BY: AVANTI CENTRAE

Da Vinci Code meets Tomb Raider in this award-winning thriller that #1 NYT’s author James Rollins called, “Full of action and suspense.”

Spain 1057: During a thunderous battle, the first King of Aragon wrestles Alexander the Great’s priceless Egyptian weapon from the Moors, but finds it holds a terrifying and mysterious power.

A thousand years later, on a hushed, fog-shrouded, Napa morning, gunshots and the sound of breaking glass shatter the silence. Maddy Marshall, an app designer and aikido instructor, and her twin brother Will Argones, an engineer, quickly run toward the sound. Horrified, they discover a sniper’s bullet has found its human target.

Before the pool of blood on the living room floor is dry, the twins are sent on an arcane quest to recover Alexander’s ancient weapon. Joined by a VanOps covert agent, they soon discover the rifle’s sights are now set on them. No place is safe, a wrong move means death, and even a simple phone call is off limits if they are to survive.

From a medieval Spanish castle, they follow a time-worn trail, starting at a secret warren under the streets of Jerusalem. But if the killer finds the weapon first, it will be used to cripple the United States’ eye-in-the-sky early warning systems, allowing the Russians to swoop in and prey on the vulnerable nation.

Can Maddy learn to wield the power of the dangerous weapon in time to stop the Russian scheme? Failure means the fragile world peace will be forever shattered…

TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In VanOps: The Lost Power by Avanti Centrae, Maddy Marshall and her twin brother, Will Argones, are summoned to their father’s vineyard in Napa Valley. But when they arrive, they hear gunshots. Their father has been murdered, but before he dies, he sends the twins on a secret quest to find the lost power, a mysterious weapon, that was taken from Alexander the Great by Ramiro 1, the first king of Aragon. But whatever this weapon is, Maddy and Will are not the only ones after it, and even if they find it, they might not live to tell the tale.

Combining history, mystery, and suspense, this is one that fans of many genres should love.

REGAN MURPHY SAYS: VanOps: The Lost Power by Avanti Centrae is the story of a mystical weapon taken from Alexander the Great by Ramiro I, the first king of Aragon, in 1057. Ramiro felt the power of the weapon was too great for any but the most worthy, so he set up a series of trials and tests for his heirs and descendants to complete in order to find the weapon. A thousand years later, two of his descendants, Argones twins Will and Maddy, are sent on a quest to find the weapon by their dying father. But they are pursued by a merciless assassin, leaving a trail of bodies behind them, as they flee from place to place in search of clues to the weapon’s location.

VanOps: The Lost Power is well written, fast paced, and fascinating, mingling a touch of history with an abundance of suspense and wrapping it all up in an intriguing mystery. A really great read.

PROLOGUE

Aragon, AD 1057:

Ramiro needed a way to halt the spheres of ball lightning that killed and tormented his troops. They fell like a meteor shower, unstoppable arrows of piercing light.

But first, he had to survive. Ramiro parried a thrust, lunged with satisfaction, pulled his sword free of the man in front of him, and gasped for air. As his opponent collapsed to the ground with unseeing eyes, Ramiro grunted and looked to the crest of a nearby hilltop. Tendrils of gray mist obscured his vision as he searched over and over again for the lightning’s source. Where is that hellish-blue fire coming from?

Frustration at the lack of a clear view warred with his relief at winning another swordfight. The back of his throat burned, so he gave in to the desire to spit. He was tall, but his opponent had been taller, larger of limb, and stronger than he. Ramiro hadn’t been sure of his victory until that final opening had presented itself.

Over the clang of surrounding swordplay, horses’ hooves pounded the wet earth behind him. He turned as his six-man honor guard approached.

The group was led by his son, Sancho Ramírez, who reined in his muscled chestnut warhorse. Sancho’s chest heaved with exertion under his chain mail. He looked at Ramiro, pointed down to his side, and yelled over the din, “Father, you’re injured!”

“I will find the physician later.” Focused on the battle, Ramiro had moved away from his guard while fighting. He’d also ignored the wound. A trickle of blood oozed from a gash above his right hip bone. It wasn’t deep. He’d warded off his opponent’s sword move just a little too late. Infidel or not, this last challenger had been a worthy foe.

Before his son could insist, Ramiro watched another blue ball from hell sail through his ranks, harvesting his men like a scythe. The bizarre display threatened to unnerve him, but he refused to be swayed from his course. He planted his feet, wiped his sword on the dead man’s sleeve, and deepened his breathing.

Sancho wasn’t as steady. “Father, we must act soon!” His voice broke as he shouted.

Ramiro agreed but had yet to find what they needed. With the return of his guard, who now surrounded him for safety, he could look again. Searching through the dusky haze for a good view of the lightning’s source, Ramiro peered around and at the hilltop.

Several long weeks ago, his Iberian lands had been invaded by Moors, a people better at conquest than weeds taking over the spring fields. His holdings, bequeathed to him by his own father, were situated in the foothills on the west side of the Pyrenees and were usually verdant in midsummer. But there was no green to be seen now. Instead, the land looked like the remains of a funeral pyre, black and charred.

To help protect the land and his people, his troops were scattered about, fighting in small, unorganized clusters. Many lay on the ground, dead or bleeding. Since the beginning of this battle, lightning had rained violent yellow from the dark skies above and unusual blue from the hillock beyond. Sounds of his men screaming from the impact of the strikes hung in the air and haunted his mind. It smelled as he imagined hades would, putrid and sharp. A breeze stirred, cooling his face, and the mist parted for an instant.

Sancho also gazed up the hill. “Do you see what I see?”

Through the screen of light vapor, the hilltop appeared. Before this summer, he’d never seen a storm with lightning such as this, and he suspected the reason had just come into view. Protected inside a group of warriors, a Moorish priest stood with both arms raised to the sky. Legs held wide in an arrogant stance, he wore a dark brown, deeply-hooded cloak that obscured his face. As lightning flashed, Ramiro’s heart pounded. There were two blood-red objects in the priest’s raised hands.

“At last, yes!”

“It’s the proof we’ve wanted to see.” Sancho pulled the silver relay horn off his belt. “Give the order!”

Ramiro was proud that his son was ready for action even against the unknown power. But before he committed himself and his remaining troops, Ramiro paused to be certain of his next step, as there was no way back if it failed. This was the fifth battle where he had watched more of his men die from the round blue lightning than from the sword. After the last skirmish had been lost, Sancho had suggested a spy be sent into the camp of the Moors. It was a clever idea.

“Are you sure about what the infiltrator reported back?” Ramiro asked.

Sancho moved his nervous steed closer and bent down next to his father so they could talk. “Yes, Father. He was careful and heard the guards talking one night after a meal. Our man is convinced. The Moors think those ancient obelisks help them create the lightning that kills.”

But Ramiro wasn’t satisfied. “What about Alexander of Macedonia? Did he use these rods in his conquests?”

“So, the Moors believe. Egyptian priests crafted the obelisks from a fallen star of old, obtained from a distant country. Alexander used the obelisks during his campaigns after he took Egypt.”

At first, both assertions appeared to be uneducated, superstitious nonsense, but after watching that priest kill a hundred of his best men, Ramiro believed the spy had spoken the unfortunate truth about Alexander and the power of the obelisks. No wonder the Macedonian had such success.

But could it be Satan’s hand at work here? Ramiro’s priests were convinced the devil was involved. Ramiro wasn’t sure. However, for his people to have any chance of defeating the Moors, he must take the risk, capture the obelisks, and determine for himself if they were evil or merely being used that way.

“And this is the only time we can get them?” Ramiro insisted.

“Yes, Father, I told you, when not in use, the Moors lock them inside a sturdy metal box and guard them well. Only carefully trained priests can touch them.” Sancho sounded impatient.

Ramiro wanted to have the obelisks for himself, so that he could learn more about them, and find out from where they had come. He held out hope that, with time and study, he could learn to command the obelisks in a fruitful way. But if they proved unable to be tamed, he must make certain to keep the power safe and out of his enemies’ hands.

Reassured that he had no other option but to commit his troops, Ramiro nodded to Sancho. “We shall proceed.” A sizzling sound, like fat dripping onto a fire, warned Ramiro. “Look out!”

Another ball of lightning passed inches from his son’s head and exploded nearby, between Sancho and a guard. Mud flew high into the air, pelting Ramiro with dirt and small, sharp rocks. He didn’t notice the pain, intent on his decision. Beside him, Sancho struggled to keep control of his mount.

“I’ve been spotted. It’s time.” Ramiro took a deep breath and bellowed across the field, “Aragon, to me!” the sign his men had been waiting to hear.

Sancho repeated the signal by blowing into his silver horn. Two long, haunting notes cut through the sounds of the melee. Bleeding soldiers, who had been lying on the ground feigning mortal injury, stood, false ghosts rising from the mist. Others appeared from the wood on the far side of the hill. The apparent disarray of Ramiro’s troops coalesced into an organized mass, honed and focused like a spear.

As one, they charged up the hill, determined to wrench the mysterious power from the Moors.

CHAPTER 1

Napa Valley, California, June 25, 8:56 a.m., Present Day:

Through the crosshairs of his long-barreled sweetheart, Ivan scanned the wood-casement window of the vineyard’s stone-walled residence, and waited for his intended target to walk into view. His movements were slow and meticulous.

Lying in the loft of an old barn, he calculated range, altitude, temperature, barometric pressure, wind speed, and humidity. His skin was irritated by the coarse hay that surrounded him, but he ignored the sensation and focused on his calculations. Click. He made a minor adjustment on his rifle to account for the drop of the round due to air density. And another for windage.

Although misty rivers of fog swirled into gray whirlpools around the winery, the computer enhanced scope of his Springfield EBR allowed him to visually lock onto the home’s large bank of windows. Human movement flickered behind the glass.

He didn’t want to pull the trigger. Nevertheless, Ivan waited for the perfect moment, the perfect shot.

© 2019 by Avanti Centrae

James Rollins:

“Avanti Centrae’s VanOps: The Lost Power opens a tantalizing new series that combines historical mystery and cutting-edge science into a masterwork of international intrigue–with the promise of more to follow. Written with a dynamic, cinematic style and full of action and suspense, here’s a book that defines page-turner. Don’t miss this riveting debut!” ~ James Rollins, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Crucible

Steve Berry:

“Just a good ole’ fashioned rip-roaring adventure from start to finish. Enjoy the ride.” ~ Steve Berry, New York Times bestselling author

Ann Charles:

“A high-stakes, daring adventure charged with suspense and mystery!” ~ Ann Charles, USA TODAY bestselling author of the Deadwood Mystery Series

Stacey Dovovan:

“The narrative flows quickly and is unstoppable.” ~ Stacey Donovan, NYT and national best-selling editor

Reader’s Favorite:

“The mystery of finding the weapon, the responsibility on the young woman’s shoulders, and the constant threat of being chased was a perfect combination that had me sitting on the edge of my seat and holding my breath. This is one of the best action/thrillers I have ever read and I can’t wait for the next novel in the series.” ~ Reader’s Favorite. Five/Five Stars

Chanticleer Reviews:

“Every family has its secrets, only some are deadlier than others.” ~ Chanticleer Reviews. Five/Five Stars

John Bernstein:

“The writing is superb. Easy to read and captivating. There is a mixture of mystery and action that keeps me turning pages. Readers who like Indiana Jones, or the books by James Patterson, Tom Clancy, and Vince Flynn, will enjoy Centrae’s first installment in her VanOps series.” ~ John Bernstein, Professional Reviewer

Jen Dulyanai:

The Lost Power was a very enjoyable read. It had some twists that I never saw coming!” ~ Jen Dulyanai, co-owner and instructor at Blue Lake Aikido, South Lake Tahoe

Sara Staney:

“I was really hooked by the pacing and intriguing story, and raced through it. I love the combination of science, history, and mysticism.” ~ Sara Stamey, Global Thriller Grand Prize winner for The Ariadne Connection

John Anthony Miller:

“I particularly enjoyed the exotic locations that the novel was set in, as well as how the author so cleverly blends techniques from ancient history with modern physics. This is a real page turner. Highly recommended.” ~ John Anthony Miller, author of When Darkness Comes and In Satan’s Shadow