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Read an Excerpt From The Surviving Sky


Read an Excerpt From The Surviving Sky

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Read an Excerpt From The Surviving Sky

Book One of The Rages Trilogy: High above a jungle-planet float the last refuges of humanity—plant-made civilizations held together by tradition, technology, and arcane science.


Published on May 16, 2023


High above a jungle-planet float the last refuges of humanity—plant-made civilizations held together by tradition, technology, and arcane science.

We’re thrilled to share an excerpt from The Surviving Sky by Kritika H. Rao, out from Titan Books on June 13.

High above a jungle-planet float the last refuges of humanity—plant-made civilizations held together by tradition, technology, and arcane science. Here, architects are revered deeply, with humanity’s survival reliant on a privileged few. If not for their abilities, the cities would plunge into the devastating earthrage storms below.

Charismatic and powerful, Iravan is one such architect. His abilities are his identity, but to Ahilya, his archeologist wife, they are a method to suppress non-architects. Their marriage is thorny and fraught—yet when a jungle expedition goes terribly wrong, jeopardizing their careers, Ahilya and Iravan must work together to save their reputations. But as their city begins to plummet, their discoveries threaten not only their marriage, but their entire civilization.



In the usual manner of trajection, Iravan’s vision was split into two. In the first, he stood in the growing courtyard, clenching and unclenching his jaw, staring after his wife as she walked away from him. His fingers twitched. His feet stirred. He breathed erratically, wanting to follow her, forgive her, submit to her. Iravan forced himself to stillness.

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The Surviving Sky
The Surviving Sky

The Surviving Sky

He had searched for her from the Architects’ Disc. The instant the ashram had landed, he’d leapt off the Disc and hurried to where the Junior Architect had brought her. Seeing Ahilya had frozen him in his tracks. She was so beautiful, tendrils of hair escaping her knot, those big eyes glittering with fierce intelligence. He’d waited for a sign, a lift of her lips, a softening of her gaze, anything. He’d waited for her to take a step.

And she’d walked away.

His heart thudded in his chest. Longing warred with rage and regret. The courtyard filled with the welcoming families of other architects. Children sprinted past clustering adults to jump into their parents’ waiting arms. Lovers spotted each other, faces breaking out into smiles; others embraced and kissed, voices laced with relief. Within his first vision, Iravan stood silent and alone.

Within his second vision, he existed as a dust mote suspended in an infinite universe.

Golden lights gleamed in every direction, endless and breathtaking. The universe was the Moment: a motionless reality reflecting the consciousness of the plants that comprised the building blocks of Nakshar. Each frozen star in the Moment was a plant’s possible state of being.

Infinite such states existed for every plant, yet Iravan knew each one as well as he knew himself. Within this star, the water lily existed as a fully ripened bloom, frozen forever. In a star farther away, the ironwood was suspended in eternal decay. Birth through death, countless potentials twinkled. Iravan drifted through the Moment, surrounded by life.

Nearly fifty dust motes inhabited the universe with him, each an architect fulfilling their duty to stabilize Nakshar.

As Iravan watched, some of the dust motes generated constellation lines and wove between the stars. The lines intersected and locked, connecting different stars. Nakshar’s architecture unfolded around him in a complex maze.

Iravan smiled. This was something that non-architects could never understand. Nakshar’s living architecture was more than just a maze of plants. It was the intersection of lives, of promises, of intent. It was elegance and beauty and harmony.

Here was the temple, shaped like a warren of corridors. Further ahead grew the library, its loops indicating private alcoves. Iravan meandered through the lines of the solar lab. He drifted beyond the spaces of the infirmary. He swooped over bridge renditions, ducked under gazebo arches, slid over shapes of playgrounds. In his second vision, there was peace. Peace and belonging.

In his first vision, he stood in the temple courtyard, staring at where Ahilya had disappeared.

“Iravan,”a woman’s musical voice called out.“Your landing design was successful. You can leave the Moment now. The architects on the Disc know what to do.”

Bharavi strode toward him still enveloped in her translucent robe, though like the other architects assembled in the courtyard, her skin no longer glowed with the light of trajection. Her eyes were narrowed in displeasure. Off-duty architects hurriedly made way for her.

The Senior Architect stopped right in front of him and crossed her arms. A slim woman with dark chin-length hair and rosy brown skin, Bharavi was short, reaching only to Iravan’s chest. Somehow that didn’t deter her from looming over him. Closer, the wrinkles on her face were more pronounced, the shadows dark and heavy under the eyes. He probably looked much the same.

“Did you hear me?” she said. “You can stop now.” Iravan trajected.

As a dust mote, he sailed over the stars until he reached Nakshar’s perimeter. The outer maze, where the ashram bordered the jungle, was a tangle of disconnected lines. Iravan watched a dozen dust motes hover there: the Maze Architects on duty, currently trajecting from the Architects’ Disc. The motes generated fresh constellation lines, connecting disparate stars, but the lines shattered before they could snap together in place.

Iravan frowned. He recognized the dust motes, Megha and Gaurav and Kriya among them. His superior skill and ascension to the council had created a natural distance between him and them, but they had once been nominated to the same council seat he now occupied. Each was a competent Maze Architect. Then why were their constellation lines shattering? The lull in an earthrage, and the subsequent landing, should have made trajection easier.

He leapt into the fray, generating his own constellation lines, exerting the force of his desire to influence the plants of the ashram. Iravan connected the star containing the briar bush, looped around the redwood, and fastened his lines to a hundred other stars in a complex net-shaped pattern. A dozen dust motes reached toward him, extending their own simpler lines. His constellation lines vibrated almost to their breaking point, fighting him, denying his will. Iravan focused his entire being into the action. He spun and wove between the motes, twisting and turning—

The outline he’d created snapped into place. Several thousand stars connected. Another part of the maze unfolded and settled. The dust motes soared, cheer and gratitude in their zipping streaks. Iravan grinned. Here was a place where he was needed, where he was necessary. His breathing eased. He left the hovering motes and began to drift within the Moment again.

In the temple courtyard, Bharavi drummed her foot. “You’re not listening to me,” she said.

“Trajection was hard this time, Bha,” Iravan said. “Don’t tell me you didn’t feel it. The Disc needs all the help it can get.”

“Your landing design was new. A period of adjustment for the Maze Architects is expected.”

“My landing design was simple. And still our constellation lines kept crumbling. That wasn’t because the Maze Architects weren’t familiar with the design.”

“Maybe everyone is just exhausted because of the terribly long earthrage we’ve had,” she said.

Iravan gave her a level look.

Both knew the length of an earthrage didn’t matter. The rationale behind strict shift duty was for an architect to never overextend themselves; it was so the ashram could sustain flight forever. The lull was a mere opportunity for Maze Architects to traject with ease.

During lulls, all plants of Nakshar became easier to traject, the closer they were to the jungle. It was why the council had decided to land. “It wasn’t exhaustion,” he said flatly. “I’ve watched the Maze Architects since the time the earthrage was announced. Viana made so many mistakes I had to send her back to the Academy. Karn struggled with basic patterns to the point of tears. It’s a sign. The plants—they aren’t responding to us as they once did. Trajection is getting harder. The Disc needs my help.” He paused within his second vision.

He had been patrolling the outer maze, assisting the Maze Architects. But there, behind the glow of a gigantic star, hovered… something. He’d noticed it before, through all the months of living in the temple, hidden behind his every trajection. At first, he’d thought it a dust mote, just another architect whom he didn’t know well enough to recognize in the Moment. Yet unlike other motes, the particle didn’t spin around the stars. No constellation lines were attached to it. Instead, it undulated like mercury, silvery and molten, throbbing like a heart.

Iravan approached it. The particle pulsed, approaching closer. He stopped. The particle stopped.

He darted to the left, and it darted, mirroring him.

What are you? he thought, startled.

Bharavi shifted her feet. “Iravan, are you saying you didn’t leave the temple at all during the flight?”

He barely heard her. Slowly, very carefully, he drew closer. The particle lingered, pulsing. He saw himself in it, although it was not his face he saw, not within the Moment. Instead, he perceived his… echo. Like he had fallen into a mirror to see his own eye reflected a hundred times over, until any image became meaningless. It felt like a—

Resonance, he thought. He could find no other term for it.

“Bha,” he said in a low voice. “There’s something in the Moment. Something strange.”

She uncrossed her arms and tapped at one of her rudra bracelets. A hologram arose over her wrist—Iravan’s picture next to a roster of names. It hung there for an instant before it collapsed. Bharavi dropped her hand.

“I see you signed up for watchpost duty,” she said. “Wasn’t it Chaiyya’s turn?”

He waved a hand to shush her.

The Resonance swayed in front of him, silvery, liquid. He retreated, and the Resonance retreated. He floated back another step, and the Resonance did the same.

Then, in rapid blinking flashes that made Iravan think of a wicked grin, the Resonance spun and darted away, shooting through the universe.

Bloody rages, he thought.

Iravan dashed through the Moment, trying to keep his sight on the undulating particle. They whirled through the lights, zooming past constellation lines, startling dust motes. He sped past an architect, felt their indignation. He attempted to cut the Resonance off, but the particle stopped short and streaked back the way it had come. Iravan cursed again and wheeled around, swooping over a star, leaping past long lines of the maze. There was a familiarity in the particle’s movements, like he ought to know what it would do next. He rounded a golden star and pulled up in front of the Resonance.

It drew up, alarmed and amused.

Ha, Iravan thought. He hovered, waiting to see what it would do next.

Bharavi pressed a hand to his shoulder. “Tell me. When was the last time you saw Ahilya?”

The Resonance attacked.

Iravan had a horrified glimpse of fury rushing over its mirrored surface before the particle collided into him.

The stars of the Moment winked out.

He was tumbling through blackness.

He was falling endlessly.


Excerpted from The Surviving Sky, copyright © 2023 by Kritika H. Rao.

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Kritika H. Rao


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