Genre: MG contemporary fantasy
Word count: 50,000
Twelve-year-old Zahra Tanzer is secretly a Phoenix, able to morph into a giant flaming bird that can set all of Paris ablaze. But since she can’t control her changes, she lives in constant fear of reducing her family to a smoldering pile of ash.
Zahra’s on a quest to find the legendary serum that mutated all the mythical creatures to human form 200 years ago—all except the Phoenix, who can change forms at will and hide among humans. That’s why Zahra isn’t forced to live in a segregated commune with the mutated creatures, or “creants.” And with a human father who works as a top scientist for the agency that polices creants, Zahra’s true nature remains a secret—until she encounters a flesh-eating Manticore out for her blood and only escapes by bursting into flames.
Now hunted by humans for being a beast, she seeks refuge in Paris’s creant commune. Her new friends help her find clues to the serum’s secret formula, but the closer she gets, the more other supposedly extinct beasts start attacking. To stop a Paris-wide rampage, Zahra must choose between the human form she desperately wants and the Phoenix form she’s not ready to accept.
The greasy-haired man on the Paris Metro glared at Zahra as if she had magically sprouted wings. She patted down the sides of her jean jacket to make sure she hadn't. It had been two weeks since she’d last changed shape, and she had almost convinced herself that she was just a normal girl.
A high-pitched squeal rattled the glass as the train took a sharp corner. Zahra gripped the edge of the seat to steady herself and repeated in her head that she was safe. She had never morphed in public, so the greasy-haired guy couldn’t possibly know her secret.
Yet the giant sign by the Metro door taunted her with its admonishment, written in six different languages so there was no misunderstanding:
Attention! This is a human-only train. Any creature mutant (creant) found in violation of GACCO regulation 3.21a will be removed. Report any abuses immediately.
As if everyone didn’t know there were only a dozen places in the city where creants were allowed.
Worse, at the top of the sign were two pictures: one was a little girl, blond pigtails, all smiles, with an arrow pointing at her bare neck. To her left hunched an old man with a bulgy nose, bushy hair, and an even bigger arrow pointing at the seven-digit tattoo that crawled down the left side of his neck. The creant mark.
Zahra shivered. She wasn’t marked, but she was definitely something that had no business riding on this train, especially since she and her brother Gene were headed somewhere super illegal.