~This is an in-universe piece of fiction for the Aspects series - a new YA sci-fi series - though all of the books featured are real and you can check them out by clicking on the book covers~

It's back to school time once more, which means it's time for our annual Aspects Reading List interviews.

The Aspects protect us from the monsters that roam the wastelands outside our cities but we rarely get the opportunity to get to know the mask-wearing heroes. We sat down with some of the Aspects from Tower 5 to get to know them through their favourite books. Today's Aspect is the Aspect of Empathy.

I: So, Empathy, this is your fifth year providing us with a reading list. I'm always impressed by how you always manage to choose new books every year.

E: Thank you.

I: So, how old does that make you now? It's difficult to tell, you know, since you look exactly like me when you come here. And talk exactly like me. And move exactly like me...

E: It's unnerving you, isn't it? I'm sorry, most people have that reaction.

I: No, I'm not unnerved at all...

E: You can't lie to me. I get more than just your looks.

I: Right... Maybe we should just get to the books...

Fight for the Future

I really liked this book. The two main characters end up meeting just before having to stop an assassination and then running off together. I think I liked Ayleana the most, but that definitely doesn't mean that Kest wasn't also great. To be honest, this book was just full of great characters. And I liked the concept of the memories being passed down as they were, though I'm not sure how the characters didn't go mad from it...

Pratima's Engines: A Short Story

This one might be kind of cheating because it's such a short read, but the characters really stuck with me. They were just so cool, and the worldbuilding was really fun. I've been busy lately with... Well, we're not supposed to be talking about my work, are we? But I will definitely be checking out the other books in this world.

Fake

I really liked how Fake handled the two main characters dealing with giving up parts of their identity in different ways. On the one hand, I really understood Penny's reluctance to give up part of her identity - and her fight to keep it, even if it's difficult - but I also admire the way Lennon gave up his when he needed to. I honestly don't know that I could pick a favourite out of the two if I had to...

Nika

Nika is about a woman who finds out that she's actually part of another species and then finds out that she's also their princess. I really like how, even though she gets swept up in all of the strangeness of the new world she finds herself in, she still remains true to herself and her personality. Maybe it's because she's so long-lived and it's difficult not to at that point. I wonder if I'll ever get there...

Join us again next week when we talk to the Aspect of Pain about his favourite books.

~If you want to pick up a free, early copy of the first book in the Aspects series - Love/Hate - you can get your copy here or add it to your Goodreads shelf.~

~This is an in-universe piece of fiction for the Aspects series - a new YA sci-fi series - though all of the books featured are real and you can check them out by clicking on the book covers~

It's back to school time once more, which means it's time for our annual Aspects Reading List interviews.

The Aspects protect us from the monsters that roam the wastelands outside our cities but we rarely get the opportunity to get to know the mask-wearing heroes. We sat down with some of the Aspects from Tower 5 to get to know them through their favourite books. First up was the most recently chosen Aspect, the Aspect of Love.

I: So, Love, tell us, what was it like to be chosen as an Aspect?

L: Okay, I guess... I thought I was just here to talk about books?

I: Well, yes, but there are some warm-up questions so that our readers can get to know you first.

L: Okay... What do you want to know?

I: How are you settling into your new life? When they set up this interview, the Aspect Program mentioned to us that you're autistic. Has that made it hard to adjust?

L: No more than it makes anything hard.

I: No trouble making friends?

L: No.

I: I suppose there's only so long you can fight monsters without becoming friends. And since your powers are based on love, I suppose it makes sense that you would get on with others.

L: I would rather not talk about... About the fighting. Can we get onto the books now?

I: Yes, of course, I understand you've chosen four of your favourite books to talk about today.

XODUS

I didn't like this book the first time I read it, but I think I was just too young for it. I picked it up again recently and now it's one of my favourites. It's about a girl who loses her mother and she thinks that she's just disappeared, but then it turns out that she has special abilities and the main character also has those abilities and she tries to find her mother... I don't want to spoil the story but I really liked how far the characters were willing to go to find their family again. To think that people can care that much...

Anyway, it's a good book.

Diamond Marked: The Tale of El'Anret

This is an old favourite of mine. Well, the first book was. I only got around to catching up with the rest recently. I don't know, I guess I just kept putting it down and forgetting before? I'm really forgetful sometimes.

Anyway, the first book is about a girl who gets chosen to be the next Queen of Diamonds, destined to rule over the Fae, but the current Queen doesn't want to give up her crown. But the old Queen's twin brother starts to help the new Queen and... Well, I don't want to spoil it but... It's got kind of a romance in it, okay? I like romances in my books. I'm the Aspect of Love, it's allowed, I'm not sappy or anything...

Editor's Note: There was certainly no mistaking the Aspect of Love's romantic streak when passers-by snapped pics of her and the Aspect of Hate sharing a heated kiss in the middle of battle last week.

Pirate Princess

Okay, really though, who doesn't like stories about pirates?

Tower Five isn't on the coast, and even if it was, all of the coastal cities need walls just as large as the others. There's not much about the world before the monsters I ever wondered about, but the sea? Well, I suppose one benefit of being an Aspect is the ability to go beyond the city walls every once in a while, even if it is just to deal with the monsters.

But I was supposed to be talking about the book, wasn't I? Well, the book is about the daughter of a pirate king and a princess. Her mother died when she was young, and when she gets older, she's sent to go and live with her mother's sister and her husband, who rule a kingdom together. She lives as a princess by day but sneaks away to be a pirate by night and I always liked how her mother was gone, and her dad couldn't be there for her, but she still had a family that looked after her, you know?

Water

And here we have... another book about water, but this one doesn't really take place on the sea, so it's not the same. I actually picked this book up recently and it really stuck with me.

In this one, the main character is afraid of water but her mother tells her that she can only go to the university she wants if she goes to camp and learns to swim. Only, she gets there and her instructor, plus a bunch of other people at the camp, are keeping secrets from her, which relate to why her dad left and I don't want to spoil anything, but I liked how close all of the siblings were in the book. Even the ones who aren't always super close care about each other and... Well, I guess I just hope... You know what? Never mind. It was a silly thought. I liked the book, it's good, go read it.

Join us again next week when we talk to the Aspect of Empathy about her favourite books.

~If you want to pick up a free, early copy of the first book in the Aspects series - Love/Hate - you can get your copy here or add it to your Goodreads shelf.~

The next Freya Snow book is coming in just over two weeks, so it's time for a preview of the book!

If you're not caught up on the series so far, I'd recommend getting up to date to avoid spoilers:

Books 1-6
Book 7
Book 8

Okay, here's the chapter! I hope you enjoy!

“Okay, Amy, this is the important question,” Freya said, her tone grave as she faced her younger sister. “The choice between Light and Dark. The choice that truly defines us all. Which will you choose?”
The six-year-old bit her lip, before finally declaring “Rosh is stupid!”
Freya grinned. “Dark it is,” she said as she returned her attention to the controller in her hand, instructing Jaden Korr to strike him down with her lightsaber. “Though you shouldn’t call people stupid,” Freya told her as Kyle Katarn looked on at his apprentice in horror.
“Sorry,” Amy said as their mother frowned at them.
Margaret turned to Ryan, still frowning. “Can you go and watch them play for five minutes. Make sure it’s not too violent for Amy.”
Ryan popped his head around the living room door, glancing at the TV before saying, “It’s Star Wars.”
“Does that mean it’s age-appropriate or not?”
Ryan rolled his eyes in an exaggerated manner, making Freya and Amy laugh.
“Star Wars is perfectly fine for kids,” he told his wife, who narrowed her eyes, before letting it go, looking back at her phone.
“So, Freya,” Margaret said, still looking at her phone, “I’m ordering the Tesco shop for Friday. What do you want for your celebratory dinner?”
“My what?”
Margaret looked up from her phone, raising an eyebrow. “Your celebratory dinner for your first real promotion at the Hino Corporation.”
“Oh, right,” Freya said awkwardly. Technically, her job for Fate was a real job. She had employment forms and payslips with taxes deducted and everything. But getting paid to run odd errands for Fate, usually acting as a delivery girl for sensitive documents or a bodyguard for Seers, didn’t feel like a real job. And the promotion certainly didn’t feel real. She didn’t feel as if she had done anything to earn it. She just showed up to work and did her job. Fate had reasoned that no one had died and no documents had been stolen under her watch, but as far as Freya was concerned, those two things were the bare minimum of her job requirements...
“I thought we were going to get takeaway,” Ryan interjected.
“I’m trying to cut down on sodium,” Margaret reminded him.
“Yeah, but I thought we’d make an exception for one night.”
“Well, if I eat salty food now that I’m no longer used to it, I won’t be able to sleep all night.”
“It’s Friday. Who wants to be sleeping?” He grinned. “We should call up Jess and all go out drinking.” He turned to the girls on the sofa. “Freya can tell us where all the kids are drinking these days.”
Freya snorted. “Sorry, Ryan. My idea of a wild night is me, Sarah, a couple of her housemates, a bottle of wine, and a game of Million Dollars But.”
He shook his head. “I don’t know what that is. Is that for the new Xbox? This is why we need the new Xbox.”
Margaret shook her head. “No new Xboxes and no wild nights out. I swear, I don’t know what kind of mid-life crisis you’re having, Ryan, but channel it into buying a new car or something before ours falls to bits.” She turned to Amy. “Speaking of, Misses, it’s time for you to get to school.”
Amy groaned. “No, I want to stay here with Freya! It’s not fair! Why doesn’t she have to go to school?”
“Because she’s an adult, so she has to go to work, just like Mummy and Daddy. Now, come on. Get your bag and shoes.”
Amy glared at them.
“I’m leaving too,” Freya assured her, standing up. Technically, she didn’t have to be at work that morning, but Amy was going through a phase of imitating her, and she could always go and see Sarah.
Amy followed Freya to the landing before putting their shoes on. Freya felt only a little bit annoyed that Amy was already faster at tying her laces than she was...
Amy went to go and sit in the back, but her mother stopped her. “Come and sit in the front with Mummy.”
“But Freya sits in the front.”
“Freya’s not going in the car with us.”
Freya smiled at her sister. “Go on, be good for Mum. I’ll see you when you get home, okay?”
Amy reluctantly nodded, but did as she was told, getting in the car.
Freya waved them goodbye as they drove off, and waited until they were around the corner before shifting away.

#

Going to the cafe so early in the morning wasn’t Freya’s first choice, but she didn’t mind if it got Amy to school on time. Even if it did mean heading outside. As summer approached, the weather couldn’t decide what to do, and the last few days it had been oppressively humid. As if there were a storm that refused to break.
The cafe was heaving with the pre-work rush, and Freya ended up waiting half an hour for Sarah to get a spare few minutes.
“You know,” Sarah said with her hands, using sign language, as Freya finally approached the counter, “you could have come back here and helped.”
“Not my job,” Freya signed back. “That’s what happens when you drop-out of uni to chase your girlfriend across the globe. You get hired by a big multi-national company for ludicrous amounts of money.”
“Only if you have a specific skill-set, like being able to call down lightning on command. The rest of us have to actually get our degrees, which means working part-time service jobs.”
“To be fair, you’d have graduated by now if you weren’t studying medicine.”
Sarah sighed. “Don’t remind me... Damn my talent for healing magic...”
“I mean, you didn’t have to study to be a doctor. You could have done nursing or something.”
“Are you kidding? My school practically forced me to apply to medicine exclusively. That or Oxbridge...”
“I wouldn’t know. I started my academic downturn before final uni applications. I was lucky the local redbrick took me, never mind anywhere uber-fancy.”
“You know, there was nothing stopping you from re-applying to university.”
“Nothing except that the thought of putting myself under even more crushing student debt makes me physically ill. Especially when I was always going to take this job working for Fate, anyway, and as you said, she cares more about my magic than my academic achievements.”
“I’m sure she appreciates your intellect. I know it made you one of the more bearable coworkers I’ve ever had. Nothing like someone who can actually handle a problem, or count up a till properly...”
Freya grinned. “You still not getting on with my replacement?”
“She’s fine, but the till is never accurate at the end of the day anymore.”
The door opened, and Sarah stepped back from Freya, ready to serve them. However, she quickly looked back at Freya before surreptitiously signing, “Your type.”
Freya raised an eyebrow, intrigued. Her type? A tall girl with an undercut? A guy that didn’t look like he’d break after a short make-out session with her well-built self? Anyone with a, surprisingly rare, friendly smile?
She turned to see that the guy walking up to the counter fulfilled both the second and third items on her list. He was a few inches shorter than her, but he was stocky, with muscles more than clearly defined beneath his TNG t-shirt. His jet-black hair was tied back in a bun, with a strand or two falling over his dark brown eyes, all the way down to his stubble, which framed his awfully familiar smile...
Freya’s hand slipped with shock from where she was leaning against the counter, almost sending her tumbling to the ground, as she realised just why he was familiar.
“Damon?!”
His smile widened into a grin. “Freya!”
Her heart skipped a beat at the sound of his voice, her face flushing.
Oh dear, I’m in trouble,​ she thought to herself as she realised that distance and time had done nothing to her playground crush. All it had done was turn Damon from a slightly-awkward boy into a man that ticked all of Freya’s boxes.
“I didn’t know that you were still in the city,” Damon said, still grinning. “I mean, you seemed to disappear from social media a couple of years ago, so I didn’t know if you’d moved or anything.”
Freya shrugged. “I went backpacking with my girlfriend at the time and the data roaming charges were a bit much. When we broke up and I came back, I just didn’t feel like logging back online. At least, not on big social media sites. I mostly lurk in forums now.” She stopped herself, realising that she was rambling. “So, what about you? I didn’t even know you were in the country.”
“I just got back,” he explained. “Work transferred me back here. Speaking of, I’ve got to get going before I’m late, but do you want to meet up tonight and catch up?”
“Yeah, sure,” she said, grinning.
“Great! Have you got a new phone number?”
She nodded, quickly trading numbers with him while Sarah made him a coffee.
“See you later,” he called after paying, heading out the door.
“So, do you still remember how to act on a date?” Sarah teased as Freya turned back around.
Freya rolled her eyes. “It’s not a date.”
“It kind of seemed like a date.”
“It’s just a catch-up drink between two friends,” Freya figured. “Plus, did you see him? Sarah, look at me.” She indicated to her ill-fitting RWBY t-shirt, with the words on the front hidden on the underside of her breasts, and her well-worn jeans that were a little too short for her. “I’m not even wearing make-up...”
Sarah shrugged. “He still looked happy to see you.”
“Because we used to be friends.”
Sarah raised an eyebrow. “Are you saying this because you really think that him liking you is impossible, or because you haven’t dated anyone since Alex and you’re nervous about trying again?”
Freya sighed. “Can’t it be both? Anyway, you’re one to talk. You’ve never dated anyone.”
“Shockingly, being demisexual limits my dating pool. You, on the other hand, can date anyone you like as long as they like girls.”
Freya shook her head. “I’m not going to think of it like a date. I mean, it’s probably not even one, so I won’t treat it like one. It’s just friends going for a drink as friends.”
Sarah sighed, before holding her hands up in surrender. “Okay, friends going as friends...”