Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

Fiction Contemporary Women

VenCo

by (author) Cherie Dimaline

Publisher
Random House of Canada
Initial publish date
Feb 2023
Category
Contemporary Women, Native American & Aboriginal, Contemporary
  • Hardback

    ISBN
    9780735277212
    Publish Date
    Feb 2023
    List Price
    $35.00

Add it to your shelf

Where to buy it

Description

From the bestselling author of Empire of Wild, a wickedly subversive, deliciously imaginative, deeply feminist novel of contemporary witches on the rise—a book that only the supremely gifted storyteller Cherie Dimaline could write.

Lucky St. James, orphaned daughter of a bad-ass Métis good-times girl, is barely hanging on to her nowhere life when she finds out that she and her grandmother, Stella, are about to be evicted from their apartment. Bad to worse in a heartbeat. Then one night, doing laundry in the building's dank basement, Lucky feels an irresistible something calling to her. Crawling through a hidden hole in the wall, she finds a tarnished silver spoon depicting a story-book hag over letters that spell out S-A-L-E-M.

Which alerts Salem-born Meena Good, finder of a matching spoon, to Lucky's existence. One of the most powerful witches in North America, Meena has been called to bring together seven special witches and seven special spoons—infused with magic and scattered to the four directions more than a century ago—to form a magic circle that will restore women to their rightful power. Under the wing of the international headhunting firm VenCo, devoted to placing exceptional women in roles where they can influence business, politics and the arts, Meena has spent years searching out witches hiding in plain sight wherever women gather: suburban book clubs, Mommy & Me groups, temp agencies. Lucky and her spoon are number six.

With only one more spoon to find, a very powerful adversary has Meena's coven in his sights—Jay Christos, a roguish and deadly witch-hunter as old as witchcraft itself. As the clock ticks toward a now-or-never deadline, Meena sends Lucky and her grandmother on a dangerous, sometimes hilarious, road trip through the United States in search of the seventh spoon. The trail leads them at last to the darkly magical city of New Orleans, where Lucky's final showdown with Jay Christos will determine whether the coven will be completed, ushering in a new beginning, or whether witches will be forced to remain forever underground.

About the author

Cherie Dimaline is a Métis author and editor whose award-winning fiction has been published and anthologized internationally. Her novels include Red Rooms, The Girl Who Grew A Galaxy, A Gentle Habit, The Marrow Thieves and Empire of Wild. In 2014, she was named the Emerging Artist of the Year at the Ontario Premier’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, and became the first Indigenous Writer in Residence for the Toronto Public Library. Her young adult novel The Marrow Thieves has won the Governor General’s Literary Award, the Kirkus Prize, the Burt Award for First Nations, Métis and Inuit Literature and was a finalist for the Trillium Book Award and, among other honors, was a fan favorite in the 2018 edition of CBC's Canada Reads. It was also a Book of the Year on numerous lists including NPR, School Library Journal, the New York Public Library, the Globe & Mail, Quill & Quire and the CBC. From the Georgian Bay Métis Community in Ontario, she now lives in Vancouver.

 

Cherie Dimaline's profile page

Excerpt: VenCo (by (author) Cherie Dimaline)

The sky over Los Angeles was streaked with watery orange and soapy pink, as if the receding sun were a pulled plug. Three sleek vehicles drove up to a Bunker Hill building and stopped, waiting for the valet. When the first car’s door opened, loud hip-hop poured out as the Maiden emerged. Tight braids, designer boots disguised as army issue, cargo pants, and full-sleeve tattoos—the Maiden flashed a quick smile, revealing a diamond embedded in her left canine.
The second car’s driver—a bulky man in a pinstriped suit, with a leather cap and a well-oiled beard—tipped his hat to the Maiden before opening the passenger door for the Crone. Her slender cigarette holder appeared before a lace glove, fingers curled in anticipation of the driver’s hand. The Crone was taller than one might expect, wearing head-to-toe Chanel circa 1958, with a Dior clutch to hold her smokes. Her pale face was half covered by exaggerated sunglasses tinted the same deep beige as her outfit.
A pit bull jumped from the third car, all ticking muscle bundled under grey velvet. She sat near the front bumper awaiting her mistress and was rewarded with a pat on her massive head. The Mother paused beside her dog, throwing a curtain of black hair over her shoulder and tapping her stiletto, the red bottom bright against the pavement, until the valet ran over to retrieve her key. Her makeup was all shades of plum to match the Yoruban beadwork at her throat and in her lobes. When the Mother moved, the dog followed, keeping an eye on the terrified valet, who was shaking so hard the keys jingled in his hand.
Together the three women entered the building, glided past the security desk and the first bank of elevators, stopping at the gold elevator doors set along the back wall. The Crone’s driver pushed the button, the doors slid open, and they were carried to the top floor. He waited till each woman had exited before stepping out, then ran ahead to hold a heavy glass door open for them. Printed on the glass, in black letters, was a single word—VENCO.
The office could have been a fashion magazine, or a brokerage firm, or a front for arms dealers—there was no way to tell. In reality it was a massive enterprise to headhunt, recruit, and place exceptional femmes into exceptional roles—captains of industry, influencers of culture, makers of laws. For the chance to brush shoulders with feminine greatness, companies paid dearly, unknowingly shaking their own colonial foundations.
The reception area was art deco glam, jewel-tone greens with smoky glass and gold trim. The woman at the desk stood at their arrival, nervously pushing her heavy-rimmed glasses up her nose, patting her bun of twisted dreads.
“Ma’ams,” she cooed, her eye dragging on the Maiden, who flashed that diamond once more.
“God, I love coming into the office,” the Maiden remarked, and the receptionist grew shy, sitting down and answering a call on her headset.
“G . . . Good afternoon, you’ve reached VenCo, where the circle is the strongest shape.”
Behind reception was a long hallway painted deep purple, with a Turkish runner in pinks and golds that muted their footsteps. Offices on either side held neat desks and dramatic artwork and women speaking in a dozen languages, each one pausing to bow her head as the trio passed.
At the end of the hall was a wide oak door with a gold plaque—CEO: COVEN ENGAGEMENT ORACLE. This was where they went now, taking off their gloves and sunglasses and piling them into the driver’s arms. The Crone sat at the round table, the only furniture in the room save for the Indonesian woodwork bar against the backwall. She handed over her clutch and patted the driver on the front of his pants, over his zipper.
“Good boy, Israel. Now go,” she instructed. He said nothing, but his eyes narrowed. He would sit quietly in the waiting room until she was ready to retrieve him. Perhaps they’d have time for a detour before he drove her home to her husband.
The Mother poured herself an absinthe, plopped in a sugar cube, and joined the Crone at the table. The Maiden checked her phone one last time, swiped right on the screen, then deposited it in one of her pockets before sitting. There was a small whirring as the blinds folded down over the expansive wall of windows and the city disappeared. In the darkness, someone snapped her fingers and a circle of candles emerged from a mechanism in the table, popping alight.
The Mother turned to the Crone. “How much time do we have for the final two?”
“Pas assez,” she answered first in her native French. “Not enough.”
“They have to make it.” The Maiden put her elbows on the table, the snakes inked on her forearms slithering in the candlelight. “No room for error now.”
“First of all, how long do they have to get the sixth?” the Mother asked.
“It’s complicated, always changing. The first had seven years to find the second, but the second had half that to get to the third. Deadlines got shorter from there; the fourth, the fifth, they went down by years, then months . . .” She trailed off.
“How long?” the Mother asked again.
“Half a year—not time to panic.” The Crone fidgeted with her cigarette holder. “Finding the sixth is not the issue.” The Crone was a Booker, the keepers of the texts, the interpreters of words found on the page and in the sky. Her family had passed down this seat to her, and from a careful study of old stories, she knew there was enough time to gather the sixth.
“What is the issue, then?” The Maiden was no-nonsense. She wanted the facts so that she could strategize. Coming from a long line of Tenders, the women who manned the bars and collected the news, she understood the value of information.
“Once she is brought in, this sixth witch?” The Crone paused.
She hated being the one to deliver hard news. But the stars were complicated, and having the right kind of eyes to read them? That was an inherited skill. “She will have seventeen days from the moment we find her.”
“Seventeen days? Are you fucking kidding me?” The Maiden raised her voice. “That’s not enough time to get a decent reservation, let alone find a whole-ass witch!”
The Crone sneered. “Perhaps you need better foresight. You are a member of the Oracle, n’es tu pas?”
The Mother sighed, then told the Crone, “Make sure you let the Salem leader know the time frame, please.”
“You know what, fuck the rules.” The Maiden was agitated. She liked to win, and the stakes had never been higher. Plagues, wars, the climate crisis—no, things had to change, and now, before it was too late. “The spell wears out soon, and they have seventeen days to complete the circle. We need to step in ourselves.”
“That’s not up to us, is it?” The Mother reached over and patted the Maiden’s shoulder. As a Watcher, the Mother was their oversight, their protector, keeping them on track. “We keep the network engaged, place our women in the right positions, tend to the coffers, but we do not step in. We are not coven witches and don’t have that power.”
The women grew quiet, watching the flames, which flickered on their faces so that they looked very old and infinitely young at the same time. This could be a messy business, and being as powerful as they were, representatives of their kind, heading a massive enterprise but still being powerless where coven business was concerned? That was a delicate balance, if only for their egos.
“The spell is clear—one witch finds the next. There’s nothing we can do,” the Mother continued. “Whoever this sixth is, she had better be ready.”
“Seventeen days? She’d better be a fucking mage,” the Maiden added. “Have they located her yet?”
“Non.” The Crone rubbed her temples. “But my headaches are back, so she’s close.”
The Maiden rolled her eyes. Enough with this headache bullshit already. “We’re always a couple of Advil away from being helpless . . .”
“And how are you helping?” the Crone snapped.
“I’m working out the plan, getting my people ready,” she shot back. Then she turned to the Mother. “And you? What’s the update?”
“I am keeping an eye on our friend in the desert,” she answered.
“The whole reason we relocated here. And let me tell you, that asshole has a particularly disturbing appetite. I feel like I should be paying a subscription fee to watch him.”
“Any creature who has believed itself into immortality is not to be taken lightly,” the Crone said. “So step carefully. And don’t get too close. Should we share news of him yet?”
“Not yet,” the Mother replied. “He is quiet. We don’t need to deal with the panic that knowledge of his existence would cause. Especially now.” She turned to the Maiden, the most reactive of the three. “Is that clear?”
The Maiden gave her a quick salute. “Yes, sir. Since we placed a local Tender in his household as a maid, I feel better. We know his comings and goings.”
The Mother and the Crone nodded their approval. Since they
answered only to one another, it was important they all agreed.
The Maiden’s legs bounced with nerves. The clock was ticking. “I’m serious—this sixth one? She better be ready to roll when she’s found. She better be some kind of living-at-Hogwarts, spell-work-in-her-sleep legacy witch.”
“Have faith,” the Mother said. “She will be exceptional.”

Editorial Reviews

“Bring magic back into your life with the compulsively readable VenCo, a thundering, fantastical road trip with the wily Lucky St. James, her unpredictable grandmother, the witches they are trying to unite and the man who wants to end them all.” —Eden Robinson

“Once I opened VenCo, I was propelled through an entire night of charmed reading. Cherie Dimaline creates a world utterly fantastical, yet real. VenCo is funny, tense and cracking with a dark, divine energy.” —Louise Erdrich, New York Times bestselling author of The Sentence

“Crackling with magic, mystery, adventure, and intrigue, VenCo is a captivating tribute to the bonds of families we are born into and the ones that we create, and a delightful testament to the power of all womankind.” —Nikki Erlick, New York Times bestselling author of The Measure
“Spellbinding and utterly original, VenCo shows the power women can wield when we join forces.” —Kirsten Miller, author of The Change
"A gripping, witchy romp of a novel. It's impossible not to fall in love with Stella and Lucky." —BuzzFeed

"Fast, fun, full of charms. . . . A propulsive read full of intriguing detail, this novel is well-written, engaging and, more than anything, enjoyable. The reader will feel genuine affection for Dimaline’s irreverent, badass witches as they battle for the future of their family and the future of the world, one and the same in Dimaline’s inclusive vision." —Kirkus Reviews

“Subversive and imaginative.” —CBC

Other titles by Cherie Dimaline