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Chronicles of Zoey Grimm Book 1: Family Squabbles


This is the moment Zoey has been waiting for. She is ready to take her father’s place in the underworld. She has the skill and the drive. Will it be enough to solidify her claim?


Cheers resounded throughout the coliseum as I stepped onto the ash-covered floor, holding a jewel-tipped staff that looked like a scythe from Earth.

My stomach was twisted in knots, and not just because half the underworld was here to witness my examination. No one had attempted the particular test I’d chosen to demonstrate my capabilities as a Reaper in more than a century, and as far as I knew, my father was the only one who’d ever passed it…roughly two thousand years earlier.

What choice did I have? I was Zoey Grimm. The daughter of Azrael, the Grim Reaper himself. I didn’t just have to live up to my name. I was the heir-apparent; well, me or my twin brother Morty, but no one thought Morty had what it took. I was the one everyone expected to take my father’s place.

You have to be the best of the best. The top of your class.

My father’s words ran through my mind as the headmaster activated the crystal and three crystalline golems emerged from the floor of the coliseum. My father had said those words or some variation of them to me a thousand times. I usually rose to the occasion. I wanted to make Daddy proud.

Failure wasn’t an option. Neither was being second-best.

I wondered if I’d taken on more than I could handle this time. Once the headmaster rang the bell, I’d have to dispatch all three constructs in less than a minute.

The constructs weren’t large. They mimicked the appearance and behavior of disembodied human souls. They were vaguely human-shaped, though their legs were longer than what was natural, and their heads were smaller than they should have been.

I twirled my staff, preparing for my attack. Succeed, and I’d skip the first two ranks and graduate as a Level Three Reaper. Would anyone be impressed? Probably not. This was what everyone expected from me. But if I failed? Well, I could almost hear the chatter that would follow. That Zoey Grimm…such arrogance! To think she could match her father’s legend!

I’d be the laughingstock of the underworld. I’d have to go back to the academy. I’d have to wait another year before they’d give me a second chance. My brother had already passed his exam. He’d taken down a single construct and was pronounced a Level One Reaper. If I failed, by the time my next attempt was granted, he’d probably be Level Three. If I wanted to keep up with him and remain the heir apparent, I’d have to complete this same challenge again a year from now. If I failed again, the chances that I’d ever catch up to him were slim.

Failure was not an option. Not for me, anyway.

The crystal the constructs were made of channeled red energy into their forms. It programmed them to behave like real souls that had been recently harvested by the Reapers.

Not every human resists their Reaper. Some welcomed their entry into the afterlife. They were prepared to move on and welcomed the Reaper who was sent to guide them into the beyond. Others, afraid to die, couldn’t help but resist. They fought, or they’d flee.

The souls chosen to define these constructs would be less than compliant. I expected that much. What I couldn’t predict was how these golems might resist. They’d probably be more challenging than they were when the souls were originally reaped. After all, these constructs were formed based on souls who already had experience attempting to resist their Reaper. They’d done this before. They’d learn from their previous failures.

There were more reasons why it wasn’t suggested for would-be graduates to take the Level Three exam. The souls that defined the constructs had fallen to an experienced Reaper. I was a novice. I’d never reaped a real soul. They had every advantage.

“Commence the examination!” the headmaster announced, ringing a large bell and starting the timepiece mounted just below the dais.

One minute…

Two of the three constructs slowly moved toward me. They wanted to fight. The third took a few steps back, then turned and ran in the opposite direction.

I’d trained for this. There were methods for countering split strategies. I’d studied them in the academy archives.

I took off after the construct who fled my position. If I took down two at once, head-on, I’d waste most of my time on them, then I’d still have to chase down the runaway. By then, I’d probably have to traverse the full length of the coliseum before I reached him. That would take a good thirty seconds.

But if I chased the runner while the other two pursued me, I’d make better use of my time. Plus, with my back turned to the other two, they’d think they had an advantage.

My boots slammed against the ash, kicking up a cloud as I pursued the construct. Yes, the thing moved fast. Not as fast as me. In the academy, I hadn’t only studied various combat arts. I’d also trained my body for strength, speed, and endurance.

As I closed in on the construct, it pivoted, realizing it couldn’t get away. It swept a foot, trying to trip me. I jumped over its foot and flipped to land on the arena wall, where I used my momentum to run sideways along the wall before launching into another flip that took me over its head.

The construct collapsed in a pile of ash as I jammed the gem on my staff into its back.

“The candidate has eliminated construct number one,” the headmaster announced as the crowd applauded my effort.

I landed on my knees. Not the best position for assaulting a resistant soul, but that was by design. The other two constructs would think I was in a vulnerable position.

It wasn’t like they could kill me. But if they knocked me out or wrestled my staff from my hands, they’d buy themselves time to escape. I didn’t have time to waste.

I hoped they’d try to charge me. I could pivot on one knee, swipe my staff through the air, and take both of them down with one strike. That would be the fastest way to end this.

If these were common souls, that was what they’d try to do. But these constructs were powered by souls that had likely learned a thing or two from their prior reapings.

They didn’t take the bait. Instead, they split up. I glanced at the timepiece near the headmaster. I had twenty seconds left, give or take.

I leaped to my feet and charged the construct that had fled to my right. The other one—call it Construct Number Three—was running as far as he could in the opposite direction. Construct Number Two pivoted and went for my staff. With a twirl of the staff around my back, I caught it in my left hand and jammed it to the second construct’s chest.

“The candidate has eliminated the second construct. A single construct remains.”

I wasn’t sure why the crowd needed a play-by-play from the headmaster. There wasn’t any mistaking what was happening. The crowd cheered at the announcement, but not as exuberantly as they did the first. After all, they knew time was running out. They were on the edge of their seats.

Five seconds to go, if that…

I widened my stance, raised my staff overhead, and took aim. This wasn’t one of the recommended strategies taught at the academy. Still, from the archives, I knew a few Reapers, including my father, who’d pulled it off. I’d practiced, but it was risky, especially in a real-world situation where a scythe wouldn’t fly through the air with the same grace as a staff.

I threw my staff like a javelin, sending it arcing through the air. It pierced the last construct in the torso, and the golem exploded in a cloud of ash as the headmaster declared that time was up.

Had I made it in time?

It was up to the headmaster.

“While I cannot recommend this strategy,” the headmaster began, “good Reapers know the situation on the ground. They use any skill or tactic available, given every contingency. While this method will not likely work for you again, Miss Grimm, you exercised creativity and captured all three souls before the time expired. I now declare Zoey Grimm, daughter of Azrael, a Level Three Reaper with all the rights and privileges accorded the same.”

The crowd seated around the coliseum erupted in cheers. A wide grin split my face as I looked up at my father, who was on his feet. His pale complexion caught the light. There was no mistaking his smile. He was proud.

One day, I’d hold his seat. I was well on my way.



That went as well as it possibly could have for Zoey. From the looks of it nothing will stand in her way of taking her father’s seat in the underworld. Find out what trials await Zoey on her path on March 25, 2022, when Chronicles of Zoey Grimm Book 1: Family Squabbles is released. Until then head over to Amazon and pre-order today!


Family Squabbles e-book cover