The grim world of Hajime Isayama’s Attack on Titan manga has evolved into a multimedia franchise as gigantic as its titular titan behemoths, with movies, spinoffs, and a popular anime series. But now the series is doing something a little different: an English-language novel for young adults, and io9 has a sneak peek.
Written by Rachel Aaron and published by Quirk Books, Garrison Girl follows an all-new cast of characters rather than Eren and his comrades from the main Attack on Titan story. Set five years after the massive Titans returned to threaten the last vestiges of humanity once more, Garrison Girl introduces Attack on Titan fans to Rosalie DuMarque, the daughter of one of the few noble families left cooped up in humanity’s multi-walled city. She defies her father’s wishes and signs up to join the Garrison, the largest of the military forces tasked with protecting the city’s walls from the Titan threat.
But instead of simply getting a chance to go beyond the walls that have surrounded her entire life, Rosalie finds herself thrust into more problems than just the giant, human-consuming monsters on her doorstep, whether it’s earning the trust of her fellow comrades in arms, dealing with the corruption rooted within the city’s ruling classes, or...well, you know, the giant, human-consuming monsters. That’s not the only problem, but it’s probably the biggest! Without further ado, here’s a hefty snippet of Garrison Girl, introducing us to Rose’s plight.
On a clear day, from the top of her house, Rosalie Dumarque could see all that was left of the human world.
Standing on the peaked roof of the colossal Dumarque Manor, which was itself perched atop one of the tallest hills in the district, she could look right over the fifty-meter-high circle of Wall Sina into the terrain beyond. This early in the morning, the towns and fields of the Rose Zone were still hazy with the autumn fog, but if she squinted, Rosalie could just make out the white ribbon of Wall Rose running along the horizon, 130 kilometers away.
The sight never failed to make her stomach tighten. More than a marvel of engineering, Wall Rose was a boundary. The fifty-meter- tall circle of stone marked the edge of human civilization, the end of the world.
It hadn’t always been this way. For most other childhood, the end of the world had been at Wall Maria, nearly twice as far away. Growing up, Rosalie had considered the walls a default component of reality, like the sky or the ground. They were always there, the unbreakable barrier that shielded everything she knew from the monsters that stalked the wilderness beyond.
Then, five years ago, the monsters had broken through.
In a single day, the land left to humanity was diminished by a third. With Wall Maria broken, all territory between it and Wall Rose—all the cities and farms and forests in the Maria Zone—was now the domain of titans, not humans.
Rosalie’s personal world was even smaller. She’d never been allowed outside Wall Sina, the heavily fortified inner ring that protected the king and all the noble families. She failed to see much difference; big or small, a prison was a prison. So long as titans existed, the world would always be walled in. And humans were no better than cattle in a pen, patiently waiting for the day the wolves broke through to finish them off.
As always, that bitter realization ruined the view. Clenching her fists, Rosalie pushed off the chimney she’d been leaning against and started down the steep roof. A few of the clay tiles shifted under her feet, reminding her sharply of the long fall to the ground below, but Rosalie wasn’t afraid. She’d never been as graceful as her elegant older sisters, but her time in the Royal Military Academy had toned her muscles, honed her sense of balance, and erased any fear of heights. Also, she’d been climbing up here since she was tall enough to push open her bedroom window. She knew every wobbly tile by heart.
When she reached the edge of the slanted tiles, Rosalie lowered herself to sit back on her heels. Down below, her family’s estate—extravagant even by noble standards—spread out like a perfect green carpet all the way to the base of Wall Sina. The army of groundskeepers was already hard at work pruning fruit trees, weeding flower beds, bringing in sheep to crop the grass, and all the other essentials necessary to keep the massive estate looking well kept.
She knew exactly how many essentials there were. Her mother had drilled her on proper land management for years, in preparation for the day when Rosalie would be lady of her own house. Soon, she’d be the one whose world revolved around making sure all the tedious little details of keeping up appearances were taken care of.
But not just yet.
Rosalie rose back to her feet. A wind blew up from the south as she stood, blowing a wisp of her blonde hair loose from its braid and into her face. Rosalie tucked the strand behind her ear impatiently as she turned to stare at Wall Rose again, its curved white line gleaming back at her like a mocking grin.
Rosalie grabbed the lip of the roof and lowered herself to her bedroom window to do what she’d come home to do.
Even with a maid to help fix her hair and lace her into the Roy- al Military Academy’s fifteen-part dress uniform—sans swords, sheaths, spare blades, and vertical maneuvering gear—it still took Rosalie a good twenty minutes to dress. It took ten more to make her way down the stairs from the family wing, across the rose gar- den, through the grand ballroom, and up the stairs again to the thick carpeted hallway outside her father’s office.
She knocked and stood at attention, holding herself as straight as possible while the ancient butler opened the door. As always, the old man gave Rosalie a sour look before shuffling sideways to reveal her father sitting at his desk.
Unlike Rosalie with her too-young face and highly unladylike habit of fidgeting, Charles Dumarque carried himself as every inch the noble lord he’d been bred to be. Even eating breakfast in his office at six in the morning, Lord Dumarque was impeccably dressed in the full officer’s uniform of the Military Police. Every fold was pressed to a perfect crease, every medal on his chest polished to a mirror gleam. Even his hair—thinning now, but still the same golden color as Rosalie’s—lay in rigid order, the short-clipped strands not daring to stir when he lifted his head to glare at his youngest daughter.
“I was wondering when you’d come,” he said, reaching to turn down the oil lamp that was flickering on the shadowed side of his writing desk. Rosalie took that as evidence he’d started working before the sun rose. Her father didn’t sleep through the night very often anymore. Not since the fall of Maria.
“Leave us,” he told the butler.
The old servant bowed and left. When the door clicked softly behind him, Rosalie took a deep breath. “Father, I—”
She scowled. “But I haven’t even told you—”
“You don’t have to,” he said sharply, moving the neat stack of papers to the side of his desk so he could focus the undivided force of his irritated attention on her. “There’s only one reason you’d show up in my office wearing that uniform, and the answer is no. No, you may not enlist in the Military Police. No, you may not apply to the king’s guard. No, you may not join the Garrison at Sina. And no, I will not allow you to re-enroll for another term at the academy.” He arched a perfect eyebrow. “Did I miss anything?”
“With respect, sir,” Rosalie said, fighting to keep her voice lev- el, “I graduated from the Royal Military Academy at the top of my class. What was the point of all that training if I never get to use it?” “A military education is never a waste,” her father replied. “But you’ve had your fun, Rosalie. I let you play solider at the academy far longer than most fathers would, but it’s time to grow up. You’re sixteen now, a young lady, and you’re engaged to be married.”
“Not for six months,” Rosalie reminded him. “The engagement contract clearly states that I can’t be married until I turn seventeen.”
“I am well aware of the contract I signed,” he said, picking up a gold-rimmed teacup from the tray on his desk. “But that doesn’t change the fact that by this time next year, you’ll be a wife and running a household of your own. That’s your future, Rosalie. That’s the life you should be preparing for. I know Ferdinand Smythe isn’t the best match, but he’s rich, and given all the timberland we lost when Maria fell, money’s what we need. This is your duty to the family. I won’t ask you to be happy about it, but I do expect you to perform it as befits a lady of your station.”
By the time he finished, Rosalie was imagining throwing his fancy teacup in his face. She clamped down on the urge at once. She’d spent the last week crafting a strategy for this conversation, one that even her harshest military science instructor would have approved of. But it was all for nothing if she let him make her too angry to use it.
“I’m not trying to get out of my responsibilities,” she said with forced calm. “I’m holding you to yours. You promised when I got engaged that I could live as I wanted until my seventeenth birthday. Unless you’re going back on your word, that means the next six months are still mine, and I intend to make the most of them.”
“Doing what?” her father said, setting his cup down with a decisive clink. “Standing on top of Wall Sina with the Garrison and watching traffic come through the gate?”
“I don’t want to go to Sina,” she said, taking a deep breath. Here it went. “I want to join a Rose Garrison.”
Lord Dumarque scoffed. “Don’t be absurd. You know nothing about what it’s really like out there. You’ve never even been beyond Wall Sina, much less seen a real titan.”
“And I never will get beyond Sina if you have your way,” Rosalie said. “If I’m to give the rest of my life for the glory of the Dumarque family, the least you can do is let me see what the rest of the world looks like first.”
“There are plenty of places you can visit that aren’t on the front line.”
“I can handle the front,” she said. “I’ve passed all the same exercises as the other recruits. I’ve mastered cannon tactics—standard and advanced—vertical maneuvering gear, sword work, everything I need to fight.”
“Vaulting around a training yard hacking at dummies is a far cry from the real thing,” Lord Dumarque said crossly. “But if you’re that determined to experience a soldier’s life, I suppose I could arrange an internship for you in the Military Police.”
That was more ground than she’d expected him to give this early, but Rosalie wasn’t ready to compromise yet. “And what would I do in the Military Police?”
“Make useful contacts, hopefully,” her father said. “Many noble families have children in the—”
“I know exactly where noble families send their children,” Rosalie said. “They were my classmates. Every recruit in my graduating class applied to join the Military Police. They didn’t care about the war. They just wanted their fancy officer’s degree so they could wear a uniform and get a cushy, safe desk job as far from the titans as possible.”
Lord Dumarque nodded. “A sensible way of thinking.”
“It’s a cowardly way,” Rosalie said, her voice disgusted. “The Royal Academy is the best in the kingdom. We used the newest equipment, learned the most advanced tactics, no expense spared. But none of them want to put any part of that education to use. They just want to hide.”
“And you think you’re better if you don’t?” her father snapped, back on the attack. “The Garrison has thousands of soldiers manning the walls. Do you think one more body, even a Dumarque, will make any difference?”
Rosalie stuck her chin out stubbornly. “It will make a difference to me.”
Lord Dumarque leaned forward on his desk, rubbing his gloved hands against his temples. “Rosalie,” he said, his voice exasperated. “I paid for you to go to school so you could learn some sense. Try to use it. You think you can go out there swords swinging like one of the heroes in those ridiculous books you read, but soldiering isn’t some grand adventure. It’s messy, ugly, and tediously brutal. It’s not a game.”
“I never thought it was,” Rosalie said. “But I trained as a solider, so I want to be a soldier, like you are. Our family has always fought in the king’s name. I only have six months left as a Dumarque. Let me use them to make sure our name remains associated with bravery and honor.”
That was her big push, and for a moment, her father almost smiled. “You planned that well,” he said, reaching again for his tea. “But the answer is still no.”
“How can you say that?” Rosalie cried, her carefully maintained calm slipping at last. “You’re always going on and on about our family pride, but you haven’t visited the front lines once since Maria fell. I want to be the Dumarque who doesn’t hide behind Wall Sina! If you really cared about our family’s duty, you’d let me.”
Lord Dumarque’s jaw tightened dangerously. “That’s enough, Rosalie.”
“It is not enough!” she cried. “You want me to be like everyone else and spend my life hiding inside the walls where it’s safe, but that’s an illusion. So long as there are titans out there like the one that kicked down the gate at Shiganshina, no one is safe!”
“That’s enough!” Lord Dumarque cried, rising to his feet. “You will not speak to me in that fashion!”
“I’ll speak however I must to get you to listen for once,” Rosalie said. “These next six months are mine, Father, and you know it. If I want to spend them on the front lines, I will.”
“Want is for children,” he said dismissively. “Adults live in the world of ‘should’ and ‘must.’ You are a noble lady. An engaged lady. You can’t be running off to fight titans!”
“And you can’t stop me,” she said. “I know my rights, and I’ll take this matter all the way to the king if you make me. We’ll see what that scandal does to the impending Dumarque-Smythe alliance.”
That was as close to extortion as Rosalie had come, and it made her father angrier than she’d ever seen. It was terrifying to behold, but Rosalie was in this with both feet. If she backed down now, she’d be stuck inside Sina for the rest of her life. She was preparing to launch her next attack when her father suddenly said, “Fine.”
Excerpted from Garrison Girl: An Attack on Titan Novel by Rachel Aaron. Reprinted with permission from Quirk Books.
Garrison Girl hits bookshelves August 7.