Welcome to the book blitz/special promo for THE CURSED CROWN, the first book in the epic fantasy series, The Darker Woods, by USA Today bestselling author May Sage and Alexi Blake, releasing December 1, 2020. See below for information on the book, preorder links, the exclusive excerpt, and a link to add it to your Goodreads TBR. For a limited time, you can preorder the eBook for just $0.99!
About the Book – Preorder Now for Just $0.99!
Title: THE CURSED CROWN
Series: The Darker Woods Series #1
Author: May Sage and Alexi Blake
Publisher: Twisted Mirth Press
Release Date: December 1, 2020
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon DE | Amazon IT | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo
My lips hitch up an inch as the hulking, slender man bends down to whisper in my ear. “A divided kingdom without a leader is weak. You will fall. You will fail. You will all die without my kindness, little girl.” He expects me to falter, shiver, and drop my gaze to the ground like the flock of gentry buzzing around him. My eyes widen in feigned dismay. “Kindness? Why did no one think to tell me you had any?” I have to allow him that one concession: Rydekar is fun to tease. He doesn’t even smile. I don’t think anyone has taunted him. “I have none. You will beg nonetheless.” I just may, in his dreams. And in my nightmares.
No one was ever born less suited to ruling than Rissa, the thorn of the seelie realm—a half-fae so wild she’s spent the better part of a hundred years in the woods.
For all her flaws, she’s the last of the high court bloodline, and the southern king seems to think that’s reason enough to slap a crown on her feathered head. He needs her to unify the seelie forces. She needs him to forget about that nonsense.
In an effort to aid her people without condemning herself to a lifetime of misery, she sets off on a journey to find the one person with a stronger claim to the throne than hers: the cursed prince. Sealed in the mountains of the Wilderness, under many spells, the heir of the first seelie queen is the only royal strong enough to protect the fae lands from their immortal invaders.
Surviving the untamed tribes and awakening a thousand-year-old prince seem a lot easier than ruling an entire kingdom where everyone hates her very nature.
And her choices won’t come without consequences.
The first time the high king sent hunters after me, I terrified them, drowning them in the depths of their worst nightmare. I can get rather bored in the forest, and their fear entertained me for a day or two.
The second time, I was less kind. Instead of a handful of men, he sent two dozen. Half returned home, none of them whole.
I am no simple beast foreign kings can summon at their leisure. I am no weakling to bow to the will of another court.
I am a nightmare.
Half a nightmare, if one wishes to be technical about it. No one does, however. The folk like to conveniently forget that I am part gentry.
Half a nightmare. Half a child of the Court of Sunlight. Entirely wild.
I didn’t expect a third assault. I should have. I may have met Rydekar Bane only once, but it’s enough to understand what kind of king ascended to the throne of Tenebris.
A single rider enters my woods this time. Just one man on a pale horse. Yet I bristle. The stems growing inside my veins, sprouting out of my pores, crawl along my arm, protectively wrapping me under their thorns. I feel the feathers on my shoulders flutter.
One rider on a pale horse, yet I am afraid.
It isn’t in my nature to fear anything. My instincts aren’t prepared for it. Am I to flee like prey? Am I to remain to await my fate? Prepare to fight?
I’m so lost I end up doing nothing at all. I’m still perched atop the sturdiest branch of the ash tree I’ve claimed as my home when he appears, standing alone.
Somehow, I never expected that he’d come in person. Not here.
The first time we met, it was in the dazzling light of the Crystal Keep, right at the core of Court of Sunlight. I was but a child, but already, I knew a predator when I saw one. I knew a fellow monster, too.
A hundred years have passed, and nothing has changed at all. He wears layers of black, fashioned in a parody of a court outfit. He cannot fool me. His clothes are light and easy to move in, yet reinforced with spells and iron casts. This is a set of armor if I’ve ever seen one.
His hair falls in waves, coating him in a golden halo. Of the number of weapons in his arsenal, his beauty is perhaps the most insidious. From the way he smiles at me as he saunters, there’s no doubt that he knows how to make use of it.
“I see you’re tired of sending underlings for me to play with,” I say lightly, eyes closed.
Rydekar chuckles. “They tell me you’re a tricky beast to hunt, precious. I thought I’d give it a try. I rather like the chase.”
I don’t doubt it. “What do you want, Bane?”
I will not call him king, highness, or anything of the sort. His dominion ends at the border of my woods.
Rydekar is lord in the south, on unseelie territory. The Darker Woods are on seelie land, and answer to no one.
No one except me.
“What does any fae want?”
“A beating heart for dinner? Endless, boundless entertainment? No, I know.” I glance down at him. “Better clothes. Well, I don’t share my tailor. Find your own.”
His laugh is music, another trap meant to endear him to me.
“Power, Rissa. I want more power.”
I roll my eyes. “And you’ve come here to seek it?” I gesture around me, to the peaceful clearing.
“Come down, precious.” His voice is sickly sweet, wrapping around me like a cloak.
He aims to seduce me, and if I were any weaker, he might manage, too.
Weaker, or stupider.
“I’m quite content up here, thank you, Bane.”
He sighs with a feigned sadness that makes me smile. “I would prefer not to be forced to make you obey me, Rissa, precious.”
I laughs so hard I nearly fall off the branch. “Make me?”
No one has ever made me do anything, not as a child, and certainly not now. Some tried. Pixie nurses, imp maids and an endless stream of tutors hired to bleed the wilderness out of me.
That I now live alone in the woods shows just how proficient they were in their endeavor.
“Make you,” he repeats, ever so softly. “I would prefer for us to have a partnership, if we could. But I’ll get what I’m here for either way.”
“Will you, now?” I practically purr.
He’s so very delightful. I haven’t had this much fun in an age.
I do leap down from the tree, if only because I want him to regret asking for it.
He saw me as a child in the Court of Sunlight, back when I hid the nightmare within me. There was only a hint of me showing through, back then.
Now, I’m another creature.
In the light of the moon, my complexion is sky blue, like that of a drowned corpse. The feathers grow right out of my shoulders, like the twisted twigs on my arms and legs.
Back then, I wore long sleeves, hiding what I am as best I could. I’m dressed in a midnight spider silk so fine he might even see through it in this light.
Rydekar’s violet eyes take me in, from my dirty, bare feet to my eyes, stopping on every feather, every thorn.
Then he smiles, takes one step forward, and snatches my hand before I can recoil. “There you are, precious.”
I’m so stunned I let go of my power, and feel the nightmare drain out of my skin. My hand is as warm as his, and has returned to the shade it dons when I’m not defending myself. It’s just like his. The twigs and flowers have retreated back inside my veins, and my feathers still.
In this moment, I hate him. He’s taken my shield without any effort.
“What do you want?” I repeat. This time, it sounds like a threat.
Rydekar is done smiling. He’s dropped the pretense, his eyes flashing with a raw need. I am getting a glimpse of the monster beneath his mask. “You,” he tells me. “Where you belong.”
I snatch my hand back.
He dares? He dares!
I’m about to lash out, pushing every drop of magic in my blood to maim him.
He concludes his insult. “On the throne of Denarhelm.”
“You’re a spineless, worthless waste of space.”
He shrugs. “I’ve heard worse.”
“Get out of my woods. I’ll gladly flay you alive if you stay.” And I mean every word, though killing him here would start a war.
“Unlikely, but I’d enjoy your attempt.”
Attempt? I could—and would—end him with little effort. I imagine freezing him in place and extracting every drop of pain and agony from his mind.
“Alfheimr is raising an army, Rissa. Now that the strongest among us have left, we’re vulnerable. Hundreds of thousands of men are arming themselves, and they’ll march on your kingdom first. It’s easy pickings. I could claim it tomorrow if I so wished.”
“There is no throne of Denarhelm,” I reply, gritting my teeth.
The seelie kingdom has long been divided into the thirteen minor courts. The last high queen ruling over them all left the throne vacant for good reasons. While I do have her blood in my veins, even suggesting that I could claim it is preposterous—and cruel.
The Court of Sunlight didn’t even want me to take my father’s place upon his passing. I hadn’t harbored any desire to rule, but the rejection had cut deep.
The thirteen courts would never bow to me.
I could make them, if I so wish. But I don’t.
My lips hitch up an inch at the thought of forcing the thirteen courts to their knees.
I’m so lost in my fantasy, I don’t see the hulking, slender man bending down to me until he whispers in my ear. “A divided kingdom without a leader is weak. You will fall. You will fail. You will all die without my kindness, little girl.”
He expects me to falter, shiver, and drop my gaze to the ground, like the flock of gentry buzzing around him.
My eyes widen in feigned dismay. “Kindness? Why did no one think to tell me you had any?”
I have to allow him this one concession: Rydekar is fun to tease.
He doesn’t even smile. I don’t think anyone has taunted him. “I have none. You will beg nonetheless.”
I just may, in his dreams. And in my nightmares.
“Get out of here,” I repeat.
This time, to my surprise, he complies, walking back to his silver-white warhorse. “I’ve said my piece. When the time is right, send word. I’ll arrange for your coronation.”
I’m confused and out of sorts. He’s leaving, after all this?
I don’t understand him. What would he have to gain if I do as he wishes? Wanting a stronger enemy in the north doesn’t make sense.
He looks back at me, and smiles one last time. “You were right, you know. I’ll steal your tailor.”
That’s a promise and a threat.
I don’t doubt he knows I make my own clothes. There’s no one else around, and nothing much else to do with my time.
Without another word, the infuriating high king of the unseelie is gone.
About the Author
May Sage is a USA Today bestselling romance writer dabbling in different genres, although the readers who follow every series know they’re all related.
When she isn’t writing, she spends her time with her German Shepherd, her two Savannahs, and her black rescue cat, in England. She loves reading, ballet, running, and cake. Mostly, cake.
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About the Author
After publishing for several years under another, not-so-secret name, she decided to start an adventure with this a fantasy romance pen!