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Thorns at Sunrise
Publication date: March 23rd 2023
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
A young queen. Her imaginary friend. A kingdom on the verge of death.
She believes she’s crazy.
Queen Usilea has a secret–and he lives in her mind. Ever since she was six years old, her imaginary friend has been her closest companion, and her arranged marriage has been a great dread. When she learns her betrothed and the royal family have suddenly died, she feels obligated to attend the funeral in the foreign land of Absteph–and perhaps learn more behind their mysterious passing.
He only wants the truth.
Petar endures great pain to protect those he does not remember. His only solace is a shadowy woman who he loves–even though she denies that he exists. When a terrible tragedy occurs in his kingdom, that mysterious woman is his only hope of bringing justice to light. For the cage that imprisons him grows harsher every day, and he is losing the fight.
But there are thorns at sunrise.
Brought together on the barest thread of reality, Usilea and Petar must discover what really happened to the royal family. But Petar’s time is running out. Soon not even a Mender like Usilea will be able to save him.
This YA romance features a gender-swapped Sleeping Beauty in an original fantasy world on the brink of doom.
Her imaginary friend was playing a new trick on her. This time, she would discern his meaning.
Usilea set down the quill on the paper, frowning at the words mocking her from the page. She pressed her lips together in thought. Thorns at sunrise? What could it mean? What was her mind trying to tell her?
“What do you think of my riddle?”
As usual, the voice didn’t come from within her mind directly, but somewhere outside. Yet were she to glance around, all she would perceive is the vaguest sensation of shadow and soul in the periphery of her vision.
And so, she refrained from looking. Instead, she focused on the words she had written, words he had spoken into her mind at some point in the night.
I think … you’re afraid.
“And what am I afraid of, goldenbird?” Amusement teased the edges of his words. She had known her friend was a male since the first time they had met, whenever that had been. Sometime after her sixth year. “Tell me, you who know me so well.”
I know you as well as I might any figment of my imagination.
“Likewise. That is not the answer to the riddle.”
A sigh escaped her. Usilea leaned back in her cushioned chair and rubbed the tense area around her eyes. You are afraid of being lost. You are afraid of being found. You are afraid of darkness, and you are afraid of light.
No answer came from the voice in her mind. A faint smile curved her lips. He only withdrew like that when she was right and he was bewildered. She had learned that pattern over the years as they had conversed. He liked keeping his mysteries, while he equally delighted in unveiling the mysteries of others. A curious behavior for her imaginary friend.
A strange, stabbing sensation pierced through her musing.
What did it imply about her that her closest friend wasn’t real?
Janeen Ippolito writes about misfits who defy expectations, whether in fairy tale, steampunk fantasy, urban fantasy, humorous paranormal romance, or poetry. She also spreads wordtastic joy in her work as a fearless book strategist, nonfiction author, and coach. In her spare time, she swordfights and posts cute animal memes.