Harper Voyager is incredibly proud to present the cover for THE FROZEN CROWN, the debut novel by Greta Kelly. The first part of a duology (both coming out in 2021—complete series! Yay!), THE FROZEN CROWN has all the things that we tend to get excited about in epic fantasy:
Action and adventure and humor and love?
Check times four.
What’s great is that we think this cover conveys so much of that. The crown melting into the desert city. The dark blue setting an ominous tone. It all just works to say…
Well, let’s just let the picture (painted by Alan Dingman and designed by Mumtaz Mustafa) chime in with its own 1,000 words.
We really can’t wait for you to read this book. In fact, we’re very excited to offer you a taste right now: an exclusive excerpt from THE FROZEN CROWN:
I pulled the cloak closer about my shoulders, ignoring the bead of sweat dripping down my spine. From my hilltop perch, the walled city of Eshkaroth wasn’t much to look at. The smallest holding in the Free State of Idun, it had only a few hundred inhabitants crowded about a crumbling sea-side castle. The legion at my back could take it in an afternoon, but I hadn’t come to start a war.
I’d come to end one.
General Arkady edged his horse closer to mine, and an expression I couldn’t quite name creased the map-like wrinkles of his face.
“What do you see?” I murmured, my voice too low for the soldiers behind us to hear.
His silence was like a great intake of breath. “A city,” he replied. “Whole and alive.”
Tears prickled my eyes and I blinked them away, telling myself it was the bite of the winter wind making them water. Not because of the fact that a city like this, grey and humble though it looked from here, no longer existed in Seravesh.
Our homeland, pillaged and burning and crawling with invaders, lay less than a mile north of here. But with the jagged peaks of the Peshkalor Mountains shading my back, I might as well have been a hundred miles away. The strangled screams of everyone I’d left behind echoed through the passes, reverberating through my skull. Though my mind knew our last hope lay in the city below, my heart begged me to return to Seravesh. As if even standing on these southern slopes, a few days and a world away from home, was a betrayal.
“Raise the banner,” General Arkady growled at the soldiers around us. “Hood up, Princess,” he added, softer this time.
I glanced over my shoulder in time to see an all-too familiar form separate from the line of cavalrymen. Vitaly twitched his reins and his mount leapt forward cantering past me in a streak of dark hair. A stretch of fabric blew behind him: a black wolf on a field of blue. The banner of the Kingdom of Seravesh snapped in the cold breeze—the same banner from which my Black Wolf Legion took their name. A raucous cheer erupted from my waiting soldiers as Vitaly rode down the ridgeline.
A low rumble began in the general’s chest, like he couldn’t contain his displeasure at this undisciplined display. I hid my smile by drawing up the black wolf head of my cloak. The scene Vitaly had caused wasn’t something the city below could ignore. Their lookouts were surely scouring the line for a leader, and my cloak was distinct. They would see it and report my presence.
Vitaly circled back to us, pulling up his horse with a grin.
“Are you done?” Arkady asked casting a baleful look at the younger man.
Vitaly winced, but his smile didn’t quite fade. “Just trying to keep spirits up, sir.” He glanced over his shoulder, no doubt taking in the men’s haggard faces. Crossing the mountains always exacted a toll, but a cadre of enemy soldiers had stalked us over the range this time, only turning back when it was clear we were headed for Eshkaroth.
Arkady’s eyes narrowed. “And what good will high spirits do? They must think we mean to attack now. The envoy’s probably making a run for it as we speak. If he came at all.”
“No.” The word bubbled out of me before I could stop it. The envoy had to be here. If he wasn’t—
“Look.” Vitaly stabbed a finger toward the castle, his face bright with triumph, as two flags were raised from the battlements: the blazing shield of Idun, and the lion of Vishir.
Relief washed over me. My call for aid hadn’t gone unanswered. If the Vishiri emperor had sent an envoy, my cause was not lost. I could make my case, beg for help, and with it, claim my throne. We were so close.
With my men behind me, I urged my horse toward the city, thundering through Eshkaroth’s muddy streets. People watched us from the narrow windows of slanting, decrepit buildings. Their dim eyes were leeched of curiosity, of wonder. Not even a dozen giant men of the north could rouse their awe.
I let their indifference slide off me. I wasn’t in Eshkaroth for them. I was there for the Vishiri envoy. My father once told me the Vishiri emperor had a weakness for the exotic and the strange. So I would do my barbarian best to catch his interest from a thousand miles away. His interest and, if the Two-Faced God was merciful, his help. Someone had to stand up to the Empire of Roven.
A chubby man wearing a gold torc threw his arms open when I rode into the castle courtyard. “Many welcomes, my lady,” he called with a well-oiled smile. “I am the Maester of Eshkaroth.”
A north wind blew across my face, carrying my own unvoiced scream. I hadn’t ridden through my lost kingdom, through the frigid wastes of the Peshkalor Mountains, to meet with a maester. I’d come for the Vishiri envoy. Was he even here?
“There is a Vishiri flag on your battlement.”
“Ah.” The maester’s smile faded with his understanding. “Governor Erol would have greeted you personally, but since Prince Iskander finds our climate rather unforgiving, the governor sent me in his stead.”
I closed my eyes. Iskander. Of course the emperor sent Iskander. I slid off my horse, passing the reins to a stable boy before making my way up the steps. My guard closed in around me as I swept into the castle, pushing the fat little maester so far off to the side he had to run to keep up.
The Great Hall was packed with nobles, all crowding to get a glimpse of the Vishiri prince. The prince himself was at the other end of the hall, swaddled in blankets despite the overwhelming heat of six blazing hearths. A man I recognized as Governor Erol leaned in close to speak with Iskander, but he wasn’t paying attention. His eyes were on a flock of girls who preened idiotically under his regard.
I suppressed a sneer, focusing instead on the activity around him. From across the hall, I could see the diaphanous forms of curious ghosts gathered about the oblivious prince. I imagined what would happen if he could see the wraiths straining to get a glimpse of him, and swallowed a laugh.
Beside me, a servant banged his staff against the dusty stone floor. “Her Royal Highness, Princess Askia Poritskaya e-Nimri of Seravesh.”
Iskander turned. I smiled.
Untying the cloak and handing it off to the servant, I stalked down the length of the hall. A ripple of gasps followed me. I didn’t care. All that mattered now was the prince.
He rose as I approached, taking in my leather britches and tight-fitting shirt with wide eyes. A sword swayed at my side and two daggers were strapped to my thighs. Another two poked out from the tops of my boots and two more were tucked into my wrist guards. He drank me in like I was a fairy tale come to life. I didn’t even mind how his eyes lingered on my breasts. All the more to tell his father, the emperor, about the savage princess who needed his help.
Governor Erol rose too, a wide smile flashing beneath his curly white beard. “Many welcomes, my lady. Idun is honored by your presence.”
“Thank you for your hospitality, Governor.” I motioned and Vitaly came forward with a dark jar. “A gift for you. El-Shimat tea. My father’s recipe.”
My father, Sevilen e-Nimri, had been the greatest healer of the age. And while I might not have his healing magic, I kept his grimoire; the governor’s rheumatism was well known.
He pressed his left hand to his chest and bowed. “I am humbled by your generosity, my lady—”
“I can’t believe it. It really is you,” the prince said, rushing forward.
Iskander had been a pretty boy and had become a handsome man. He was only a few years older than me, twenty-three or twenty-four, with a lean, well-formed body and a smooth, angular face. His ebony hair fell into dark, guileless eyes, and he smiled at me with real pleasure. It annoyed me for a reason I couldn’t name.
“Indeed. Hello Iskander.”
“I didn’t recognize you at first. You’ve grown.”
I cocked an eyebrow. “Yes. Well, time will do that. We were quite young when we last saw one other.”
His smiled flickered, and something dangerously close to pity rose in his eyes. He glanced at my neck, at the puckered scar across my throat, and swallowed. No doubt he was remembering the last time we met.
“Well, it suits you,” he said, somewhat lamely like he sensed how much I hated the feeling of his sympathy. “In fact, I think I’ll have to give you a new nickname. Do you remember what I used to call you?”
My mind flashed back to my eighth summer, when my family lived at the Vishiri court. Iskander and his little friends had taken one look at my pale skin and red hair and decided I looked like a maggot.
“Do you remember what I did when you used it?” I snapped my jaw shut, but it was too late to recall the words. Arkady stiffened beside me. Prince Iskander’s eyes bulged, clearly and suddenly remembering how I had tackled him to the ground. I held my breath, praying he wouldn’t leave.
A hint of pink colored his dusky skin, but he smiled and began to laugh. “Very good, my lady. No more nicknames. Though that would be a sight to see, eh?”
I nodded, too relieved to smile.
“You must be tired after your journey,” Governor Erol said with an amused glint in his eye. “The maester has prepared rooms for you and your men. Tomorrow night, we shall hold a ball in your honor—but in the morning, I’ve organized a hunt for Prince Iskander.”
“Yes, I’m quite excited for it. Though I’ll have to beg warmer clothes off you, Governor,” Prince Iskander said, rubbing his hands together as if he’d caught a chill. “I don’t know how you survive this cold.”
“You call this cold?” I laughed. “Wait a week, then you might see real snow.”
Iskander’s smiled faltered. “Alas, we do not have a week. We leave at the full moon.”
I jerked back, his words striking me like a blow. They were a blow. “That’s only three days from now.” My godfather wasn’t sending aid, I thought. This wasn’t a negotiation. He was sending his regrets.
“Yes. It’s… unfortunate we can’t stay longer,” Iskander said, shifting from one foot to the other. “We must sail before the winter storms come.”
“Well, then,” I started, my mind scrambling for purchase. “We’ll have to use our time wisely. I would hate for it to be another six years before we see each other again.”
Prince Iskander beamed. “That we must.”
The Governor leaned forward with a clever gleam in his eye. “I’ve heard you’re quite the horsewoman. Would you care to join us on the hunt?”
I could have kissed him. We both knew my window of opportunity was already half closed. He was giving me a chance—perhaps my only chance. An opportunity to snatch a moment alone with Prince Iskander, and convince him to bring me to Vishir. “I’d love to.” I cocked my eyebrows, smirking at the men around me. “If you think you can keep up.”
Hope seared through me at the warmth in Iskander’s voice. This wasn’t the end. Iskander could be swayed, I knew he could. All I had to do was convince him to take me to Vishir. After that, well, there was nothing I wouldn’t do— nothing I wouldn’t give, to convince the Emperor to save my people.
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