Welcome to my stop on the Realm of Ruins blog tour!
This is my first time being part of a book tour (it was at the time I wrote this post, at least) and I’m so excited!!! Today I’m sharing the prologue and first chapter of Realm of Ruins by Hannah West! This is book two of The Nissera Chronicles, but they’re companions so you can read this one even if you haven’t read the first one yet! There’s also a link to the rest of the tour, some information about Hannah, and a giveaway!!! And without further ado, here’s the post!
Book InfoRealm of Ruins (The Nissera Chronicles, #2) by Hannah West
Series: The Nissera Chronicles #2
Published on December 4, 2018 by Holiday House
Genres: YA, Fantasy
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Valory’s power is different . . . it’s dangerous, unruly, and destructive. But can she channel it to crush a cunning enemy and save the realm from chaos?
Welcome to Nissera, land of three kingdoms and home to spectacular magic.
A century after her legendary ancestors overcame a bloodthirsty tyrant, seventeen-year-old Valory Braiosa attends a training academy for elicromancers, immortal beings with magical gifts. Yet Valory’s immense power seems impossible to tame, and she faces imprisonment by the Nisseran authorities. Then a forbidden resurrection spell awakens a long-dormant evil, and Valory may be the only one who can vanquish this terrifying villain. Together with a band of allies—including an old friend; a haughty princess; and a mysterious, handsome stranger—Valory must learn to harness her power and fight back.
Weaving together her imaginative world of gritty fairytale magic with snippets from Beauty and the Beast and other classic stories, Hannah West’s dark and dangerous adventure is a gripping, immersive companion to her acclaimed debut, Kingdom of Ash and Briars. This richly packaged edition includes an illustrated family tree, detailed map, and embossed jacket with shimmering metallic effects.
P R O L O G U E
The first kingdom he destroyed by plague, the second by vanity and decadence.
The third he destroyed by wielding its own craving for power.
But the new queens rebuilt the realm from its ruins.
And it will never be destroyed.
O N E
RAINDROPS tapped on my brow as I hastened across the soggy training grounds toward the academy. I shut out the sharp whispers pursuing me, but I couldn’t outpace the enchantment that struck the small of my back.
Warmth danced between my shoulder blades as I fumbled with the ornamental clasp on my cloak, refusing to cast a sideways glance at the flames crawling up the fabric. But ribbons of heat licked through to my skin and gave me no choice but to drop my satchel full of books to roll in the mud.
My three assailants caught up to me. I lay on my back, gritting my teeth hard enough to crush them to powder.
“If you’re going to spread disparaging rumors about a superior, Valory,” said a wiry, wan-faced boy—my second cousin, Melkior—as he pinned my cloak under his boot, “you should mind your listener’s loyalties.”
I shot an exasperated look at the girl idling behind him. She was new to the elicromancer academy. I had hoped to make her feel welcome, but apparently Melkior had beaten me to it, and in return she’d given him her fealty. The offhand comment I’d made about him during Herb Magic lessons in the greenhouses had been noted.
Melkior hunkered down beside me, his eyes narrowing to slits behind a curtain of stringy dark hair. “You think I’m not worthy to be an elicromancer.”
“You have your elicrin stone,” I growled, ripping my cloak from under his heel. He wobbled and caught himself by planting a hand in the muck. “You’ve already proven yourself worthy. I simply said you make such waste of your gift.”
“At least I have one to waste,” Melkior sneered. He stood and signaled to the other two. I tried to scramble to my feet, but the boy, one of my dear cousin’s rotating henchmen, lunged to pin my wrists. The girl made bloody hatch marks on my arms and face by merely flicking her finger through the air, as though my flesh were nothing but a scratch page in her notes dossier. My cloak and the sleeves of my gray scholar’s tunic ripped to rags while I landed a glancing kick to the boy’s stomach and stifled grunts of pain. I wouldn’t give Melkior any more pleasure in his dark sport.
He let the torment go on much too long before he waved his friends away and drew close to touch my forehead, his milky-white elicrin stone aglow on the silver medallion around his neck. It was the only time the smirk slipped unsuspectingly off his face, when he concentrated on healing. My cuts closed up like ripped fabric under a deft seamstress’s care.
I clambered up, eager to retaliate. But unlike those of the other pupils in my tier, my temper did not summon poisonous breaths from my lungs or a lightning bolt from the sky—or do anything magical at all.
Melkior knew this. His self-satisfied grin made his otherwise decent face look weaselly.
“If you’re so superior, why are you still loitering around the academy?” I demanded, desperate to land a blow. “Don’t you have more important things to do? Or do even the most sickly patients find your presence unbearable and beg for death to come?”
The girl swiped her hand through the air, slashing my cheek and lip. A growl rumbled deep in my throat. She cocked one thin brow as if to say she’d be happy to keep slicing me up like a juicy ham, but my cousin Ander jogged over from the nearby stables. The crest-shaped carnelian elicrin stone hanging above his navel captured the sunlight so as to twinge my pride a bit.
“Is he bothering you, Valory?” he asked.
“Is he ever not?”
Melkior’s companions bowed their heads and shifted behind their leader. What was it about Ander that made him so regal and imposing? I possessed as much royal blood as he, and stood closer to claiming the throne than Melkior. But others did not instinctively bow their heads in my presence, much less do my bidding. In fact, they seemed to have no qualms about making mincemeat of me.
“I trust you will allow Valory to reach her next lecture and her birthday celebration on time, without further harm.” Ander gave Melkior a pointed look, but it wasn’t without pity. Melkior was the one cracked egg out of a dozen, the family outcast, and that hadn’t changed when he became an elicromancer.
“Yes, of course. Are you quite all right, Valory? I admit that got out of hand.” Melkior glared at his henchwoman as he said this. Her face flamed under Ander’s gaze, and she hurried to pick up my satchel and books. She was not only a new pupil, but a peasant from a far village. Joining an elicromancer academy studded with royals was no doubt intimidating. I watched the realization dawn: she had too swiftly chosen her allies.
I would forgive her. Melkior’s accomplices usually abandoned him after they realized that being royal didn’t make one right.
Eyes down, she passed off my muddy satchel. Melkior placed a hand on my face to heal me, but I jerked back and spat blood onto his boot.
“Come on,” Ander said, ushering me away. “You’ll be late for your lecture.”
We turned our backs on Melkior and his gang, strutting over the spongy grass. The rain clouds had begun to scatter, revealing a slate of cornflower blue. The palace stretched over the green fields, a pale mountain with a river running through it and wine-red flags waving sinuously from its parapets. The academic wing stood apart from the palace, joined to it by an arcade strewn with ivy.
“Melkior never learned why it was wrong to cut off a kitten’s tail and regrow it,” Ander said as we walked. “Since he can immediately fix something he’s broken, I suppose it doesn’t make sense to him not to break it.”
“I don’t care what does and doesn’t make sense to him,” I said, at last succeeding in unclasping my cloak. “His heart is a rock and his brain is a pebble. I don’t see why the Water didn’t just swallow him whole.”
“Maybe it didn’t want him.” Ander smiled down at me, his fair cheeks ruddy. The levity in his gray eyes revealed that he hadn’t a care in the world. He stood fourth in line to the throne of Calgoran, and these were untroubled times. “Perhaps he will have some use yet. With a gift like that, surely he will be useful whether he wants to be or not.”
I shrugged, noticing as I did so that I smelled of sweat and sludge. Ander had just returned from a hunting trip planned in preparation for my birthday feast, but his dark hair still smelled of fine fragrant oils.
“Are you sure you don’t want him to heal that cut?” he asked as we parted ways.
“I’d kiss a wild horse on the hoof before I’d let Melkior touch me again,” I said, joining the other late pupils scurrying from one lecture to another.
Ander shook his head and strode toward the entrance to the palace, ignoring the fawning looks my peers cast his way. With a gentle dab at the stinging cut on my lip, I sauntered to my Elicrin History and Folklore lesson.
Professor Wyndwood had already begun his lecture and shot me a disapproving look from beneath feral gray eyebrows before proceeding. I draped my ruined cloak on a hook and hurried to my seat next to Knox Rodenia near the tracery windows. Most people I met were taller than me, but Knox’s hefty build made him seem especially towering. He was strong yet a bit cushy, with kind green eyes, fawn skin, and agreeable features.
“I would say ‘happy birthday,’ but it doesn’t look as if it has been,” he whispered as I sank down beside him. “What happened? Was it Melkior? I swear, when I’m an elicromancer I won’t let him get away with it. I don’t care if he’s royalty. He can’t treat people like this.”
“I’m fine,” I said, extracting a soggy textbook from my satchel with a grimace.
“What about your ball tonight? You’re going to go with your face like that and let him win?”
“He wins when anyone pays him mind,” I hissed.
From the front row, Jovie Neswick sighed with annoyance at our commotion. She had never shown an aptitude for elicrin magic but was permitted to attend lectures due to her noble status and enthusiasm. Her tawny hair was always smoothed back in a painfully tight plait, pulling her parchment-pale forehead taut, and she was always, always taking notes. Sometimes I worried that there was no clear distinction between the Conclave’s benevolence toward her and their justification for my presence at the academy. Hereditary magic didn’t guarantee a gift—apparently—and there were plenty of people with no known elicromancer lineage who manifested gifts; but with a family tree laden with ripe magical fruit, I staked a greater claim to this seat.
The professor cleared his throat and glared at me and Knox. I clamped my lips together, tasting the tang of blood.
“Don’t be like everyone else,” Knox continued in a hushed voice when Professor Wyndwood resumed his lecture. “Don’t absolve Melkior just because he’s a Healer. I can feel the way he hurts people, tearing them down with words and bruises. I shudder to think what I’ll sense from him when my gift is fully unlocked.”
“Perhaps you’ll better understand the motives behind the malice.” “I’m not sure I want to.”
“Some Empath you are!” I teased with a wry smile that stung my split lip.
Professor Wyndwood nearly shouted to catch our attention. “Can anyone name the ages of Nissera?” he asked. “Valory?”
“The Archaic Age, the Heroic Age, the Mortal Age, and our current Age of Accords, sir.”
“Very good,” the professor muttered reluctantly.
“It might be sooner than we thought,” Knox whispered after a moment.
“What?” I asked.
“My ceremony. The professors have agreed I’m ready for my elicrin stone. They’ve scheduled a hearing with the Conclave.”
As we came of age, professors picked off pupils in my tier one by one like wild game on a hunt, pulling them out of courses and elevating them to a higher status. Once approved, each potential elicromancer stepped through the portal to a woodland pond rife with deadly, glorious magic. Upon contact, the Water tore each one under like a thief in the night, trapping its quarry under impenetrable ice.
If the Water considered you worthy, the ice shattered, and one of the shards became an elicrin stone offering greater power and control over your gift, as well as immortality.
If the Water didn’t offer you an elicrin stone, it drowned you and swallowed every trace.
Whether the risk was worth taking was determined on a case-by-case basis by the Conclave, a collective of elicromancers and mortals who presided over the academy and acted as a gateway between us pupils and our ambitions.
“Already?” I shook away the shock and mustered a smile. “That’s wonderful.”
My tone contradicted my words. I glanced at the empty seat next to the window where Ivria had sat just weeks ago. Ander’s older sister, my cousin and dearest friend, had been approved for her ceremony. Now the time had come for her to decide whether or not to brave the deadly Water in order to receive an elicrin stone, to test the unpredictable magic in her blood against her life.
Ander had excelled enough to obtain his stone early, while Ivria’s lack of confidence had kept her at the academy well into her last term.
I wished I lacked confidence and nothing else. I knew the enchantments. I had excelled intellectually in all my studies: Astronomy, Cleromancy, Herb Magic, Curses and Forbidden Rituals, Deep Magic and Ancient Forces. Yet the absence of even a murmur of magic inside me meant I might never have the chance to put my expertise to use.
But Knox had received approval.
He and I had always been equals, never one a better student than the other. I had mastered knowledge but wavered in magic manifestation. He demonstrated a strong gift but lagged in his studies.
Now he would have his ceremony. He would touch the deadly Water, and it wouldn’t kill him. He would receive an elicrin stone and become immortal the moment he reached physical maturity. He would put all the spells he had theoretically mastered into practice. To my left and my right would be nothing but empty chairs.
I would be stuck here with Jovie the mortal, and I would have no choice but to exit the academy in defeat and shame.
“What was the event that marked the end of the Heroic Age and the beginning of the Mortal Age?” Wyndwood asked. “Knox?”
“Um,” Knox said.
I bit my tongue to keep from whispering the answer. Perhaps I’d given him too many answers.
“The Elicrin War?” Knox guessed.
“In a way,” Wyndwood conceded. “After the peacekeeping elicromancers defeated the rebels in the Elicrin War, they gave up their stones, and therefore their power and immortality. They subverted a flaw that has plagued elicromancers for ages: the temptation to think of ourselves as higher beings and use magic for personal gain rather than for the greater good. Of course, as long as the Water exists, so too will elicromancers, and so too will the temptation to subjugate mortals . . . but we have learned from history how to keep our kind in check.”
While the professor lectured on, his rampant eyebrows help-ing to emphasize each point, I thought about the elicrin gifts, from prophetic visions and supernatural strength, to shapeshifting and self-duplication. There were so many gifts, so many flashing shades of jewel-like elicrin stones hanging from hundreds of throats.
Please, I thought, imploring the ancestral magic in my blood to catch. Please let me be powerful.
After the lecture, I crossed the arcade to the palace and was admitted by a stern-faced guard. Folding my cloak to avoid leaving a muddy trail on the crimson carpet, I ascended a grand staircase leading to the private quarters and traversed a corridor with portraits of dozens of members of the Ermetarius family. I wondered what it would be like to have lived over a century ago, during the Mortal Age, before elicromancy training became requisite education for the royal sons and daughters of the realm—before all three kingdoms in Nissera had established a sturdy peace. Back then
there was adventure, and magic was a bright gleam in an otherwise dark place, rather than a cloud of failed expectations hovering over my head.
When I reached the suite I shared with Ivria, I went to rap on the door that led to her private chamber, but paused just before my knuckles struck wood. My cousin had lately been more solemn than a grieving widow. She had not yet set a date for her Water ceremony. Most pupils began planning it the very hour they received approval from the Conclave.
Crossing our common room, I spotted Calanthe and trailed my fingertips along her wiry coat of hair. Ivria’s gray deerhound, a gift from her brother, Ander, could often be found reposing in gentle dignity on her pallet by the fire—at least, when she wasn’t tearing across the palace grounds or basking in the attention of her personal maid.
I opened the doors to my chamber, which held a grand bed that could have comfortably fit eight of me, though somehow I always found myself at its edge. Noticing my birthday gown at the front of the deep oak wardrobe, I felt a thrill of excitement.
Ivria’s preferences often superseded my own when it came to my attire, resulting in the royal clothiers knotting me up in yellows, pinks, and periwinkles come spring. Winter tended to be an affair of deep-toned velvets and glistening jewels. But on my birthday, Ivria had made certain I would wear something I adored. A sheer silver material gathered over a cream silk underlayer, and from the plunging neckline to the shoulders of the gown, crystals clung to colorless gossamer.
“Do you like it?” Ivria appeared in the doorway, her raven hair
tumbling around her shoulders. Her normally sharp gray eyes were as obscure as fogged window panes.
“It’s breathtaking,” I admitted.
The sunset was a simmering pool of blood orange through the west windows, and for a moment my cousin paused within the glow. When she stepped into my room, an ashen tinge washed across her porcelain face. She sat on the corner of my bed with a sigh, her lace dressing gown rippling around her feet. “Sit with me,” she prompted.
When I obliged, she clasped my hands in hers, her knuckles turning white as bone. “You know you are a sister to me,” she said. “Closer, even. We don’t fight as sisters do. You are my dearest friend and our souls are entwined forever.”
“I know that,” I said, freeing one of my hands to close over hers in reassurance. “You look pale. Are you worried about your ceremony? You know you have nothing to fear.”
“Of course not.” She dismissed the notion with a wave. “I only wanted to wish you a happy birthday, properly, before all the commotion.” She plucked a gob of dried mud from my braid and at long last noticed the swollen cut on my lip. “Melkior?” she asked, her misty eyes flashing like blades fresh from a forge. “I can make him heal you—”
“No, no,” I muttered, daubing again at the bruised lump, which tasted of metal. “Ellen likes having her work cut out for her.”
Ivria laughed. “I ought to get dressed,” she said, then squeezed my hand and floated out of my bedchamber. I fought the urge to coax her back so I could somehow elicit another laugh. I hadn’t heard her laugh for weeks.
But we’d be expected in the receiving hall soon. I would corner her after the celebration and pry her fears from her, remind her how fortunate she should feel to have earned access to the Water. I would do so more gently than Uncle Prosper and Aunt Sylvana, who grew agitated over their daughter’s tarrying.
Ellen, my maid, attacked Melkior’s handiwork with powder, concealing the swollen cuts as best she could. She rushed to plait my straight chestnut hair, the hair that made me stand out like a daisy in a rose garden of royal relatives. Most members of the Ermetarius line were tall and fair-skinned with ink-dark, wavy hair, including my mother. I would have felt like an impostor if my mossy eyes hadn’t so matched those of my great-great-grandfather King Anthony, whose handsome portrait graced the corridor.
While I admired my gown in the mirror, Ivria returned, clad in deep purple silk embellished with fabric petals. Her curls had been painstakingly arranged with sapphire hairpins. She held an ornate wooden box tied with a blue ribbon—my favorite color— and donned a soft smile.
“Something you’ve always wanted,” she said. But instead of offering it to me, she slid the familiar box onto the mantel. “Since you’ve waited this long, you can wait until after the party.”
“Why? I already know what it is,” I teased, eagerly imagining the intricate amethyst diadem, an enchanted family heirloom I’d always wanted to inherit. Grandmother Odessa had given it to Ivria instead.
“It doesn’t match your dress.” Ivria linked her arm in mine. “And you don’t want to know what everyone truly thinks about you on your birthday, do you?”
My heart pattered. I both desired and feared the truth-seeing diadem, whose power derived from the retired elicrin stone nesting amid its silver whorls. With it, I might unearth the deepest insecurities of cruel people like Melkior, and practice wielding the knowledge to gain respect. But I might also confirm what I sensed from my family, something they all denied: that only prestige and power could earn their deepest acceptance—that I, not Melkior, was the cracked egg.
“You could have just let me borrow it,” I said. “Grandmother Odessa won’t be pleased you gave it away.”
“She won’t be pleased to hear you call her Grandmother either,” Ivria said. And then her tone darkened a shade. “You deserve it more than I do.”
As her gaze grew misty and distant again, I wondered: Was there something my cousin hoped I would see?
Or, in making me wait to open the gift, was there something she hoped I wouldn’t?
About the Author
Hannah West is the author of Kingdom of Ash and Briars and its companion, Realm of Ruins. She’s always loved writing about magic andfairytales, but her time studying abroad in Orléans, France inspired her to finally write and publish a fantasy novel. She’s a freelance writer and vegetarian living in Texas with her husband and their rambunctious blue heeler.
G I V E A W A Y
- Enter here for a chance to win 1 of 5 bundles of the Nissera Chronicles (US Only)
- Bundle includes: 1x physical copy of Kingdom of Ash and Briars + 1x physical copy of Realm of Ruins.