Monday, March 27, 2017

Book Review: Bull

Bull by David Elliott

Released (or TO BE on...): March 28, 2017 
Read: January 2017
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books 
Format: ARC, 200 pages
Series: Stand-alone

Description on Goodreads:
    SEE THE STORY OF THESEUS AND THE MINOTAUR
IN A WHOLE NEW LIGHT

Minos thought he could
Pull a fast one
On me,
Poseidon!
God of the Sea!
But I’m the last one
On whom you
Should try such a thing.
The nerve of that guy.
The balls. The audacity.
I AM THE OCEAN!
I got capacity!
Depths! Darkness! Delphic power!
So his sweet little plan
Went big-time sour
And his wife had a son
Born with horns and a muzzle
Who ended up
In an underground puzzle.
What is it with you mortals?
You just can’t seem to learn:
If you play with fire, babies,
You’re gonna get burned.

    Much like Lin-Manuel Miranda did in Hamilton, the New York Times best-selling author David Elliott turns a classic on its head in form and approach, updating the timeless story of Theseus and the Minotaur for a new generation. A rough, rowdy, and darkly comedic young adult retelling in verse, Bull will have readers reevaluating one of mythology's most infamous monsters.

Review:
    I'm not used to reading poetry, I prefer YA fantasy/thriller novels, but I wanted to read Bull based on the fact that it's greek mythology. AND of course, it has a lovely cover. I mean, just look at it! The bull's head is sketched beautifully with emphasis on the bright oval eyes and the midnight black words. Such a masterpiece.
    Now on to the book itself... Poseidon was absolutely hilarious; and I don't mean the Laughs-In-Head-But-Smirking funny, I mean the So-Funny-I-Have-To-Make-Everyone-Around-Me-Read-This-Right-Now funny. I couldn't put it down. The way Poseidon explained everything and could read your mind ( how he calls you out on thinking he should sound more old fashioned), it was extremely entertaining.
    The rest of the characters felt like just that: characters. It felt like Poseidon was the narrator, the main pulling all the strings, and could decide the fate of all the mortals at a flick of his wrist. This was actually more exciting than it probably sounds. It seemed like I was with a storyteller and I couldn't help but be in awe of every twist and turn of the plot. I was the small obedient child listening intently while my elder told me of the old ways. It was fascinating!
    Anyway, the story itself was intriguing. Each character's point of view really added to how the tale was perceived. By showing how Minos felt, I was easily able to understand why he acted the way he did, and the same goes for Pasiphae, Asterion, Ariadne, and Poseidon.
    In this case, the story was indeed incredibly short but that's all I needed. If it was any longer, if the author had tried to expand a scene any further, it might've felt boring at some point. Overall, I would definitely recommend Bull to anyone that likes greek mythology, the story of the Minotaur, or comedic poetry.


Favourite Quotes (When reading them, don't forget to rhyme it in your head, and the capitals start a new line in the poem!):


  • " So he wonders, If I'd give the people And omen, A sign, Something impressive, He says, something divine. Anything to prove He's the man For the royal job. So what the fuck, I think. I'm gonna help this slob."-Poseidon
  • " Be glad that I did! If I hadn't? No story. You know the drill: No guts. No glory. Now you're grossed out? Well, Life's not for wimps. Sometimes gods are gods And sometimes they're pimps." -Poseidon
  • "You'll argue he was just Putting into practice The philosophy of eye for eye. Say what you will. I don't mind; But now we know Why Justice is blind."-Poseidon
  • "Maybe we should call a hotline. But it's such a yummy plot line..." -Poseidon

Rating: 8/10

Recommended if you like: greek mythology, modernly-written poetry, comedies, poetry in general, short-but-sweet stories, the story of the Minotaur

Keep flipping pages,
Lauren


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Book Review: Caraval



27883214Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Released: January 31st, 2017
Read: February 2017
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Format: Hardcover, 407 pages
Series: Caraval 1

Description from Goodreads:

Whatever you've heard about Caraval, it doesn't compare to the reality. It's more than just a game or a performance. It's the closest you'll ever find to magic in this world . . . 

Welcome, welcome to Caraval―Stephanie Garber’s sweeping tale of two sisters who escape their ruthless father when they enter the dangerous intrigue of a legendary game.

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.


Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.

Review:

Holy crap this book knocked my socks off. Big time. The world that Garber painted was so real and so vivid, you could literally taste the magic in the air. I loved this book from start to finish, and it really didn't have that "boring" intro part that plagues so many YA novels today. From the beginning, I could sense that this a book, singular in it's brilliance. I thought that it was so intriguing, and I loved the characters! All of the characters felt so round, and were fully developed, it seemed that there was no line where the characters began, and their stories ended. It was seamless to say the least. Plus the plot was one of the best I've read in a good long while. It kept me guessing, and the twists and turns that it took were really hard to follow (but in a really great way!). I was kept on my toes, and I loved that there was so much to soak up. I couldn't put this book down, and I'm pretty sure I read it in a manner of two days. Plus the romance in the novel was so adorable! I really thought that it was a nice touch to the plot. In all honesty, I simply cannot wait for the sequel to drop! 

Favourite Quote:

"She imagined loving him would feel like falling in love with darkness, frightening and consuming yet utterly beautiful when the stars came out.” 

― Stephanie Garber, Caraval

Rating:

9.5/10 Stars

Reccomended for people who enjoy: mystery, romance, magic, fantasy, mind games, the carnival

Happy Reading,
Mari

Monday, March 20, 2017

Book Review: Meg & Linus

  Meg & Linus by Hanna Nowinski

Released: April 17th, 2017
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Format: ARC, 323 pages
Read: March 2017

Description from GoodReads: Meg and Linus are best friends bound by a shared love of school, a coffee obsession, and being queer. It’s not always easy to be the nerdy lesbian or gay kid in a suburban town. But they have each other. And a few Star Trek boxed sets. They're pretty happy.
   But then Sophia, Meg’s longtime girlfriend, breaks up with Meg. Linus starts tutoring the totally dreamy new kid, Danny—and Meg thinks setting them up is the perfect project to distract herself from her own heartbreak. But Linus isn’t so sure Danny even likes guys, and maybe Sophia isn't quite as out of the picture as Meg thought she was. . .

Review: This book was exactly the way I thought it was going to be. That's not a bad thing, necessarily. It sounded like the main focus would be on relationships, whether platonic or romantic, and it was. I figured it would have complex and flawed characters that didn't fit in the stereotypes put on them, and it did. I guessed that it would be an easy read, and yeah, it was. 
   Everyone needs books like this, where you worry about the characters, but you know they're going to be fine in the end. This book makes a good "break" novel. When you need a break from super-dramatic books, this one is here for you.
   This book also dealt well with more than a few issues. The sexualities of the main characters wasn't their identity, but it did dip casually into the bullying they had faced. It also, I feel, pretty accurately described the feelings after a breakup. I mean, I don't think most people meddle in their best friends love life instead of dealing with their issues, but apart from that, it seemed realistic.
   Some of the dialogue can be a little off, but I can let it slide, since the author is German.

Rating: 8/10

Read if You Liked: Queens of Geek, most books published by Swoon Reads, meddling

Optimistically yours, Ola <3

Friday, March 17, 2017

Book Review: Three Dark Crowns

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

Released: September 20, 2016
Read: September 2016
Publisher: HarperTeen 
Format: ARC, 416 pages
Series: Three Dark Crowns #1


Description on Goodreads:

    Fans of acclaimed author Kendare Blake’s Anna Dressed in Bloodwill devour her latest novel, a dark and inventive fantasy about three sisters who must fight to the death to become queen. 
    In every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.
    But becoming the Queen crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose...it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins.
    The last queen standing gets the crown.

Review:
    I read Three Dark Crowns such a long time ago, but it's not until now that I FINALLY figured out exactly what I want to say. Being one of my utmost favourite novels, I didn't know how to start this review and I didn't want to screw it up. So here goes nothing.
   Katharine, Mirabella and Arsinoe are each fierce and riveting in their own way. It is clear right from the start that the people who raised each child had a massive impact on their behaviour and attitude. Arsinoe is a wild child that lives for the moment and ignores her queenly duties as much as possible. She doesn't like rules and is more interested in going on adventures than winning the crown. Jules, and the rest of her family, treated Arsinoe like a child (as she was) and not like the future queen. And rightly so. She got to have fun before she was forced to grow up, and that's an important perspective to have. Knowing how the villagers think and feel will bring Fennbirn into a better state of peace, making Arsinoe an accomplished queen. 
    Katharine on the other hand was raised to take what was hers and stomp on those who got in her way. She's somewhat blood thirsty, as she tries to be as ruthless as Genevieve and Natalia want her to be, but has a kind heart at times. She's more of a weakling and is intimidated easily, although she has put up with emotional and physical abuse most of her life. She's a strongly built character, and I don't mean physically. When you read about her, you feel like she's a real person and you come to learn how she'll react to certain situations. 
   Mirabella was definitely my favourite of the queens. I found her the most relatable and such a badass when it came to her gift. Her powers over wind, lightning, water and fire give her an advantage over her sisters, along with the lengthy amount of practice she's had over he years. Meanwhile, her home life is a lot healthier than Katharine's. She has a nice reliable foster family and friends that would do anything for her. I liked reading from Mira's point of view so much because of her curious nature. She was told all her life that her sisters were monsters and that when the time came, they'd slaughter her if she hesitates to kill them. Of course she'd doubt this and want to know more. That's what I admired; she didn't just believe what everyone said, she wanted to know herself what Katharine and Arsine were like. 
    The events of the book were enticing and I loved that you could read what was happening with one sister while knowing exactly what another was doing on the other side of Fennbirn. 
    Now about the romances... there was a LOT going on. I don't want to spoil too much, because it's not obvious who ends up with who, but I liked that the love triangles criss-crossed between the Elementalists, Naturalists, and Poisoners.
    Overall I would DEFINITELY recommend Three Dark Crowns, not just for the epic plot line and extravagant characters, but for the beautiful cover as well.

Favourite Quotes:


  • “Queens do not remember these things,"

          "Saying so does not make it true."
          "You will need it to be true, for it is too cruel otherwise, to force a Queen to kill what she loves. Her own sisters. And for her to see that which she loves come at her door like wolves, seeking her head.”

  • “His eyes, when they meet hers, are like the storm. Perhaps he is not a boy at all, but some elemental thing, made by the crashing water and the endless thunder.” 
  • "We are all dual-natured, Queen Mirabella. Every gift is light and dark. We naturalists can make things grow, but we also coax lobsters into pots, and our families tear rabbits to shreds."
  • "I could never hate you, but if you do not leave now, my cat will tear your throat out."


Rating: 9.5/10

Recommended if you like: witchcraft, powers, nature, finding the evil within characters, making a new OTP, unexpected endings, the elements (as in air, fire, water, earth), other novels by Kendare Blake, competitions to the death, reading about close relationships between people and their 'pets', adventure, slight romance (the book doesn't get very mushy)

Keep flipping pages,
Lauren

Saturday, March 11, 2017

The Witch Who Came in from the Cold













Hey guys!
   It's Ola here and I just heard about this wicked cool thing that at least I've never heard of before. It's like a weekly podcast or tv show, but in book form. Isn't that cool? This one specifically is The Witch Who Came in From The Cold, a fantasy-espionage thriller from Serial Box. It sounds absolutely amazing, and is available in text and audio. It's also a collaborative effort between multiple authors like Lindsay Smith, Max Gladstone, Cassandra Rose Clarke, Ian Tregillis, Michael Swanwick, and Fran Wilde. Cool, right?

 Description: Welcome to Prague, 1970: the epicenter in a struggle of spies and sorcerers. The Witch Who Came In From The Cold follows agents on opposing sides of two struggles: the Cold War, and an ancient conflict between two occult secret societies: the Consortium of Ice and the Acolytes of Flame. A CIA and KGB agent will find their loyalties to country tested when they realize they must work together to prevent the destruction of the world at the hands of the Flame. 
            Gabe Pritchard, grizzled CIA agent and proud American never believed in sorcery - until he walked into the wrong room in Cairo and ended up with a powerful magical Elemental living inside his head. Tanya Morozova, latest in a long line of Ice Witches, knew loyalty to the Consortium before she ever took up the KGB badge. Now they’re both stationed to Prague, a city built on powerful ley lines and thrumming with both political and magical tension.
            In Season One, a CIA extraction of a Soviet scientist ended in chaos when one of the American operatives betrayed the U.S. in order to deliver the magically-powerful scientist to the Flame. Tanya and Gabe worked together to foil the plot - but trust is hard to come by amongst spies and suspicion lingers throughout their agencies, both magical and national.
            In Season Two, Tanya and Gabe must deal with the fallout of their actions from Season One as each plays their own dangerous game to try to learn the secrets of the Flame without getting burned. Meanwhile a powerful sorcerer arrives in Prague to lead a ritual that could turn the tides of war...

Does that not sound super cool? When was the last time you heard about witches during the Cold War? If you're interested in checking it out:

- This serial first premiered in 2016 and is currently into its second season! You can dive right into Season 1 Episode 1 for free right now - but anyone new to the snow and shadows will find more than enough context to enjoy the adventure from Season 2 on.

- All of Serial Box’s episodes are released simultaneously in text and audio so if you’d like to give your ears a taste, check out this excerpt from Season 2 Episode 1: "Awakening", written by Lindsay Smith! 

- Intrigued? Hop over to SerialBox.com to learn more, start reading Season 1, or dive in to Season 2. New episodes drop every Wednesday! You can also get into the mood with the Cold Witch Pinterest board.

- Follow Serial Box on TwitterInstagram, or Facebook to keep up to date on today's hottest serial fiction.




















Look out in the next few weeks for a review on the first few instalments!
Optimistically yours, Ola <3


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Cover Reveal: The Girl Who Could See


Today Kara Swanson and Rockstar Book Tours are revealing the cover for THE GIRL WHO COULD SEE, which releases June 1, 2017! Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to win a $5 Amazon Gift Card and a copy of the eBook!

On to the reveal!

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Title: THE GIRL WHO COULD SEE
Author: Kara Swanson
Pub. Date: June 1, 2017
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Formats: Paperback, eBook
Pages: 200
Find it: Amazon |  GoodreadsExclusive Excerpt!


CHAPTER ONE
Present Time

On television, they never tell you how cold it is.

They might show you the dimly lit room or the hard, uninviting chairs—stark reminders that you have no power here. They may depict the lonesome table separating you from the elderly agent with the stone-grey eyes. But those cop shows never depict what a chilly affair an FBI interrogation truly is. If their aim is to make this process as intimidating as possible—it’s working.

I wrap my hands around bare shoulders, fingertips far colder than the skin exposed by my red tank top. Brilliant move, Fern. Wear a scarf, but forget your jacket. Stifling a shudder, I try to meet the sharp gaze of Agent Barstow standing rigidly across from me.

“I don’t know where you’re from, miss Johnson—but in LA, state-of-the-art buildings don’t just crumble.” His voice is gravelly, matching the jagged lines of his dark skin and weathered face. 
“Federal buildings, no less. There one minute and the next... destroyed.”

His tone chills me even more, and I tug nervously on my scarf. His arms slowly unwind from his chest as he takes a deliberate two steps toward me. “We’ve had everyone on the disaster—CIA, local police, firemen...heck, we even called NASA. No one can find a plausible reason why a skyscraper, in excellent repair, would collapse like that. No one, that is, except you.”

I fight the urge to bolt for the door a he leans down, palms flat on the table, so close I can make out the creases on his dark suit. “You warned us of an attack in that area two weeks ago. How did you know?”

I suck in a deep breath as his voice lowers, dark fists tightening on the edge of the table. “Are you involved with a terrorist organization?”

I almost laugh at his words, at how they couldn’t be farther from the truth. I’m here to save LA, not destroy it. To save everyone. And I don’t have much time—none of us do. If I can’t gain this man’s trust, a shattered building is nothing compared to what will come next.

“No, sir.” I shove my shaking hands beneath my legs as I glimpse a pair of lucid blue eyes over the agent’s shoulder. They shouldn’t be there—and I know not to stare. But those eyes that only I can see are the reason I warned the FBI in the first place. Their owner the reason I’m even sitting in this room.

Licking my lips, I keep my attention on Barstow. I’ve wanted this for years. Someone to listen. Really listen. And it’s the FBI, no less. Be careful here.

When I open my mouth, the words are calm and steady. I hope they’re convincing—they have to be convincing. “I knew about the incident, Agent Barstow, because my friend warned me.” Throat suddenly dry, I look away. “My imaginary friend.


About Kara: 
Displaying Kara Swanson.jpg

As the daughter of missionaries, KARA SWANSON spent sixteen years of her young life in the jungles of Papua New Guinea. Able to relate with characters dropped suddenly into a unique new world, shquickly fell in love with the speculative genre and was soon penning stories herself.

At seventeen, she independently published a fantasy novel, Pearl of Merlydia. She has since published many articles, including one in the Encounter magazine. Kara received the Mount Hermon Most Promising Teen Writer Award in 2015. You can find her on Facebook as Kara Swanson, Author, or attempting to be artistic over on Instagram (@karaswanson_author). When she’s not creating new stories and placing characters in peril, she’s probably binge-watching Marvel movies, playing with her huskies, reading till two in the morning or experimenting with a dairy-free mocha Frappuccino (skills, I’m telling you).

Giveaway Details:
(1) winner will receive a $5 Amazon Gift Card, US Only.
(1) will receive an Advanced eBook Copy of THE GIRL WHO COULD SEE, International.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Well let us know what you think of the cover below!
Your Friends, 

The Autumn Bookshelf

Monday, March 6, 2017

Book Blitz: The Great Pursuit

Displaying THE GREAT PURSUIT.jpg


We are so excited that THE GREAT PURSUIT by Wendy Higgins is available now and that we get to share the news!

If you haven’t yet heard about this wonderful book by Author Wendy Higgins, be sure to check out all the details below.


This blitz also includes a giveaway for some amazing prizes! So if you’d like a chance to win, enter in the Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post.


Displaying TheGreatPursuitFinal.jpg
Title: THE GREAT PURSUIT (Eurona Duology #2)
Author: Wendy Higgins
Pub. Date: March 7, 2017
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 512
Formats: Hardcover, eBook, audiobook
Find it: Amazon, B&N, iBooks, Audible


In The Great Pursuit, the dramatic sequel to the New York Times bestselling The Great Hunt, Wendy Higgins delivers another thrilling fantasy filled with dangerous enemies, political intrigue, searing romance, and a princess who is willing to do everything to protect her kingdom. 

One hunt has ended, but the pursuit for love and justice continues.

The kingdom of Lochlanach has traded the great beast that once terrorized the realm of Eurona for something far more dangerous: the ire of powerful Lashed woman Rosaria Rocato. Rosaria demands that Eurona overturn the laws prohibiting magic, or an innocent will be killed each day.

Despite the king’s resistance, Princess Aerity believes they must make peace with the Lashed, and though she’s accepted a betrothal to the man who took down the beast, she cannot help thinking about Paxton, the Lashed man who stole her heart and disappeared.

Aerity soon discovers that Paxton has joined Rosaria’s army in the war against her family. Though her feelings for him are still strong, her duty to her kingdom and her family is stronger—especially when her parents are kidnapped and she has to step up to the throne and once again put aside what’s best for her in order to do what’s best for her people. Paxton and Princess Aerity must fight to see what is more powerful: their love or the impending war between the magical Lashed and the non-magic humans.

Grab the eBook 1 THE GREAT HUNT for just $1.99!



Excerpt:

A new beast roamed the kingdom of Lochlanach, killing at will. A second unnatural monster created by the hands of Rozaria Rocato, granddaughter of the most infamous and hated Lashed One of all time. Princess Aerity Lochson’s mind was a blur of piled-up worries as she rushed from High Hall of the castle, away from the frightened commoners and guests who’d come for her betrothal ceremony, and toward the office of her father, King Charles. She turned at the sound of heavy footsteps behind her and found both her childhood friend Lieutenant Harrison Gillfin and her betrothed, Lord Lief Alvi, following. Lord Alvi looked every bit the hero—his broad stature striking, with elk furs about his shoulders and a black kilt to his knees above leather boots. His blue eyes were filled with bright passion and hunger, but those emotions were not for her. They were for the beast. The new hunt.

He had killed the first creature, thereby earning her hand in marriage. The thought twisted Aerity’s stomach with discomfort and turned her mind to the man who’d disappeared weeks before when the beast was killed—the Lashed man who’d taken her heart with him and would likely never return. She clenched her jaw. This was no time to think of Paxton Seabolt or her drowned desires. The kingdom was suffering again—rendering everything she’d sacrificed to have been in vain.
Her eyes shifted from Lord Alvi’s to Harrison’s and found a fierce, protective comfort there. Harrison stood tall, lean, and capable. Never faltering. The thought of her noble friend fighting yet another beast filled her with sharp fear. So many lives had already been lost, including Harrison’s cousin Breckon, who’d been the true love of Aerity’s cousin Wyneth. Half a year was all it had taken to trample the dreams and futures of so many.

Aerity gave the men a nod to follow her. She lifted her long white skirts and moved quickly down the tapestry-lined hallway to her father’s office. Guards and soldiers ran past, shouting orders, fully armed with bows, swords, and lines of throwing daggers strapped across their uniformed tunics.

She opened the door without knocking. No fewer than twenty faces shot toward her. She recognized the burgundy red hair of her mother, along with her aunts and uncles, military elite, and royal advisers. Her father invited them in with a quick flick of his fingers.

When the door closed he asked her, “What is the state of things in High Hall?”

“The people seemed to have calmed for the moment, Father,” Aerity said. “And supper is being served.”

“Your daughter gave a rousing speech,” Lord Alvi pro- claimed in his rumbling voice. “She is to thank for the calm.” Aerity’s face flushed with heat at the unexpected compliment. Then he put a heavy hand on her shoulder and pulled her close. Aerity fought the urge to shrug away. For the sake of the kingdom, she had made a commitment to become his bride, and she would follow through regardless of what her heart wanted, and regardless of the fact that she was certain feelings had grown between Lief and Wyneth.“Did she?” The king’s eyes softened with pride, and her mother, Queen Leighlane, smiled at Aerity and Lief, no doubt thinking what a lovely couple they were. If she only knew.

Behind them Harrison cleared his throat. “Are we to begin hunting the creature, Your Majesty?”

King Charles nodded, his face lined with anxiety. “Aye. But most of the hunters have dispersed.” Or been killed, Aerity thought with sorrow, remembering the men who’d come from all over Eurona and even a huntress who’d lost her life.

“I can have a message sent to Tiern Seabolt,” Harrison said. “I’m certain he would return with haste.”

Aerity’s abdomen tightened. Tiern was Paxton’s younger brother. He’d nearly been killed by the first beast and had been saved by Paxton’s Lashed magic. It was the very reason Pax had fled the kingdom—using magic was illegal, even to heal. Aerity didn’t want Tiern to hunt again. She didn’t want Paxton’s sacrifice to have been a waste.

“And his older brother?” the king asked.

“Nay.” Harrison paused. “He disappeared after the hunt. We don’t know his whereabouts.”

“Must you call Tiern back?” Aerity asked. When her father’s eyebrows drew together she emended, “He’s . . . so young.”

“He’s the same age as you, Daughter,” the king reminded her. “Seventeen. A man who’s already proven himself in the hunt.” Aerity pressed her lips together and nodded. She could not keep Tiern safe any more than she could force Harrison to stay out of harm’s reach. Their heroic hearts would urge them forward.

“And why should you oppose it?” her uncle Preston asked haughtily. “The first proclamation provided you with a fine match. It can do the same for Vixie.”

Aerity stilled, forcing back the torrent of words that flooded her mind: unfair, poor match, confinement, no joy, no love. She was to endure those things for her kingdom, but the thought of Vixie losing her freedom to choose her future . . . it gutted Aerity. She knew how it appeared to the world—that she’d landed a handsome, noble, brave lord—but the heart didn’t care about appearances. It wanted who it wanted.

“And then what?” Aerity asked. “Who shall we offer for the next beast, and the one after that? Your own Wyneth? Or perhaps six-year-old Merity?”

Lord Wavecrest scowled.

“Enough, Aerity,” Queen Leighlane said quietly. Aerity met her mother’s eyes and felt an understanding there. No one knew better than the two of them how this would crush Vixie’s spirit. These men couldn’t possibly understand.

“Vixie’s nearly sixteen,” Lord Wavecrest pressed. Aerity wanted to claw out his eyes and force him to stop speaking.

“A proclamation offering Vixie’s hand will be my very last resort,” King Charles said, standing taller. “It is my hope that the people will rise of their own free will to protect their families and lands as they did in the last hunt. I will not hinder them with further curfews.”

Lord Wavecrest shook his head and crossed his arms. Aerity breathed a temporary sigh of relief.
“Sire, we should address the other part of the Rocato woman’s letter.” This was from the king’s oldest adviser, Duke Gulfton. This duke had been the closest adviser to Aerity’s grandfather King Leon. His views on the Lashed were legendarily conservative and strict, and he was a proponent of keeping the Lashed lists up to date. All persons with Lashed capabilities and their families were notated in the records and checked regularly for markings.The stooped man wore a sea-green robe around his shoulders and a perpetual serious frown on his face. He leaned on his cane. “We cannot do as the Rocato woman demands. We cannot burn our records of Lashed Ones in these lands, or give them rein to take over our kingdom.”

A few of the other older men murmured their agreement.

Harrison stepped forward. “What if we made a copy of the list? Then it wouldn’t matter if one was destroyed.”

“I’ve got scribes copying pages as we speak,” the king responded. “But the Rocato woman has called for the records to be burned by sundown. The copy won’t be complete. There are thousands of names.”

Thousands of persons with Lashed blood in Lochlanach. Amazing, Aerity thought. Only a small percentage of those on the list actually had magic, though. Paxton’s family was not on the list. Aerity wondered how many others of magical blood had been able to elude the system.

“How will the madwoman know the difference?” Duke Gulfton asked. “Burn papers to appease her, then kill her and her monsters once and for all. End of story.”

“Here, here!” a few men shouted, as if it were that simple. As if they wouldn’t have done it by now if they could.
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“Sire, we should address the other part of the Rocato woman’s letter.” This was from the king’s oldest adviser, Duke Gulfton. This duke had been the closest adviser to Aerity’s grandfather King Leon. His views on the Lashed were legendarily conservative and strict, and he was a proponent of keeping the Lashed lists up to date. All persons with Lashed capabilities and their families were notated in the records and checked regularly for markings.The stooped man wore a sea-green robe around his shoulders and a perpetual serious frown on his face. He leaned on his cane. “We cannot do as the Rocato woman demands. We cannot burn our records of Lashed Ones in these lands, or give them rein to take over our kingdom.”

A few of the other older men murmured their agreement.

Harrison stepped forward. “What if we made a copy of the list? Then it wouldn’t matter if one was destroyed.”

“I’ve got scribes copying pages as we speak,” the king responded. “But the Rocato woman has called for the records to be burned by sundown. The copy won’t be complete. There are thousands of names.”

Thousands of persons with Lashed blood in Lochlanach. Amazing, Aerity thought. Only a small percentage of those on the list actually had magic, though. Paxton’s family was not on the list. Aerity wondered how many others of magical blood had been able to elude the system.

“How will the madwoman know the difference?” Duke Gulfton asked. “Burn papers to appease her, then kill her and her monsters once and for all. End of story.”

“Here, here!” a few men shouted, as if it were that simple. As if they wouldn’t have done it by now if they could.“They’ll rise up throughout the lands!”

“. . . commoner revolts . . . war . . .”

Aerity felt a hand on her shoulder and turned to see Harrison, his light brown eyes showing the never-faltering respect he seemed to hold for her. She gave his hand a quick squeeze of gratitude before he released her. Aerity caught Lord Alvi watching the exchange with curiosity, so she turned her gaze forward again—she would let him think what he wanted.

“Enough!” King Charles’s voice silenced the room. “I will think on it. I must put safety first. I’m not ready to overturn our laws—” Aerity opened her mouth to argue that she wasn’t suggesting a complete overturn, but a one-time, enclosed, secure circumstance. Her father held up a hand to stop her. “This blasted parchment from Rozaria Rocato is bound to have our people in terror. If I take the stability of our rules away, it will cause chaos. Tonight on the lawn we will burn whatever pages my scribes have managed to copy, to keep Rozaria satisfied, but the original lists remain with us. I pray to the sea this works.”

He looked at the hunters. “Lord Alvi. Lieutenant Gillfin. Gather as many hunters as you can and begin hunting this new beast immediately.” They nodded and took their leave. Aerity watched them go, swallowing a dry lump in her throat. The king looked to his military advisers. “I want every soldier on duty, and round-the-clock patrolling of royal lands. I want Rozaria Rocato, dead or alive.” He turned to his top castle guard. “Send messengers to the other four lands to let them know of our new foe and to find out their circumstances.”

Without another word, the king swept from the room with Queen Leighlane and a line of advisers close behind.

Aerity felt the brush of velvet on her arm and peered

down at the old man beside her. It was Duke Gulfton, his eyes glistening. “I mean no disrespect, Princess, only a piece of advice. In times of fear and upheaval, absolute routine and stability in the law are called for. Any slight change can set the people off.”

“As I recall,” Aerity said steadily, “Mrs. Rathbrook healed your ailing heart last year.” Mrs. Rathbrook was the royal healer—the only Lashed allowed to work magic.

He grasped the top of his cane with both hands. “Aye.”

“Should we not allow the people of this land to benefit from magic as you have?”

He looked down at his hands, nodding solemnly. “Not all Lashed are as trustworthy as Mrs. Rathbrook. You saw the Rocato woman face-to-face. You know the evil of which she is capable.”

“I suppose everyone is capable of evil, Duke Gulfton. None of us is immune, Lashed or not. But I choose to believe the best in people until they show me otherwise.”

Duke Streamson, waiting in the doorway, cleared his throat. Duke Gulfton peered up at Aerity and patted her hand. “Once they show you otherwise, it is often too late. As a rule it is not safe to take such chances. Seas help Lochlanach in our time of need.”

As Duke Gulfton shuffled away, Aerity whispered in return. “Seas help us, indeed.”


About Wendy:
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Wendy Higgins is the USA Today and NYT bestselling author of the Sweet Evil series from HarperTeen, the high fantasy duology The Great Hunt, and her independently published Irish fantasy, See Me. She is a former high school English teacher who now writes full time, and lives on the Eastern Shore of Virginia with her veterinarian husband, daughter, son, and doggie Rue.

Wendy earned a bachelor's in Creative Writing from George Mason University and a master's in Curriculum and Instruction from Radford University. She is represented by Jill Corcoran of the Jill Corcoran Literary Agency.





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