As you were all so kind and indulged me yesterday, I have a special treat. Like Gikany says, “while the cat’s away, the mice will play” and since we are the West Coast Remix, we are bringing what we will call a Tuesday Teaser Snippet (Sunday Snippets on a Tuesday…YAY!!!). This is a preview of the book we are reviewing tomorrow. We hope you enjoy!
The Stepsister Scheme
by Jim C. Hines
…“You should tell her, Talia.”
“You should stay out of this.”
Snow reached over to put a juice-stained hand on Talia’s arm. “’Knowledge ranks first among all weapons.’ King Phillipe the Second said that. The more Danielle knows, the better prepared she’ll be.”
“Phillipe. Isn’t he the one who took a cloth yard arrow to the throat?” Talia pulled away from Snow’s touch. “Knowledge might make a good weapon, but it’s lousy armor.”
“I don’t mean to upset you,” Danielle said.
“Of course not. Everyone always has the best of intentions.” Talia snorted and tucked a few sweaty strands of hair behind her ear. “Sure, the fairies gave me their ‘gifts.’ Some of them take great pleasure in ‘improving’ us lowly humans. They gave me grace, beauty, the voice of an angel… everything a princess needs to satisfy her future husband.”
She reached into her bag and pulled out the spindle-shaped zaraq whip she had taken from the palace. “Then there was the curse, that I would die by my sixteenth birthday.”
“But you didn’t,” Danielle said. “The last fairy saved you. You can’t judge all of them from-“
“The last fairy destroyed me,” Talia said. Her dark eyes were numb and empty. “She perverted the curse. Instead of death, the spell brought unending sleep. Not just to me, but to everyone in the palace. She raised a hedge of thorns around our home to shelter us from the world. For a century we slept.”
“Until your Prince came,” Danielle said.
Talia slammed the whip’s handle against the basket hard enough to elicit a squawk of protest from Karina.
“With our palace gone, my uncle claimed the throne. For years that hacked their way through the hedge until they broke through. My ‘prince’ was the great-great-grandson of the man who ordered the murder of my parents, my brothers and sisters, everyone who might one day awaken and challenge their rule. The only reason they allowed me to live is that they didn’t know what my death would do to the fairy’s spell.”
Danielle wanted to reach over and offer some kind of support, feeble and worthless though the gesture might be. But she doubted Talia would appreciate it. “What happened next?”
“The prince awakened me,” Talia said. “The tales got that much right, at least.” She rubbed her hands together, like she was trying to clean them. “A hundred years I slept, and not once did those fairies return to see how my family fared. The one who cursed me did it out of spite. But it was her companions, through their blindness and apathy, who destroyed us.”
Danielle turned toward Snow, who had set the pomegranate seed aside and was staring out the side of the basket.
“Is that how it was with you?” Danielle asked. “Your life sounds so awful in the stories, but they say you found happiness in the end.”
“For close to a year, I lived with the hunter my mother had hired to kill me,” Snow said. “But then she learned of his betrayal and tortured him to death. I destroyed her for that.” Snow shrugged and reached for another bag. “Did we bring anything else to drink?”
“Are all of the tales like this?” Danielle asked. “Did Jack Giantslayer fall into despair and poverty? Was Red Riding Hood murdered by wolves seeking revenge for the death of their kin?”
Talia snorted. “No, Red survived. But that kind of thing changes a woman.”
“Changes her how?”
“The Lady of the Red Hood is one of the most feared assassins this side of Adenkar,” Snow said.
Danielle stared, trying to read their faces. “You’re joking.”
“It’s true.” Talia rolled up her sleeves and touched one of the scars on her forearm. “Bitch nearly killed the queen a few years back.”