Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Dark Lands by Christina Bauer Cover Reveal!!




Hello guys!

I'm dusting off the blog once again to take part of the cover reveal of a book in a series I've really enjoyed so far, organized by the lovely Giselle from Xpresso Book Tours! And what an awesome cover it is!!


The Dark Lands by Christina Bauer
(Angelbound Origins #5)
Published by: Monster House Books
Publication date: September 25th 2018
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Young Adult
Nineteen-year-old Myla Lewis is loving life—she’s now a wife, mother, and Queen of the Thrax. Oh yeah, and being a super-powerful demigoddess who moves souls into Heaven or Hell doesn’t suck, either. In fact, everything is pretty much awesome. Until something craptastic happens.
Her honorary older brother Walker enters the Dark Lands, home to the rule-loving ghouls, and vanishes without a trace.

Now it’s up to Myla to solve the mystery of Walker’s disappearance. Of course, Myla likes interacting with ghouls about as much as elective dental surgery. To make matters harder, everyone thinks that Walker is simply taking a well-deserved vacation. But Myla and her Angelbound love, Lincoln, both suspect that the ghoul Oligarchy took Walker in order to somehow release Lucifer, the ex-King of the Angels and an all around nut job who really needs to stay locked up.

Long story short, Myla and Lincoln have just two days to rescue their good friend and stop Lucifer from taking over the after-realms. Even for them, this may be a too-tall order, especially when Myla’s own father allows his past friendship with Lucifer to threaten Walker’s future.



Previous books in the series:



About the author:

Christina Bauer knows how to tell stories about kick-ass women. In her best selling Angelbound series, the heroine is a part-demon girl who loves to fight in Purgatory’s Arena and falls in love with a part-angel prince. This young adult best seller has driven more than 500,000 ebook downloads and 9,000 reviews on Goodreads and retailers.

Bauer has also told the story of the Women’s March on Washington by leading PR efforts for the Massachusetts Chapter. Her pre-event press release—the only one sent out on a major wire service—resulted in more than 19,000 global impressions and redistribution by over 350 different media entities including the Associated Press.

Christina graduated from Syracuse University’s Newhouse School with BA’s in English along with Television, Radio, and Film Production. She lives in Newton, MA with her husband, son, and semi-insane golden retriever, Ruby.

Be the first to know about new releases from Christina by signing up for her newsletter: http://tinyurl.com/CBupdates




XBTBanner1

Friday, May 26, 2017

ARC Reviews: A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi & The Broken Ones by Danielle L Jensen!!!

Hey there guys!

Yes, surprisingly enough, I'm back here to continue with a  bit of a catch up on reviewing some of the books I've read so far in 2017! I will not be trying to catch up on all them, because they're many, and I don't want to kill the little motivation I have with trying to do too much!



Today I'm reviewing two highly awaited ARCs that I got approved for this year, to my surprise and delight!


A Crown of Wishes (The Star-Touched Queen, #2)A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


After adoring The Star Touched Queen I was sure I was going to equally love A Crown of Wishes, and when my "wish for it" was granted on Netgalley I was squealing and more than ready to dive into it straight away!

I knew I was going to love it, but I didn't expect it to love it even more than I did TSTQ! Right after finishing ACOW, I was ready to re-read it right away, and that's always the mark of an amazing book for me, because I don't want it to end and I don't want to leave its world!

A Crown of Wishes is a companion/sort of sequel to TSTQ and it shares the same amazing brilliant and lyrical writing, the same immersing descriptions and narrative and the same magical and threatening vibe throughout! It's a wondrous world you'd want to visit but once there you might not be entirely sure if it was such a good idea after all!

Roshani Chokshi always manages to ensorcell me with her words, makes me crave desi food like there's no tomorrow and makes me want to read more Indian/Hindu mythology books! I feel like rushing through the book to find out what comes next but slowing down at the same time to savour every word and description!

I was very happy when I heard that ACOW would be about Gauri because I adored her as Maya's spirited little sister in TSTQ and I simply loved who she had become in this book, strong and full of thorns and I loved her path to realize who she could be and how to became the person she really wanted to be. And I simply adored her interactions with Vikram, the Fox Prince, charming, cunning and entirely too irresistible if irritating at times!

They are to be allies to win the Tournament of Wishes and they don't entirely trust each other too much, although most of the resistance comes from Gauri. They do make quite a fantastic team and their banter is simply perfect! I love how they goad each other, how Vikram challenges Gauri and tries to get to know the fascinating and utterly dangerous girl better without getting himself killed in the process. Just thinking about these two I'm itching for a re-read already!

I just loved the beauty and danger of the tournament and their unexpected allies and enemies and how the different tasks of the Tournament challenge them to work together and to discover things about themselves and about each other.

Brilliantly written, full of magic, wonder and dread! Highly recommended!



The Broken OnesThe Broken Ones by Danielle L Jensen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I was so happy when Danielle announced that she was writing a prequel and it would be the story of Marc and Penelope!

I knew the story was heartbreaking but it also gives us so much insight about the characters we meet in the Malediction Trilogy and really helps us understand them better too!

Reading from both Marc and Penelope's POV was the perfect way to see their friendship and love emerge, even if they both thought it was one-sided in the beginning. I had wanted to know more about Penelope and not only reading about her story but having her POV was the best way to see how strong she was and how messed up her family really was. The power plays and the political intrigues more common than any sort of affection. Marc I had always liked as a character but in this book I got to love him even more. Torn between duty and his heart and trying to juggle what's right with what he wanted and see him struggle with the choices he had to make and see others make was so heartbreaking!

We meet and get to know Anäis as a different person that the girl she has become in Stolen Songbird, and her love for her sister and how she behaves and puts the cause and others before her own ambition made me see her in a very different way. Tristan we get to see from Penelope's eyes and from Mark's eyes and it's so clear how he presents himself to the world and how she has to hide his cause and what he wants to do. Tristan does have quite a bit of growing up to do in this book, and it really broke my heart how he treated Marc sometimes.

For some reason I expected the story to be centered about Marc and Penelope and had completely forgotten how very shrouded in power struggles and political manouvering everything was in Trollus, and how their story could not have been otherwise. The Duke of Angouleme and his power games with the King and how he tries to manipulate everything, how Tristan tries to hide his real self and real purpose, how Marc and Penelope struggle to find their own happiness within that maelstrom, it was all both fascinating and so very heartbreaking!

If you've read The Malediction trilogy, you really NEED to read this one and if you haven't read the trilogy yet, what are you waiting for??


View all my reviews

Monday, May 22, 2017

Strange The Dreamer by Laini Taylor and Flame In The Mist by Renee Ahdieh!!!

Hellooooo there guys!!

*waves*



Is there anyone still there? I wouldn't be surprised if this poor corner of the internet has been mostly forgotten because I've been updating so rarely as of late.

I'm not entirely sure why I've so completely lost my blogging motivation as of late, because I have not lost my will and love to read, or stopped raving about books I've loved... I guess I didn't have the mental energy to try and write and be somewhat coherent in putting my opinions to the page.

But here I am! With reviews for two books I've thoroughly loved recently, and hopefully I'll manage to keep a consistency with blogging once or twice a week from now on!


Strange the DreamerStrange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


5 stars are not enough for this gem of a book. I foresee a massive book hangover, mostly because I've already re-read it, once again via the audiobook, even if I'm also perusing the Kindle edition while the most awesome Steve West utters the magical words that the dreamsmith & word mage that is Laini Taylor. After two re-reads I'm itching for a third one and wishing I could wrap Laini's words around me like a comfy blanket and cocoon myself away from the world and lose myself in the stories of Weep.

I've heard people say that the book dragged or was slow in parts, I don't know if it's because of the kind of reader I am, or because I could listen to Steve West read a grocery list and be enthralled, but it was never the case for me. All the myths and legends and Lazlo's story and his exploits were utterly fascinating, his obsession with Weep becoming mine too! I adored Sarai and her family of scared but powerful children of gods.

I must confessed I was so completely wrapped in Lazlo's story that the firs time to turned to Sarai's part of the story it jarred me a little, because I wanted more Dreamer and more of his adventures and the mysteries that might be revealed, but soon enough I was lost into the pain and small joys and odd life that the children of the gods had carved for themselves, even if it seemed driven on by revenge and pain. It made the story bigger, more relevant and it burrowed itself into my heart even more.

The way the stories merged, with the Dreamer and the Muse of Nightmares meeting in dreams and weaving their own worlds and dreaming about a world were hatred from both sides wouldn't be the main driving feeling of the story was enchanting, heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time.

By the end of the book there are quite a few unexpected revelations that even then were not completely explained but that challenged both the characters notions and our owns and definitely ends with a cliffhanger, because even if the events are resolved, we're left with much dread and uncertainty and I have no idea where the next book will take us, expect that I fear & expect a lot of heartbreak to come, in many ways and I expect to continue to feel both a lot of empathy and frustration and anger at Minia.

I also adored whatever small winks to the DOSAB trilogy in the shape of myths that were probably history, and they also left me wanting to check with those other characters so much!

Do I recommend this book? With all my heart!! I want to wrap these words around me like a warm blanket, even those who were utterly heartbreaking.
Am I dying to get my hands on the sequel? You betcha!!



Flame in the Mist (Flame in the Mist, #1)Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I knew I loved Renee Ahdieh's writing style from her previous duology, but I was once again ensorcelled by her words, descriptions, character and the worlds she creates!

Mariko is a character that might not be entirely easy to love at first, but I simply felt so much for her and her struggles, trying to survive, then trying to get revenge and some measure of freedom and then as she continues to learn things that challenge her world view, trying to find out what she really thinks it right and worth fighting for! She's resourceful, obstinate, passionate and not too prideful to end up admiting when she's wrong.

As I'm not Japanese or have more than a passing knowledge of its culture, I cannot speak of the accuracy of all the cultural details included, but I felt that there must have been so much research done and I felt really immersed into the culture and could almost see, feel, smell and touch the surroundings and every single detail included in the book!

I knew there would be some measure of romance and I really enjoyed it being of the hate to love variety. I expected something that seemed to be wrong but I ended up being proven right when I wasn't really expecting it to be so. Criptic I know, but in case you're as oblivious as me, I don't want to spoil any possible surprises!

There's so much political intrigue going on that is driving the story in ways we don't really put together until quite further on, and so much more both political and magical that is only hinted and partially revealed at the end and that obviously leaves us really wanting so much more!

The ending is rather cliffhangery but at the same time not? It's hard to explain because we definitely are left with everything hanging, with many revelations and parts of the past unexplained but at the same time we're not left in the dark about the fate of the main characters, they're just left at really crappy places, but ready to fight even if we're not sure how they will do it!

Very much deserving of 5 stars! I'm still not sure if I devoured it or if it devoured me, but I cannot wait till I get my hands on its sequel!


View all my reviews

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Girl Against The Universe: 7 Days 7 Giveaways Paperback Blog Tour!!!!



Helloooo there guys!!

Getting back into the blogging sphere because one of my most re-read and most beloved books is being released in paperback!

I think it's no secret that I love Paula and her books, and also that you can meet my fictional version if you read GATU (What?!? IKR!! There's a nurse called Pili in there!!) and I adored GATU from the very first time I read it, before I was included as the nurse that Paula needed for a few scenes! ;)

If you haven't yet read Girl Against The Universe, you're in luck! It's been released in paperback which means it's even more affordable, and you can even win a copy during this blog tour!

And in case you need a few reasons to read GATU: it's the perfect mix of fluffly and issue contemporary, deals with mental health issues in a way that is positive and relatable, there's an adorable romance that does NOT cure the mental health issues, and positive female friendships, present and realistic family dynamics! Well, I could add many things because I've already said this before... I adoooore this book!


From the author of The Art of Lainey and Liars, Inc. comes a fresh, contemporary story about a girl coping with PTSD and the boy who wants to help her move on from the past. Perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen or Jenny Han.

Sixteen-year-old Maguire knows the universe is against her. No matter how many charms she buys off the internet or good luck rituals she performs each morning, horrible things happen when she's around. Like that time the roller coaster jumped off its tracks. Or the time the house next door caught on fire. Or the time her brother, father, and uncle were all killed in a car crash--and Maguire walked away with barely a scratch.

Despite what her therapist tells her, Maguire thinks it's best to hide out in her room, far away from anyone she might accidentally hurt. But then she meets Jordy, an aspiring tennis star who wants to help her break her unlucky streak. Maguire knows that the best thing she can do for him is to stay away, but it turns out staying away might be harder than she thought.
 
 
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22297294-girl-against-the-universe?ac=1&from_search=true
 
 
 And now, over to Paula, who'll tell you all about the giveaway!


Paula: Hi everyone! Girl Against the Universe releases in paperback on June 6, 2017 and I’m so excited about that I decided to do an entire blog tour of giveaways to celebrate! In the story, main character Maguire creates her own list of seven challenges to help her overcome her fears. This week I have seven challenges for you, and seven chances to win a shiny GATU paperback :D These contests are international, but due to shipping costs, US winners will receive signed copies sent by me and INT winners will receive their books from Wordery or The Book Depository, with signed bookplates mailed separately.


All contests will end on May 31, 2017. All winners will be contacted via Instagram, Twitter, or email as well as posted on my blog in early June. If you’re going to enter a Twitter or Instagram challenge, be sure your account is set to public during the contest period so I will be able to see your entries and contact you if you win. 


Ready for still more ways to win?


Challenge #6: 

Tweet and/or Instagram an image of one of your personal good luck charms! People, pets, lucky socks—whatever it is that gives you a little added boost on a hard day. Your posts must include these tags so I can find them: @pstokesbooks, #GATU, #SevenDaysSevenGiveaways, and #LuckyCharms. 


Here’s an example using one of my favorite lucky charms ;)




Here’s my entry for @pstokesbooks #GATU #SevenDaysSevenGiveaways contest! It’s Taz, one of my #luckycharms giving my next release a kiss of approval :)


You can enter up to two entries on Twitter, Instagram, or one of each by May 31, 2017. If you enter twice, you must use two different lucky charms. Questions? Put them in the comments :)


That's all guys! Don't forget to check the rest of the tour for more chances to win a copy, because trust me, you want, nay, NEED, to read this book!




MON MAY 15
Adventures of a Book Junkie

TUES MAY 16
My Bookish Itinerary

WED MAY 17
Mary had a Little Book Blog

THURS MAY 18
The Forest of Words and Pages

FRI MAY 19
Xpresso Reads

SAT MAY 20
In Love With Handmade

SUN MAY 21
Author Paula Stokes

Monday, April 10, 2017

Duels & Deception by Cindy Anstey Blog Tour: Review and Giveaway!!


Hello there guys!

The blog has been rather dead still as of late, but I'm finding that little by little my motivation for blogging seems to be returning, so hopefully I'll return to more regular blogging, even if it's just once a week!

Today I've very glad to be part of the Blog Tour for Duels and Deception, organized by the fantastic Giselle from Xpresso Book Tours!


Duels and Deception by Cindy Anstey
Published by: Swoon Reads
Publication date: April 11th 2017
Genres: Historical, Romance, Young Adult
Miss Lydia Whitfield, heiress to the family fortune, has her future entirely planned out. She will run the family estate until she marries the man of her late father’s choosing, and then she will spend the rest of her days as a devoted wife. Confident in those arrangements, Lydia has tasked her young law clerk, Mr. Robert Newton, to begin drawing up the marriage contracts. Everything is going according to plan.

Until Lydia—and Robert along with her—is kidnapped. Someone is after her fortune and won’t hesitate to destroy her reputation to get it. With Robert’s help, Lydia strives to keep her family’s good name intact and expose whoever is behind the devious plot. But as their investigation delves deeper and their affections for each other grow, Lydia starts to wonder whether her carefully planned future is in fact what she truly wants…


https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33224724-duels-deception




About the author:

Whenever she is not sitting at the computer, throwing a ball in the backyard, gardening or reading, Cindy can be found–actually, not found–adventuring around the world with her hubby.

She has lived on three continents, had a monkey in her yard and a scorpion under her sink, dwelt among castles and canals, enjoyed the jazz of Beale St and attempted to speak French.

Cindy loves history, mystery and… a chocolate Labrador called Chester. Love, Lies and Spies is her debut novel.



REVIEW

Delightful is the first word that came to mind while reading Duels & Deception, and it was the first word that came to mind while reading Cindy Anstey's debut (Love, Lies & Spies), and both books gave me the same feel of enjoyment and wittiness and effortless charm!

This is the story of Miss Lydia, a slightly unusual lady of gentle breeding, and how her carefully plotted plans get thrown a curve ball in more than one way, starting with a visit that she herself requested, from the law clerk that manages the family affairs.

Lydia is a lady with proper manners but also a very clear mind and strong character and she doesn't like being not in control of her affairs. I loved how she was not shown as too controlling without any warmth or feelings, just more focused on what she can control.

Robert Newton is a young man of good family, but given that he is the third son, he needs to find a way to make his future, and ends up as a law clerk, hopefully apprentice, in a law firm and one that manages Lydia's family affairs. He's focused on his career but also on doing his job well and once he meets Lydia, he finds himself with extra motivation to help the lady, even if he finds himself involved in very unexpected ways!

The story has quite a few secondary characters and storylines, Lydia's family and friends, Robert's friend (with his duel issues), Robert's boss and let's not forget Lydia's sort of future husband and none of them felt flat or lackluster. They added character and depth to the main story and a little extra oomph with more humour and/or risk, and they end up intertwining with the main story too!

I simply loved the interactions between Robert and Lydia and how they made the most out of even the oddest and less favorable situations, and they really had such a lovely & witty repertoire! Easy conversation and lovely banter!

I loved how the ending was resolved and how it went with both society standards (to a point) but also with the character's status and personalities, and it was an absolutely lovely HEA!

Charming, witty and above all, delightful! Highly recommended, best enjoyed on a lovely afternoon with a nice cup of tea! Very much deserved 4 stars!


XBTBanner1

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Great Pursuit by Wendy Higgins Release Day Blitz!!!






Hello there guys!!

I know that my blogging has been worse than sporadic BUT since today is the release day for The Great Pursuit by Wendy Higgins and not only I adore her but also LOVED LOVED LOVED The Great Hunt, I had to take part on the Release Day Blitz to celebrate it!


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





THE GREAT PURSUIT (Eurona Duology #2) by Wendy Higgins



Pub Date: March 7, 2017
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 512
Formats: Hardcover, eBook, audiobook



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



CHAPTER ONE


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.


“Can we send word to the Zandalee?” Aerity’s uncle Lord Wavecrest asked.


The king shook his head. “I’m afraid not this time. The letter from the Rocato woman stated that her creatures have now been released in all the lands of Eurona. The Zandalee will be needed to fight in their own drylands of Zorfina.”


A fearful silence fell over the room. Each kingdom was on its own with its own beasts to battle now. Lochlanach was a quaint kingdom of fishermen and crop villagers, farmers, that had enjoyed many years of peace. The people had risen together to fight the first beast, but how much more could the king expect from them? It was too much. To imagine this kind of horror inflicted on innocent people all over Eurona sickened Aerity.


“Perhaps another proclamation?” Lord Wavecrest suggested carefully. At this proposal from Aerity’s uncle, the men in the room glanced around at one another, and the hairs rose on the princess’s arms. The queen caught her daughter’s eyes, and they both went still.


The last proclamation had offered Aerity’s hand in marriage to whoever killed the beast. The only thing left to give was the second princess, Aerity’s fifteen-year-old sister, Vixie. Her father stared down at his desk.


“No.” Aerity stepped forward, out of Lord Alvi’s embrace, her body trembling. “You cannot offer Vixie’s hand.”


The king’s hazel eyes, filled with regret, rose to hers. “I have nothing left to give.” With Vixie’s hand would come her dowry of lands. Using Vixie as a prize would surely smother her soul. Aerity wouldn’t stand for it.


“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.


The king’s jaw was set. “I have a terrible feeling this woman has eyes and ears everywhere.”


The room quieted and a sense of unease spread as heads turned and everyone eyed the others present. Her father’s council was a small group of family and a mere handful of wise advisers, all landowners, who’d been loyal to the kingdom since her grandfather ruled. She couldn’t imagine this group being compromised.


“With all due respect, gentlemen,” Lord Alvi said to the room, “we will find every beast and even Rocato herself, but we cannot guarantee immediate success. The last hunt took two months.”


“Aye,” Harrison added. “And she’s threatening to kill seven men each week.”


“You’ll have to work faster this time,” Duke Gulfton told them.


The room tensed. During the last hunt they’d had a hundred men. They’d sought the monster nearly ten hours a night and spent the days scouting and preparing. The lands of Lochlanach stretched far and wide. Yet people like Duke Gulfton were expecting a miracle of the sea.


Queen Leighlane cleared her throat. “The fact of the matter is that we’re going to have to at least put on a show of honoring her wishes. We need to buy time as we plan.”


Another elder, Duke Streamson, asked, “What are you proposing, Your Highness? Rocato is demanding that all Lashed be allowed to freely work magic.”


Magic that wasn’t all bad, Aerity thought. Magic that had saved Tiern and could save others. If only she could get them to embrace that.


“I have an idea.” Aerity’s brain whirred as all eyes turned to her. “What if we set up a public area just outside the royal lands and invited Lashed from throughout the kingdom to come, and any Unlashed who wishes to seek their healing can receive it?”


Duke Streamson made a choking sound. “Round up the people of Rocato to turn against us in one place? That’s precisely what she wants!”


Aerity rushed on. “I don’t believe all Lashed are ‘her people.’ The entire area would be heavily guarded so that if any Lashed got out of line, they could be dealt with immediately.” The old dukes scoffed at her.


One of the military advisers stepped forward. “Our numbers are not as large as they once were. Our troop sizes have been modest in the past fifty years. I’ve got to keep men patrolling the seas and borders, and we’ve lost many in the past months. I worry that a large-scale showing of the Lashed will bring crowds.”


The room broke out into fervent debate. Those who were against Aerity’s idea were adamant, passionate in their fears. Those in favor seemed on weak, shaky ground.


“Given permission to put their hands on innocent people, it could be a massacre!”


“What if the Lashed overwhelm our guards?”


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 the author:



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.














GIVEAWAY



(2) Winners will receive the grand prizes (The Great Hunt Paperback and The Great Pursuit
hardback from HarperTeen, and signed swag from Wendy Higgins! Plus an ARC of ROAR by Cora Carmack!), US Only.

(5) Winners will receive signed sets of swag - International!