Author: Wendy S. Russo
Sixteen-year-old genius Matty Ducayn has never fit in on The Hill, an ordered place seriously lacking a sense of humor. After his school’s headmaster expels him for a small act of mischief, Matty’s future looks grim until King Hadrian comes to his rescue with a challenge: answer a question for a master’s diploma.
More than a second chance, this means freedom. Masters can choose where they work, a rarity among Regents, and the question is simple.
What was January Black?
It’s a ship. Everyone knows that. Hadrian rejects that answer, though, and Matty becomes compelled by curiosity and pride to solve the puzzle. When his search for an answer turns up long-buried state secrets, Matty’s journey becomes a collision course with a deadly royal decree. He’s been set up to fail, which forces him to choose. Run for his life with the challenge lost…or call the king’s bluff.
Getting to Know January Black's "Matty"
by Wendy S. Russo
|Dream Cast of Matty - Erik Knudsen|
My name is Matthias Elijah Ducayn, and I am sixteen years old. I was named for my dad—the “Elijah” part, anyway. I have an IQ of 186, am gifted at mathematics, and as curious as a cat.
I was born on my grandfather’s ranch on the far western edge of the kingdom. I grew up with early mornings and late nights, meals with hired hands whose names I don’t remember now, and animals all around. I planted seeds, pulled weeds, and walked barefoot on grass.
When I was ten, my world changed. The king appointed my father Commandant of The Hill. It was an honor, my mother said. I’m not sure what angered my grandfather more, that my father accepted or that he seemed grateful for an excuse to leave “god’s country.” We moved to the Aventine, the capital city. To The Hill, specifically, a boring, sterile place where prissy people don’t keep pets, don’t touch grass, and look at but don’t touch flowers.
Order is a silent command on the streets where I walk to and from school each day. Glass sparkles. Brass gleams. There is nothing broken or askew. Nothing out of order as every mess is straightened, repaired, replaced, or scoured by an army of laborers my father employs.
The people, too. Clothes pressed and hair combed just so. No loose shirttails, no wrinkles or stains that survived the laundry. No slouching. No sarcasm. No exaggeration. No sense of humor.
I don’t belong on The Hill. I was born to get my hands dirty.
Wendy S. Russo got her start writing in the sixth grade. That story involved a talisman with crystals that had to be found and assembled before bad things happened, and dialog that read like classroom roll call. Since then, she’s majored in journalism (for one semester), published poetry, taken a course on short novels, and watched most everything ever filmed by Quentin Tarantino. A Wyoming native transplanted in Baton Rouge, Wendy works for Louisiana State University as an IT analyst. She’s a wife, a mom, a Tiger, a Who Dat, and she falls asleep on her couch at 8:30 on weeknights.