About the Book
Ashton Hamid knows everything about gaming. His D&D battles are epic; the video game tournaments he organizes, multi-day tests of endurance with players around the world. Real life, however, is a different matter. So when he and his best friend—outspoken “A” student (and social outcast) Vale Shumway—head out on a camping trip to Waterton Lakes National Park with their Phys. Ed. class, Ash figures it’ll be two days of bug bites, bad food, and inside jokes.
Instead, the two friends find themselves in a fight for survival.
An unexpected October snowstorm separates Ash and Vale from the rest of their class. By the time the teens realize they’ve missed the trail, they have wandered deep into the Canadian Rockies. Lost in the wilderness and hunted by deadly predators, their only hope is to work together. But with Vale’s limited supplies and Ash’s inexperience, can the best friends stay alive long enough to find their way back to civilization?
Vale woke, heart pounding. Her eyes opened in the darkness of the shelter as she struggled to make sense of the strange sound that had woken her. What in the world was that?! Whatever she’d heard was nearby, but groggy from sleep, she couldn’t put a finger on its origin. Maybe it was just a dream. I could have—
The plaintive crying appeared a second time. It was high pitched, like a baby or perhaps a child, calling for its mother. Confused, Vale pushed herself up on one elbow. It was almost pitch black inside the lean-to—the light stick having faded into a dull green—but beyond the darkness, a circle of pre-dawn gloom appeared.
“Did you hear that, Ash?” she whispered. “Something outside in the…” She turned and her words faded as she caught sight of the bare patch behind her. She sat motionless, fear filling her like the cold that had spread through her limbs last night. “Ash?!”
He was gone.
Outside the shelter, something moved through the forest. The footsteps sounded like a person walking at a distance, or perhaps a dog moving through the snow. “Maaa-a-a-am!” the voice cried again.
“What the…?” Fighting panic, Vale struggled to pull on her coat, then crawled to the open entrance of the shelter. Her breath released as she stuck her head out the door. “Oh thank God,” she muttered.
A line of footprints headed away from the shelter, into the nearby woods. Though it wasn’t light enough to see yet, Vale suspected Ash had gone to relieve himself. Her eyes widened as she took in the scene beyond the shelter. In the hours since they’d fallen asleep, the seasons had changed. Outside the narrow opening was a winter wonderland; a heavy layer of snow covered every tree, bush, and mountain peak.
A branch broke and Vale jerked. From the far side of the forest, a flicker of movement drew her attention. A small shadow appeared, then another… and another. They came forward, appearing by degrees.
“Maaa-a-a-am!” the smallest called.
Vale grinned. It’s just a deer.
The fawn was half-grown. A yearling, at most, the spotted marking of babyhood half-faded on its flanks. Around it, other adult deer walked wraith-like through the trees, moving nervously away from the lean-to.
“Maaa-a-a-am!” the fawn cried again.
Vale watched, breath held, as the fawn passed directly in front of the opening of the hut. The deer held one leg up, its crooked three-legged walk causing her smile to falter. It can hardly keep up with the others. Vale leaned further out the open doorway, her gaze following the herd as they moved further into the trees, and the single fawn, trailing behind. She held her breath. Vale had never been this close to a wild animal before. She wished that Ash was here to see it too.
The fawn stumbled, then glanced back over its shoulder. Its gaze paused anxiously on the shelter, then lifted.
Everything happened at once: The branches directly above the lean-to shifted with a suddenness that shocked Vale into silence, a scream—like a woman’s voice melded with the roar of a lion—loud and near, broke through the wooded glade. Snow pellets smacked Vale’s face. The snow a few feet beyond the shelter exploded as a large golden animal—A cougar!—dropped from the trees straight above the lean-to and pounced on the fawn.
About the Author – Danika Stone
Danika Stone is an author, artist, and educator who discovered a passion for writing fiction while in the throes of her Masters thesis. A self-declared bibliophile, Danika now writes novels for both teens: INTERNET FAMOUS (Macmillan, 2017) and ALL THE FEELS (Macmillan, 2016); and adults THE DARK DIVIDE (Stonehouse, 2018) and EDGE OF WILD (Stonehouse, 2016).
Ms. Stone’s work has received both recognition and literary praise. In 2017, Chapters included EDGE OF WILD in “Our Favourite Canadian Fiction”, and INTERNET FAMOUS was nominated for the R. Ross Annett Award for Children’s Literature (2018) as well as selected as one of Fierce Reads’ “9 Perfect Summertime Reads” (2017). EDGE OF WILD (previously entitled TATHAGATA) was a quarter-finalist in Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel of the Year Award (2013), a finalist in the Horatio Nelson Fiction Prize (2015), and took second place in the Publish or Perish contest (2015). ALL THE FEELS was selected for Swoon Reads’ fourth list (2015) and was nominated for YALSA’s Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (2016), and for CYBILS’ Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards (2016).
Ms. Stone’s books have been reviewed by VOYA, Teen Reads, and School Library Journal. Danika has also featured in the BN Teen Blog, Clash, Quillable, Fierce Reads, Lethbridge Living Magazine, CJSR’s Word, and on CBC’s Daybreak.
When not writing, Danika can be found hiking in the Rockies, planning grand adventures, and spending far too much time online. She lives with her husband, three sons, and a houseful of imaginary characters in a windy corner of Alberta, Canada.
Ms. Stone is represented by Morty Mint of Mint Literary Agency.
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