Happy Thursday and welcome to my stop on the blog tour for SOLIMAR: THE SWORD OF THE MONARCHS by Pam Muñoz Ryan! I’m so excited to share an excerpt of the book with you today, AND more information about the author and tour, PLUS you can enter the giveaway to win a print copy!Solimar: The Sword of the Monarchs by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Published on February 1, 2022 by Disney-Hyperion
Genres: Fantasy, Magical Realism, Middle Grade
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Author Links: Website, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon, Instagram
On the brink of her Quinceañera, and her official coronation, Solimar visits the oyamel forest to sit among the monarch butterflies. There, the sun pierces through a sword-shaped crevice in a boulder, which shines on her and sends the butterflies humming and swirling around her.
After the magical frenzy, she realizes she's been given a gift—and a burden: she can predict the near future! She has also become a protector of the young and weak butterflies. This alone would be a huge responsibility, but tragedy strikes when a neighboring king invades while her father and brother and many others are away. The remaining villagers are taken hostage—all except Solimar.
Can this princess-to-be save her family, the kingdom, and the future of the monarch butterflies from a greedy and dangerous king?
Once, a rich and glorious Mexico stretched from the isthmus of the middle Americas to the northern red wood forests, and as far east as the bayous. Within this vast land, one of twelve provincial kingdoms—San Gregorio—lay nestled in a highland valley bordered by thousands of oyamel fir trees.
Solimar Guadalupe, almost out of breath, ran toward the forest, hoping she wasn’t too late. In one hand, she clutched a rebozo, the tails of the long linen shawl trailing behind her. In the other, she held a crown of flowers that she’d just finished weaving from pink dahlias, a swag of ivy, and ribbons.
When she’d heard the news that the arrival was imminent, she dashed from the garden, calling to her grandmother, “Abuela, they’re coming! I will meet you at the creek!”
Lázaro, a resplendent quetzal, flew alongside her, whistling and cooing.
“Yes, Lázaro,” she told the bird. “I’m sure. A spotter in the tower saw the first wave headed this way and sent me a message.”
Lázaro darted back in the direction from which they’d come, chittering loudly, his long tail feathers in a wild flutter. “Oh for heaven’s sake! Don’t scold me. I’m not completely without a chaperone. Abuela will be along soon. Besides, you know how she dawdles. And I don’t want to miss the spectacle!” Solimar shaded her eyes and looked up. In the distance, a dark veil surged and rippled.
She hurried along a footpath leading to a wide creek and stopped at the water’s edge. On the far bank, the oyamel firs towered. “There—the sacred place!”
Like everyone in the kingdom, Solimar believed that the ancestors of the monarch butterflies inhabited the oyamel forest, and that year after year, their spirits lured a new generation of butterflies to this spot to rest during their migrations. In San Gregorio, the forest and the monarchs were revered and protected.
For as long as Solimar could remember she had come to the woods to greet the first wave of butterflies on their journey.
She was forbidden to come alone or to cross the creek, which was riddled with rocky outcroppings and notorious currents. Everyone in the kingdom feared the rushing water that often dragged a wayfarer downstream.
Even so, she’d always wanted to sit in the midst of the butterflies as they arrived. She couldn’t do that on this side of the water. Solimar paced. “You know, Lázaro, I’m not a little girl anymore. I shouldn’t have to wait for a chaperone. Besides . . .” She placed her crown of dahlias on her head and straightened her shoulders. “I’ll need to be courageous some day. Why not start today? I give myself permission.” Lázaro shook his head.
Solimar tied her rebozo around her waist and leaped. She landed on a rock surrounded by swirling water and wobbled back and forth. “Whoa . . .” With both arms outstretched, she found her balance.
Frantic, Lázaro flapped his wings in warning and chirruped. “You don’t have to be such a mother hen!” she said, jump ing stone to stone, each one larger than the last. “Just a few more . . .” She hopped to a cluster of boulders midstream. On the tallest, decades of gushing water had created a tapered crevice through-and-through the stone.
“Look, Lázaro. The gap in this rock is the image of a sword! And the pommel at the top of the hilt is a porthole.” She peered into the oval opening and saw a cameo of the forest on the other side. “I can fit my hand through to steady myself.
It’s the perfect holding on place.” She swung to the other side of the boulder, lowering herself onto a rock submerged in the water.
The bird tugged on her skirt.
“So what if my boots get a little wet? There’s no going back now.” She gingerly took a few more steps until she reached the far bank.
Scrambling to a shady spot between two trees, Solimar considered the tall firs and muttered, “I’d climb them if I could reach the lowest branches and if I was wearing trousers.” Instead, she sat cross-legged on the forest floor. She untied the rebozo, flipped it over her shoulders, and straightened her crown.
Above, a kaleidoscope of butterflies quivered.
Lázaro flew to her side and burrowed beneath the drape of the rebozo.
Her dark brown eyes wide with awe, she grinned and her cheeks dimpled. “It’s happening. . . .”
As the monarchs descended, the flutter of thousands of wings pitter-pattered like gentle rain. They landed on branches, swarmed around the oyamel firs, or drifted to the creek to drink, the water trembling from the beating of wings.
She sat as still as she could. As one after another perched upon her, Solimar’s heart raced. She lifted a finger and several rested on it. This close, she could see the shimmering scales on their wings. “Buenas tardes. Welcome to San Gregorio. I want to reassure you that my family and I will do everything in our power to protect the forest so you’ll always have a home. It’s a solemn promise.”
Lázaro peeked from beneath the folds of the rebozo. “Come out and greet them,” encouraged Solimar. A butterfly landed on Lázaro’s head.
Dozens covered Solimar. One landed on her face. The light touch felt like the tickling of feathers. When she giggled, the monarch burst upward, then slowly settled upon her again.
Lázaro inched forward and perched on her knee. He lifted one wing, then the other, and held still until the butterflies fluttered down to roost on him, too.
“Isn’t it amazing that the butterflies, who have never been here before, arrive season after season at the same spot as their ancestors? Is it the magnetic pull of the earth, or the position of the sun as the scientists suggest? Or, do the spirits of their fathers and mothers whisper directions to them in a dream? Is it some magical intuition that allows them to know what lies ahead? Any way you think about it, Lázaro, it’s a miracle!”
Lázaro, now completely covered in butterflies, made a high-pitched warble, and his new friends took flight. “You’re right. It’s also a mystery. Still, I wish I knew what came next. Imagine always knowing in your heart which way to turn and what life had in store for you around the next corner.” As Solimar carefully stood, Lázaro flew to a nearby branch.
She held the ends of the rebozo outstretched so that the fabric hung beneath her arms. The butterflies remained attached, even as a final trail of stragglers slowly drifted down and landed on the rebozo, too.
“I have giant wings made of butterflies.”
As Solimar slowly turned in a circle, a sunbeam pierced through the swordlike crevice in the boulder in the creek, spotlighting her. She tilted her face toward the warmth and, for a moment, closed her eyes.
A rhythmic humming surrounded her. Her eyes flew open, looking for who might be nearby. Yet there was no one. Where was the sound coming from? Was it the wind? Was it the monarchs? Or just her imagination? She laughed. “Lázaro, is it just me? Or did you hear ancient chanting, too?”
Lázaro shurgged and preened.
She closed her eyes again, and the chorus continued. For some reason though, she wasn’t afraid. Instead, she was mesmerized and swayed to the pulsing beat.
A swarm of monarchs descended and swirled around her—a blur of black, orange, and coral—creating an iridescent mist, as if she was swaddled in the softest and lightest blanket. For a moment, resounding peace enveloped her and she smiled. The song persisted, though, and grew louder and louder until it reached a crescendo of haunting voices. Her heart pounded. Startled, she dropped the rebozo.
The sound ceased. The mist unfurled and cleared. Glittery specks lingered in the air like suspended jewels. “What just happened?” asked Solimar.
“Yes . . . peculiar.” Solimar picked up the rebozo and frowned. “One side looks as if the butterfly wings are embedded in the fabric . . . and they’re shimmering.”
Lázaro flew closer to examine it. He grabbed a corner with his beak and shook. Nothing happened.
Solimar hurried to the water and rinsed one end of the rebozo. “It won’t come off.”
She glanced across the creek. “Abuela mustn’t find me over here.” Solimar squeezed the water from the rebozo, folded the fabric in half with the iridescence on the inside, and tied it around her waist. Carefully, she made her way back across the creek.
When she reached the opposite bank, bushes rustled nearby. She quickly sat on a boulder, as if she’d been patiently waiting there all along.
Lázaro perched on her shoulder.
She whispered, “I don’t need to mention this to anyone. With any luck, the shimmering will fade quickly and no one will be the wiser.”
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What do you think about Solimar: The Sword of the Monarchs? Have you added it to your tbr yet? Let me know in the comments and have a splendiferous day!