names broke into the British Museum while the streets of London burned.

In her grip was the collar of the museum’s director, still in his white nightshirt because she’d kidnapped him from his bed.

“You! You…” The director devolved into whimpers as he stumbled over his ankle-length shirt and struggled to keep his nightcap on.

The woman grimaced. She had become used to calling herself “Iris,” but she’d collected too many aliases during her immortal life to be satisfied with “you.”

This hidden hall below the basement of the museum was one of the secrets she’d wrangled out of the eccentric Riccardo Benini. The hall existed solely to lead the Enlightenment Committee, of which Benini was a member, to a secluded room tucked away from the prying eyes of visitors.

The Library of Rule. The secret room was home to a mysterious collection of artifacts curated out of the remains of the civilization she’d annihilated millennia ago.

It was why she needed the director and his key. It was why there were guards standing by in their silver-buttoned black jackets and pants, ready to bash in the heads of intruders. And here the intruders were. The guards’ custodian helmets lifted a little as they began attacking with batons.

Iris didn’t need to lift a finger.

“Wha’s ’at?” cried one guard, pointing in terror. “Wha’s ’at?”

He was referring to the white crystal sword emerging out of the chest of the young warrior trailing her. A girl with brown skin not quite as dark as Iris’s and a damaged right eye. Olarinde. The frills of her yellow dress billowed behind her as she leaped out from behind Iris.

“Hold fast, boys, she’s one of those freaks we’ve been told about. Bloody—”

The guard could not even finish his sentence before Rin sliced his lifted baton in half. There had to have been more than a dozen guards in this darkly lit hallway. Rin took them down one by one, clearing a path for Iris.

“L-let me go, you beast!” the director demanded to Iris in terror.

Beast. That was not one of her names.

Sweat dripped down his snow-white beard as she dragged him along behind her.

Men like him had given her names before. Isoke: She Who Does Not Fall. Given by the king of Dahomey, who’d forced her to fight as one of his warriors fifty years ago.

Iris Marlow. Given by the slave trader who’d kidnapped her and taken her to England. The name that the people she loved knew. If not for that, she would have thrown it away.

The Nubian Princess. Given by her old circus boss, George Coolie, before he’d tried to auction her off on the black market.

The cataclysm known as the Hiva. It was the first name she’d ever been given, long ago when the One who’d created her first molded her inside the earth. She didn’t remember those days. Not clearly. They were too far away.

She knew that she was Hiva. She knew that every few millennia, the One would call her into existence to cause the fall of a wicked civilization. Only after she fulfilled her purpose would the One allow her to return to the earth.

But each life cycle she’d lived since her first was a blank page—no, a red page. Because pools of blood in ash were all that was left from those memories. Maybe something inside her wouldn’t let her remember anything else.

“Don’t engage!” said the director as Rin slammed another guard against the wall. “Go to Club Uriel! Check on the patrons—”

Iris yanked his collar to silence him, but then, as her shoulder grazed the purple ribbon by her ear that tied her braids in a beautiful bow, she thought of Jinn with a pang of guilt. She, Rin, and Jinn had escaped Club Uriel by the skin of their teeth only because Iris had knocked out her old circus partner. His fire was already spreading across Pall Mall Street. If she hadn’t tied him up and kept him in a safe house, he’d still be fighting that ghoul Gram now. They didn’t have time for that. They were to escape London tonight. But there was something Iris needed to do first.

One man smashed into another, hats and clubs flying into the air. Another crashed against the ground with a quick, feeble gasp. Blood from the tallest guard’s mouth spurted across the lamps fixed to the mahogany walls. Iris expected nothing less from Rin, the sixteen-year-old warrior once prized as the youngest talent among the Dahomey military’s Reaper Regiment.

“Rin, don’t kill them,” Iris reminded her, even though she had far more blood on her hands—lifetimes’ worth. Iris spoke in the newfound authoritative voice she hadn’t had back when she was just an amnesiac tightrope dancer searching for the truth behind why she couldn’t die. Back in those simpler days, before she realized she wasn’t an eighteen-year-old West African girl, despite how she appeared to the world—despite her youthful round face, full red lips, big brown eyes, and skin dark and shining as coal.

Iris had lived for eons. And this room, the Library of Rule, opened by the terrified director’s little silver key, confirmed it.

A ghostly chill touched Iris so subtly that she almost lost her grip on the director’s collar. Rin closed the door behind them and guarded it with her sword as Iris threw the museum director onto the floor, taking away his key. There were no windows in this room. The only source of light was from the candelabras affixed to the wall. Still she could see the magnificent displays of tablets and stones, tools and artifacts placed delicately behind reflective glass cases, symbols etched into their surfaces.

Ruins of a civilization she’d once destroyed.

She shivered as one by one, the static marks broke through the haze of jumbled memories clouding her mind, the signs becoming more familiar to her. Each mark engraved in stone drew out images of green lands and quiet seas… and of a murderous people….

“The Naacal.” Her breath hitched, the word a treacherous spider crawling up her spine. Iris’s gaze fell upon a stone tomb propped up vertically against the wall in the rightmost corner of the room. It smelled of death. The ruinous bones inside called to her….

“How did you know about this place?” The director’s question broke the spell. As she walked to the front wall, she glared at the man cowering in his nightwear. “Only the Committee knows,” he said.

“The Enlightenment Committee?” Her temper rose at the sound of that vile organization’s name. “And where’s the Committee now to save you?”

He withdrew with a squeak, covering his mouth to muffle his breaths.

After a while, he lowered his hands and muttered, “Just what do you know, girl?” The director clearly didn’t want to speak to her again, but he chanced it anyway. If he knew about this place, he must have been a member of Club Uriel, the death cult that had worshipped the apocalypse. Like everyone else in the club, he was obviously loyal to the Committee, the top seven members within the club. He was their glorified pet.

“I know that the Enlightenment Committee believes the world is coming to an end, just like the rest of you disgusting, decadent fools. The grand cataclysm: the Hiva.” Iris wasn’t looking at him. She was looking at the few stones made of pure gold behind the front glass display. And at the carvings that depicted faces in anguish.

Anguish she’d caused. The red page had begun to tell a story. The longer she stood inside this mausoleum, the clearer that story became.

“I know you all thought it’d be fun to toy with people desperate for a way out of poverty,” Iris continued. “People with abilities.”

Rin held out her mystical crystal sword.

“The Enlightenment Committee gathered us together and made us fight like cocks to see which one of them would ‘win’ the right to guide the next phase of humanity after the apocalypse. And you all relished it like sick spectators placing your bets.” Iris’s eyes were blazing. “Anything to add?”

But what was worth adding wasn’t anything he would know. Club Uriel certainly didn’t.

The Hiva wasn’t an apocalyptic event. It was the bringer of the apocalypse itself.

The Hiva was Iris.

The director remained silent, sweat beading across his forehead.

“The Tournament of Freaks.” Iris squeezed her hands into a fist. “Tonight was to be the grand finale, only things didn’t go quite as planned, did they?” She remembered the pile of bodies on the second floor of Club Uriel—the corpses meant to be the audience for their final fight to the death—and shivered. “Lucky you, director. You decided to skip the festivities.”

His fingers twitched. “M-my wife and child were sick,” he confessed.

Loved ones. She wanted to calm her anger, but what about her loved ones? The club hadn’t cared when they’d gossiped and giggled over who died during the tournament. They hadn’t cared what the cost was for their entertainment. They thought nothing of the players’ pain….

She closed her eyes, only to find the cheeky, lopsided smile of a Salvadoran boy mocking her. Maximo Morales. The thought of his curly brown hair and tanned skin nearly sent Iris into a whirl of despair. He’d joined the tournament just so he could one day find his sister, and died because of it. The golden pocket watch he’d stolen for her ticked silently in the pouch of her dress….

“Max,” she whispered. Her arms dropped to her side, but she could no longer feel them. A panicked tingling rushed from her face, down her neck, and to her now wildly beating heart. It took great effort to raise her hand to clutch her chest, and when she did, her palms felt like sand.

Max… She gritted her teeth to force the word back down her throat. She wouldn’t show weakness. Not in front of a man like this. That was what she thought. That was what she demanded of herself. Then she tasted the wet saltiness that began pooling between her lips. She turned and hastily wiped the tears from her face, but an ugly sob gave her away.

Max was dead. The Tournament of Freaks had killed him.

Iris dried her tears and faced the director once more. “Thank your family,” Iris told him hatefully. “Otherwise you would have been among the club members slaughtered tonight.”

With a shaky hand, Iris opened the glass case and touched the stones. Perhaps memory was tactile. The electric buzz that prickled her fingers was like a direct transmission of knowledge. She didn’t want to remember, but she began to, bit by bit. The stones. The symbols. Together they wove a tragic story, the story of a fallen civilization: the Naacal.

And as her fingers slid across the grooves, suddenly, in her mind’s eye, she could see the lush greenery overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. The hills upon which glorious cities were built. Humans in green robes and gold sashes walking across paved paths, silver bangles around their necks and ankles. Ah, yes. The Naacal had used an especially strong substance to build the tall pillars of their shrines and the perfectly portioned white bricks of their homes: Naacalian orichalcum. An advanced, mechanical mix of quartzite, copper, ocher, and other substances.

The Naacalians had wondrous technologies humans now could only dream of. Among the most advanced of their tech were crowns known as meridians, powered by technology smaller than the eye could detect. With these special bands, the Naacal could teleport anywhere they wished as long as they could see it in their mind’s eye—quite similar, Iris noted, to the supernatural abilities of a young man she used to know, Lawrence Hawkins.

A young man who just tried to kill me, she remembered bitterly, her hands squeezing into a fist. Tried, yes. But killed Max in her place.

The meridian had still been in its prototype stage at the time Iris murdered them all.

A shock of pain split through Iris’s skull.


Iris could hear Rin by the door worryingly calling her by her Dahomean name as she crumpled to her knees, gripping her head. No, Isoke wasn’t her name. Neither was Iris. But her true name—she didn’t want it.

Hiva, the cataclysm. She didn’t want it.

The name was written on the tablet in front of her, symbolized by the Naacal through two overlapping circles, one bright, one dark: the sun and its shadow. The ancient pictographs told the story of their demise. Five simple lines that belied the true horror of those days:

And so Hiva laid waste to the world.

With a mighty hand and unforgiving eye, everything that fell upon Hiva’s sight became dust.

And in the same way, Hiva will rise again.

For it is Hiva’s fate to destroy mankind forever and ever.

Misery unto eternity…

Even now, as her recollection slowly returned, Iris couldn’t remember every detail of her time with the Naacal. Inside the Crystal Palace just hours earlier, she finally remembered who she was, but… that was eons of history pouring into her all at once. Eons. Whatever details hadn’t been lost by now were still clumsily sorting themselves out.

The Naacalian civilization was her most recent memory. As that had been the previous life she’d lived before this one, it was easier to recall their cities crumbling, the civilians and soldiers burning from the inside out. She remembered the One calling her back to the earth once she’d fulfilled her mission. Darkness. The peace of nothingness.

Then she was summoned again fifty years ago to eradicate the new civilization that had sprung up in the Naacal’s place. This civilization. And so she was reborn.

But that was Hiva’s mission, not hers. Hiva was the name that had cost her everything: the trust of the newfound friends she’d met during the Tournament of Freaks. The life she’d carved out for herself in this world as an innocent circus performer…

“Granny…,” she whispered. She’d almost forgotten she was still wearing the clothes Granny had sewn for her: a peach blouse with a high collar. A long skirt the color of green moss. Her eyes filled with tears as she remembered the old woman who’d treated her as a daughter in Coolie’s circus. It was just too dangerous to go near her now. Maybe ever.

“Ugh!” Iris yelled again, her head splitting. The memories were too much. Too many years, too many deaths. Every second of every scene stumbled over each other, playing out of order. She felt like a spectator to it, as if someone else had set all those worlds aflame. Not her.

I’d never. She shook her head. I would never.

Being here among the ruins, feeling Naacalian artifacts with her bare hands, made the pain worse. Her brain felt scrambled. Details slipped through the cracks of her psyche as she peered around the room… at the tomb calling her….

“Director!” Breathing heavily, Iris stumbled to her feet. “Bring out every bit of information you have on the Naacal. Now!

The museum’s director didn’t need telling twice. The tablets were too heavy, so he scrambled across the room, bringing out scrolls from inside cupboards. As he worked to pile everything across the long wooden table in the center of the room, Rin approached her.

“Isoke,” she said in Fon, the language they’d both used in Dahomey. “We need to leave this place before the others catch up to us.”

The others. She meant the other teams they’d competed against in the tournament. The street urchins Hawkins, Cherice, and Jacob—Max’s friends, whom she’d come to trust. Mary, Lucille, and Henry, an odd but strangely functional team she’d just begun to work with instead of against. Where once there had been a tentative alliance, there was now nothing but blood and fear.

Iris bit her lip and realized she was shaking. Was it out of fear or anger?

They’d turned on her. They’d refused to even listen to her….

But could she blame them? From their perspective, she was Hiva, killer of worlds. If they wanted to live, then they needed to kill her first. It was as simple as that. For them

“And not just them.” Rin gripped her shoulder. “The guards. The Committee.”

Adam Temple. Iris’s expression darkened. A devilish, handsome young man with limitless wealth to match his fanatical worship of “Hiva.” The only Committee member to know that Hiva was not an event but a creature. Her. How fun it must have been for him to manipulate her into joining the tournament, stringing her along with promises of “the truth,” knowing all along how horrific the truth really was. The last time they were together, she’d left him unconscious on the floor of his own mansion, but who knew when he’d awaken? Who knew what else he had planned for her in that chess-like mind of his?

She had to disappear.

“We’ll gather up all the information we can carry and leave,” Iris told Rin. “Anything from this place that can help me learn what I need to know.”

Rin narrowed her eyes. “And what’s that?”

Iris looked at her very seriously, each breath heavy. “How to stop myself from ending humanity.”

About The Author

Photograph by Melanie Gillis

Sarah Raughley grew up in Southern Ontario writing stories about freakish little girls with powers because she secretly wanted to be one. She is a huge fangirl of anything from manga to sci-fi fantasy TV to Japanese role-playing games and other geeky things, all of which have largely inspired her writing. Sarah has been nominated for the Aurora Award for Best YA Novel and works in the community doing writing workshops for youths and adults. On top of being a YA writer, Sarah has a PhD in English, which makes her a doctor, so it turns out she didn’t have to go to medical school after all. As an academic, Sarah has taught undergraduate courses and acted as a postdoctoral fellow. Her research concerns representations of race and gender in popular media culture, youth culture, and postcolonialism. She has written and edited articles in political, cultural, and academic publications. She continues to use her voice for good. You can find her online at

Product Details

  • Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (May 23, 2024)
  • Length: 448 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781534453609
  • Ages: 14 - 99

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Raves and Reviews

"Bloodily spectacular. The Bones of Ruin builds page after page of visceral intrigue, steamrolling toward the end of the world in Victorian London. These characters could tear you apart, but you will love them all the same. Sarah Raughley’s world breathes true to the past and yet gleams brilliantly new."

– Chloe Gong, #1 New York Times bestselling author of THESE VIOLENT DELIGHTS and OUR VIOLENT ENDS

"Sarah Raughley proves once again that, like her intricate worlds and wonderful characters, she is a master of decolonization and a force to be reckoned with."

– E.K. Johnston, New York Times bestselling author on THE BONES OF RUIN

"This cryptic, enticing journey is told in alternating, third-person perspectives: Adam’s cold and calculating, Iris’ searching and daring. The author builds a delicious tension that will have readers putting the pieces together as the end of the world nears and wanting more after they reach the climactic cliffhanger ending. A rousing series opener."

– Kirkus Reviews on THE BONES OF RUIN, July 15, 2021

"The fantastical premise supports a multilayered plot and vibrant characters. Meanwhile, themes of racial abuse, violence, and rebirth, paired with a wealth of romantic options, add further complexity to this series starter."

– Publishers Weekly on THE BONES OF RUIN, September 27, 2021

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More books in this series: Bones of Ruin Trilogy