I fell head over heels in love with a new series this weekend - the Malediction Trilogy. I'd been meaning to read Stolen Songbird for a while now, but hadn't gotten around to it. I'm totally kicking myself in the butt for waiting so long! I flew through the pages of both books, and I'm simply dying to find out what happens next. (Warrior Witch, why are you so far away?)
Stolen Songbird is about a girl named Cécile, who is kidnapped by trolls and taken under the mountain to where they are forced to reside. While she initially wants to escape, she soon learns that there is more than meets the eye when it comes to this place she's in. Hidden Huntress continues her story, as Cécile struggles to find a way to help the trolls - even if it involves hunting a very powerful witch. I was really impressed by how Jensen told Cecile's story, and I kind of, sort of really have a bit of a crush (read: a huge crush) on Tristan.
Thankfully, we're getting a little something to tide us over. I'm so excited to be sharing an exclusive sneak peek at the first two chapters in Warrior Witch, the final novel in the Malediction Trilogy by Danielle L. Jensen. Don't worry - it's not too long before Warrior Witch is out in the world (May 3 for US/Can; May 5 for UK/rest of the world)! Here's a quick summary of what we can expect in this series finale:
|cover artwork: Steven Stone|
Sometimes, one must become the unimaginable…
Cécile and Tristan have accomplished the impossible, but their greatest challenge remains: defeating the evil that they have unleashed upon the world.
As they scramble for a way to protect the people of the Isle and liberate the trolls from their tyrant king, Cécile and Tristan must battle those who’d see them dead. To win, they will risk everything… and everyone. But it might not be enough. Both Cécile and Tristan have debts, and they will be forced to pay them at a cost far greater than they had ever imagined.
Everything is at stake, in the heart-stopping conclusion to the acclaimed Malediction Trilogy.
Doesn't it just sound like an epic series ender? I just need to know that everyone (*coughs* Cécile and Tristan *coughs*) is going to be all right, and that there's a happy ending in store. Can you promise that, Danielle? Can you? Ahem. Anyway, without further ado, here are the first two chapters of Warrior Witch, as promised!
My voice, the one thing about me that had always been valued, suddenly seemed inconsequential in the cacophony of voices filling the courtyard. Questions and demands fought with the cries of those whose nerves had collapsed in the face of this unknown adversary, their collective onslaught driving me back step by step until I stood apart in the snow.
Tristan raised one hand, silencing the din. “Your questions will be answered, but not here and not now.” To the grim-faced Regent, he added, “Assemble your counsel. We’ve plans to make and time is short.”
“You presume to give orders to me, boy?” the Regent replied, his tone as chilly as the air. He alone seemed calm, and I almost admired him for it, given that he must have known what, if not who, Tristan was. Almost, because I knew his scorn was directed at the one boy capable of saving us all.
Tristan’s flash of frustration made my teeth clench, and a prickle of unease burned between my shoulders, causing me to glance in the direction of Trollus. How soon would they come? And what would they do when they arrived? They were questions that likely sat heavily in Tristan’s mind, and both of us knew we didn’t have time to stand in a courtyard arguing.
“Presume?” There was almost no inflection in Tristan’s voice, but tension sang through the crowd. “Have you forgotten why you, and all those before you, have styled yourselves as regents? Or perhaps you’re unaware of what the title means?”
“I’ve forgotten nothing,” the Regent snapped. “I know our history.”
“Then you know it is no presumption,” Tristan said. “You owe your allegiance to my family and our crown; and if you do not offer it freely, it is within my right, and certainly within my power, to take it by force.”
He was silent for a moment, and I held my breath, uncertain of what he’d say next or why he believed that threatening this man was the right path to take. We needed him on our side.
“But instead I offer you a choice,” Tristan continued. “Side with me and fight for the freedom of your race.”
“Or?” The Regent wasn’t a weak man – was as born and bred to politics as Tristan. But I did not miss the unsteadiness in his voice.
“Or don’t. And I will walk away and leave you to fight this war on your own with no doubt in my mind that it will be over by morning. And all that your people will have lost – lives and loved ones and liberty – will be on your hands. That is, if my father allows you to live long enough for you to see the outcome of your choice.”
All the world’s blood will be on your hands… My mother’s, no, Anushka’s words, echoed through my thoughts, and I bit my lip.
The Regent’s eyes tracked to my brother, who remained disguised as Lord Aiden. “You knew this was coming, and yet said nothing?”
Wise enough to know the man would recognize that Fred’s voice was not his son’s, my brother only nodded and hung his head.
The horns of Trollus ceased their call, yet in their absence somehow seemed more present. More ominous.
“Choose,” Tristan said, and only our bond gave away his apprehension.
The Regent let out a ragged breath and inclined his head, the cords in his neck standing out as though his body itself fought the gesture of subservience. “Very well.” He turned his head to a man standing to his left. “Assemble the council.”
The crowd parted to make a path to the entrance of the castle, but the Regent stepped to one side. “After you, Your Highness.”
Tristan started forward, Fred and the Regent falling in behind him, and none of them looked back. I raised a foot to follow, then lowered it back into the puddle that the magic coating my skin had melted into the snow. I was not needed in this, nor, I thought, glancing down at my tattered and bloodstained costume, welcome.
The crowd of nobles dispersed, some calling desperately for their carriages so they might escape to the dubious safety of their homes, while others went to peer through the lowered portcullis, the wind having eroded away the dragon’s shape, leaving behind only a mound of snow. Many of them cast suspicious glances my way, understanding that I was somehow involved, but none of them guessing in what capacity. That I was responsible. That in the space of a few heartbeats, I had determined the fate of us all.
Almost from the moment I’d known the trolls existed, my purpose had been set. My goal known. Kill the witch. End the curse. Rescue Tristan. Free my friends. All of which I had accomplished.
I’d unleashed the trolls and worse upon the world with a vague certainty that it could be made to work, that we would triumph and peace would be had; but not once had I considered what role I would play. What part Tristan would play, yes. In the innate decency of most of the trolls, yes. In the ability of my friends to overthrow the wicked, yes. But of myself…
I swallowed hard, panic creeping in around the edges of my thoughts. Tristan had walked away without acknowledging who I was or what I’d done. Without so much as a backward glance. Logically, I knew that he would not have done so without reason. Good reason. But the dreadful grasping claws of doubt whispered something else.
The gazes of those left outside no longer seemed suspicious, they seemed full of accusation and blame. The urge to run filled me, but to where? The home of the woman I’d murdered? The hotel room filled with memories? There was nowhere and no one in Trianon that I could turn to for guidance. Except…
My feet moved, and I flew up the steps into the castle. Faster and faster I ran, through the dim corridors until I found the door I was looking for. Flinging it open, I stumbled inside. “Sabine?”
And slid to a stop. Julian knelt on the floor, his face streaked with tears and my mother’s corpse in his arms. His eyes blazed with anger, and with one hand, he fumbled for the pistol at his waist and pointed it at my chest. “Murderer,” he hissed.
He was not wrong.
Do not look at her! I screamed the order at myself, but keeping my back turned and taking those first few steps seemed almost impossible.
But so very necessary.
They could not learn that it was Cécile who’d killed Anushka. Bad enough that she was clearly complicit, but if the humans learned she’d wielded the knife, they’d blame her for what was to come. And already her death was sought by too many. Better that they believed it was me and have all the violence and vitriol cast at my feet.
Yet knowing it was the right choice did little to ease the sting of leaving her standing alone in the snow, hands stained with blood. It was Anushka’s blood, not her mother’s – for Genevieve had been dead many long years – but I doubted very much that she was yet capable of disassociating the two.
Unbidden, the memory of her lashing out with the knife crossed my vision, the blow shallow and clumsy, and yet filled with uncharacteristic violence. The second strike: more certain and deep enough to kill. And the reasons she’d given me for doing it… They’d been good and just – motivations I’d expect, knowing her as I did. Yet I couldn’t help but question what had really driven her hand. She’d been under compulsion, and now, having delivered on her promise, was no longer. Did she regret what she had done?
I shoved the thoughts from my mind. What was done was done, and my focus needed to be on formulating a plan to prevent my people – and the fey – from wrecking havoc on the Isle. And on the world. Wresting control from my father. Putting an end to Angoulême, and… managing Roland.
I resisted the urge to glance at Fred; that bit of deception was bound to bite me on the ass sooner rather than later, because Aiden had freed himself while I was cut off from my power. It was my fault for not tying off the magic binding him. That he hadn’t shown up yet made me very uneasy. He was under my father’s compulsion, but how that would manifest was yet unknown. There were too many players, too many moving parts, and I didn’t feel well enough informed to make a move one way or another.
But doing nothing would only ensure our defeat. Our enemies were almost certainly on the move – schemes months, if not years, in the making were unfolding as I scrambled to catch up.
Ahead, the doors to a chamber opened, the guards standing at either side eyeing me nervously as I passed. Ignoring the massive table surrounded by chairs, I went to the stone staircase on the far side of the room. “This leads to the tower?” I asked no one in particular.
“Yes,” Fred replied, and I didn’t miss the sharp glance the Regent shot his direction, silently willing Fred to keep his mouth shut until I could manage his revealing appropriately.
Taking the steps three at a time, I shoved open the iron-bound oak door at the top and stepped out into the bitter cold of winter. From this height, all of Trianon was spread out before me, the walls marked in intervals with burning torches and the better parts of the city glowing faintly from the gaslights lining the streets. It was eerily quiet, but the tension seeping out from every household was palpable, even from my lofty perch. The humans were afraid, and as much as I hated to admit it, the Winter Queen had done me a favor in that. Fear could be a unifying force, and if I could harness it, so much the better.Shifting my gaze in the direction of Trollus, I leaned my elbows against the stone parapet, only vaguely aware of those who’d followed. My father had told Cécile of his intention to take the Isle peaceably, and to a certain extent, I believed him. To that end, I knew his target would be Trianon, because whoever held the capital and its leaders controlled the Isle. Right now, I held the city, and it needed to stay that way.
A vision of what I needed formed in my mind, and I let magic drift out and away, shaping it with willpower and practice. The walls surrounding Trianon began to glow with silver light until they appeared more magic than stone. And then I made them higher. Up and up the wall of light climbed, curving inward until the city was encased in a massive dome of magic.
“Is that to keep your kind out or us in?”
I turned. Fred, the Regent, and one other man whom I presumed was his advisor stood with their faces turned to the sky. Lady Marie shivered beside them, lips drawn into a thin line as she waited for an answer to her question.
“Both,” I said, neglecting to add that my father and a handful of others had enough power to break through, should they feel inclined. The purpose was not to stop a frontal attack, but to keep anyone from sneaking up on me unawares. My father didn’t want a war – he wanted to pull strings until everything fell into place. But that didn’t mean he wouldn’t resort to force if necessary. “It will buy us time to plan.”
“Us?” she snarled. “If your interests were so aligned with ours, why didn’t you let Anushka be? If she was still alive, none of this would be happening.”
And Cécile would be dead, with me along with her. And my people would remain at the mercy of my enemies. “The costs were too high.” I hesitated. “I’ve come to believe there’s a better way.”
“Is that what you told Cécile to convince her to help you kill her mother?”
It had been very much the other way around, but I was content to let her believe I was the instigator. The Regent was staring at his wife as though she were a stranger, confirming he’d had no idea that Marie was harboring the witch he’d been hunting on our behalf.
“Genevieve de Troyes was one of the many aliases Anushka used over the years,” I said.
“And you knew?” the Regent demanded of his wife. “You harbored her? Do you have any idea what they would have done to us if they’d discovered your betrayal?” It dawned on him then that one of them stood less than two paces away. “I didn’t know.”
“Clearly,” I said, wondering how well he was going to take the revelation of his son’s betrayal. “But no longer relevant. What matters now is the defense of Trianon.”
They stepped aside for me as I made my way back to the heavy door. Cécile was moving through the castle, her distress biting at my concentration. I wanted to talk to her, to find out what was going on in her head, but what I needed was to focus on discovering the plans of both my father and Angoulême. And Winter.
“What about those flying creatures? Will your dome keep them out?” Marie demanded, following me down the stairs.
Considering the fey could tear a path between worlds anywhere they chose, I highly doubted it, but the question was good. She alone seemed to understand the urgency of the situation. “Only iron–” I broke off when a slice of fear lanced through me. Cécile.
“Iron?” she asked. “What of it?”
Where was she? Had my father’s minions reached us before I’d cut them off. Or Angoulême’s?
“Marie, be silent,” the Regent hissed. “He isn’t interested in listening to the questions of a woman.”
I bolted down the last few stairs and across the room, passing Aiden-Fred as I ran. Only as my hands slammed against the door did it occur to me that his presence didn’t make sense. Fred had been up in the tower with us. Had been silently shadowing the Regent on the stairs. Which meant the man who’d just passed me wasn’t Cécile’s brother.
Marie screamed, and I turned around in time to see Aiden du Chastelier plunge the point of a sword through his father’s heart.
* Excerpt is taken from an uncorrected proof, and is subject to change
I'll be damned if that doesn't make me want this novel even more than I already do. Warrior Witch is going to be excellent, and I just need that satisfying ending in hand! Hope you enjoyed seeing that little excerpt, and will join me in waiting for the final part of this trilogy. A big thank you to Angry Robot Books & Danielle for sharing these chapters with me, so that I in turn can share them with YOU!
Danielle was born and raised in Calgary, Canada. At the insistence of the left side of her brain, she graduated in 2003 from the University of Calgary with a bachelor’s degree in finance.
But the right side of her brain has ever been mutinous; and in 2010, it sent her back to school to complete an entirely impractical English literature degree at Mount Royal University and to pursue publication. Much to her satisfaction, the right side shows no sign of relinquishing its domination.
Have you read the Malediction Trilogy? Do you want to? What did you think of the excerpt?