Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Clandestine Queen by Brandon J. Greer. Fans of YA fantasy books will want to check this one out. Keep reading to learn more about the book and enter the giveaway to win a signed copy for yourself. (US only)
Author: Brandon J. Greer
Publisher: Cedar Fort Inc.
Publication Date: April 12, 2022
A shard of ice hides in her chest
A raging fire burns in his.
A lost queen
A desperate assassin
Together they will change the world.
Maggie Abernathy always thought she was human, even though she could do the most peculiar things. Things no other girl in her village could do. Fifteen years after being abandoned as a baby, she begins to question who she is, where she belongs, and what she might be capable of. When a mysterious letter from the past calls her home, she embarks on a journey that will change her life forever-if she survives.
Loravain-an enslaved, ember-breathing witch hunter-is hot on her trail and gaining fast. If he can find and kill her, he will win what he has sought for twenty years: freedom from the demon he serves. But he knows he isn't supposed to be the villain, and his conscience weighs heavily even as he continues his hunt. Will the prospect of freedom overpower his desire for redemption?
As their fates intertwine, neither knows what the future truly holds.
Excerpt: The Clandestine Queen by Brandon J. Greer
At the base of the mountain, a narrow, winding path had become visible. At the head stood two massive statues guarding the way. The figure to the left was a large stone man cocooned in fire, his arms stretched out in front of him. Marble robes extended to the base of the pedestal he stood on. His face was hidden beneath a dark hood. The other statue was an angry bear standing on its hind legs. It was taller than the man and much broader. Instead of a natural, animal emotion, the bear wore an expression of caution, a warning to the unworthy.
“Only Loravain is to proceed from this point,” Thanatos said, stopping the others’ progression to the trail. “If you cross the threshold, you will most likely die.”
Head down, Loravain proceeded to the guardians alone but stopped when someone touched his hand. Turning around, he stared into Sarah’s watering eyes.
“Be careful up there, okay?” she pleaded.
He squeezed her hand and whispered something into her ear that made her smile through the tears.
“I heard that,” Maggie said when Sarah returned to her side. “How long has that been going on?”
Sarah shrugged her shoulders and looked away, deliberately avoiding the question.
Loravain stared up at the guardians. As he watched, the stone flames, carved so many years ago, began to flicker in the light of the dying sun. Or was it something else? Behind him, the sun was still above the horizon, but only just. He thought he could hear the faint crackling of fire as well. As he stepped closer, the flickering became more intense, the folds of the man’s cloak becoming more prominent. Suddenly, the stone began to crack and fall away, chunk by chunk, revealing an actual man beneath it, wrapped in burning fire. The flames, when free from their prison, leaped to the bear. Both statues were now raging infernos. Loravain backed away.
“Glory awaits the worthy judged.” A strange voice hissed through Loravain’s mind. “And fire to cleanse the troubled soul. To put away the long-held grudge, the newfound hero, his story told.”
The voice repeated the phrase in his head, the flames growing and falling to its rhythm. As he prepared to proceed, another voice spoke to him. A voice he knew well and longed to be with.
“Come to me. Be found worthy of this gift.” It was Camila.
Loravain stepped forward, crossing into the arc of flames in front of him. Instead of heat, a cool summer breeze blew across his skin and the world behind him was silenced. More and more voices called out to him, speaking of power, glory, corruption, and death. Visions of war, blood, and carnage flashed before his eyes, followed by tranquil scenes of peace and prosperity. The voices continued, rising in volume, reciting to him his deeds. His past was played out before him, and he was ashamed of the man he had been. Yet, knowing that he had committed those sins, he took full responsibility for them.
“Yes,” he shouted. “I did those things, but I am no longer that person. I have changed.”
Falling to his knees, he wept for his sins, for those he had killed, and the families he had left fatherless, sonless, and parentless. When his sorrows peaked, a soft hand reached out from the bright light of the flames and caressed his tear-streaked face.
“Don’t cry, my love. Your heart is noble. Your future is also being judged, not only your past.”
The hunter looked up into the eyes of his beautiful bride. Her hair was brilliant, burning with fire, but her face was just as he remembered.
“Forgive me, Camila,” he pleaded. “I should have done more. I could have saved you.”
“You could have done nothing. You were meant to play a much greater role in life. My death has served a purpose. You are the one destined to help this witch. This is what your life has been leading you to. Had we been allowed to stay together; the world would have been plunged into darkness.”
“But I have created much of that darkness,” Loravain said.
“We must come to understand the darkness before we can fully appreciate the light,” Camila answered.
“Will I ever see you again?”
“I am waiting for you in a place that has been prepared for us, but you still have much to do here.”
“What must I do?”
“You have been found worthy. As you proceed up the mountain, you will face three challenges. They will teach you about the power you are seeking. Open your mind as you climb for enlightenment cannot be obtained if the book is closed.”
Camila stepped back into the flames and disappeared, along with the voices, the visions, and the fire. The trail appeared before him again, leading up the barren, rocky landscape of the mountain. Looking back, he saw Sarah and Maggie huddled together in conversation. Thanatos sat near the sleds. They were not watching him. They didn’t appear to be able to see him. He was on this quest alone. Drawing in a deep breath of air, he held it for a moment, warming it with his fire, then slowly released it as he took his first steps to becoming a true Fire Mage.