San Francisco has a Monkey King – and she’s kinda freaked out.
Hey there, everyone! Today I’m excited to be taking part in the Monkey Around Book Blitz presented by Storytellers On Tour! While my reading habits tend to drive me towards more Medieval-ish dark and epic fantasy, sometimes you just need a modern urban fantasy to cleanse your palate, am I right? The past few days we’ve been showing off Jadie Jang’s Monkey Around, and I’ve heard nothing but wonderful things about it…I may just need to pick this one up myself!
Keep scrolling to learn more about the book and author, read an excerpt from the first chapter, and enter to win yourself a copy of Monkey Around!
Monkey Around by Jadie Jang
PUBLISHED: August 3, 2021 by Rebellion Publishing/Solaris
GENRE: Urban Fantasy
San Francisco has a Monkey King – and she’s kinda freaked out.
Barista, activist, and were-monkey Maya McQueen was well on her way to figuring herself out. Well, part of the way. 25% of the way. If you squint.
But now the Bay Area is being shaken up. Occupy Wall Street has come home to roost; and on the supernatural side there’s disappearances, shapeshifter murders, and the city’s spirit trying to find its guardian.
Maya doesn’t have a lot of time before chaos turns up at her door, and she needs to solve all of her problems. Well, most of them. The urgent ones, anyhow.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011: Chinatown Rooftop, San Francisco
The guard looked entirely human.
He wore designer jeans, knockoff Gucci loafers, a sheeny buttoned shirt, and too much hair gel. He smelled, even at a distance, of strong cologne. His skin was a taut medium brown, with faint wrinkle lines starting between his groomed eyebrows and around his cheeks. He held his cigarette between his thumb and first two fingers and blew crooked smoke rings.
He looked entirely human. That was my first clue that he wasn’t.
I know, I know, if everyone who looked human wasn’t, then nobody would be human (interesting thought, that …) but that’s not what I mean. There was a … brightness to his appearance, like he was in HD while the rest of the world was a cell phone video. He was too perfectly what he appeared to be: an inevitable side effect of wearing a bought glamor. Other people’s magic just doesn’t sit naturally on you, and only an amateur would take that sparkling, sharp visage at face value.
This guy, if Ayo’s info was correct, was a bajang: a shapeshifter that had a human-like form, and a weasel-like form. The human-like form, however, wasn’t entirely human. He should have had clawed hands and taloned feet. And he was entirely too tall for a bajang, being around my average human height. And bajang, apparently, don’t have higher deceptive magic. Not that he’d have gotten away with it if he had. I have my own magic detector, when common sense fails, and my eyes were burning away merrily.
The only thing I couldn’t tell you is why a rooftop guard would need to go to such trouble to hide who he was. I mean, he was on the roof.
I was at that moment in the form of a shadow at the base of the air conditioning vent. The guard had come out almost immediately after I got there to have a smoke, and gave the place I was shadowing a few hard looks. Probably saw that something was wrong with my spot (there wasn’t supposed to be a shadow here) but couldn’t put his finger on it. I waited.
He seemed nervous, for some reason.
Halfway through his cigarette, he decided he was done. He gave me a last hard look and flicked his cigarette into me, turning to go back through the door before it landed. The butt flew through me, bounced off the air conditioning vent, and landed, just outside my square of darkness. I gave it another minute to see if he was coming back, then transformed from a shadow into a rhesus macaque monkey. Monkey was my default animal form, and the best form from which to do what I was about to do.
I pulled a hair from my chest, set it on the bare skin of my elongated palm, and focused on it. The tip of the hair turned into something resembling a microphone, and the shaft began to lengthen. The microphone nosed its way into the vent like a snake, and the hair continued elongating behind it as it slithered down the airway. The root end of the hair shaped itself into an ear bud and I put it into my right ear, even as my left hand continued feeding the shaft of the hair—now a flexible cable—into the vent.
It didn’t look like any technology you’ve ever seen. I started out in high school trying to make real machines out of my hairs, but I didn’t really understand their mechanisms, so they never worked. But when I got it through my skull that it was magic, not engineering, I just made the things look like what I wanted them to do, and then they started working like whoa.
The microphone head slid past several rooms featuring sounds appropriate to a “massage” parlor (I’ll spare you any elaboration.) Without looking I reached around the vent chimney for the black patent leather crossbody purse I’d brought with me (fashionable and water resistant!) I pulled out the stone Ayo had magicked for me and cupped it over my left ear, and the conversations became understandable. I couldn’t suddenly speak Chinese, mind you, despite four years of college classes. But the gist of the conversation filtered into my brain, even as I listened to words I couldn’t understand. I was listening for a particular female voice—one that sounded like a warped metal door being scraped open across a rough cement floor—or for snatches of conversation about the owner of that voice. I got nothing.
I was on the hunt for Dalisay, the head of the Bay Area aswang contingent, who’d disappeared without a trace two days before. It was a fairly serious matter: leaderless aswangs would be no joke, especially when their leader was Catholic AF, kept them all living near the cemeteries of Colma, and organized raids on said cemeteries to keep her flock from stealing live babies. This was the third building belonging to the Hung For Tong I’d checked tonight, and the only one I’d found any people—or critters—in.
I pulled my cell phone out of the purse. Like the magicked stone, it didn’t—couldn’t—change shape with me, so I had to deal with it—irritatingly—whenever I went on an assignment like this; hence the purse, which was real, not made out of my hairs, like the rest of my clothes. One of these days I’d figure out how to make a phone from a hair, and then we’d be cooking with dynamite.
– NOTHING SO FAR. GO FOR PLAN B., I typed and sent, then returned the phone to its baggie, in its hidden corner.
A minute later, I heard a phone ring through the mic. A brusque male voice answered, and I heard Ayo’s tiny, tinny voice coming through his cell phone. She sounded angry and demand-y. The brusque male voice told her, apparently for the second time, that he knew nothing, and hung up. Ayo didn’t call back, like she would’ve if this had been a real demand.
Then a softer male voice asked the brusque one the obvious question. The brusque voice said, “That woman asking about Dalisay,” and the other one grunted. After some desultory talk, they turned to tale-telling that would put X-Tube to the blush. Either they didn’t have Dalisay, or they were all talked out about it for the night. Without shifting its position, I changed the mic into a micro camera, and repeated the room-by-room search (I could do sight and sound at the same time, but it took a lot more focus.) This turned up nothing on Dalisay again, just stuff I would never, ever unsee. I pulled the hair camera up, turned it back into a hair, and stuck it back on my chest.
– NOTHING. I texted to Ayo.
– ??? She texted back. This was Ayo asking for next steps.
– TALK TOMORROW. She could ask for details at work tomorrow if she wanted to. I turned off my phone and put it away.
I turned to go, and kicked something by accident. It clattered away across the rooftop—a beer can. It hadn’t been there before. I would have known; I had been the shadow it was sitting in. I looked for the half-smoked cigarette, didn’t find it, and knew that I wouldn’t. I should’ve known: the cigarette hadn’t sizzled out when it hit the wet rooftop. The bajang had thrown a basic enchantment over the beer can to set it up as an alarm. Whoops.
Meet The Author
Claire Light (writing as Jadie Jang) is almost as organizy as her characters. She started a magazine (Hyphen) and an arts festival (APAture) with a cast of Asian Pacific Americans even more magical, if less supernatural, than the ones she writes about. She also got an MFA, went to Clarion West, and compromised between the two by publishing a collection of “literary” sci-fi short stories (Slightly Behind and to the Left) that maybe 100 people read. After wrangling arts and social justice non-profits for 17 years, her already autoimmune-disease-addled body threw a seven-year-long tantrum, leading our then-house-bound heroine into an urban fantasy addiction.
A few years, and a dozen Euro-centric-mythology-dominated urban fantasy series later, Claire sat up and said “I can do this!” and Jadie Jang, the part of her brain that writes snarky-fun genre romps, was born. She posts about monkeys every Monday under @seelight on Twitter.
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