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Meet a Determined Princess in an Exclusive Excerpt from BLOOD OF THE FOUR

Meet a Determined Princess in an Exclusive Excerpt from BLOOD OF THE FOUR

Your excitement over a new literary fantasy world may wane a bit when you realize the world is part of a long series with no end in sight. It’s one reason why standalone high fantasy can be a treat, and that’s exactly why we’re so pumped for Blood of the Four. Penned by Christopher Golden (Baltimore, The Myth Hunters) and Tim Lebbon (The Silence, Relics), the novel is set in the kingdom of Quandis, and tells a dark fantasy story “with a brilliant beam of hope at its core.” Princess Phela and her ambition and determination are at the center of the story, and we have an exclusive excerpt to share with you.

“The dusty shelves of the Archives of the Crown had vanished into shadow as the last light of day faded. Phela sat hunched over an or-nately carved wooden table laden with yellowed scrolls and heavy tomes full of crumbling pages. Something her mother had said the night before had set her off on this latest excursion into the archives. As evening arrived, she bent farther to bring the words closer to her eyes. She was so intent upon her task that it was only when the writ-ing on the pages became illegible that she realized how dark it had become.

Tutting at the inconvenience, she slid back the chair and stood, glancing about the room for a lamp. She searched past shelves and tall storage units, in nooks and cupboards, and around where the true crown lay beneath a stone altar, hidden from all eyes. She found one eventually on a small table near the massive archive door. From its weight alone, she knew it needed refilling, but a bit of oil still splashed in the well, so it would do for now.”

Read the complete excerpt below. Blood of the Four is available on March 6. Turn the page and let us know in the comments if the book is on your to-read list.

Images: Harper Collins

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The entire excerpt:

“The dusty shelves of the Archives of the Crown had vanished into shadow as the last light of day faded. Phela sat hunched over an ornately carved wooden table laden with yellowed scrolls and heavy tomes full of crumbling pages. Something her mother had said the night before had set her off on this latest excursion into the archives. As evening arrived, she bent farther to bring the words closer to her eyes. She was so intent upon her task that it was only when the writing on the pages became illegible that she realized how dark it had become.

Tutting at the inconvenience, she slid back the chair and stood, glancing about the room for a lamp. She searched past shelves and tall storage units, in nooks and cupboards, and around where the true crown lay beneath a stone altar, hidden from all eyes. She found one eventually on a small table near the massive archive door. From its weight alone, she knew it needed refilling, but a bit of oil still splashed in the well, so it would do for now.

Just as she opened the wooden matchbox beside the lamp, she heard the low rumble of voices beyond the door and froze. One voice was deeper and louder than the others, more irritated, more in command.

Her nose wrinkled in disdain. It was her brother, Aris. The prince who followed his prick.

Her footsteps soft, Phela crossed back to her chair and stepped up onto it, then onto the table, and from there into the towering bookshelf beyond. The archives were full of such impressive shelves, but this bookcase had come to serve another purpose for the princess on more than one occasion.

Aris hammered on the door. “Sister! Open this door!” A pause, then another round of banging followed. “I know you’re in there. We’ve looked every other gods-damned place.”

Like a spider, she clambered up the tall bookcase and reached for the balustrade of the narrow balcony above. She hoisted herself up and over, then perched there, her breathing as quiet and unlabored as her thoughts.

“Open it,” she heard Aris say, beyond the door.

There came the rattle of a key and a thump as the ancient lock turned. The door drew open and the archivist, Samnee, entered. She was an old woman with skin the same rough yellow as the parchment paper that filled these rooms, her vast domain.

“Out of the way,” Aris said, brushing the crone aside as he barged through the door with a lantern held high. In its glare his face appeared waxy and sick, not the handsome features of the stalwart and forthright Prince Aris, beloved of all Quandis.

Almost all, Phela thought.

“I told you she wasn’t here,” Samnee said in the snide tone she’d used on Queen Lysandra’s offspring ever since Phela could remember. Though mostly on Phela herself, since neither Aris nor Myrinne had ever spent more than an hour in the Archives of the Crown by choice. Phela was the sponge who soaked up knowledge.

Aris sniffed the air like a hunting dog and strode toward the table. Phela stiffened then. She didn’t like the idea that he might take a close look at the scrolls and books that had seized her at-tention.

“Prince Aris—”

“She’s here,” Aris said. “Or she was.”

Samnee sighed irritably. “As I’ve told you, nobody enters the archives without my key, and it is still safely with me. Princess Phela is not here.”

Phela couldn’t help smiling at the archivist’s utter dismissal of her brother. Very few of the Crown’s subjects would dare speak to a royal that way, even Aris, so beloved for his kindness and fairness and his insistence on all things being neat and orderly. But Samnee had never been fond of the prince, partly because he had no interest in enriching his mind, and partly because he could be an utter bastard when his adoring public was nowhere to be found.

Aris raised the lantern high, its light throwing ghostly shadows all around the sprawling archive chamber. Phela hunched lower, though she knew he couldn’t see her where she hid up high. “Have it your way,” he said aloud to the room. “But if you are here, hiding among the stories of the dead the way you did as a girl, you should know that both Mother and Myrinne have asked me to find you, each for her own purpose. The queen has asked because there’s to be a public spectacle in Hero’s Square just a short while from now. Perhaps even an execution, if the presence of the hangman is any indication. Myrinne, on the other hand, has asked for you because the family facing justice tonight is dear to her. I believe Mother intends to have Baron Kallistrate killed. Maybe the wife and sons as well.”

Phela went numb. She stared into the darkness of the narrow balcony that ran around the dome of the archives. It was a place where no one came anymore, not even old Samnee, whose knees could no longer endure the climb. She’d probably forgotten that this place even existed. Phela should have felt safe, but even up here the world intruded.”

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