Author Claire Legrand has quietly become one of those names you see all over the bookstore, probably without even realizing it. Since her popular 2012 middle grade debut, The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, she has been churning out a steady stream of page-turning middle grade and young adult fantasies including Winterspell and Some Kind of Happiness. And in May 2018 she'll be adding to that list with Furyborn, the first in the new YA fantasy Empirium Trilogy — Bustle's got the exclusive cover reveal and prologue below!
When assassins ambush her best friend, the crown prince, Rielle Dardenne risks everything to save him, exposing her ability to perform all seven kinds of elemental magic. The only people who should possess this extraordinary power are a pair of prophesied queens: a queen of light and salvation and a queen of blood and destruction. To prove she is the Sun Queen, Rielle must endure seven trials to test her magic. If she fails, she will be executed...unless the trials kill her first.
A thousand years later, the legend of Queen Rielle is a mere fairy tale to bounty hunter Eliana Ferracora. When the Undying Empire conquered her kingdom, she embraced violence to keep her family alive. Now, she believes herself untouchable—until her mother vanishes without a trace, along with countless other women in their city. To find her, Eliana joins a rebel captain on a dangerous mission and discovers that the evil at the heart of the empire is more terrible than she ever imagined.
As Rielle and Eliana fight in a cosmic war that spans millennia, their stories intersect, and the shocking connections between them ultimately determine the fate of their world—and of each other.
Sufficiently pumped for the cover reveal? Keep scrolling to see it!
It sounds like Furyborn is going to be one of the must-read YA fantasy releases of 2018. And though you'll have to wait until May 22 to get your hands on it, you can learn more about Furyborn right now, by checking out exclusives from the Empirium Trilogy right here and hear Claire Legrand herself describe the book in the video below!
Best yet? Bustle's got the entire prologue from Furyborn down below. So settle in and get ready to get acquainted with Queen Rielle herself.
An End, and a Beginning
“Some say the Queen was frightened
In her last moments
But I like to think that she was angry”
—The Word of the Prophet
The queen stopped screaming just after midnight.
Simon had been hiding in her closet, fingers jammed into his ears to block out the noise. For hours, he had crouched there, knees drawn to chest, head bowed.
For hours, the queen’s rooms had shuddered in tandem with her screams.
Now, there was silence. Simon held his breath and measured the seconds, like counting after a lightning strike until the thunder rolled: Is the storm fading, or is it coming closer?
One. Two. Three.
He reached twenty and dared to lower his hands.
A baby cried out into the silence. Simon grinned and scrambled to his feet, a wave of relief crashing through him.
The queen’s child was born—finally. Now he and his father could flee this city and never look back.
Simon pushed past the queen’s gowns and stumbled out into her bedroom.
“Father?” he asked, breathless.
Garver Randell, Simon’s father, turned to face him, his eyes weary but his smile broad. And behind him lay Queen Rielle, her wild, dark hair plastered to her pale skin, her bedsheets and white nightgown stained red. She held a fussing bundle in her arms.
Simon crept closer to the bed in wonder, even as the sight of the queen made angry heat bloom in his chest. His kingdom’s new princess was a small thing—scrunched red face, skin slightly darker than her mother’s, wide brown eyes, a mop of wet black hair.
Simon’s breath caught in his throat.
The baby looked very much like her late father.
Rielle stared at the child, then gazed up at Simon’s father in bewilderment.
“I thought I would kill her,” said the queen. She laughed, wiping her face with shaking fingers. “I dreamed I would. And yet here she is, after all.” She fumbled to adjust the baby in her arms. She didn’t seem to be very good at holding babies.
It was strange to see the queen like this—small in her nest of pillows, looking hardly more than a girl though she was twenty years old. This queen who had allied with the angels and helped them kill thousands of humans.
This queen who had murdered her husband.
“Audric would have loved her,” Rielle whispered, her face crumpling.
Simon’s small fists clenched at his sides. How dare she talk about King Audric, when she was the one who had killed him?
He had learned only a few things about the night the capital fell. King Audric had fought Queen Rielle on the broad veranda attached to the castle’s fourth floor. The king’s sword had blazed with the light of the sun, his diamond- and mirror-studded armor glinting brighter than the stars.
But not even King Audric the Lightbringer, the most powerful sunspinner in centuries, had been strong enough to defeat Queen Rielle.
The queen had carved a sword out of the air, a blinding weapon forged from the empirium itself. Rielle and Audric had fought blade to blade, but the fight had been brief.
And when Rielle plunged her glowing hand into Audric’s chest to tear out his heart, there had been nothing but bloodlust in her eyes as she watched her husband fall to ashes at her feet.
Simon wasn’t a violent child, but all the same, he thought that if he looked at the queen for one more second, he might strike her.
So he uttered the Sun Queen’s Prayer in Audric’s honor—May the Queen’s light guide him home—and turned to his father instead.
That’s when Garver Randell went rigid and whispered, “He knows,” then fell gasping to his knees.
Simon rushed to his side. “Father? What is it? What’s wrong?”
Garver clutched his head, his body jerking. “He knows, God help us, he knows,” he moaned, and when he looked up, it was with eyes gone gray and cloudy.
Simon’s heart sank to his feet. He knew those eyes, and what they meant.
An angel was inside his father’s mind.
And from the terror on his father’s face, Simon knew it must be Corien.
“Father, listen to me! I’m right here!” Simon grabbed his father’s arm. “Let’s go. We can leave now! Please, hurry!”
Simon heard the queen behind him, singing softly to herself: “This is how you hold your child. This is how you murder your husband.” Her laughter was thick with tears.
“He knows what I am,” Garver rasped.
Simon’s growing dread turned his body to stone.
Corien knew—that his father was a marque, and Simon was too. Neither angel nor human, but with the blood of both inside them.
Suddenly, the markings hidden on Simon’s back beneath his tunic felt like flares that would alert everyone in the conquered city to where he was hiding. For years, he and his father had lived secretly in Celdaria’s capital, concealing their marked backs and their forbidden magic. They had been healers, honest and hard-working, sought out by commoners and temple magisters and even the royal family.
For years, he and his father had lived secretly in Celdaria’s capital, concealing their marked backs and their forbidden magic. They had been healers, honest and hard-working, sought out by commoners and temple magisters and even the royal family."
And now…now, Corien knew.
Simon shoved his father toward the door. “Father, move, please!”
Garver choked out, “Get away from me! He’ll find you!” He seized Simon by the collar and shoved him away.
Simon’s head smacked against the queen’s four-poster bed, and he slumped to the floor, dazed. He watched his father turn, laugh a little, clutch his head. He watched him mutter angry, foreign words in a voice that was half his and half Corien’s—and then run, limping, to the terrace window.
Then, with a strangled cry, Garver Randell threw himself off the queen’s tower.
Simon lurched up, grabbed the bed-curtains for support, stumbled forward, and fell. Head throbbing, fighting back the urge to be sick, he crawled across the floor to the terrace. At the railing, the mountain wind slapping his cheeks, he couldn’t bear to look down. He pressed his face against the cool stone, wrapped his arms around two posts. Someone or something was making an awful choking noise.
“Simon,” said a voice behind him.
He realized, then, that the awful noise was coming from him.
He jumped to his feet, rounding on Queen Rielle.
“You did this,” he cried. “You killed us all! You’re a monster! You’re evil!”
He tried to say more: she had betrayed everyone in the kingdom of Celdaria, everyone in the world. She was supposed to be the Sun Queen, their savior and protector. And yet she had become the Blood Queen. The Kingsbane. The Lady of Death.
She was supposed to be the Sun Queen, their savior and protector. And yet she had become the Blood Queen. The Kingsbane. The Lady of Death."
But Simon’s tears blocked his voice. The wind whipping down along the mountainsides carved shivers from his skin. His small body heaved; he could hardly breathe.
He folded his arms tightly around himself, squeezing his eyes shut as the world tilted. He could not stop seeing the image of his father running out onto the terrace and flinging himself over the railing.
“Father,” he whispered, “come back, please.”
The queen settled gingerly on the settee across from him, her baby still in her arms. Her feet were bare and bloody, her nightgown soaked through with sweat.
“You’re right, you know,” said Rielle. “I did do this.”
Simon was glad the queen didn’t try to apologize; nothing she could say would make anything better.
“I think,” Rielle continued slowly, “that he will kill her.”
Simon sniffed, wiped his mouth. His teeth chattered; he could not stop crying. “What do you mean?”
Rielle turned to look at him, her lips chapped and cracked. Once, Simon remembered, he had thought the queen beautiful.
“My daughter.” Rielle’s voice was hollow. “I think Corien will kill her. Or he’ll try to.”
Simon bit out, “He should kill you instead.”
Rielle laughed at that, and kept laughing, hysterically, and Simon could only stare at her in rage and horror—until she brought her child to her face, nuzzled her cheek against its own. The baby cooed and sighed.
“This is how,” Rielle whispered, “you hold your child.” She made a soft, sad noise. “Audric would have loved her.”
Then the queen’s face contorted, and she cried out in pain. She clutched her baby to her stomach and doubled over, gasping.
The stone shuddered beneath Simon’s feet. The walls of the queen’s rooms shifted in and out, like they were breathing along with her.
Rielle’s skin glowed, changing, and for a terrible moment, Simon thought he could see through her flesh to the blood and bone beneath—and to the light beneath even that. She was outlined in shimmering flecks of gold, a luminous creature of sparks and embers.
Then the light faded, and Rielle was dim and human once more.
Simon’s blood roared with fear. “What was that?”
“It won’t be long now.” Rielle turned her glittering gaze up to him, and Simon recoiled. The skin around her eyes was dark and thin. “I can’t hold myself together for much longer.”
“Do you mean…you’re dying?”
“I’ve tried so hard for so long,” Rielle muttered, and then she screamed once more, went rigid. Blazing bolts of light shot out from her fingers and streaked into the night, arcing over the dark city. The light left behind charred streaks, jagged across the terrace floor.
Rielle looked up, her face slick with sweat. Light moved in shimmering waves beneath her skin. Simon could not look away; she was at once the loveliest and most terrifying thing he had ever seen.
“Are you…hurting?” Simon asked.
Rielle laughed, a surprised little gasp. “I’m always hurting.”
“Good,” Simon replied, but not without a twinge of shame in his chest. She was a monster, yes, but a barefoot, exhausted monster with a child held tenderly in her arms.
The queen, his father had always told him whenever Simon stewed in his hatred, was once just a girl. Remember that. Remember her.
Then Rielle went very still.
“Oh, God,” she whispered. “He’s coming.”
Simon backed away, alarm ringing in his ears. “Corien?”
Rielle used the wall to pull herself up, her shifting face tight with pain. “I cannot allow him to find you. Garver hid you well, but if he realizes you’re here now, and what you are…”
Simon touched his back, as if that could hide the markings there. “You…you know about us?”
Rielle’s face flickered with something Simon couldn’t read. “A friend told me. Just in case…well. In case I needed to know.”
“I don’t understand—”
“And I don’t have time to explain. Hide with her, stay out here. I’ll distract him.”
And with that, Rielle pressed her daughter into Simon’s arms and hurried back into her rooms.
Simon stared down at the baby. Her dark, serious eyes locked onto his face as if he were the most interesting thing in the world. Despite his aching head, and the horrible hollow pain in his gut, Simon allowed her a small smile.
Simon stared down at the baby. Her dark, serious eyes locked onto his face as if he were the most interesting thing in the world. Despite his aching head, and the horrible hollow pain in his gut, Simon allowed her a small smile."
“Hello,” he said, and touched her cheek. “I’m Simon.”
“Here, take this.” Rielle reappeared, holding in her hand a necklace—a flat, gold pendant with a winged horse in flight carved onto its surface. On the horse sat a woman with streaming dark hair and a sword raised victoriously. Rays of sunlight fanned out behind her.
It was an image that had taken over Celdaria during the last two years, since the Church had declared Rielle to be the foretold Sun Queen.
How they had all loved her, once.
As the queen tucked the necklace into her baby’s blanket, Simon watched her quietly. “Are you sorry for what you did?”
“Would it make you feel better if I was?”
Simon had no answer.
The queen kissed her daughter’s brow. “He won’t have you,” she whispered. “Not you, my precious one.”
Then she turned to Simon and, before he could protest, brushed aside his ash-blond hair and pressed a kiss to his forehead. His skin smarted where her lips had touched; tears gathered behind his eyes. He felt like he stood on the edge of a swaying cliff, like a terrible thing was about to happen and he could do nothing to stop it.
“Go to Borsvall,” Rielle told him. “Find King Ilmaire and Commander Ingrid. Show them this necklace. They’ll hide you.”
The doors to Rielle’s outer rooms slammed open.
“Rielle?” Corien roared.
Rielle cupped Simon’s cheek and met his eyes. “Whatever happens, don’t let him see you.”
As she turned to go, Simon grabbed Rielle’s hand. Without her, he would be alone with this child, and he suddenly wanted nothing more than to hide his face in Rielle’s arms. Monster or no, she was now a parent, and that was a thing he craved more than anything.
“Please don’t go?” he whispered.
She gave him a tight smile. “You’re strong, Simon. I know you can do this.”
Then she hurried back inside, and met Corien in the middle of her bedroom.
“Where is it?” came Corien’s voice, low and dangerous.
Simon shifted slightly, peeking through a small sliver between the terrace curtains. His heart jumped in fear to see the leader of the angels—a beautiful man, pale and chiseled, hair gleaming black, lips full and cruel.
“She,” Rielle corrected him. “I have a daughter.”
Corien’s gaze was deadly still. “And where is she?”
“I’ve sent her far away. With someone so powerful you’ll never find her.”
Simon’s heart lifted. Was someone coming to help them?
Corien laughed unkindly. “Oh yes? And who might that be?”
“You can try and find the truth,” said Rielle, “but you’ll soon discover you’re no longer welcome inside me.”
With a snarl, Corien struck her hard across the mouth. Rielle stumbled, her lip bloodied, and Simon’s gaze found hers. Her flaming-gold eyes were hard, triumphant. There was a strength on her tired face that he’d never seen before.
I’ve sent her far away. With someone so powerful you’ll never find her.
You’re strong, Simon. You can do this.
And suddenly Simon understood: no one was coming to help them.
He was the powerful someone.
And it was up to him alone to save the princess.
He would have to use his magic—his half-blood marque magic, the traveling magic that had doomed nearly all of his kind—to send them both hundreds of miles away, to Borsvall and to safety.
Rielle turned back to Corien.
“You shouldn’t get so angry,” she told him. “You make mistakes when you’re angry. If you hadn’t been so blinded with it, you’d have stayed with me, grabbed her the moment she was born, and slit her throat right then and there.”
Corien smiled coldly at her. “You might have killed me for that.”
The queen shrugged. “Perhaps I’ll kill you now anyway.”
Simon turned away, his heart tight with fear. How could he possibly do this? He was only eight years old. He had read his traveling books over and over, of course, but he still didn’t understand everything inside them. And from what his father had taught him about the old days, before the marques were hunted down by both humans and angels, most of their kind didn’t attempt traveling until adulthood.
You can do this, Simon, came a voice. A woman’s voice—but not the queen’s. Familiar, but…
He whirled, searching the darkness, and found no one.
You must do it, said the voice. You and the child, Simon, are the only ones who can save us. Quickly, now. Before he discovers you. Your father hid you well, but I can’t protect you any longer.
A thick, fleshy sound came from inside the queen’s bedroom. Glass crashed to the floor. The queen cried out, and Corien muttered something hateful.
The castle groaned. The wall against which Simon hid rumbled, like something deep underground was awakening. A hot burst of air erupted from inside the bedroom, shattering the windows. Simon ducked low over the baby. She squirmed against his chest with a muted, angry cry.
The castle groaned. The wall against which Simon hid rumbled, like something deep underground was awakening"
“Hush, please,” Simon whispered. The air vibrated around him; the terrace rocked beneath his feet. Sweat rolled down his back. A thrumming bright light from within the bedroom swelled, growing ever more brilliant.
He closed his eyes, tried to forget the strange woman’s voice and concentrate. He searched his mind for the words in his forbidden books, now abandoned beneath the floorboards of his father’s shop:
The empirium lies within every living thing, and every living thing is of the empirium.
Its power connects not only flesh to bone, root to earth, stars to sky, but also road to road, city to city.
Moment to moment.
Only marques, Simon knew, had this mighty gift. The gift of traveling. The ability to cross vast distances in an instant, and walk through time as easily as others walk down the road.
Simon had often fantasized about what it would be like to travel back to the time before the Gate was made—before the old wars, when angels still walked the earth and dragons darkened the skies.
But he couldn’t think about time, not just then. Time was a dangerous, slippery thing. He must think only about distance: Celdaria to Borsvall.
“No, Rielle!” Corien was screaming. “No! Don’t do this!”
Simon looked back inside to see Queen Rielle on her knees with her face turned to the sky, struggling to stay upright as a brilliant shell of light swelled around her. Corien pounded on the light, burning his fists, but he couldn’t touch her. He clawed and shouted, cursed at her, pleaded with her.
But all his screams were no use. Rielle’s body was unfurling in long streams of light, her skin flaking away like ash on the wind.
Simon turned away and whispered to the princess, “Don’t worry, I won’t let go. I’ve got you.”
He closed his eyes, bit his lip, ignored the desperate shouts of Corien and the queen’s blinding light. He directed his mind northeast, toward Borsvall. As his books had instructed, he guided his breath along every line of his body, every sinew, every bone.
His eyes snapped open.
Twisting strands of light, thin and smoky, floated through the air before him.
Heart racing, Simon held the princess close with one arm and reached out with the other. He listened to his blood, for it knew the way just as it knew to step, to swallow, to breathe. He felt through the night for the correct threads of here and there. Somewhere before him lay a road, hidden to his eyes but known, unquestionably, by the power that thrummed in his veins, and if he could just find the right thread, tug it free, lay it out before his feet like a winding carpet—
A single thread, brighter than the others, danced at his fingertips.
Simon hardly dared to reach for it. If he moved too slowly or too quickly, if his mind wandered, the thread could slip away from him.
Behind him, the queen screamed at Corien, her voice thick with fury: “I am no longer yours!”
There was no time for doubt. Simon reached for the brightest thread, cautiously guided it around his fingers like a lock of shining hair.
Take a moment, his books had said, to get to know your thread. The more familiar you are with it, the more likely it is to take you where you want to go.
As Simon stared at the thread hovering in his hand, others brightened and drifted closer, pulled by the force of his concentration.
Though they scorched the tender skin of his palms, he gathered up the threads in his hands, guiding them through the chill night air. Soon he had maneuvered the threads into a quivering ring, and past the ring stretched a passage into darkness.
The first thread, the brightest, crept to Simon’s chest and clung there like a briar, tugging him gently forward.
Simon felt silly about it, but thought to the thread nevertheless, Hello.
The pressure of its touch lightened.
Simon saw faint shapes through the shifting, sharpening passage: A winding path of black stone, a tall, narrow gate. Ice-capped mountains. Soldiers pointing in awe, shouting in the harsh Borsvallic tongue.
Every muscle in Simon’s young body snapped rigid. With each breath, the world dimmed. And yet laughter bubbled up inside him even so. He could not imagine ever being happier. It was not easy, this power, but it was right, and it was his.
He could not imagine ever being happier. It was not easy, this power, but it was right, and it was his."
Then, behind him, Queen Rielle cried out something Simon couldn’t understand. Her voice shattered.
Corien’s frantic screams were hoarse with anguish.
Simon swallowed hard, fear crowding him like a swarm of insects.
A great, sudden stillness swallowed away all sound—the infant’s cries, the humming threads. The world fell silent.
Simon looked back just as a column of light shot up from the queen’s bedroom and into the night, turning the sky white as the dawn. Simon hid his face, bowing his head over the infant in his arms. His traveling hand shook as he worked. An instant later, the silence erupted into a shattering boom that shook the mountains and nearly knocked Simon off his feet.
The castle pitched beneath him. The air popped with the smell of fire. One of the mountains surrounding the capital collapsed, followed by another, and another.
Hold on to her, said the woman’s voice once more, high and clear in his mind. Don’t ever let her go.
Hold on to her, said the woman’s voice once more, high and clear in his mind. Don’t ever let her go."
The threads were slipping in the grip of Simon’s mind. He felt stretched between where his feet stood and where the thread at his chest tugged.
Go, Simon! the woman’s voice cried. Now!
Simon stepped toward the ring of light that led east—just as a blazing heat bloomed at his heels.
The last things Simon knew came at him slowly:
A bright wall of fire rushing at him from all sides, crackling like a thousand storms. The air shifting around him as he stepped through the threads’ passage, like cold water sliding over his skin. The princess screaming in his arms.
The sight of the Borsvall mountains fading.
The thread attached to his heart changing. Twisting.
Breaking, with a snap like thunder.
A force slamming into him, snatching him forward by his bones.
The baby being ripped from his arms, no matter how hard he tried to hold on to her.
A piece of fabric, ripping in his hands.
And then, nothing.