This is my stop during the blog tour for The Jade Rebellion by Alanna Mackenzie. This blog tour is organized by Lola’s Blog Tours. The blog tour runs from 18 February till 3 March. See the tour schedule here.
A reckoning. A rebellion. The worlds of artificial intelligence and ancient magic collide.
Crystal City glistens with diamonds, but its dazzling beauty comes at a deadly price. The capital of Khalendar thrives on a steady supply of gemstones from the neighboring Barrens, a colony of the Empire.
Walter Saltanetska translates AI code for the Khalendar government, helping to breathe life into the ambitious vision of the AI Masters. When Walter discovers a terrible secret which could destroy the life of his lover, Elaine, he decides to tell her despite strict orders to keep what he translates confidential.
What begins as a catastrophe eventually grows into a rebellion. Elaine is taken captive by the AI Masters, and Walter must do everything in his power to rescue her. He starts his quest with a single goal in mind, finding Elaine, but along the way Walter discovers that saving her is only a small part of his destiny. During his travels, he encounters a long-lost relative, a warrior matriarch, and a mystical kingdom forgotten to time. Yet Walter’s true journey occurs not in physical space, but the captivating depths of his mind.
An inventive blend of dystopian science-fiction and fantasy, the Jade Rebellion explores whether we can overcome technological determinism by preserving history, nature, spirituality, and ultimately, our humanity.
You can find The Jade Rebellion on Goodreads
The humid summer air was crisp with promise as young Walter stepped out onto the verandah, sliding the door behind him quietly shut. Crickets chirped methodically, their voices joining in a loud chorus which helped to mask the sound of Walter’s footsteps. His body tensed with anticipation for his upcoming adventure, and he felt like a detective performing important work. Up until this point, Walter had been innocently sheltered from Crystal City’s seedy underbelly, and he had only ever explored the city during the daytime. Crystal City at night was something altogether different, or so he had heard.
Walter made sure to follow his brother from a distance so that Jonathan wouldn’t notice him, but he stayed enough to keep his brother in sight. Jonathan walked down the tree-lined residential street with his hood covering his head, broodingly fixated on the ground in front of him. As Walter trailed Jonathan, the younger boy jealously admired his brother’s broad shoulders and muscled arms. Walter was gangly and lean in comparison, and his clothing never quite fit him properly.
Without Walter even realizing it, they soon began to pass through different neighborhoods. Walter was so intently focused on following his brother that he didn’t pay much heed to his surroundings, but they were certainly changing. The buildings were now shabby—hewn from rough, unfinished wood—and beggars were scattered throughout the streets. The alleys twisted and turned like serpents winding their way through the darkness, and the overpowering stench of urine, sweat, and heavy industry wafted through the air. Beggars stared up at Walter with greedy, joyless eyes, cursing him and pleading with him in a relentless chorus.
Just as the young boy was beginning to regret following his brother into this questionable place, Jonathan entered a large warehouse. Several men and women were huddled outside the warehouse, conversing with each other, but they didn’t seem to notice Jonathan enter. When Walter peered more closely, he could see that some of the men were shirtless and had large, white bandages wrapped around their hands. The women were either overweight or gaunt, with no one in between. They wore tight-fitting clothing, their hair was dyed blonde and purple, and their eyes were rimmed with cheap black eyeliner.
After Jonathan entered the building, Walter hung back, unsure whether he should follow his brother or not. He crouched in the darkness, next to a garbage bin, thoughts racing wildly through his head. Walter knew that it would be wise to remain hidden in such a place, but on the other hand, he burned with curiosity to know where his brother was going and what he was doing. He was concerned for his brother’s safety too. Ever since Walter had grown to maturity, and had realized that his parents were uninterested in Jonathan’s welfare, Walter had subconsciously assumed the role of a caring guardian. Even though Jonathan was five years older than him, Walter didn’t trust his brother’s judgment, and he feared that Jonathan would end up somewhere bad.
After crouching in the darkness for about ten minutes, Walter began to notice more and more people gathering near the building. Elegantly dressed women in form-fitting black dresses and silver stilettos along with men wearing tailored suits emerged from the shadowy night. A man appeared at the door, and Walter saw that he was taking money from people lined up in front of the warehouse. Walter’s heart thudded as he dug around in his pockets for some change—perhaps this was some sort of show, and the shirtless men were performers? Walter also noticed that Jonathan hadn’t paid the man at the front entrance, and he wondered whether he, too, might be a performer.
Walter breathed a sigh of relief. He had ten cestae—the amount of his monthly allowance—which he had thankfully not yet spent. Hopefully, it would be enough to pay his way into the show. He lined up with everyone, covering his head with a hood to avoid being recognized. He waited for what seemed ages as the line inched forward, until finally he reached the man at the entrance.
The man’s voice was gruff and impassive. “One cesta to see the best show in Khalendar,” he said flatly. The man didn’t even bother to look at Walter, and he didn’t seem to care that Walter was a very young boy. Walter handed him the cesta and casually entered the drafty old warehouse. It was quite an unimpressive building—the main floor was cold, poorly insulated, and filled with barrels of grain and oil. Walter followed the person in front of him down a staircase into the warehouse’s basement.
Once he was downstairs, Walter entered a brightly lit room crowded with people. The centerpiece of the room was an elevated, rectangular boxing ring enclosed by thick red and blue ropes. Walter had seen such things on cybervideos, but never in real life. His heart pounded ever faster as the nature of the event dawned on him. This was a boxing match between humans and AI. Wildly popular among a certain sort of Khalendi who earned their living betting on the results, these matches had gained a kind of mythical status in Crystal City.
Walter knew little about the matches themselves: their rules, how the betting process worked, and whether they were choreographed or improvised. What he did know was that these matches were notoriously dangerous for the humans involved. Although well paid, human boxers often risked their lives fighting the frequently physically superior AIs, who were programmed to respond to aggression swiftly and mercilessly. When Walter had watched the sport on cybervideos, it had appeared barbaric, similar to the contests of gladiators in ancient times. The main difference was that in these matches, human fighters had to face masterfully engineered robots rather than feral animals.
End of Excerpt
About the Author:
Alanna Mackenzie lives in Vancouver, Canada. She holds degrees in History, French studies, and Law from the University of British Columbia. An environmentalist at heart, she believes in using the law as a tool for social and environmental change. When she is not pursuing that passion, she can be found brainstorming the next chapter in her novels, playing Irish fiddle tunes on the violin, and hiking West Coast trails.
There is a tour wide giveaway for the blog tour of The Jade Rebellion. One winner will win a physical copy of The Jade Rebellion by Alanna Mackenzie (US Only).
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