Today, I am excited to share an excerpt of Molly Lazer’s new YA fantasy title, Owl Eyes. She has also included a playlist for Chapter 14! There is a blitz-wide giveaway for 3 copies of this new release (US/Canada) linked at the bottom of the post.
By Molly Lazer
Publisher: Fire and Ice YA
Genre: YA Fantasy
Nora knows three things: she is a servant, her parents are dead, and she lives in the kitchen house with her adoptive family. But her world is torn apart when she discovers that her birth father has always been right there, living in the house she serves.
This discovery leads Nora to more questions. Why was she thrown in an ash-covered room for asking about her father? Why is a silver-bladed knife the only inheritance from her birth mother? Why is magic forbidden in her household—and throughout the province of the Runes? The answers may not be the ones Nora hoped for, as they threaten a possible romance and her relationship with the adoptive family she loves.
With the announcement of a royal ball, Nora must decide what she is willing to give up in order to claim her stolen birthright, and whether this new life is worth losing her family—and herself.
The Castle wall towered over us. I trailed my hand along its rough surface, catching my fingers in the slots that were left open at varying heights (“So we could get speared from the inside with a halberd or a sword if we were trying to invade, or if we’re caught trespassing,” Jack reasoned), being careful not to shred my skin on the thorns of the climbing roses that covered the stones.
We walked along the wall to where a number of forest paths combined into a wide road flanked by a line of white oaks. Just setting foot on that road made me feel special, like I was doing exactly what a daughter of Sir Alcander of the Runes should.
At the end of the path, a pair of large doors was set into the wall, carved with the royal insignia: a rose was emblazoned on each door, and a tall sword was split in the center. On either side of the doors, lookouts kept watch in towers.
“Nora—” Jack pointed to the tower on the left where the guard was holding a crossbow and eyeing us suspiciously. The thunder of hooves sounded behind us.
“Make way!” the guard on the right shouted. We jumped off the oak-lined road as horses galloped past. Four guards on horseback carrying halberds and dressed in mail surrounded the riders in the center. The doors opened from inside, and the horses disappeared onto the grounds of the Castle proper. The guard with the crossbow called out to us as the doors shut, gesturing with the weapon. “Shoo!”
Before the doors closed, I got a quick view of the Castle grounds. They were enormous, much larger than the estate at the Runes proper. There was as much distance between the wall and the Castle as there was between the forest and the wall. Smaller buildings dotted the grounds, and I had the faintest glimpse of servants going about their work outdoors.
Suddenly, I realized the foolishness of this endeavor. What was I hoping for? To walk into the Castle and announce my presence to His Majesty? To blend in among the Castle servants in my Runes green skirt? I wanted to see the building before my sisters did, and I probably hadn’t even done that. With their status, they’d almost certainly been invited to the Castle before. As for me, there was still a giant stone wall and a pair of armed guards in my way. I’d need a title, a name, an invitation to actually go inside.
I yanked at my servant’s skirt—the coarse material was hot and scratchy against my skin—and walked back in the direction from which we came. Jack pivoted to follow.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “This was stupid.” Stupid to think I could have gotten here first, stupid to think that we could get onto the grounds of the Castle proper, stupid to have stopped. Imbecilic, Portia’s voice said in my head.
“It would have been a good story,” Jack said. “A tale to rival Peter’s, even if you’d been shot with a crossbow. Especially if you’d been shot with a crossbow.”
He stopped walking, attention piqued.
“What?” I said. I wanted to get back to our wagon before another guard shooed us away. Jack pressed his eye to one of the halberd holes in the wall and motioned for me to come look. I pushed a rose aside to look through a lower opening. I could just make out a path and the edge of a building.
“Shh,” Jack whispered. “Listen.”
Snippets of conversation mingled with the sounds of horses. The building must have been one of the royal stables.
“—can’t believe you’re so cavalier about this.” The first voice, a man’s.
“Why is everything a matter of life and death with you?” A second voice, female.
“Who is it?” I whispered. Jack shook his head and moved along the wall, peeking through the halberd holes. I followed until I had a better look at the speakers. The man paced, appearing and disappearing as flashes of brown trousers and a white shirt in my thin window. The woman stayed squarely in view, watching the man with amused detachment as she flipped her blond hair over her shoulder.
The man’s voice floated in and out with his movements. “…isn’t going to change what Father said…don’t pick a husband, he’s going to pick for you…and I have to…”
“You?” The woman laughed. “You look like you’re ready to jump out the window whenever a lady comes to court!”
“It’s Princess Callista,” Jack whispered. His voice was hoarse.
“And Prince Edward,” I whispered back.
“Let’s go before we get a halberd to the eye,” Jack said, tugging on my sleeve.
“Absolutely not.” I strained to hear more of the conversation inside. “I’d prefer defenestration to some of those girls,” Edward said. He stopped pacing and stood with his back to the wall. “Did you know that Lady Grace actually asked to try on Mother’s crown?”
“Nora,” Jack said. His eyes were beginning to water. The smell of the roses around us was overwhelming.
“Just a bit longer.” I ran along the wall, following the Prince and Princess. Now that they were a bit farther away, I could see them better. Their brown riding clothes were snug on their figures. Princess Callista walked with her hands on Edward’s shoulders, hanging on his back and laughing. A pair of guards followed them.
“Poor Edward,” Callista cooed. I ran to the next opening in the wall in time to hear, “—if you can’t find someone then, you might as well let Father pick for you.”
Edward wheeled around, shaking her off. “I don’t want a marriage of convenience! I want to be happy.” I had my first look at his face, which had changed quite a bit from how I remembered him years ago. He had grown to be tall and striking, with dark hair and handsome features. The opening in the wall wasn’t large enough for me to see him well, but from what I could make out, I could easily imagine noble girls fighting over him.
“So be happy,” Callista said. “And while you’re at it—”
Jack sneezed. One of the guards looked back at the wall.
“Uh-oh,” Jack said.
I jerked back as the point of a halberd jutted through the hole.
Playlist from the Author
This is my “Chapter 14 Playlist,” which I created to set the mood while writing one of the climactic and most emotional scenes of the book. I think it reflects the mood of the chapter…and my totally random taste in music.
I Want You (She’s So Heavy) – Across the Universe Soundtrack
Sleepwalker – Adam Lambert
Hollow Moon – AWOLNATION
This Unthinkable Place – Bushwalla
The American and Florence/Nobody’s Side – Chess (Original Cast Recording)
Fight Sounds, Part 1 – Circlesquare
Bethlehem Steel – Delta Rae
I Will Never Die – Delta Rae
Happy Together – Filter
No Lie, No Lie – Florence and the Machine
Best of You – Foo Fighters
Midnight Radio – Hedwig and the Angry Inch (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Radioactive – Imagine Dragons
Plane – Jason Mraz
My December – Josh Groban
Bleed it Out – Linkin Park
Thistle & Weeds – Mumford & Sons
Let the Monster Rise – Repo! The Genetic Opera (Cast Recording)
Shout – Tears for Fears
Heavy Dirty Soul – Twenty-One Pilots
Fairly Local – Twenty-One Pilots
Goner – Twenty-One Pilots
Car Radio – Twenty-One Pilots
Love You to Death – Type O Negative
Thousand Eyes – Of Monsters and Men
Molly Lazer is a former associate editor at Marvel Comics, where she worked on books such as Fantastic Four, Captain America, New Avengers, and cult favorite comic book Spider-Girl. After returning to graduate school to receive a degree in education, she began a career as a high school reading, writing, and drama teacher. She also serves as a professional critiquer for Comics Experience, helping aspiring comic book writers finesse scripts for publication.
In 2016, Molly received a MFA in Creative Writing from Rosemont College. Her short stories have been featured in numerous literary magazines including Gone Lawn, LIT, and Silver Blade. She lives outside Philadelphia with her husband and twin sons. Owl Eyes is her first novel.
- 3 print copies of Owl Eyes (open in the US/Canada)
- This giveaway is not sponsored or administered by Books, Vertigo and Tea.
I would like to thank Xpresso Book Tours and Molly Lazer for the above content and allowing me to participate today.