Because if he dies, Kammani's little sister, Nanaea, dies, too. She's been chosen as one of three Sacred Maidens who will be buried alive to serve the king in the afterlife.
It's an honor.
A sacred tradition.
And Nanaea is thrilled to have been chosen.
But Kammani, a 16-year-old healer's apprentice, who's been healing the sick with her father for the past ten years, recognizes the "honor" for what it really is: a death sentence. A trip across the river in the arms of the Boatman, the skeletal conduit between this life and the next.
And she cannot let her little sister go. That would be yet another failure in a family riddled with regret.
Her mission? Heal the Lugal in her father's stead, since he has gone missing. The problem? She is determined to right her past mistakes alone, but doesn't recognize that accepting the help of those who love her and being helpless are not the same thing at all.
Kelly Coon is an editor and Young Adult fiction writer. She is represented by Kari Sutherland of Bradford Literary. She's the editor and a writer for Blue Ocean Brain and a recent addition to the Washington Post Talent Network.