Seventeen-year-old Sarah is a Sensor, gifted with the ability to survive within the sentient Ecosystem that swept away human civilization centuries ago. While the remnants of humankind huddle in small villages of stone, Sarah uses her psychic connection to the Ecosystem to travel freely in the wild in search of food, water, and fuel. Sarah doesn’t fear the Ecosystem—but she hates it for killing her mother when Sarah was a child. When she hunts, she hunts not only for her people’s sustenance but for revenge.
Then Miriam, an apprentice Sensor, is lost in the Ecosystem, and Sarah sets out to rescue her. Joining Sarah is Miriam’s beloved, Isaac, a boy who claims to possess knowledge of the Ecosystem that will help their people survive. The harrowing journey to find the missing apprentice takes Sarah and Isaac into the Ecosystem’s deadliest places. And it takes Sarah into the unexplored territory of her own heart, where she discovers feelings that threaten to tear her—and her society—apart.
A thrilling fantasy adventure from the author of Freefall and the Survival Colony series, Ecosystem is the first book in a YA trilogy that includes The Devouring Land (2019) and House of Earth, House of Stone (2020).
Aaron waits for me at the Sensorium. He leans heavily on his staff, a length of polished, fire-blackened wood wrested from the Ecosystem during his own days in the field. His gray hair hangs long and knotted beside withered cheeks; his dark eyes have begun to cloud. But when he sees me, his ancient face crinkles in a smile, and in a giddy moment, I hoist my kill above my head, feel its limp weight dangle from my hand. For as long as I can remember, he’s been the closest I’ve had to a father or mother, and I’ll do almost anything to see him smile.
“My child.” He cradles my face in hands that smell of age and woodsmoke. His fingernails are long and split at the ends. No one dares touch me but him. “You are unharmed?”
“It was easy,” I joke. “Just like you said.”
He studies my face. “The Ecosystem did not recognize you,” he says. “Your scent, your touch. You did well.”
I recall my mad dash across the lawn, my taunt at hunt’s end. It will recognize me now, I think.
But I don’t say that to Aaron. I don’t want to alarm him, much less risk his displeasure. I offer him my arm, and he lays a hand lightly on my bare skin. His hand feels cool and dry, with a tremor that’s worsened noticeably in recent weeks.
We walk through the village, at his pace. His staff ticks against stone; his body under its furs is light and airy as a bird’s. I wish I could have seen him in his prime, when it’s said he moved like a shadow over grass.
“What was the first snare?” he asks.
“Bogsand,” I answer. “I Sensed it from rods away. I doubt it was strong enough to hold me.”
“And the next?”
“Stabbing nettle,” I say. “Another easy dodge.”
I nod. “But obviously, it missed.”
A frown creases his cheek. “It fired?”
“Only when I was well out of range,” I assure him.
He scrutinizes my face, his milky eyes uncommonly keen. “What of the bloodbirds?” he asks.
“Not until the end. And they didn’t strike. I don’t think they could smell me.” His silence prompts me to continue. “I’ll do better next time, Master. Avoid the snares, not just manage them. I promise.”
I brace for his reprimand, but he says nothing. We resume our walk. The only sounds are his staff striking stone, the aura of cicatrix droning in the trees. Already, I feel the warmth fading from the thing I killed.
At the intersection to the great hall, Aaron stops and squeezes my arm. “You are young, Sarah. The Sense yet grows within you. There will be time to correct the errors of today’s hunt.”
“Errors,” I say.
“Enthusiasms,” he amends. “As you grow in the ways of the Ecosystem, you will become more receptive to it, more obedient to its laws. Yet it will seek to nullify any threat it perceives from you, and it will be learning as you do.”
“I will never become obedient to it,” I say, with a coldness I instantly regret.
But he doesn’t appear offended. His fingers quiver as he touches my cheek once again.
“We will celebrate today,” he says. “Celebrate our newest Sensor. Sarah, the brave and strong.”
And though it’s been years since he first called me that, my face warms as it always has with the pleasure of his words.
Biography: Joshua David Bellin has been writing novels since he was eight years old (though the first few were admittedly very short). A college teacher by day, he is the author of three science fiction novels for teens and adults: the two-part Survival Colony series (Survival Colony 9 and Scavenger of Souls) and the deep-space adventure Freefall. His new book, the YA fantasy Ecosystem, releases on April 22, 2018 (Earth Day). Josh loves to read, watch movies, and spend time in Nature with his kids. Oh, yeah, and he likes monsters. Really scary monsters.
Ecosystem on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39663460-ecosystem
Ecosystem buy link: https://www.amazon.com/Ecosystem-Trilogy-Book-1-ebook/dp/B07C2HDF9G
Ecosystem blog tour link: http://theyaguy.blogspot.com/2018/04/ya-guy-announces-ecosystem-blog-tour.html