“It’s Wes Craven meets L. Frank Baum, or Narnia for those of us who thought Narnia smiled without showing enough of its teeth.” ~KB Spangler, Digital Divide

When the witch Baba Yaga walks her house into the backyard, eleven-year-old Summer enters into a bargain for her heart’s desire. Her search will take her to the strange, surreal world of Orcus, where birds talk, women change their shape, and frogs sometimes grow on trees. But underneath the whimsy of Orcus lies a persistent darkness, and Summer finds herself hunted by the monstrous Houndbreaker, who serves the distant, mysterious Queen-in-Chains…

Summer in Orcus was a free serial released twice weekly, by the award-winning author T. Kingfisher.


Nominated for the Lodestar Award

The complete serial is now available in e-book format!

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And check out the gorgeously illustrated version available from Sofawolf Press!


  • Introduction

    Coming Soon

    Chapter One

    Once upon a time there was a girl named Summer, whose mother loved her very very very much. Her mother loved her so much that she was not allowed to play outside where someone might grab her, nor go away on sleepovers where there might be an accident or suspicious food. She was not allowed […]

    Chapter Two

    Summer spent most of that evening trying to decide on her heart’s desire. For a number of years—at least since she turned ten—she had wanted to be a shape-shifter, or if that wasn’t possible, at least to understand the language of animals. But being a shape-shifter would be best. Imagine being able to turn into […]

    Chapter Three

    The inside of the house was dark and smelled strongly of bleach. That wasn’t the smell that Summer would have expected inside a magical bird-footed house, but maybe even magic bathtubs needed scrubbing occasionally. “There you are,” said Baba Yaga. She was sitting in a rocking chair in front of the fire. There were a […]

    Chapter Four

    As it turned out, the hallway was sunken in the ground, and so the first thing she saw was a flight of broad stone steps leading upward. Leaves had collected in drifts at the bottom and on the edges of the stairs. They crackled as she walked upward. It was a little cold. Summer was […]

    Chapter Five

    The skin-wearing sisters had a little campsite by a little pond at the bottom of a little valley. Boarskin called out, “Donkeyskin! A visitor!” as they approached. Donkeyskin was taller than either of the other sisters, and her face had a sweeping scar that ran from the corner of her left eye down to her […]

    Chapter Six

    It was a long, long night. She walked for hours, or what felt like hours. The sand-stars lit her path. She blew her breath out in a white cloud and pretended to be a dragon. There was not exactly a path, but if she kept the highest mountain in front of her, it was easier. […]

    Chapter Seven

    Perhaps it was the taste of the manticore cheese, but the Wheymaster didn’t hesitate for an instant. He turned to Summer, swept her up in his arms, and plunked her down inside the block of Swiss. “Down!” he hissed. “Crawl down! Hide!” Summer retreated as far as the holes in the Swiss would let her, […]

    Chapter Eight

    Summer was half-expecting the world to have changed outside the Wheystation, the way it had changed outside Baba Yaga’s house, but it was the same landscape as before. Cottonwoods huddled closely around the stream. The road ran from the front door of the Wheystation off into the hills, following the path of the stream. There […]

    Chapter Nine

    Getting out proved easier than getting in. There was a crack in the stone that was almost like a handhold, only visible from inside the cave, and even though Summer scraped her knuckles hauling herself up, she didn’t feel like she was in any danger of falling into the canyon. Of Grub and the tracker […]

    Chapter Ten

    Traveling with the hoopoe might not have been faster, but it felt like it. He hopped along the road, from fence-post to fence-post, chatting to her. Occasionally, he would take to the air. “Nobody for miles,” he reported cheerfully when he returned. “Not the shake of a cat’s whisker. Zultan and his bully-boys have taken […]

    Chapter Eleven

    Poets and even ordinary people make much of dew. They point to it on grass and sing its praises on spiderwebs. Words like “silver” and “gossamer” and “a thousand glittering diamonds” are thrown about whenever dew comes up, often by people who should know better. Occasionally, they will even go so far as to speak […]

    Chapter Twelve

    When they stopped that night, Summer was more than ready. There was a blister on the back of her heel, and when she took her shoe off, it was one of the big squashy ones. She poked it with her finger and it turned bright white, then red. “Ow,” she mumbled. The valet-birds flittered around […]

    Chapter Thirteen

    Summer laid herself flat against Glorious’s fur and stared between his ears. Reginald, who had obviously been spotted, did not try to escape. He was a tiny figure in the road, staring up at the oncoming riders. The weasel scurried up beside Summer, and laid his tail across her mouth like a bar for silence. […]

    Chapter Fourteen

    They reached the inn—or what was left of it—at midday. “I smell burning,” said Glorious, when they were still a little way off. Reginald took to the air, and when he returned, the little patch of skin at the bridge of his beak was pale. “Bad business,” he said. “Bad. The Queen’s men—well. You’ll see.” […]

    Chapter Fifteen

    Fen-town was a city built on stilts. They saw it coming from a long way away. It was the only thing that stuck out of the waving marsh-grass. The road ran right through the middle of it, and at first Summer thought that the stilts would mean the city would be above their heads, but […]

    Chapter Sixteen

    “What are you thinking?” asked Summer, when they had walked what seemed like a long way. They had already stopped for lunch, and Summer was tired and feeling groggy. Reginald was in the air and the weasel was asleep in her pocket. “My own thoughts,” said Glorious. He said nothing more, and Summer felt a […]

    Chapter Seventeen

    The Forester was the largest woman that Summer had ever seen—not just tall, but enormously broad across the shoulders, with heavy hips and breasts and thighs like tree trunks. For a moment, Summer wondered if she was a regular human at all, or some kind of giantess. Her skin was the color of fallen oak […]

    Chapter Eighteen

    Summer was never quite certain, afterwards, how they left the Forester. She thought that they talked for some time, but she could not remember what was said. She had been gazing into the hedgehog flames, hadn’t she? And the Forester said something to her—something that might have been courage or perhaps Mother. All that she […]

    Chapter Nineteen

    Summer followed the servant-bird to the hallway, where she was handed off to a butler-bird, who took her through the halls and up a staircase. “Forgive me,” said the bird, as they climbed. “The library is on the second floor, and the approach for the non-flighted is…less elegant.” It looked plenty elegant to Summer. The […]

    Chapter Twenty

    When she woke in the morning, her clothes were folded neatly on top of a chest. They were sparkling clean, even the blanket. The cheese-sword had been unknotted from its shoelace and slipped into a leather sheath attached to a narrow belt. “It’s a little loose in the sheath,” said the servant-bird apologetically, bustling in. […]

    Chapter Twenty-One

    “I’m sorry if I got you in trouble with Miss Merope,” said Summer. (This was at least mostly true. She had been careful to phrase it that way, because in fact, she did not care in the least what Miss Merope thought, except insomuch as Reginald did.) “Ah, not to worry.” Reginald seemed distracted, looking […]

    Chapter Twenty-Two

    It took them five days to reach the Great Pipes. The land changed around them, the trees growing thin and tall again, reminding Summer of the desert. It was colder, though. Pine needles lay dry and crackling under Glorious’s paws. Ankh and Ounk waddled when Glorious walked and flew when he ran. Summer stopped thinking […]

    Chapter Twenty-Three

    “Right,” said Priestess Cereus, and then, to Summer’s surprise, she took off her headdress and flopped down next to the altar with her legs out in front of her. “Have a seat,” she suggested. Summer sat down next to her, wondering what would happen next. “Sorry for the informality,” said the priestess, “but the snakes […]

    Chapter Twenty-Four

    Summer swam up out of unconsciousness. The spider-horse had stopped. The inside of her head still seemed to be moving. The rider slung her down off the spider-horse. Her knees buckled and she dangled from his hand like a kitten in the mouth of a dog. They were in some kind of little camp. There […]

    Chapter Twenty-Five

    Summer sat on a rock. It wasn’t terribly comfortable, as rocks tend not to be, but at least she wasn’t inside that terrible hot tent with Zultan Houndbreaker. She sat a little way outside of camp, in the minimal shade provided by the canyon wall, and stared at the rope around her wrists. Because they […]

    Chapter Twenty-Six

    The antelope woman’s story left Summer cold inside. There was something so strange and twisted about what she was saying, and yet…and yet… They were cursed for something that wasn’t their fault. That wasn’t right. It seemed as if the antelope women were saying, “Curse us, will you? We’ll show you!” “You’re thinking very hard, […]

    Chapter Twenty-Seven

    It took them the rest of the night and half a day. They had no food. The antelope ate grass and the tips of pine needles. Summer ate nothing. But they shared water from the same bottle and when they slept that night, the antelope woman sang a lullaby in a strange, rich voice. Summer […]

    Chapter Twenty-Eight

    They stopped that evening deep in the scrubby woods, in a little fold in the ground. “Their steeds will find it hard to get through this terrain,” said Glorious. “Though the antelope woman will not. I will light no fire tonight. These trees are not tall enough to keep the smoke from giving us away.” […]

    Chapter Twenty-Nine

    They found the wasp a little while later. It was a few feet from where Summer had flung it, crawling determinedly northeast with the bottle dragging behind it. Summer felt as if she were standing a little bit behind herself. She picked up the bottle and set it to the northeast of the wasp. It […]

    Chapter Thirty

    “I’ve never seen a wight-fly so large,” said Ounk. “Usually they grow in sheep, and once the lambs are weaned, they change. That was…” She shook her head. Summer could not believe that she was alive. She could not believe that Ankh was dead. It did not seem right that the entire battle, which had […]

    Chapter Thirty-One

    They toiled up the hillside for a long time. There was a path. Zultan must come here. And presumably the Queen-in-Chains goes out sometimes too. She did…whatever it was…to the Tower of Dogs. Whatever she is. It had occurred to Summer on some level that there was an excellent chance that the Queen was in […]

    Chapter Thirty-Two

    Summer swallowed several times. Her tongue felt dry. She wished that she had brought some water. She thought about how thirsty she was very determinedly, so that she would not scream at the dragon. The dragon who was wretched and pitiable and who had been destroying the world. When she thought that she could speak […]

    Chapter Thirty-Three

    Summer thrashed and tried to pull away. But he was not trying to throw her off the cliff, he was falling backwards and determined to take her with him. He weighed less than she expected, far less than Glorious, as if the wight-flukes had riddled his bones and left them hollow. Perhaps they had. For […]

    Chapter Thirty-Four

    “I will water it,” said Boarskin. “Will it grow?” asked Summer. “More than it is?” The shapechanger pushed her hood back. “The tree knew that it was dying, and it put all that was left into the seed, where the poison could not get to it. If any tree in the world will grow, it’s […]

    Author Note

    Summer in Orcus started as a place to put things. I don’t know how other writers do it, but I am constantly coming up with weird little tidbits that don’t fit in what I’m currently working on. Images, vignettes, chunks of mini-story that don’t fit any coherent narrative. Stuff like Regency birds in waistcoats, migrating […]


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