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Title: The Iron Sword
Author: Julie Kagawa
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Publication Date: February 1, 2022
Page Count: 304
About the book:
As Evenfall nears, the stakes grow ever higher for those in Faery…
Banished from the Winter Court for daring to fall in love, Prince Ash achieved the impossible and journeyed to the End of the World to earn a soul and keep his vow to always stand beside Queen Meghan of the Iron Fey.
Now he faces even more incomprehensible odds. Their son, King Keirran of the Forgotten, is missing. Something more ancient than the courts of Faery and more evil than anything Ash has faced in a millennium is rising as Evenfall approaches. And if Ash and his allies cannot stop it, the chaos that has begun to divide the world will shatter it for eternity.
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The Missing King
I’ve lived a long life.
Not as long as some in Faery. Robin Goodfellow, for example, is older than me by several hundred years (though you wouldn’t know it by the way he acts). King Oberon, Queen Titania, and Queen Mab are older still, ancient beings with the power to rival anything in the Nevernever. I’m not as old or as powerful as the kings and queens of Faery, but even by fey standards, I’ve lived a goodly while. I’m known in the Nevernever; my name is recognized and even feared, by some. I’ve been to the farthest reaches of Faery. I have seen things no one else has. Nightmares, dragons, the End of the World. I’ve passed impossible tests, triumphed in unwinnable challenges, and killed unbeatable monsters.
None of it prepared me for being a father.
Meghan stared at Glitch, her face pale in the sickly light of the wyldwood. At the Iron faery who had just turned both our worlds upside down with his announcement.
Touchstone is no more. Prince Keirran, King of the Forgotten, has vanished.
“Explain, Glitch,” Meghan demanded. Her voice was calm, steely, though I caught the tremor beneath. “What do you mean, Keirran has vanished? What has happened to Touchstone?”
“Your Majesty.” Glitch bowed his head, the lightning in his hair flickering a subdued purple. “Forgive me, I only know what the messenger told us. That Touchstone has disappeared, and Prince Keirran is gone. I wish I could tell you more.”
Keirran. Fear twisted my insides. Not for me, but for the son who, despite all his assurances, couldn’t seem to keep himself out of trouble. Even before he was born, he had a prophecy hanging over his head that proclaimed him either a savior or a destroyer, and the entire Nevernever watched to see which he would become. For years, Meghan and I raised him with that knowledge, trying not to let it influence us, but knowing that one day, we would have to face the consequences of Keirran’s decision.
The prophecy finally came to a head when a powerful new foe rose up to threaten all of Faery. The Lady, the first queen of the Nevernever, furious that Faery had moved on without her, gathered the Forgotten to her side and waged war on all the courts. She promised them a new world, a world where humans would fear and worship the fey again, and where no faery would Fade away from being forgotten. She demanded the courts be dissolved, and that the rulers of Faery step down and acknowledge her as the true and only queen of the Nevernever. Naturally, the other rulers refused, and the war with the Forgotten began.
At that moment, Keirran made his choice, and it was Destroyer. He betrayed his court, turned his back on his family, and joined the Lady in her quest to conquer the Nevernever. And even though I had known it could happen, even though the prophecy had foretold it, it was still a devastating blow for both Meghan and myself. Keirran was stubborn, idealistic, and once he set his mind to something there was no changing it, but I hadn’t thought him capable of betraying his entire court.
Meghan took a quiet breath. I could sense the struggle within; the desire to know what had happened to our son, balanced against the duties and obligations of the Iron Queen. Faery wasn’t safe. We had just returned from the wyldwood, after battling a vicious new monster that nearly killed us all. I still ached, muscles battered and bruised, from the power of the creature’s attacks. There had been five of us: myself, the Iron Queen, Robin Goodfellow, an Iron faery named Coaleater and a Forgotten called Nyx, and even then we barely managed to bring down the creature. Only to discover the threat to the Nevernever was far from over. In fact, it was only beginning.
Meghan knew this. A shadow had fallen over Faery, the echo of a new prophecy hovering over it like a storm. The end has begun. Evenfall is coming. Faery and every living creature that exists under the sun are doomed.
I stepped close to Meghan and put my hands on her shoulders, feeling them tremble beneath my palms. Leaning in, I murmured, “I can find him, Meghan. If you need to return to Mag Tuiredh, I’ll take Puck and Grim, and we’ll go look for Keirran. Grim can lead us to Touchstone, and from there we’ll see what happened to the capital and where Keirran could have gone. You don’t have to come with us this time.”
“No.” She reached up and squeezed one of my hands. “I need to know what happened to Touchstone, why it suddenly vanished. If another one of those monsters is responsible for its destruction, you’ll need my help to take it down. Besides…” She paused, a shadow of pain crossing her face. “If something happened to Keirran, if one of those creatures got to him like they got to Puck, I want to know. I want to see it for myself. If both of us are there this time, maybe that will be enough to bring him back.”
My insides felt cold. The Monster we had fought and killed was unlike anything I had ever seen before: a physical manifestation of hate, rage, fear, and despair. It poisoned the land around it, tainting everything with dark glamour and negative emotions, and worst of all, it was able to bring out the shadow side of any living creature it touched. I had seen this firsthand with Puck, where he had been transformed into a faery consumed by jealous anger and vicious spite. The Robin Goodfellow of old. The Robin Goodfellow who was still furious with me for stealing away Meghan, who held a grudge for all the times I tried to kill him.
Not that I blamed him.
Fortunately, Puck had been able to fight through that darkness and return to his normal, carefree, irreverent self. But I knew what Meghan was thinking, and I shared her fear. Keirran had already shown himself capable of turning on and betraying everything he loved. Would we venture into the Between to find our son had turned into a soulless enemy once more?
I leaned close to Meghan, feeling her grip on my hand tighten. “We’ll find him,” I said quietly. “We’ll find him and whatever it takes, we’ll bring him home.”
She nodded once, then stepped away to gaze down at the still-kneeling Glitch. “You’ve done well,” she told the Iron lieutenant. “Return to Mag Tuiredh. Keep our people safe. I am going to search for Prince Keirran. I will return as soon as I am able.”
“Of course, Your Majesty,” Glitch said, though I knew he wanted to protest. The First Lieutenant never liked it when both rulers of Mag Tuiredh left the Iron Kingdom for unknown amounts of time. But he had been with Meghan long enough that he simply bowed his head and replied, “Good luck and safe travels to you both. I will keep the city safe until you return.”
Meghan turned, her gaze seeking the rest of the party behind us. Puck stood under a tree with his arms crossed, bright red hair making him stand out in the gloom. Beside him, a cloaked, hooded figure watched the proceedings silently, seeming to blend into the shadows. It took Meghan a moment to
locate her. “Nyx,” she said, “you are a Forgotten, and a member of Keirran’s court. Right now, it appears Touchstone has disappeared, and the Forgotten King has vanished. Can you part the Veil and take us into the Between?”
The silver-haired fey with the twilight skin and golden eyes raised her head, a steely expression on her face. “Yes, Your Majesty,” she answered. “If Keirran is in danger, I must find him right away. When do you wish to go?”
“Right now.” Meghan turned her gaze to the others, to Puck and Coaleater, watching intently. “This is an uncertain time for all of us,” she said. “Faery is under threat. Something is coming, and none of us know what it is or when it could arrive—only that it is close. The rulers and leaders of Faery must be made aware of this threat. Coaleater…” She glanced at the large Iron faery, who straightened as her gaze fell on him. “I know you want to help us find Keirran, but I need you to return to the Obsidian plains and warn Spikerail of what happened. He needs to be aware, and should the time come when we must call on the Iron herd, I want him to be prepared.”
“Yes, Your Majesty.” The big man bowed his head, and I saw the shadow of his real self behind him: a huge warhorse made of black iron and flickering flame. “The Iron herd will stand ready to aid you against all threats. You will have our support for as long as you need it.”
Meghan nodded gratefully, then turned to the red-haired fey beside him. “Puck?”
“Come on, princess.” Robin Goodfellow flashed his toothy smile. “You know where I stand. You don’t even have to ask.”
“I believe I will come as well.”
A fluffy gray cat sauntered into view, waving an exceptionally bushy tail. His golden eyes regarded us all with bored appraisal. “If Touchstone has disappeared, I would like to see it for myself,” Grimalkin said. “Someone with an ounce of intelligence should be there to make sense of things and point out the obvious. And to point you in the right direction should you become lost. Not that I doubt the Forgotten’s abilities, but you will need a guide should you happen to lose your way.”
The Iron Queen gave a decisive nod. “Then let us go,” she said. “I fear time is slipping away, and the longer we wait, the more difficult it will become to find Keirran. Nyx…” She gestured toward the Forgotten. “Whenever you are ready, take us into the Between.”
Nyx immediately stepped forward. Closing her eyes, she put out a hand, fingers spread wide, as if searching for something that could only be felt. “Keirran showed me how to enter the Between,” she murmured, taking a few steps forward. “He said that only the Forgotten remember how to do it, and that the Lady gave him the gift when she was alive. You have to find a spot where the Veil is thin.”
“Like a trod?” Puck asked, referring to the magical paths that led into the Nevernever from the mortal realm.
“Similar,” Nyx murmured, still walking steadily forward with her hand up. We trailed the Forgotten as she continued to search. “The Veil is like a mist,” she went on, “constantly moving and changing. Those weak spots you find might not be there when you return to them. But, if you search long enough, you should be able to find… There.”
She stopped. Paused a moment. And then, as I had seen
Keirran do only once or twice before, pushed her fingers into the fabric of reality and drew it back like a curtain. A narrow gash appeared where she parted the Veil, and beyond that tear was darkness. A few tendrils of mist curled out of the hole and writhed away into nothing.
Standing at the mouth of the gash into the void, Nyx shook her head. “The Between,” she murmured. “It feels…different. Angrier than it was before. That’s not good.” She opened her eyes and looked back at us. I saw concern on her face, but it was overshadowed by a somber resolution. “Guard your emotions,” she warned. “Calm your mind, and your feelings. The Between can manifest physical representations of strong emotions. So, if you are not careful, we might be facing your worst fears, or the darkest parts of your anger.”
I took a furtive breath to quiet the tangle of emotions, searching for the cold, empty calm of the Winter prince. It didn’t come as easily as it did in the past. Before Meghan and Keirran, when I only had myself to worry about, I feared very little. I wasn’t afraid of venturing into the unknown. Whatever came at me, whatever monster, nightmare or horrific abomination I would face, the worst that could happen was that they would kill me. And I was exceedingly hard to kill. Fear for my own life had rarely been a concern.
Things were different now. I had a family. I had a wife, and a son; two people that meant more to me than anything, in any world. If they were in danger, my entire being was consumed with wanting to protect them, to utterly destroy whatever evil they faced so it could never threaten them again. I could feel that anger in me now, rising up to dominate my thoughts, and breathed deep to find my center. If Keirran was out there, we would find him, and I would cut down anything that stood in our way. Simple as that.
Puck gave a loud, noisy sigh and glanced at me. “Well, ice-boy,” he said, “here we go again. Another adventure through the worst Faery has to offer. Oh, wait, you’ve never been through the actual Between before, have you?” He grinned, green eyes shining with mischief as he stepped toward the gateway. “You’re in for all sorts of fun surprises.”
Excerpted from THE IRON SWORD by Julie Kagawa © 2022 by Julie Kagawa. Used with permission by HarperCollins/Inkyard Press.
About the Author:
Born in Sacramento, CA, Julie Kagawa moved to Hawaii at the age of nine. There she learned many things; how to bodyboard, that teachers scream when you put centipedes in their desks, and that writing stories in math class is a great way to kill time. Her teachers were glad to see her graduate.
Julie now lives is Louisville, KY with her husband and furkids. She is the international and NYT bestselling author of The Iron Fey series.