This is the story of Fierce, the daughter of the hound Chala, who is angry at her mother and resentful of all things human. She remains with her pack, though she is tormented by the lead female and others, until she meets Princess Jaleel in the forest. The princess has come in search of a special black horse lost centuries ago, and she uses her wild magic to change those she think will be useful to her into any shape she thinks will keep them at her side. Fierce she turns into a human woman, the last shape that Fierce wishes to take. Fierce only want to be a hound again, but alongside Princess Jaleel, she is on an adventure to discover the truth about the origins of life and magic itself.
What happens when Fierce falls in love with Red, a kennel boy who loves hounds, but can never see them as more than animals? What if Princess Jaleel is unwilling to give up her wild magic? What of her black horse and the dark past that may make it impossible for them to find a happy ending of their own?
An excerpt of the book:
"You," said the woman, with a hand outstretched. "Come here. I command it."
Suddenly, Fierce could see the magic in the woman shimmering like waves of heat. So strong, like a wind tunnel that sucked into it trees and dirt and animals. She could not escape.
Fierce trembled, motionless, and could feel her heart beating against her ribs. The fur around her head was wet with sweat and it dripped down her back to her paws, making her feel chilled enough to shiver, though it was spring.
"You know this forest, do you not?" the woman asked.
Fierce understood more the tone of the woman’s voice than the human words, but she nodded as humans nod.
"I will make you my guide," said the woman. "It is an honor not to be refused." She bent forward just a little and touched Fierce on the neck, behind her ears. Her fingers were cold and they seemed to pinch at Fierce’s hound fur.
But then the woman stepped back and the pinching feeling continued. Fierce realized that it was the magic the woman had control of, cutting through her skin and entering her flesh.
Fierce could feel the cold pressure traveling down the length of her spine to her tail, and to each paw. It was a sharp pain, and she whimpered softly.
She could feel her tail being pulled back into her spine, and then her hind legs grew longer. Her paws lost their claws. She grew long, spongy pads on the ends of her paws, pale and hairless.
Her nose felt as if it had been smashed. Her ears drooped. She breathed in air, but it tasted wrong. Her tongue would not work properly to clean her mouth.
Then she began to shake as if it were in the middle of winter and she had been caught in a flood of the river, trying to warm herself instinctively, though there was no hope any hound could survive that.
But the woman held Fierce’s gaze and seemed to lend her strength to get through the final wave of magic.
When it was gone, Fierce felt sore and strange. She knew that her body had changed, but she could not yet bear to look at it. She felt stretched, taller, and more unbalanced than before. She was on all fours, but she knew that she no longer belonged that way. She twisted to the side and felt the ground meet her backside. She was staring up into the sky, into the tops of trees she had never bothered to look at before.
There was no more pain. She took a breath, and then another. She closed her eyes and spoke silently to herself: I am a hound, and I will always be a hound.
She would not be like her mother, no matter what this wild magic did to her.
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