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The Finisher exclusive extract

When Vega’s mentor, Quentin Herms, is seen running into the wild outside the village walls, everyone assumes he will soon be dead, killed by the terrifying beasts that stalk the tangled, dark forest.  No one, apart from Vega, seems to care.  Rumours are whispered among the townsfolk, encouraged by the tyrants who run Wormwood.  Quentin was a traitor, who chose his tragic fate as an alternative to a lifetime of imprisonment. Vega knows differently.  There is something more to Quentin’s disappearance than meets the eye.  What if he wasn’t running from something, but was running towards something?  Why are the authorities so determined to keep what lies beyond the walls so secret?  

As Vega sets out to clear her friend’s name she comes to realise that some of the people of Wormwood will do anything to keep the truth secret … 

The Finisher is the electrifying first novel for younger readers from the bestselling author David Baldacci, with a feisty heroine to rival Katniss Everdeen, and set in a world richly imagined and teeming with a cast of unforgettable characters and a menagerie of terrifying beasts.

Start reading this exclusive extract now!

 

THE WAY OUT

I liked the night because in darkness, I could pretend I was no longer in Wormwood. I don’t know where else I would be, but it was inspiring sometimes just to imagine a place other than here. 
 
It was chilly this night, but not cold enough to see my breath as I walked along. I had rolled up my blanket and my old sweater to rest my head on in case I was stopped. If anyone wanted to know, I was sleeping at my tree. 
 
The path to my tree had been clear enough under the milky ball in the heavens we call the Noc, but then clouds came and blocked it out and the path fell into darkness. I tied my blanket and sweater around my waist and lit a lantern I’d nicked from the Loons, using one of the three matches I had brought with me. I lowered the hood and opened its shield, illuminating the way. 
 
That’s when I heard it. Every sound in Wormwood needed to be considered, especially at night. Once you left the cobblestones, heightened care was needed. And there was someone or something else out this night. I turned my lantern in the direction of the sound. 
 
As I waited, my other hand dipped to my pocket and clutched the cutting knife that I took from Stacks a long time ago. The knife fitted neatly into my hand. I could wield it with great skill. I waited, dreading what might be coming and hoping it might simply be Delph prowling around as he sometimes did. 
 
Then the smell reached me. That confirmed it wasn’t Delph. 
 
I couldn’t believe it. This far from the Quag? It had never happened but apparently it was happening right now. I clutched my knife tightly, even though I knew it would be of no use, not against what was coming. It brought back memories to me so fierce, so painfully fresh, that my eyes clouded with tears even as I turned to flee. 
 
I put out my lantern because I knew the light was leading it to me, slung the rope tethered to the lantern over my shoulder, and shoved my knife into my pocket, freeing my hands. Then I ran for it. 
 
The thing was fast, much faster than I, but I had a bit of a head start. I followed the path by memory, though I took a wrong turn once and banged off a tree. That mistake cost me precious moments. The thing nearly caught up to me. I redoubled my efforts. I was not going to die this way. I just wasn’t. My breaths came in huge clumps and my heart was hammering so badly I thought I could see it thumping through my cloak. 
 
I tripped over a tree root and sprawled to the ground. I turned and there the beast was, barely six feet from me. It was huge and foul and its fangs were not nearly its most fearsome element. It opened its jaws and I had but a moment to live because I knew what would be coming out of that hole. I flung myself behind a thick trunk an instant before the jet of flames struck the spot I had been. The ground was scorched and I felt the blast of heat all around me as I hid behind the tree. But I was still alive, though maybe not for much longer.
 

Finish reading the amazing first chapter here.