Fiction Fest: Braden Bell’s ‘Penumbras’ kicks off final round of July excerpts

Penumbras 2x3“Penumbras” author Braden Bell grew up in Utah, but presently lives in the Nashville, Tenn., area where he teaches middle school.

“Penumbras” is the second in the “Middle School Magic” series and is the sequel to 2012’s “The Kindling.”

The series was born four years ago during a fierce Tennessee storm when Bell imagined a battle between the forces of Light and Dark. He stayed up all night writing—and then spent the next two years finishing and revising the first book.

“Penumbras” was released on July 9 and is available in bookstores and on, and



Conner dove off his bed as the huge shadow-wolf landed and tore into his sleeping bag. He ninja-rolled across the floor as a blizzard of fabric and insulation flew through the air. Between rolls, he noticed Pilaf’s praying-mantis eyes stretched even wider than usual, but he didn’t have time to say anything. He needed to get out of the room and lead the wolf away from Pilaf.

Crab-walking backward, Conner scuttled toward the door as the wolf leaped from the bed to the floor. Lexa! he shouted in his head. Melanie! No answer. Conner held up his arm and shot a bolt of red Light at the wolf. He missed, but the wolf slowed to dodge the burst, allowing Conner time to jump up and run out.

He made it three or four yards down the long hall before the shadow-wolf leaped through the thick cinderblock wall and sailed toward him, jaws open. It growled, and now it sounded mad.

Should he fight or run? Fighting an unknown enemy seemed stupid, so Conner ran. He juked to one side and sped up, wishing he’d gone farther in his Magi training. Real Magi could turn into comets and shoot through the air—which would come in handy right now. Unfortunately, Conner, Lexa, and Melanie hadn’t learned that yet—only their teachers could do stuff like—


Teachers! Duh! Mrs. Sharpe, their history teacher was one of the Magi and had come to chaperone the trip. She’d know how to handle this thing. Conner thought about sending her a sigil—Magi communicated by sending messages in small pieces of their souls called sigils. But the wolf growled just inches behind him, and he decided that he didn’t dare stop, even for a second.

So Conner ran as fast he could, bare feet slapping the cold tile beneath him. Even at top speed, the wolf gained on him. Growing desperate, he remembered his spring break trip to Disney World two months earlier. Two bad guys, Kyle and Kelli Black, had kidnapped Melanie’s younger sister, Madi. Conner had been the only witness, and in an effort to save her, he’d managed to move extra fast—not quite comet speed, but much faster than normal.

He really needed that now. So he focused, straining every brain cell, every muscle, in an effort to spark super-speed. The hallway grew fuzzy, as if he were running inside a tunnel made out of red Light. He felt himself accelerate, moving much faster than usual, like one of those cartoon characters whose legs spin in a blur.

Unfortunately, the increased speed reduced his control, and Conner veered to one side, a speeding bullet with no ability to steer. As the wall rushed closer and closer, he tried to alter his course but couldn’t. Instead, he managed to speed up just enough to shoot through the open bathroom doorway instead of crashing into the wall.

Inside the U-shaped bathroom, he hurtled toward a row of toilet stalls. Gross. With enormous effort, he threw himself to the right, managing to blast into a room full of showers instead.

He shot past the first shower with so much speed that his hand hit the cold-water knob and sliced clean through the pipe. Water spurted out from the pipe behind him as he hit the next knob—and the next. He felt a little heat, but he went so fast that it didn’t hurt.