We’re super excited about #1 New York Times bestselling author/Queen of Faerie Holly Black‘s new novel The Prisoner’s Throne, the “stunning blood-soaked conclusion to the Stolen Heir duology” which comes out next Tuesday! Visit here to order the book, as well as to read about The Stolen Heir AND see fan playlists and other delights.

Here’s a summary of this new tome:

An imprisoned prince. A vengeful queen. And a battle that will determine the future of Elfhame. 

Prince Oak is paying for his betrayal. Imprisoned in the icy north and bound to the will of a monstrous new queen, he must rely on charm and calculation to survive. With High King Cardan and High Queen Jude willing to use any means necessary to retrieve their stolen heir, Oak will have to decide whether to attempt regaining the trust of the girl he’s always loved or to remain loyal to Elfhame and hand over the means to end her reign—even if it means ending Wren, too.

With a new war looming on the horizon and treachery lurking in every corner, neither Oak’s guile nor his wit will be enough to keep everyone he loves alive. It’s just a question of whom he will doom.

Whom he will doom… !

And then HERE is an excerpt/sneak peek from chapter two of The Prisoner’s Throne. (You can read the whole chapter here!)

He pulls the hood of the cloak down over his face and heads toward the Great Hall. Getting a glimpse of her feels more like a compulsion than a decision.

He can feel the gaze of courtiers drift toward him— covering one’s face in a hood is unusual, at the very least. He keeps his own eyes unfocused and his shoulders back, though his every instinct screams to meet their looks. But he is dressed like a soldier, and a soldier would not turn.

It is harder to pass falcons and to know they might spot his hooves and wonder. But he is hardly the only one to have hooves in Faerie. And everyone who knows that the Prince of Elfhame is in the Citadel believes him to be locked up tight.

Which doesn’t make him any less of a fool for coming into the throne room. When everything goes wrong, he will have no one to blame but himself.

Then he sees Wren, and longing shoots through him like a kick to the gut. He forgets about risk. Forgets about schemes.

Somewhere in the crowd, a musician plucks at a lute. Oak barely hears it.

The Queen of the Ice Citadel sits upon her throne, wearing a severe black dress that shows her bare pale blue shoulders. Her hair is a tumble of azure, some strands pulled back, a few pieces braided through with black branches. On her head is a crown of ice.

In the Court of Moths, Wren flinched away from the gazes of courtiers as she entered the revel on his arm, as though their very notice stung. She curled her body so that, small as she was, she appeared even smaller.

Now her shoulders are back. Her demeanor is that of someone who does not consider anyone in this room— not even Bogdana— a threat. He flashes on a memory of her younger self. A little girl with a crown sewn to her skin, her wrists leashed by chains that threaded between bones and flesh. No fear in her face. That child was terrifying, but no matter how she seemed, she was also terrified.

“The delegation of hags has come,” snaps Bogdana. “Give me the remains of Mab’s bones and restore my power so that I can lead them again.”

The storm hag stands before the throne, in the place of the petitioner, although nothing about her suggests submission. She wears a long black shroud, tattered in places. Her fingers move expressively as she speaks, sweeping through the air like knives.

Behind her are two Folk. An old woman with the talons of some bird of prey instead of feet (or hooves) and a man shrouded in a cloak. Only his hand is visible, and that is covered in what seems to be a scaled, golden glove. Or perhaps his hand itself is scaled and golden.

Oak blinks. He knows the woman with the feet like a bird of prey. That’s Mother Marrow, who operates out of Mandrake Market on the isle of Insmire. Mother Marrow, whom the prince went to at the very start of his quest, asking for guidance. She sent him to the Thistlewitch for answers about Mellith’s heart. He tries to recall now, all these weeks later, whether she’d said anything that might have put him in Bogdana’s path.

Knots of courtiers are scattered around the room, gossiping, making it hard to hear Wren’s soft reply. Oak steps closer, his arm brushing against a nisse. She makes an expression of annoyance, and he shifts away.

“Have I not suffered long enough?” asks Bogdana.

“You would speak to me of suffering?” Nothing in Wren’s expression is soft or yielding or shy. She is every bit the pitiless winter queen.

Bogdana frowns, perhaps a little unnerved. Oak feels somewhat unnerved himself. “Once I have them, my might will be restored— me, who was once first among hags. That’s what I gave up to secure your future.”

“Not my future.” There is a hollowness to Wren’s cheeks, Oak notices. She’s thinner than she was, and her eyes shine with a feverish brightness.

Has she been ill? Is this because of the wound in her side when she was struck by an arrow?

“Do you not have Mellith’s heart?” demands the storm hag. “Are you not her, reborn into the world through my magic?”

Wren does not reply immediately, letting the moment stretch out. Oak wonders if Bogdana has ever realized that the trade she made must have ruined her daughter’s life, long before it led to her horrible death. From the Thistlewitch’s tale, Mellith must have been miserable as Mab’s heir. And since Wren has at least some of Mellith’s memories in addition to her own, she has plenty of reasons to hate the storm hag.

Bogdana is playing a dangerous game.

“I have her heart, yes,” says Wren slowly. “Along with part of a curse. But I am not a child, no less your child. Do not think you can so easily manipulate me.”

The storm hag snorts. “You are a child still.”

A muscle jumps in Wren’s jaw. “I am your queen.”

Bogdana does not contradict her this time. “You have need of my strength. And you have need of my companions if you hope to continue as you are.”

Oak stiffens at those words, wondering at their meaning.

Wren stands, and courtiers turn their attention to her, their conversations growing hushed. Despite her youth and her small stature, she has vast power.

And yet, Oak notices that she sways a little before gripping the arm of her throne. Forcing herself upright.

Something is very wrong.

Bogdana made this request in front of a crowd rather than in private and named herself as Wren’s maker. Called Wren a child. Threatened her sovereignty. Brought in two of her hag friends. These were desperate, aggressive moves. Wren must have been putting her off for some time. But also, the storm hag may have thought she was attacking in a moment of weakness.

First among the hags. He doesn’t like the thought of Bogdana being more powerful than she already is.

“Queen Suren,” says Mother Marrow, stepping forward with a bow. “I have traveled a long way to meet you— and to give you this.” She opens her palm. A white walnut sits at the center of it.

Wren hesitates, no longer quite as remote as she seemed a moment before. Oak recalls the surprise and delight in her face when he bought her a mere hair ornament. She hasn’t been given many presents since she was stolen from her mortal home. Mother Marrow was clever to bring her something.

“What does it do?” A smile twitches at the corners of Wren’s mouth, despite everything.

Mother Marrow’s smile goes a little crooked. “I have heard you’ve been traveling much of late and spending time in forest and fen. Crack the nut and say my little poem, and a cottage will appear. Bring the two halves together again with another verse, and it will return to its shell. Shall I demonstrate?”

“I think we need not conjure a whole building in the throne room,” Wren says.

A few courtiers titter.

Mother Marrow does not seem discomfited in the least. She walks to Wren and deposits the white walnut in her hand. “Remember these words, then. To conjure it, say: We are weary and wish to rest our bones. Broken shell, bring me a cottage of stones.”

The nut in Wren’s hand gives a little jump at the words but then is quiescent once more.

Mother Marrow continues speaking. “And to send it away: As halves are made whole and these words resound, back into the walnut shell shall my cottage be bound.”

“It is a kind gift. I’ve never seen anything like it.” Wren’s hands curl around it possessively, belying the lightness of her tone. He thinks of the shelter she made from willow branches back in her woods and imagines how well she would have liked to have something solid and safe to sleep in. A well-considered gift, indeed.

The man steps forward. “Though I do not like to be outdone, I have nothing so fine to give you. But Bogdana summoned me here to see if I can undo what—”

“That is enough,” Wren says, her voice as harsh as Oak has ever heard it.

He frowns, wishing she’d have let the man finish. But it was interesting that for all the damning things she allowed Bogdana to say, whatever he wanted to undo was the one thing she didn’t want her Court to hear.

“Child,” Bogdana cautions her. “If my mistakes can be unmade, then let me unmake them.”

“You spoke of power,” Wren snaps. “And yet you suppose I will let you strip me of mine.”

Bogdana begins to speak again, but as Wren descends from the throne, guards gather around her. She heads toward the double doors of the Great Hall, leaving the storm hag behind.

Wren sweeps past Oak without a look.

The prince follows her into the hall. Watches the guards accompany her to her tower and begin to ascend.

He follows, staying to the back, blending in with a knot of soldiers.

When they are almost to her rooms, he lets himself fall behind farther. Then he opens a random door and steps inside.

For a moment, he braces for a scream, but the room is— thankfully— empty. Clothing hangs in an open armoire. Pins and ribbons are scattered across a low table. One of the courtiers must be staying here, and Oak is very lucky not to be caught.

Of course, the longer he waits, the luckier he will have to be.

Still, he can hardly barge into Wren’s rooms now. The guards would not have left yet. And there would certainly be servants— even with so few in the castle— attending her.

Oak paces back and forth, willing himself to be calm. His heart is racing. He is thinking of the Wren he saw, a Wren as distant as the coldest, farthest star in the sky. He cannot even focus on the room itself, which he should almost certainly hunt through to find a weapon or mask or something useful.

But instead he counts the minutes until he believes he can safely— well, as safely as possible, given the inherent danger of this impulsive plan— go to Wren’s rooms. He finds no guard waiting in the hall—unsurprising, given the narrowness of the tower, but excellent. No voices come from inside.

What is surprising is that when he turns the knob, the door opens.

He steps into her rooms, expecting Wren’s anger. But only silence greets him.

A low couch sits along one wall, a tray with a teapot and cups on the table in front of it. In a corner beside it, the ice crown rests on a pillow atop a pillar. And across the room, a bed hung with curtains depicting thorned vines and blue flowers.

He walks to it and sweeps the fabric aside.

Wren is sleeping, her pale cerulean hair spread out over the pillows. He recalls brushing it out when they were in the Court of Moths. Recalls the wild tangle of it and the way she held herself very still while his hands touched her.

Her eyes move restlessly under their lids, as though she doesn’t even feel safe in dreams. Her skin has a glassy quality, as though from sweat or possibly ice.

What has she been doing to herself ?

He takes a step closer, knowing he shouldn’t. His hand reaches out, as though he might graze his fingers over her cheek. As though to prove to himself that she’s real, and there, and alive.

He doesn’t touch her, of course. He’s not that much of a fool.

But as though she can sense him, Wren opens her eyes.

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