The Nightland Express
by J. M. Lee
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Pub Date 11 Oct 2022 | Archive Date Not set
Erewhon Books, Erewhon
Young, poor, and orphaned in rural Missouri, Jessamine Murphy frets over her very pregnant sister, not at all sure how to feed their family until the baby is born, let alone after. When Jessamine comes across a recruitment poster reading "Pony Express Special Assignment: St. Joseph, Missouri to California. Two riders wanted. Orphans preferred," her tomboy heart skips a beat: not only for the ample risk wage, but for the adventure and the chance to track down their wayward father in California. Jessamine cuts her hair, dons a pair of pants, and steps into the world as Jesse.
At the Pony Express station, Jesse meets Ben Foley, a quiet but determined boy, so secretive about his origin story there is little doubt it must be turbulent, and they become partners. They are an odd pair—one excitedly navigating the world as a boy for the first time, the other a mixed-race young man trying to defend his freedom—yet their esteem for each other grows as they head west across the United States.
As they encounter mysterious portals that carry them miles in an eyeblink and unusual creatures with uncanny glowing eyes, it becomes clear that this is no normal mission. A second, magical realm exists just below the surface of the mortal one, intertwined since the beginning of time—but the divisive violence of colonization and war are tearing the two worlds apart.
As Ben and Jesse struggle to find themselves, they discover their unlikely alliance may be the only thing that will save them . . . and the creatures and environment of two struggling worlds.
“J.M. Lee has written an epic historical fantasy set in the American West, a magical promise of a novel, with protagonists you’ll both root for and love. Set your heart to believe in this tension-filled, fast-paced, and ultimately hopeful story.” —H. M. Bouwman, author of Minnesota Book Awards finalist A Crack in the Sea
“Jesse and Ben’s journey as Pony Express riders is thrilling, but their voyages of self—ones that defy maps, road markers, and what society would have them be—make the The Nightland Express truly shine. Make no mistake, there is no fool’s gold to be found here: The Nightland Express is a poignant, gripping novel.” —Lillie Lainoff, author of Junior Library Guild selection One For All
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