Jane Doe and the Cradle of All Worlds Excerpt

By Libby Stille, Publicist

Today we share an excerpt from Jeremy Lachlan’s Jane Doe and the Cradle of All Worlds, which was originally published in Australia and is now available in the US through Lerner.

A twisting adventure of a middle-grade fantasy novel, Jane Doe and the Cradle of All Worlds tells the story of Jane and her father, John, who appeared on the steps of the Manor the night the earthquakes started and the gateway to the Otherworlds closed. Fourteen years later, Jane enters the Manor to save her missing father . . . and the world.

Excerpt from Jane Doe and the Cradle of All Worlds

The Hidden Symbol

Her lantern chases shadows through the dark. Cobwebs tear at her fingertips; spiders flee. She runs a hand over the stone wall of the tunnel and breathes in deep, savoring the damp, the dirt, the unknown. She had missed this. People call her an old relic, but they are fools. Winifred Robin is one of the Great Adventurers. She may be old, but her story is far from complete. Tonight, something has changed. She intends to find out what, and why.

Winifred was conducting research down in the catacombs when the quake struck. The ground shook, the scrolls trembled. Candles toppled from the walls, snuffed out. A deep sound rumbled toward her—the echo of breaking stone—but it is not so much what she heard as what she felt moments later that intrigued her. A sinister breath. A breeze.

It blows toward her now, making the cobwebs dance. She is close.

There is a chasm around the next bend. A long, black void so thick with thousand-year dark even the lantern light shies away from it. Winifred does not consider turning back, not for a second. This is a woman who has defeated armies, cheated death, battled gods. There are only two things she fears in all the worlds. Height is not one of them.

Lantern hooked onto her belt, she climbs around the edge. A rock clatters into the chasm. The darkness takes it. She never hears it land. She swipes away the odd spider as she navigates the wall. Hairy, palm-sized things. The breeze swirls around her from the depths, but she makes it safely to the other side. Straightens her crimson cloak. Chances a smile.

She proceeds with caution now. The island of Bluehaven is riddled with abandoned mines and passages, but this one has sat here in secret for thousands of years, sealed off from the world. Now, on the second anniversary of the Night of All Catastrophes—two years since the quakes began—it has opened.

She does not believe in coincidence. She knows secrets are kept for a reason.

There is a small, rock-hewn chamber at the end of the tunnel. Winifred’s lantern splashes golden light upon the walls when she steps inside. She frowns. There are no chasms in here, no spiders. In fact, there is nothing at all. The chamber is empty.

She turns on the spot, searching, hoping for a secret passage, another path. Could somebody have been here before her? Climbed up the chasm from a different tunnel?

The floor is bare. No footprints. No deathly triggers set into the stone. She paces around the chamber, runs a hand over the back wall, and that is when she finds it. A small, faded symbol: rust red, like dried blood. An ancient hieroglyph.

A triangle with one inward-curving side, like a ship’s sail or a wave, encased within a circle. Incredible. Winifred knows the symbol—has been scouring the Great Library for two years trying to uncover its meaning, and here it is. It has been right under her feet all along, but how? Why? The symbol calls to her. Whispers in a foreign, archaic tongue.

She touches it. The symbol flashes, white and blinding. A phantom gust of wind howls through the chamber, kicking up her cloak, swirling dust. Winifred tries to pull her hand away from the wall, but it is stuck, fixed to the symbol as if seared to a burning hot plate.

The pain is excruciating. Not in her hand, though.

In her head.

Winifred sees things. Flashes before her eyes. A story unravelling in her mind like a book read at speed. But not just a story. This is real—or at least, it will be.

This is a vision of things to come.

There is a chase. A cage. A sacrifice. There is a long journey, a trickster, and an ally. There are horrors from Winifred’s own past, born from the sands of a distant world that fill her with a certain cold dread she hasn’t felt in years. There is rock and ruin. Death and destruction. Just as Winifred thinks she can take no more, the phantom wind ceases, the stone in front of her splinters into a thousand cracks, and she is thrown back from the wall. The darkness takes her, too.

Winifred is not certain how long she is out. By the time she comes to, her lantern has almost burned dry. The dust has settled. The symbol has vanished. She feels strange. Drained of all energy, yet filled with something more. A grim sense of purpose. The vision was a gift, a warning, a set of instructions from the Makers themselves. Winifred has seen, but more than that, she understands. There are things she must do.

Terrible things.

This godly gift comes with a price.

Winifred stands. Holds a scarred, bony hand to the cracked wall. She now knows what lies beyond this stone. A wonder beyond wonders. Her hand trembles. She cannot remember the last time she cried, but she allows herself a moment now. She weeps for the things she has done, for the things she is about to do, and for the long road laid out before her. When she has finished, she clears her throat and straightens her crimson cloak once more.

Enough. She must leave this place—leave and never return—for the wonder beyond the wall is meant for someone else. This is not Winifred’s story, after all. It is Jane Doe’s. The child with the amber eyes.

Praise for Jane Doe and the Cradle of All Worlds

A 2019 Australian Book Industry Award winner

“Purchase where adventure is in strong demand.”—School Library Journal

“[R]eads like a dramatized Indiana Jones or Tomb Raider video game. . . . [T]he quick pace and witty voice make this a good fit for adventure fans.”—Booklist

“[A] breathless, fun crawl through a maze of twisty passages.”—Kirkus Reviews

Visit lernerbooks.com to download a free discussion guide, and look for the sequel to Jane Doe and the Cradle of All Worlds in 2021!

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