Greta Kelly introduced Princess Askia Poritskaya e-Nimri in The Frozen Crown last year. The first tome in the Warrior Witch Duology put Askia and her many challenges at the center of the story. She ascended the Frozen Crown of Seravesh, and with her magic and her crown, that should have been it. But of course, no interesting story would be so simple. Her fate, and the fate of Seravesh, are on the line. And that’s where the anticipated sequel, The Seventh Queen, picks up. We’re excited to exclusively share the first look at the book‘s very beautiful, very dramatic cover.
The Seventh Queen looks fiery. Nothing about this cover is what I would call reassuring. Tall flames reach from the tops of buildings, seemingly a symbol of what Askia must overcome and what she must stop. Because now it’s not only Seravesh she has to worry about; the Empire of Vishir needs a sound ruler too. She’s working against the clock as an evil man tries to take her magic, she must become a spy… it’s all quite intense.
But the cover isn’t the only treat Nerdist has from The Seventh Queen. We also have an exclusive excerpt where we get right back into Askia’s point of view. Enjoy:
The room around me was remarkable for what it lacked. It was beautiful, as sumptuous as the hallways that led to it, but every touch of beauty was marred. A bed sat on the opposite end of the long, rectangular space. Its frame was carved with vines and flowers, and the four posts rising from the mattress looked like the roots of some great tree. But there was no fabric where the canopy should have been. And where a tapestry should have hung behind the bed, there was nothing either. Just a dark-paneled wall and a wicked-looking tapestry hook.
I circled the room and saw that it was the same with the two windows on the wall to my right. They were wide but barred. There were rods for curtains, but the curtains themselves were gone. The fireplace between the windows crackled with flames, but its metal grate was padlocked shut. Same with the long wardrobe on the opposite wall. And the bathroom, whose doorway didn’t actually have a door. The tub, made of cream and gray marble was studded with golden fish–shaped taps, but no water came out when I tested them.
I shuddered at the image this room conjured. The comfortable, homey touches; the plush bedcovers and overstuffed armchairs; the wide table set for chess and the vanity covered in makeup—it was all veneer. Designed to lull, to croon a song of comfort and safety. And if I squinted just right, I could almost imagine that this was nothing more than a stateroom fit for a foreign noble.
But I’d never been much of a liar—not to myself. And this room was filled with lies. Lies and the memory of the women who came before me. Women who, if this room was any indication, had done everything they could to get away from Radovan. Even if the only escape was death.
I shook my head and went to the wardrobe. Its stubby little legs offered a sliver of space where I could stow the knife. It wasn’t much of a hiding spot, I thought as I wedged the blade between the wood and the thick blue carpet, but it’d have to do.
“Surely you can do better than that, girl.”
“Siv,” a second ghostly voice chided with well-worn exasperation.
“What?” the first voice demanded. “If she’s canny enough to lift the blade off Qaden, she can certainly do better than this.”
Ice slipped down my back and wound down my limbs. An ice that had nothing to do with fear, but the tether constraining my magic. I smiled, touching the chain hanging against my chest. It was cold—but there was no pain. No fire. Strange. Straightening I turned and found the room crowded with women.
Hailing from the whole breadth of the continent, they were young and old, fair and plain, united only in that they were all dead. One stood at the window, back turned away. Another knelt before the fire, warming her hands. Two more sat at the table contemplating me over the chessboard. The last two stood a few feet away, as odd a pair of companions as I’d ever seen.
The one I thought had spoken first was powerfully built, all broad shoulders and thick legs. Her pale hair was set in a long braid that snaked over her shoulder. She wore tight, patchwork trousers and a loose tunic that reminded me of a pirate from a storybook. And though her voice was young, her face was aged. She had skin that crinkled and creased like she’d been out in the sun and wind too long.
The second ghost was a familiar one. I’d seen her fair face leaning over me when I first woke in this hellscape. She was young, my age or slightly older, and held herself with the cool poise that gets beaten into every generation of noble women. She clasped her hands in front of her neat-looking gown and watched me like I were an animal she was afraid of spooking.
I grinned, nodding to the woman who’d first spoken. “The room’s bare—you have a better idea where to hide it?”
Laughter shone in her eyes. “Voyniks are predators, love. And predators don’t look up.”
I followed her gaze to the top of the wardrobe. Sure enough, there was a very dusty shelf made by its top, hidden behind ornate scrollwork on its face.
“You must be Radovan’s wives?” I said, transferring the blade to its new spot.
“Got it in one,” the rough-looking woman said with a grin. “Look at you, face-to-face with a room full of ghosts and not a goose pimple on ya.”
“She’s a death witch, she must be used to seeing ghosts,” one of the women at the table—a priestess judging by her robe, said. “Though seeing Siv in my bedroom would surely make me scream with fright.”
“You’d be screaming,” the rough woman replied with a smirk, “but it wouldn’t be from fright.”
“Siv,” the regal-looking woman said with a quelling glance. “Perhaps a few introductions are in order. I am Princess Eliska of Raskis,” she said, visibly trying for a smile before gesturing to the woman beside her. “This is—”
“I can introduce my damn self, thanks much. I’m Siv of Switzkia, woman of the world and privateer—”
“You mean pirate,” the priestess corrected tartly. Siv grinned. “Never convicted.”
“You must be Asyl,” I said to the priestess before she and Siv could continue what felt like a long-standing argument.
The priestess bent her head in graceful assent. “High Priestess Asyl of Khezhar at your service.”
“So that would make you . . . Freyda?”
The woman beside Asyl allowed a slight nod. I knew the Graznian fire witch was the oldest—in age—of Radovan’s wives.
Built like a wire, she surveyed me with what looked like mild disapproval. Though perhaps it was the three ragged scars ripping down the left side of her face that gave me the impression.
The stories said that the merchant queen once got into a fight with a black bear. And won.
“And you are?” I asked the plump woman kneeling by the fire.
“Ragata,” she said, smiling at me in a dreamy way.
“Ragata,” I repeated to myself, memorizing the face of Radovan’s second wife before looking finally at the last ghost. Her back was still turned away, and a long veil covered her from crown to waist. It waived with her every diaphanous exhalation. “Then you must be Katarzhina.”
If Radovan’s first wife heard me, she gave no indication. Just stood there. A silent monolith to betrayed trust and broken love. The other wives looked away.
“Don’t mind her,” Siv said in a whisper that nonetheless carried. “She’s not one for talking.”
“Radovan said I wouldn’t be able to use my magic while wearing the Aellium stone,” I began. “I even tried to summon one of my men, but it didn’t work.”
All the queens but Katarzhina glanced at Asyl. The priestess brushed an invisible something from her lap with a secret, knowing look. “Radovan was misinformed,” she said, so smug her gossamer body sharpened.
My gaze narrowed. “In what way?”
“He has an imperfect understanding of how the stones work.”
“But your understanding is perfect?” I pressed.
“The Aellium stones come from Khezhari mines,” Asyl replied as if her understanding should therefore be obvious. “The chain and the stone serve different functions. It was the enchantment on the chain that burned your hand—not the stone,” she said, eyes dropping
to my still-throbbing palm. “The chain only curbs your power enough to ensure you aren’t a threat while the stone does the work of stealing your magic.
“You’ll still be aware of your gift, even if you cannot necessarily use it. It’s a narrow distinction, and not one that would be of any use to an elemental witch.” Asyl sniffed as if elemental witches were by definition not worth mentioning. “But for spirit witches like you and I, it makes all the difference. It allowed me to sense Radovan’s intentions, even while all my other powers lay fallow.”
I nodded along. “And it’s letting me see all of you. Radovan doesn’t suspect?”
“He’s just a sorcerer,” she said with a moue of distaste, “and like all sorcerers, his magic comes from the stone—it doesn’t live within him. He can’t feel magic inside him the way we do.”
“And you didn’t illuminate him,” I said, feeling my lips tug upward in an amused smile. Asyl’s brows rose. “And lose my one advantage? Hardly.”
“I’m glad there’s at least some limit to his power,” I muttered.
“Of course there is,” Eliska replied. “He isn’t all-powerful.” The yet that belonged at the end of that statement echoed so loudly I turned away from it, coming closer to the fire instead.
The tether constraining my magic had begun to rear its head, lapping cold water on my limbs. Even this paltry amount of power was still limited by the dictates of the Two-Faced God. Magic yes, but always at a price. What was constraining Radovan, I wondered. What price did he pay?
Adapted from The Seventh Queen by Greta Kelly, published by Harper Voyager. Copyright © 2021 by Greta Kelly. Reprinted courtesy of HarperCollinsPublishers.
The Seventh Queen arrives on November 2, 2021. You can place your pre-order now.