Spotlight on Palace Of Silver (Hannah West), Excerpt, Plus Giveaway! ~ (US Only)
Today we're excited to spotlight Palace Of Silver by Hannah West.
Read on for more about Hannah and her book, an excerpt, plus an giveaway!
Meet Hannah West!
Hannah West has always loved writing about magic and fairy tales, but her time studying abroad in Orleans, France inspired her to write and publish fantasy novels. Her debut, Kingdom of Ash and Briars, received a starred review from Kirkus and was named one of their Best Teen Books of 2016. She’s a freelance writer and vegetarian living in Texas with her husband and their rambunctious pups. Learn more at hannahwestauthor.com [hannahwestauthor.com] or find her on social media @hannahwestya.
Meet Palace Of Silver!
Two queens confront the ultimate choice as a rebellion emerges against a dangerous despot - and both sides want them dead. When the world of magic is under threat, is loyalty worth their lives?
Return to Nissera, land of three kingdoms and home to spectacular magic. An uneasy peace reigns now that Valory has vanquished the Moth King and settled into her rightful place as queen of Calgoran. New leaders Glisette and Kadri hope to usher the neighboring kingdoms into an era of healing and prosperity. All should be well.
But there's a fourth queen in charge: Ambrosine, banished overseas to Perispos. Driven by vanity, she vows to become the most powerful and beautiful ruler in the world, even if it means oppressing the mortal kingdom she is meant to protect. Meanwhile a dangerous uprising led by elicromancer-hating rebels gains momentum. Rot spreads through the Forest of the West Fringe. Valory goes missing. Facing enemies on all sides, Glisette and Kadri must reckon with the role of magic. How far will they go to defend their power - and can they build an uprising of their own?
~ Excerpt ~
P R O LO G U E
Once upon a time, there were four queens.
The sheltered queen learned that she did not need magic to be brave.
The mortal queen learned that she was worthy of more.
The almighty queen learned that limitless power has its own constraints.
The last queen looked in the mirror and decided she would bend the world to her will.
O N E
A sigh of wind snuffed out the campfire. The darkness in the belly of the forest was as dense as the black soil underneath my bedroll. I went rigid, listening to the rustle of footsteps and the rattle of rasping breaths. Enemies were near.
My elicrin stone held reassuring warmth from nestling against my breastbone. But magic couldn’t guarantee my escape from the soulless creatures prowling in the shadows. When I opened my mouth to utter a spell, no sound emerged. No light burst from the stone. My head felt too heavy to lift.
A blight with sallow, sore- ridden skin and milky eyes approached, raising a jagged blade to ram it through my quick- beating heart. The creature drew so close I could smell its putrefying flesh, the
scent of dark magic unbridled. Yet I couldn’t react, couldn’t move. I could only hope my death would be swift.
“Glisette?” the blight said in a cheery voice.
I gasped and heaved awake, terrifying my younger sister, Perennia.
Cold sweat dampened the satin sheets twisted around my thighs. Shafts of light from a flaming sunrise melted through gaps in the powder- blue drapes, skimming over gilded furniture and velvet upholstery. I was at home in the palace at Pontaval, not in the woods at night or in the throes of a bloody battle.
Months had passed since I’d helped to overthrow the Moth King, but the most harrowing memories of the journey still stalked my sleep.
“Sorry!” Perennia squeaked, holding aside the embroidered canopy that surrounded my four- poster bed. “Oliva said to tell you the mayors of the border towns have arrived.”
With an irascible grunt, I swung my legs over the edge of the bed, brushing strands of blond hair from my face. “They’re early.”
“Was Oliva afraid to wake me?”
Perennia’s honeyed curls bobbed as she nodded.
I could hardly blame my head maid, not after I’d accidentally unleashed a spell last week that had flung her across the room and into my open wardrobe. My heaps of flouncy dresses had padded her fall, but since then Oliva had been skittish when it came to waking me.
I pounced into action. A year ago it would have taken me hours to prepare for a social engagement. Sometimes I missed the simple luxury of pruning in the scalding water, dozing off as a maid’s gentle fingers sifted through my long locks. Now I barely took the time to use a comb and mouth rinse before throwing back a swig of tea and hurrying off to whatever appointment awaited me first, pursued by Oliva and her flock of underling ladies-in-waiting. I could hardly even visit the lavatory alone for all the guards and servants tailing me.
Nothing had been the same since the day I told Uncle Mathis, in no uncertain terms, that I was stepping into the role of queen of Volarre and forcing him out.
One of the maids broke formation to scuttle ahead and open the door to the meeting chamber— I hadn’t opened a door for myself in months either— revealing my chief advisor sitting at the marble- top table with a group of strange men.
“I present Her Majesty, Queen Glisette Lorenthi,” he said.
As the mayors stood to bow, their gazes coasted over me, moving from the misty lavender chalcedony at my throat to the silver crown on my head, landing in unison on the scar that slashed over my right eye from forehead to cheek.
“Gentlemen,” I said, scooping the skirts of my sapphire dress— a bit modest for my taste, despite the plunging neckline— to claim the head of the table. They took their seats. “Once again, I profoundly apologize for the decisions made by my uncle and elder sister, which brought food shortages to your towns. How are the assistance programs faring?”
“They’re helping, Your Majesty,” answered the man to my left, who looked too youthful for his silver hair. “The problem is that when Prince Regent Mathis tripled the tolls, the produce vendors who cross the border to our markets raised their prices.”
“But we’ve decreased the tolls,” I pointed out. “They’re even lower than before Uncle Mathis raised them.”
“Yes, Your Majesty,” my chief advisor said, “but the vendors fear the crown might raise them again on a whim.”
I was grateful for Hubert, who patiently filled in my gaps of understanding. My younger brother, Devorian, had been coached to take the crown while my sisters and I learned etiquette, languages, and, of course, elicromancy. As queen, I was forced to countervail my years of deficient governing studies with tireless initiative.
“I’ll sign a decree guaranteeing that I will not raise the tolls for a decade,” I said. “We’ll have a ceremony in one of your towns.”
“A bold idea, Your Majesty,” Hubert said. “But it doesn’t solve the immediate problem that many poor Volarians cannot afford food.”
A blush of embarrassment bloomed behind my cheeks. In moments like these, I missed my old life— but not sprawling in the lap of opulence and reveling in a lack of responsibilities. Instead, strangely, I longed for my time trudging through the wilderness, scared, hungry, thirsty, sore, and wounded, but driven by a singular purpose. The quest had been arduous, but with only one goal: deliver Valory Braiosa to the Moth King’s court so that she could kill him before he destroyed Nissera.
The upheaval that necessitated the quest had happened so swiftly that I’d barely had time to second- guess my decision to join.
First, Valory had touched the Water— the ancient source of elicrin magic hidden deep in the woods— without permission from the Conclave. But unlike others who had tried before her, she did not die. Nor did she receive an elicrin stone, which would have bestowed upon her a magical gift. Instead, she had dried up the Water and gained a destructive power that looked nothing like elicromancy.
Meanwhile, my brother Devorian had come into possession of a pearl tablet inscribed with an arcane “awakening” spell written in an ancient, forgotten language. Though Devorian was an Omnilingual, the language was so strange that even he struggled to make sense of the spell. He convinced himself it would have the capacity to resurrect our parents from the dead.
Instead, it raised Emlyn Valmarys, an elicromancer tyrant from a dark age in history. He had been kept dormant for centuries when no one— not even an alliance of elicromancers, fay, and sea folk— could defeat him. His power allowed him to take other elicromancers’ gifts for his own or lend them to his servants. He was invincible until the three groups devised a way to trap him in his mountain lair and keep him dormant using a contract engraved on the tablet.
A group of mortals called the Summoners had given Devorian the tablet to decipher without telling him what it would do. They wanted to resurrect Emlyn Valmarys so that he would offer them a reward of magic and immortality. Devorian was a foolish pawn who unwittingly did their bidding by speaking the spell on the tablet.
Valory accidentally cursed Devorian with a beastly form for his recklessness, demonstrating that her power could do more than just destroy. Then she crossed paths with Mercer, a Prophet from an earlier time. Mercer told her that Valmarys, whom he called the Moth King due to the tyrant’s sigil, did not hold the power to give and take elicrin gifts on his own. Mercer’s brother, Tilmorn, had; Tilmorn was a Purveyor, and the Moth King had taken him captive long ago. Now the Moth King was using Tilmorn’s power to conquer the mountain fortress city of Darmeska and unleash havoc on the realm.
Mercer felt certain that Valory would be the one to defeat the risen tyrant at last, given her strange and unrivaled power. Thus we set out, the Moth King’s servants hunting us while we hunted him. And as we fought, the Realm Alliance unraveled. The Moth King’s servants captured and murdered many of its members, but spared Valory’s family, who had joined forces with the Summoners in order to sow political chaos and make their own magical laws. My family had fallen under Valmarys’s influence as well. Ambrosine and Uncle Mathis let the Moth King win them over with fi ne gifts, leading to crisis when they began overtaxing the kingdom to support the new heights of their lavish lifestyle.
Every corner of Nissera seemed to be caving in on itself. Yorth fell to plague, Volarre fell to greed, and Calgoran fell to corruption.
But we managed to deliver Valory to the Moth King’s tower in Darmeska. While we battled his servants, she faced the tyrant himself. She stole his power and freed Tilmorn. And in the midst of the fight, she realized that the Water had given her more than just a gift for destruction and transformation— it had given her itself. The Water had always decided who was worthy of elicromancy. And now Valory had that power, carrying the Water’s legacy. She was more than a mere Purveyor, like Tilmorn had been before she made him a Healer. She was more than a Neutralizer. She was the source of elicrin power.
On the heels of our triumph in Darmeska, we returned to our respective homes and punished those who had wronged the realm. Devorian supported me in pushing Uncle Mathis aside so that I
could become queen of Volarre.
I had thought my trials were over. How was it that overthrowing a tyrant was somehow easier— or at least more straightforward— than taking up the scepter to rule?
“Theft and murder have escalated in our towns, Your Majesty,” one of the mayors at the far end of the table said. “Our people have resorted to eating draft animals and seed grains. They’re desperate for food.”
I gulped, trying to remain calm so I could think. If the mayors hadn’t arrived early, Hubert would have counseled me privately. But if he helped me now, my inexperience would be all too apparent.
A din from outside drowned my thoughts. “What is that shouting?” I demanded.
One of my guards hurried to the windows behind me. “There’s a crowd approaching the palace gates, Your Majesty.”
I rose and turned to see for myself, blinded by the brilliant sun glistening on the distant hills. I blinked the stars from my eyes and found a horde marching along the cobblestone thoroughfare, winding uphill past shops and markets to our towering palace.
“Is it some sort of parade?” I asked, squinting into the distance. “Why was I not informed?”
“It’s not a parade.” Hubert sounded alarmed as he appeared at my side
My stomach clenched. Even from afar, I caught angry flashes of farm tools and fists punching into the air, unintelligible chants and jeers. “It’s a riot,” I said.
The courtyard guards realized this before I did and slammed the wrought iron gates so swiftly that the silver- gilt lily emblems shivered. The loud clanging sliced through my skull, and when it faded, the words of the people’s chant became clear:
No magic kings!
No magic queens!
Let mortals rule!
End the suffering!
The chant evolved into shouting as they slammed against the closed barrier, rattling the iron bars. With a boost, a young boy managed to scramble halfway up the gate and find a foothold on a silver lily petal. He threw his leg over to straddle the arch, his keen eyes searching the palace windows. Our gazes met. He slid a bulky stone from his pocket and reeled back his arm.
I jolted away from the window a mere half second before the glass burst, shards singing as they scattered over the floor.
Hubert clasped my elbow. “Get her to an interior room,” he said to the guard.
“I need to speak to them,” I insisted. “They’re my people and they have grievances to air.”
With a thunder of hooves, mounted guards cantered through the courtyard and lined up along the gates, daring the swarm to push through. One of the guards grabbed the boy by the wrist and yanked him from his perch. He hit the ground with an unsettling whap and curled into himself, writhing in pain.
“Stop!” I cried. “Hubert, make them stop!”
“Protecting you and the royal residence is their duty,” Hubert said, urging me toward the door. “It is below the dignity of the crown to acknowledge the demands of subjects threatening your life. We must get you to safety.”
“I’m an elicromancer, Hubert. I am safe.” He couldn’t truly understand what I’d endured, what I’d seen others endure. “No violence. That is a command.”
“Your guards will do what they must,” Hubert argued calmly.
“I’ve served your family for many years. Your parents trusted me in these matters—”
“And look what happened to them,” I snapped. The ice in my gaze was even more effective now than before I earned my scar.
Compunctious, Hubert bowed his head but didn’t avert his eyes. He lowered his voice, even toned. “That only reinforces my point. Like you, your parents thought their magic would keep them safe. And they were caught off guard.”
The room suddenly felt too cramped, the air too warm, the riot outside as raucous as an unruly storm. Elicromancer- hating rebels had slain my parents during a diplomatic overseas excursion to Perispos. And now the crowd out there was clamoring for the fall of elicromancer rulers.
The reign of the Moth King had not been kind to mortals— nor to elicromancers who resisted him. But mortals couldn’t see the latter fact. They only knew that their bellies had ached with hunger and their loved ones had fallen ill with plague, while Uncle Mathis and Ambrosine bled them dry with tolls and taxes. The glowing sense of appreciation for my part in overthrowing the Moth King had faded. Now all my people saw was a beautiful woman in a palace with a magical jewel at her throat, a woman resembling the elder sister who had failed Volarre; the only physical trait that truly distinguished me from Ambrosine was the gash across my eye.
I stormed to the exit, barely remembering to acknowledge the mayors. “Hubert will work out the details when the dust settles,” I said over my shoulder. “My best wishes to you.”
A fretful Perennia waited with the maids in the corridor, gnawing her bottom lip.
“Go to your room and stay away from the windows,” I barked, sweeping past.
“What will you do?” she asked.
“Listen to them.”
“They’re not here to speak to you.”
I ignored her as I marched back to my bedchamber.
“Where are you going?” she asked.
“To change.” I flung open the door before a maid could do it for me. I stalked to my wardrobe, tuning out the deafening shouts from the distant courtyard. “We have to show them that we’re not the vain little dolls they think we are.”
My fingertips brushed delicate beading, silk ribbons, ruffles, lace. I yanked out a spring green gown and plucked wildly at its fabric flower embellishments, maiming petals and severing threads.
“Do I own a single gown without frills?”
“Don’t do that,” Perennia said like a governess scolding a child smearing paint on the walls. She confiscated the garment. “Just order some plain new ones.”
“That’s the problem! Always more things!” I shouted. “Ambrosine betrayed the kingdom to bloat our family’s wealth. I have to show all of Volarre that we are not like her.”
“It’s not about our wealth, Glisette, or finery, or beauty,” Perennia replied. She draped the unfortunate gown over the back of a chair. I saw myself reflected in her face: ivory skin, long golden hair, sea-glass eyes, high cheekbones. But she possessed a softness that the other three of us Lorenthi children did not. “They’re here to force you to give up your elicrin stone. They want you to become mortal. They no longer want all- powerful rulers. And who could blame them?”
“But I fought for them! I bled so they could live!”
As the words thrust out of me, violent memories returned, memories so horrifying that even my dreams didn’t dare touch them. I winced against the recollection of people trampling one another to escape from Darmeska when I used my elicrin power to freeze and break the gates open; the bodies of the city’s elders on display, feasts for carrion; the way the Moth King controlled the minds of Darmeskans from his tower, forcing them to terrorize their own people; the stinging cold of an arrow that should have killed me; and death’s icy claws trying to drag me away.
Perennia caught my hands in hers. The mellow glow from her rose elicrin stone preceded the familiar peace and relief that snuck in when her Solacer power stole whatever dark emotions thrashed inside me.
“You made great sacrifices,” she whispered. “But Ambrosine and Uncle Mathis hurt our people. Their mistakes shouldn’t be your burdens to bear, but they are because you are a Lorenthi too, and you wear the crown. Going out there in plain garb isn’t going to make a difference.”
For the first time, I wondered whether the Realm Alliance had made a mistake showing lenience to Ambrosine and Uncle Mathis. Both had been put on magical probation and consigned to manual labor, mostly sorting and loading foodstuff for the assistance programs. While Mathis sullenly followed orders, Ambrosine refused to work. She was determined to be a thorn in my side until, ostensibly, I let her return to her old way of life.
But as I’d been riffling bleary- eyed through Uncle Mathis’s documents days before my coronation, a solution presented itself. The king of Perispos had written to Uncle Mathis before the season
of crises had begun, expressing an interest in marrying either Ambrosine or me. He had been widowed seven years earlier. Apparently, Uncle Mathis thought I would be suited to the task and had asked King Myron what bride price he was prepared to offer in exchange for my hand.
Upon reading the correspondences, I’d felt sour that I’d ever been treated like property, and then smug that I’d stripped Uncle Mathis of his power to do so. And then I’d grinned with relief and penned a missive to the king immediately. The Realm Alliance had approved, my sister had readily accepted the proposal, and I’d rejoiced to be rid of her. But Mathis, too embarrassed to continue his work, had fled soon afterward. We could have made a tracking map to hunt him down, but he wasn’t worth the trouble. The restrictive enchantment we had placed on his elicrin stone wouldn’t rob him of his immortality, but it would prevent him from using his magic to harm anyone. Besides, tracking maps were an archaic sort of magic, and they had limits; they would not work for anyone harboring malicious intent toward the person they sought, and if I got my hands on Mathis again, I might wring his neck.
Mathis and Ambrosine had stoked a fi re of righteous fury in the hearts of our people, yet I was the only one left to burn. Devorian broke through the gaggle of maids in the doorway and crossed the room to rip the drapes closed. Valory’s unfortunate spell on him had at last worn off, but sometimes his eyes seemed to sparkle golden amber rather than blue green.
“You aren’t going to dignify this, are you?” he asked.
“No,” Perennia answered before I could, releasing my hand.
“Good.” My brother raked a hand through his flaxen, shoulder- length waves. “It will blow over.”
“So I’m to hide out until my people don’t want my head on a pike?” I demanded.
“They don’t want your head on a pike; they want your elicrin stone in a pit. All of ours.” Devorian strode to my tea tray only to frown at the dearth of spirituous or fermented options. “It will take time, but when their situations improve under your rule, their ire will cool.”
I sighed and sank into a chair, striking a woebegone pose before I checked myself and sat up straight. “Perhaps once I sign the decree restricting the border tolls, they’ ll—”
“You can’t do that,” Devorian interrupted, spreading margarine over a triangle of toast.
“What? Why not?”
“It’s how the crown recoups investments. What if we must repair or rebuild a bridge and the cost of materials and labor has increased? No, no.” He wagged his finger and took a bite. “Don’t make promises you can’t keep.”
A growl rumbled in my throat. Though Devorian had abdicated his throne to me, the antiquated laws of Volarre still technically required a male principal ruler. That meant I was only the “provisional ruler” until I could revise the statute to the satisfaction of my father’s senior advisors. Hubert supported me, but the other two were cantankerous old bats.
For this, I often found myself resenting Devorian, even when he was only trying to help.
I nearly asked why I would listen to the imbecile who had resurrected the Moth King, but bit back my retort as Devorian’s wife entered the room.
“Are we in danger?” Larabelle asked. Her brown hair, which tended to adhere tightly to her scalp, needed fluffi ng, and her alabaster cheeks practically begged for rouge. She was lovely, but always quaintly styled, the daughter of a middle- class merchant. I would have intervened, but she disliked fuss on her account. Besides, Devorian might claw me to ribbons if I so much as changed a hair on her head, so fi ercely did he love the pretty little mouse.
My brother’s superior expression yielded to a smile so sickeningly sweet that he almost looked like a theatrical mockery of a doting lover. “No, my darling, we aren’t in danger,” he cooed.
“Are you hurt?” she asked, turning to me. “I heard—”
“Not at all.” I waved to dismiss her concern and massaged my forehead. I had imagined ruling would be easy with Valory as queen of Calgoran and Kadri Lillis as queen of Yorth. The rest of the Realm Alliance members were friends, as well: Mercer Fye, Tilmorn Fye, Melkior Ermetarius, and Kadri’s husband, Fabian Veloxen. With so many powerful, good people working toward a common cause, recovering and rebuilding should have been straightforward.
But all that power somehow amounted to weakness; we were so painstakingly careful not to overplay our hand.
I rose from the chair and parted the sea of attendants standing by, shooing them away. “You are all dismissed.”
“You aren’t going to the crowd, are you?” Perennia asked, but I didn’t answer as I marched down the corridor, one of my heeled slippers catching on the sapphire carpet. I sped to a run and descended
the curving staircase.
At last I shoved open the door to the gardens and pinned my hand to my ribs, taking in sharp breaths. The distant pandemonium was only a whisper from my quiet refuge of meandering paths and sculpted hedges.
But this wasn’t the refuge I sought.
A materialization barrier protected the palace so that elicromancers could not pass through the walls using magic. Beyond the imposing garden fence hidden by stately hedges, I could slip away, fling myself through the expanse toward true solitude.
My heels clacked along the path until I stopped to kick off my slippers, sending one flying into a bed of peonies. I’d recently made the habit of tucking a pair of worn-in leather boots behind a potted lavender plant. I shoved them on, swung open the gate, and closed my eyes.
I spoke the materializing spell and whirled through oblivion.
Palace Of Silver
By: Hannah West
Publisher: Holiday House
Release Date: March 23rd, 2020
One winner will receive a prize pack including he 3 books in the Nissera Chronicles: KINGDOM OF ASH AND BRIARS, REALM OF RUINS, and PALACE OF SILVER ~ (US Only)
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