Word Count: 98,000
Pitch: In anti-magic South Korea, fifteen-year-old chess prodigy Misha must hunt the dragon she shares a psychic connection with. But as the bodies pile up, she learns the worst monsters can look the most human.
Excerpt: On principle, Misha only played against demons. Today’s challenger was Mr. Hong, who hunched over the baduk board in the upstairs lounge, smoke rising from his shoulders like a smoldering hearth. Misha opened the frosted window behind her by a crack. She hadn’t played against Mr. Hong since she was ten, but she recalled how overheated their matches could get.
After a long minute, Mr. Hong took a swig of the humanifier. Thick golden liquid dribbled down his chin. He wiped his mouth as his slit pupils rounded, the cerulean fur along his jawline rescinded, and the unbearable heat cooled to room temperature.
With great reluctance he set his stone on the board.
Misha slammed hers. “Next.”
“Show-off,” he muttered.
He fumbled his counterstrike. She cut off his groups. He hurried to back up his stranded troops, but she slammed another black stone, then another, merrily luring him away from his territory, as the match spiraled into something like speed chess.
“Haven’t seen you here in ages,” he said. “Your bodyguards waiting outside the pawnshop?”
His nose twitched. “They’re with you, right?”
“They’re outside.” She had to be word-stingy with Mr. Hong. The man was a living lie-detector.
“Did your mom give you permission to come here?”
A twinge pricked her chest. Misha covered it up with a winning smile. “So how exactly does your ability work? Can you hear the truth behind the words? Do you smell the false intent? What if someone’s lying when they don’t even realize it?”