Read an Excerpt From LaDarrion Williams’s Blood at the Root

We’re thrilled to share an excerpt from Blood at the Root by LaDarrion Williams, a new YA contemporary fantasy publishing with Labyrinth Road on May 7th.

Ten years ago, Malik’s life changed forever the night his mother mysteriously vanished and he discovered he had uncontrollable powers. Since then, he has kept his abilities hidden, looking out for himself and his younger foster brother, Taye. Now, at 17, Malik is finally ready to start a new life for both of them, far from the trauma of his past. However, a daring act to rescue Taye reveals an unexpected connection with his long-lost grandmother: a legendary conjurer with ties to a hidden magical university that Malik’s mother attended.

At Caiman University, Malik’s eyes are opened to a future he never could have envisioned for himself—one that includes the reappearance of his first love, Alexis. His search for answers about his heritage, his powers, and what really happened to his mother exposes the cracks in their magical community as it faces a reawakened evil dating back to the Haitian Revolution. Together with Alexis, Malik discovers a lot beneath the surface at Caiman: feuding covens and magical politics, forbidden knowledge and buried mysteries. 

In a wholly unique saga of family, history and community, Malik must embrace his legacy to save what’s left of his old family as well as his new one. Exploring the roots and secrets that connect us in an unforgettable contemporary setting, this heart-pounding fantasy series opener is a rich tapestry of atmosphere, intrigue, and emotion.


It’s a whole lotta witchcraft and niggatry in this bitch.

The state-of-the-art classroom opens to us through the double doors, like a big lecture hall or more like a movie theater. A whiteboard is stationed in the middle, right behind a mahogany desk. Cushioned seats are tiered up several rows. Big square-shaped windows that allow a whole buncha sunlight to creep in are placed on each corner of the paneled walls. Right above are fluorescent lights throbbing with a buzz.

No cap, this shiiiiit is on a whole other level.

“I’m sure you got the grand tour,” Alexis says while we walk toward the middle three rows. If it’s assigned seating in this class, I’mma go off because I wanna sit by Alexis. We go up a couple of steps, maneuvering right to the middle of the curved part of the assembled seats.

“Yeah, Chancellor Taron kinda gave me one, and then this Professor Kumale came in. He showed me some dope stuff.”

Savon and Elijah park themselves right beside us, pushing Donja’s raised feet off the back of a seat. Savon, Elijah, and Donja cut up, laughing.

“We thought we were gonna be late,” Savon says, out of breath. “Somebody just had to go back to the dorm.”

Elijah pulls out a bag of chocolate-covered pretzels. “Now you know I get real hangry around this time.” He looks at me, licking the chocolate off his fingertips. “Low blood sugar.”

Alexis rolls her eyes. “You made it just in time.”

Elijah hops over a chair and turns around to face us. “We made a bet: ancient Rome.”

Alexis leans forward. “Hmmm, I’m thinking North Africa or Spain, ’cause I wanna see the Moors. Ooh, maybe ancient Australia to see the Aboriginals?”

Savon shakes their head. “Australia? Hell to the no, chile.” Low-key, they’re kinda funny. “All those spiders and big-ass bugs? Count me out.”

Alexis turns to me, beaming. “So, Professor Kumale is like the Black Ms. Frizzle, and we get to go to different time periods to learn about the history.”

“Wait—like actual time travel? Professor Kumale told me that’s temporary?”

They all bust out laughing. My face is on fire, but I hide it by forcing a smile.

“Aww, he’s too cute,” Savon utters. “Nah, we just use our magic to tap into the past.”

“It’s like our own lil’ field trip,” Elijah adds, holding up his hand like he’s John Singleton.

“IMAX-style,” Savon says.

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Blood at the Root
Blood at the Root

Blood at the Root

LaDarrion Williams

Alexis takes out her thick notebook full of jotted notes. “Yeah, it’s not like you’re really there, but you do get to experience it in, like, 3-D.”

“Bet,” I mumble, a bit nervous.

The door flies open all dramatically. Professor Kumale strides in with his bag attached to his shoulder. He has a different type of swag to him when he steps over that threshold. He’s in full-on professor mode.

Bon maten, klas. I know you’ve all been waiting to see where we will go to next.” He stops, making everybody hella nervous with his teasing pause. “Pop quiz first.”

The class groans and throws up their hands.

“Just one question, and I’ll tell you all, I promise. Who were the first ones to abolish slavery?”

A random hand shoots up. It’s a girl down in front. “Abraham Lincoln, right? He started the abolishment of slavery in 1863.”

Professor Kumale shakes his head, then looks for another answer in the crowd.

Savon shoots their hand up. “The first nation to actually abolish slavery was Haiti in the Haitian revolutionary war in 1804.”

Professor Kumale grins.

A knowing gasp ripples from everybody except me—my ass is still confused on how we finna do this.

“Wait, Professor Kumale, are you serious?!” Elijah daps up this dude next to him. “Oh, this is about to be everything.”

“Yes.” Professor Kumale throws his head back. “I figured I’d take you all to my homeland so you can learn the history of Haiti. See how one of the bravest revolutionaries, Dutty Boukman, incited a rebellion that changed history forever.”

He claps his hands. Out of nowhere, a projector on the ceiling cuts on, rolling like a countdown of a movie. From it, a picture of a Black man with scars running down his face like tears appears on the board.

“Dutty Boukman was a warrior. A powerful Voodoo priest and a leader of the Maroons who led the charge in 1791 that birthed the very genesis of Haiti.”

“Professor Kumale,” Donja speaks up, “is it true that Dutty Boukman was a part of the Bokors and sacrificed a young conjurer to win the war?”


Nothing but stressed whispers fluttering around the room. Folks looking on edge. Professor Kumale tries to regain the attention of the class.

“Interesting question, Donja. There were rumors on that. However, Dutty Boukman was a hero that held a ceremony at Bois Caiman, and he, along with many elders in our magic, sacrificed a great deal to lead their people to freedom. Even if it meant bloodshed.”

Donja twists his lips, writing something in his notebook. Another round of whispered “Bokors.”

“We are ready.” Alexis bats those beautiful brown eyes at me. Random bouts of fluttering butterflies are back in the pit of my stomach. “Don’t worry. You’ll see why we all are doing the most right now.”

Professor Kumale crosses to the board to write: HAITIAN REVOLUTION. The words start to jumble, glowing like they got hooked up to some neon lighting.

Titters and whispers sweep the room.

“Who here can actually tell me about the Haitian Revolution?” Professor Kumale’s accent is deep in his Kreyol. “Mr. Baron?”

Nothing but quiet, and everybody turns to me, waiting for me to say something. My body reacts in a learned response, and that’s to sit up in my seat. The answer lingers on the tip of my tongue. “It’s when they went to war in Haiti.”

A beat. Damn, was that the wrong answer?

“Yes, that is correct. Good job, Mr. Baron. And why isn’t it widely taught?” He points to Savon. “Savon Carrington?”

Savon leans forward. “Present, Professor?”

“Care to add?”

Savon’s mood completely changes. They’re in smart student mode. “Well, we know why. It’s political. Just like everything in this world. Because the normal boring-ass American school system is racially biased. Also, they feel that didn’t have much to do with America herself. But the reeeeal tea is that Thomas Jefferson felt that the revolution happening down in Haiti was going to cause an insurrection against slavery here in America. Thereby threatening America’s economic interest. Hmph. He didn’t want that smoke. He surely did not… ”

A few snaps from Alexis’s crew.

All of this got me redoubling my focus. My eyes pan the room, taking in every point of view. Professor Kumale then points to a dude in the front.

“Whew, he is foooine as all get-out, and thooose lips,” Savon faux-whispers to Alexis.

“Chile, he got a girlfriend… or boyfriend?”

“Yo ass just need to ask him out,” Elijah tells Savon.

“I heard he likes both,” Alexis utters. “Had Antoine in his dorm room a month ago. Chiiiiilllle.”

Under their breath, I finally hear them say his name. D Low.

“Well, Professor,” D Low begins. “Let’s be honest, it’s some Black folks hackin’ white Frenchmen’s heads off. You know they don’t wanna teach none of that. I mean, look how they’re actively banning books down here in Louisiana. Florida. Alabama. Texas. They’re erasing our truth. Our trials and tribulations.”

Savon throws a praising hand. “America got ninety-nine problems, but the truth ain’t one.”

D Low and a couple of dudes dap one another up.

A girl in the front raises her hand. She’s baaaaadddd as heyell. Long twisted braids. Pretty melanated skin. “Yeah, unless it has something to do with slavery, they always gotta add a white savior in the story.”

Everybody in class offers their chiles or you better say thats.

My knee bounces up and down.

A bit wound up.

So much knowledge.

Alexis doesn’t even raise her hand. “The Haitian Revolution was a successful insurrection led by Toussaint Louverture. It was the only revolution or rebellion that led Haiti to be free from slavery. It was against white supremacy. Against all that they’d ever known. That is the real reason why it’s not taught. It’s also how we got our name for the university. The war was fought at Bois Caiman, and word on the street is that’s where they performed spells to call on the orisha Ogun to help them fight for their independence. The elders decided to name this very university after it to pay homage to those who fought in the war.”

Okay. Alexis be on her shit.

“This is why the Catholic and Christian missionaries made it their mission to demonize Haitian spiritual practices. Spreading misinformation about Haitian Vodou. Villainizing Black magic,” she continues.

Another hand shoots up. It’s the girl with the long braids. Professor Kumale clocks it. “Yes, Dominique.”

Dominique swishes one of her braids to the side. “I’m piggybacking off Alexis. It’s the American media’s false portrayal of West African Vodun for me. Making white women victims or heroes in magical stories, while Black witches are nonexistent or are sacrificial lambs to save the white main characters.”

Her homegirls snap their fingers in agreement.

I clock Alexis throwing hella shade.

The competition and tension between them are thick like expired syrup.

“Chile, the way they be portraying Black witches on TV is atrocious,” Savon comments, holding a fist in the air like a revolutionary. “Hashtag-justice-for-Bonnie-Bennet. ’Cause they won’t see heaven for how they did my girl.”

Professor Kumale steps from the board with a dry-erase marker twirling between his fingers. “The passion in this room is inspiring. It’s the same passion that inspired warriors in Haiti in 1791.”

“Okay, can we go now?” Savon is about to bust out of their seat.

“I guess I can show you better than I can tell you. This here is the psychometry spell. We can tap into the past. It’s a very skillful spell. Now, remember, this is a mere memory. Nothing or no one in here can touch or harm you. But I must warn you”—his eyes scan the entire classroom—“you might not like what you see. So, I urge you to be careful whenever and wherever you are venturing off to.”

Professor Kumale turns toward the whiteboard. The numbers 1791 start to jumble. Vibrate. Making themselves into little ripples.

“Repeat the chant with me.” Professor Kumale whispers in Kreyol, “Moutre m’ sot pase a…”

The whole class repeats in unison: “Moutre m’ sot pase a…”

I attempt to do the same.

Instantly, I feel Professor Kumale’s energy. His magic pulsates and billows around the whole room like electric currents. The projector on the wall shifts like it’s rolling the credits to the greatest war movie ever seen. The way we all move and zip is different this time; it’s more so the building itself is collapsing and disappearing. The tile floors instantly turn into wet, mushy grass. The wall panels shift and move so quickly that they turn into arching trees. Swirling all around me is a plume of thick, burning smoke as the world sits on a tilting axis.

A cacophony of banging drums.

Pounding like heartbeats against someone’s chest. A war call.


A shudder runs through me, blood pounding at my temples. It then turns into a sharp ringing in my left ear. It’s like somebody placed the wrong plug in an amp, and the feedback from the mic is on a thousand.

The wind blows against my skin, making all the hairs stand at attention. The sound of the drums rises and falls, fading into the distance like soft thunder receding in the sky. The grass crunches under my shoes when I stalk off into the deep green foliage. Alexis and Donja go off, disappearing through a cloud of smoke.

“Alexis?” I call out. But the thick air instantly makes my mouth dry as the Sahara.

I’m left alone.

Excerpted from Blood at the Root, copyright © 2024 by LaDarrion Williams.

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