Winter has caged my kingdom in ice.
For the last month the snow has been relentless: an endless fall of frozen feathers, too thick to fly through. The glass-panelled octagon of the great hall creaks with the white weight of it. But this evening, at least temporarily, the clouds have dispersed, and beneath the cold gaze of the stars the inhabitants of the Silver Citadel are celebrating the midwinter feast of the Deep Dark, the first Solstice of my reign. Pine logs crackle in the fireplaces. The scented smoke mingles with the aroma of the delicacies heaped upon the tables. Roasted venison, still sizzling from the spit; winter roots tossed in spiced flour and fried in salted butter; sugar-iced plum cake and thirty or more other dishes. A thousand candles blaze in ornate crystal chandeliers, attempting to dispel the darkness of this long, frostbitten night.
Dressed in a cloth-of-gold gown, with a gold and diamond circlet set in my dark hair, I’m dancing with Aron, my cousin and co-ruler. My husband, at least in name. I’m surrounded by servants and courtiers, all of whom have sworn loyalty to me. Many of whom claim to love me. But in this glittering throng, my thoughts and feelings are focused entirely on one man. A man who has been ignoring me, and flirting with others, for the last three hours.
With every laugh, with every look, Lucien Rookwood drives another dagger into my heart.
Aron takes advantage of a pause in the music to lean forward and whisper to me, ‘You seem tired.’
‘I slept badly,’ I reply. I haven’t slept well for weeks. The violence of this winter is bringing sickness and fear of famine to my people. I’m tired of being cooped up by bad weather, unable to take to the sky. And I’m tired of the Protectors and the nobles through whom I rule. Of their stubborn resistance to the reforms Aron and I want to introduce that would grant greater protection to our flightless population. Of their blind insistence that Siegfried and Tallis, the Oloryan half-siblings who nearly succeeded in seizing the throne, are no longer a threat, merely because no one currently knows where they are. I cannot forget for a single day Tallis’s promises: that she and her brother would return to exact revenge upon Aron and me. That the whole of Solanum would pay the price for our defiance . . .
I’ve plenty of reasons to worry.
But tonight, at least, every other concern is consumed by my misery over Lucien.
My feet take me through the steps and turns of the minuet while I concentrate on not allowing myself to look at the man who was – so briefly – my lover. Three months have passed, but my heart fractures a little further whenever I think about the one night we spent together, or about our last meeting. Lucien left court straight after my coronation. He came back a week ago, but that was only because of the Solstice. Because I specifically invited him to the celebration. Insisted, in fact, that he should come.
‘Aderyn?’ Aron has raised one white-blond eyebrow; the dance has ended and he’s waiting for an answer to a question I didn’t hear. He sighs. ‘I said, do you want to dance again, or rest?’
I become aware of the flightless musicians, bows poised above strings, waiting for me to decide whether I wish to continue. Of the dazzlingly clothed nobles observing me. ‘I’ll rest.’
‘As you wish.’ Aron kisses my hand as I leave the floor. He walks over to his sister, Odette, and leads her back into the dance. As the music resumes, I return to my seat on the dais and let my eyes stray towards Lucien. His dark hair – the same iridescent blue-black as the raven into which he can transform – is longer now; it curls against the edge of his collar. But otherwise he’s little altered. He’s still handsome and broad-shouldered. He’s even wearing the same sleeveless grey silk tunic he wore on the night we first arrived here – less than six months ago, though it seems like another lifetime. A life in which I was merely the Protector of the Dominion of Atratys, hoping to find answers about my mother’s murder, hoping to survive the intrigues of my uncle’s court. A life in which Lucien was merely my clerk.
But now . . . Now I am the Queen of Solanum. And Lucien seems more remote than ever.
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About the Book:
Three months after Aderyn’s coronation the court is celebrating the Solstice, but Aderyn is preoccupied by Lucien’s continuing hostility. The celebrations are interrupted by the arrival of nobles who have escaped from the neighbouring country of Celonia – the flightless have risen up and overthrown their rulers. The world is changing.
As people begin to question whether Aderyn and Aron are strong enough to rule, there is an attempted assassination on Aderyn’s life. Siegfried and Tallis have made their move – they have formed an army, declared war and will take the throne, by any means necessary.
Aderyn must fly to uncharted territories and risk the lives of everyone she loves, to defeat her enemies, secure her throne and unite her people.
Epic, dangerous and impossible to put down, this finale takes you on a soaring journey through grief, strength and determination to fight for what is right, what you love and what is yours.
About the Authors:
Katharine and Elizabeth Corr are sisters originally from Essex, now living in Surrey. When they both decided to write novels – on account of fictional people being much easier to deal with than real ones – it was obvious they should do it together. They can sometimes be found in one of their local coffee shops, arguing over which character to kill off next. Katharine and Elizabeth are authors of the spellbinding trilogy The Witch’s Kiss & the first book in their new duology A Throne of Swans.