By Elly Blake
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The explosive finale of the New York Times bestselling Frostblood Saga, perfect for fans of Three Dark Crowns, Red Queen, and A Court of Thorns and Roses.
Ruby’s world has changed more than she ever could have imagined. She’s in love with a powerful Frost King. She’s the heir to the Fire Throne. And she may be a Nightblood–the spawn of a vengeful deity hellbent on releasing an imprisoned army of shadowy wraiths. Once freed, these beasts will roam the earth, devouring the spirits of every last person until he or she is nothing but an empty husk.
Ruby is able to control the shadows to a degree, even hosting one in her own body. But will this tenuous connection–which threatens to consume her–be enough to hold the beasts back? With time running out, she must bring Frostbloods and Firebloods together to make a stand against an immortal foe more deadly than any she’s faced. And the price of peace may be her very life.
In this heart-pounding finale of Elly Blake’s gorgeously written and action-packed Frostblood Saga, the fate of Frostbloods, Firebloods, and all of humanity is at stake.
HE WAS LOST, AND ONLY I COULD find him.
My fire-filled palm illuminated the jagged onyx of the endless, twisting tunnels. Shadows followed me, their shapes grotesque against the walls, elated to have finally found prey. They cavorted as they drew out the brutal ecstasy of the hunt. Exhausted, I stumbled over a loose rock, and my upper arm met sharp stone. Hot blood slid down inside my ripped sleeve.
I felt no pain, only urgency. I called Arcus’s name until my throat grew raw. The wind laughed.
At a fork in the tunnel, I hesitated. If I took the wrong path, I would lose him. And somehow I knew that it would be forever.
I followed the echo. The darkness became a physical thing, devouring light. A whistling breeze made the flame in my palm sputter. My steps slowed. If my fire died, I’d be at the mercy of the shadows. I could taste their greed as darkness closed around me like water, suffocating. Drowning me in night.
I could feel them now, wrapping around me like a thousand moving tentacles, constricting my breath. I screamed and struggled.
Eurus’s laughter rang out, echoing in my ears, my chest, my blood. Fear blanked my mind. The god of the east wind could kill me with a word.
Desperation lent me strength. I lashed out with my foot, connecting with something solid.
The creature howled. The shadows spun me around and gripped my shoulders. I drew back my fist and—
“Ruby! Damn you, wake up!”
A slap stung my cheek. When my other cheek received the same treatment, I shoved at my attacker with both hands. Fire built in my palms.
“Not on my ship, you don’t!” Warm hands gripped my wrists. “No fire, you maniac! You’ll kill us all!”
Blinking against the glare of lanterns, I beheld a livid gaze—dilated black pupils ringed by golden honey-brown.
Not a vengeful god, but a furious prince.
It took a second to register that the tunnels hadn’t been real, Eurus’s voice and the grasping shadows only in my mind. As I tried to remember the details, the rest of the nightmare disappeared like mist. I could only recall shadows and a sense of deep dread.
Kai’s appearance did nothing to soothe my fear. His brow was lowered ominously, his coppery-gold hair in pillow-mussed disarray. He leaned in, his low-voiced ferocity eradicating the remaining cobwebs of my dream.
“What in the everloving blazes did you think you were doing? First you try to hurl yourself over the side and now you’re threatening me with fire on a wooden vessel?” He shook my wrists until the flames in my palms died, his breath hot against my cheek. “If I have to choose, I pick the first option. At least you’ll only kill yourself!”
I’d tried to throw myself overboard? I shivered, imagining the icy water closing over my head. If Kai hadn’t grabbed me…
Obviously, I’d been sleepwalking again. This was getting downright dangerous. Not that I would admit that while accusations were being heaped on my head. It was my nature to fight back.
“Stop shouting at me!” I twisted against his hold, but his fingers and thumbs dug into my wrists like burrs. I gave him a swift, hard kick in the shin. “Let go!”
With a brusque oath in Sudesian, Kai moved back, keeping hold of my wrists. “You’ve bruised me enough for one night, don’t you think, Princess?”
Had I already lashed out while dreaming? I scanned his body for cuts and bruises, then realized I was staring. His bare chest rose and fell with harsh breaths, the lantern light painting his lean muscles with loving attention to detail.
“Couldn’t you have put on a shirt?” I snapped, averting my eyes.
“You’re lucky I bothered to pull some breeches on.” He finally let go of my wrists, watching me for signs of imminent attack before continuing. “I was dead asleep. If I’d taken the time to dress, you’d be swimming the Vast Sea right now. Or, more likely, sinking to the bottom with fish nibbling at your pretty little toes.”
“I apologize for making your life so difficult.” I crossed my arms over my wrinkled nightgown, annoyed more at myself than him. When would the sleepwalking end? It made me feel so powerless, so out of control.
While Kai started pacing in silent agitation, I turned to grip the rail and stared down at the barely visible roll of waves, waiting for the world to make sense again.
Though I couldn’t grasp the images from my dream, the sense of urgency and loss weighed heavily on me. Eurus’s laugh still rang in my ears.
That memory was eerily clear, raising gooseflesh over my scalp. I shuddered and rubbed my arms, looking around for some distraction.
Above soaring masts and full white sails, the sky lay black and clear, studded with diamonds. A suggestion of pink edged the horizon, hinting at dawn. I realized that several crew members were staring at me, as if waiting to see what mad thing I would do next. As the ship hit a swell, the planks groaned, and it sounded to my guilty ears like a judgment on my irrational behavior.
“You can all go back to your posts,” I told the sailors. I didn’t need their nervous stares to make me feel any worse.
“I’m the captain,” Kai said with grim conviction, stalking back to me. “I’ll be the one to tell them to go back to their posts.” He jerked his chin at the crew. “Get back to your posts!”
The night watch scurried away.
Kai came to lean on the rail next to me, his voice pitched lower but no less fierce. “This can’t go on.”
“I told you last time that you should bar me in my cabin at night.”
“As if that’ll stop you. You could just burn the door down!”
I threw up my hands. “I don’t know what you want me to do, Kai!”
“You were fine for weeks. Why have you started wandering the decks in your sleep these past few nights?”
“I wish I knew.” Ever since I’d destroyed the throne of Sud and taken the fire Minax into my heart, I’d had an increase in vivid dreams involving tunnels, shadows, and enclosed spaces, but only in the last week had I started sleepwalking. The crew reported my midnight wanderings to the captain—Kai—and he was the one who shook me awake and led me back to bed.
“If you would let me post a guard outside your door—” he began.
“No! Then Arcus will know something is wrong. He’ll overreact. You know he will.”
Arcus had enough to worry about. He had a kingdom to rebuild now that his brother’s devastating rule had ended, and yet he couldn’t focus on that until we stopped Eurus from opening the Gate of Light. Wherever that might be.
If we failed, a horde of Minax would break free from the Obscurum—the underground prison created by the goddess Cirrus—and the world would be populated by mortal puppets possessed by bloodthirsty shadows.
Don’t think like that. I had to focus on the next task: giving Brother Thistle The Creation of the Thrones, a book we believed had directions to the Gate of Light—if he could translate the passages that eluded us.
Kai leaned his head back, his eyes closed. There were shadows under his eyes, the planes of his face more sharply drawn. He looked exhausted.
I winced. “Look, I’m sorry you keep having to get up in the middle of the night for my sake.”
He opened his eyes and peered at the lightening sky. “Well, we’re only a couple of days from land, anyway, and then your nightmares will be someone else’s problem.” He slanted me a half smile, which died as his eyes flicked downward. “Ah…” He cleared his throat. “Maybe you should lace up your”—he pointed at his chest in lieu of description—“with a bit more care.”
I glanced down. The sleeves of my nightgown were long, the hem all the way to my ankles, but the laces at the collar had come undone, showing an alarming amount of cleavage, and possibly more from his vantage point.
“Oops,” I said, fumbling with the laces. I wondered if my faulty apparel might have been the real reason the crew had been staring for so long.
Normally I might have told Kai what he could do with his opinion about my clothing. But this wasn’t criticism of my tendency to wear a tunic and leggings instead of a gown. We needed to keep our relationship in the calmer waters of friendship, where we had steered it since leaving Sudesia.
When modesty was restored, I raised my head, but Kai had already turned on his heel, his easy strides taking him toward the companionway.
“Good night, Ruby,” he said over his shoulder. “I trust you won’t cause any more trouble tonight.”
“I won’t go back to sleep,” I called after him. In fact, I wouldn’t sleep at night for the rest of our voyage. A bright sky seemed to be the only proof against nightmares. Next time I tried to toss myself into the drowning deeps, Kai might not be there to save me.
The horizon was orange now, the stars winking out as dawn claimed its due. In a few minutes, the shadows would be gone.
“Except for the one in my heart,” I whispered. The dread I’d felt earlier returned with the suddenness of an unexpected squall.
As I turned from the rail, I could have sworn I heard laughter in the wind.
A SHOUT OF “LAND HO!” RANG FROM the crow’s nest. Frostblood sailors rushed to the rail and scurried into the rigging, eager for their first glimpse of home in months.
Nervous warmth coursed through my veins, heating the brass rail beneath my palms. The voyage had cost us time, preventing us from doing anything more active than reading and planning. Soon we would find out if the book held the secrets we needed.
The next few hours passed in a flurry of activity. As the Tempesian half of the crew carried out their tasks with laughter and snatches of song, the Sudesians eyed the gray cliffs with distrust. This white-cloaked kingdom topped with drab pewter skies was the place where so many of their own had been murdered by the previous Frost King. It would take more than the death of that king and a few brief months for them to feel safe here.
My thoughts were equally torn.
Sudesia, with its tropical clime and vibrant colors, had felt like a warm embrace to my Fireblood spirit. And yet, Tempesia’s snowy peaks and icy mists had the pull of deep familiarity.
Its people, however, could be colder than its northern reaches. With a few exceptions, I had little use for Frostbloods.
“Your expression is very grave,” said the most notable exception. Breath as cold as an arctic wind tickled my ear. “Not looking forward to winter in the north?”
I leaned back against him and echoed his wry tone. “It’s more that I dread spending another winter with Frostbloods.” I gestured landward. “And there’s a whole kingdom of them.”
Arcus chuckled, his large hands coming to rest on my shoulders. “I’ve heard you have a history of handling those Frostbloods with great skill. Particularly their king.”
He smoothed my hair to the side and a cold kiss fell on the nape of my neck, making a delicious shudder run through me, top to tail. I turned with a smile and caught a flash of intense blue eyes before his lips met mine softly, sending another thrill along my spine.
I pulled back to murmur, “Their king seems intent on handling me.”
His chest rumbled with a laugh, and I grinned.
His fingers came to rest on my neck as his lips slid up to my temple. “You can’t blame him. You’re very touchable.”
I enjoyed his clean scent, his strength and steadiness, and snuggled closer, drawing his arms tighter around me. For the first time since my nightmare, I felt safe.
He rested his chin on my head, inhaling deeply. “You smell so good,” he said in a low, soft voice. “I could stand here and breathe you in all day.”
I tucked my cheek against his chest. “You smell like mint. I wonder if you taste as good.”
“All right, Lady Firebrand, we need to change the subject or the crew is going to blush as I bend you back over my arm and kiss you senseless.”
I knew he wanted to, just as I knew that he wouldn’t. Though he sometimes kissed me on deck, he was reserved about it. Even when we were alone, it hadn’t gone much further. Every night, he’d left me at my cabin door with a mere kiss.
He made a sound low in his throat, his eyes heating. “Stop it. Now, tell me what you were really thinking about.”
I looked over my shoulder at the gray cliffs. “Aside from the obvious? I’m wondering what we’ll find when we reach the capital. The Frost Court left alone for nearly three months…”
He was silent for a moment, then shrugged. “Whatever has happened, we’ll deal with it.”
I peered up at him, not trusting he was as calm as he sounded. “Doesn’t this go against the Frostblood code that tells you to plan carefully for any contingency?”
His eyes crinkled at the edges. “That may be the Frostblood code, but a certain Fireblood has taught me to live in the present. Right now, that includes enjoying the last few hours of peace on this ship.”
As if on cue, the Frostbloods erupted in the ribald shanty they always sang as we neared land, extolling the rewards of shore leave.
I lifted a brow at Arcus. “Peace?”
“Relative peace.” His eyes softened like melting ice. “I’ll take what I can get.”
I reached up to brush a lock of hair that had fallen over his forehead, and he leaned subtly into my touch. I tilted my face up, inviting.
Our lips had just brushed when Kai’s voice interrupted. “How thoughtful of you to put on a final show for the crew.”
Arcus’s arms constricted, pulling me closer. He always acted as if the Fireblood prince were waiting to snatch me away at the first opportunity.
Kai leaned against the rail with his signature indolent grace. His wine-red doublet and fiery hair—bleached more golden by the weeks of sun—were the only spots of color in a gray landscape.
“I suppose it’s cold enough to justify some cuddling,” he said, as if generously granting a request. “Though a Frostblood isn’t the logical choice if you’re looking for warmth, Ruby.”
His eyes held only the usual level of sensual promise typical of him, but Arcus reacted with a frostbitten stare.
“Watch yourself, princeling.”
“Even a Fireblood princess craves warmth sometimes,” Kai taunted with a slow grin.
Arcus’s nostrils flared. “Did you need something?”
“We’ll land soon.” Kai gestured to shore with a lift of his chin. “Just checking our plans haven’t changed.”
“Same as before,” I said. “We take the book to Brother Thistle. He finds and translates directions to the Gate of Light. We go there and make sure it stays closed so no Minax can escape. Simple.”
“Yes, that’s all very simple,” he said with an eye roll. “I hope you’re right about that book.”
“I am,” I said with more confidence than I felt.
The Fireblood masters accompanying us had been translating The Creation of the Thrones from ancient Sudesian, but they’d found no mention of the Gate’s location. However, they’d told us there were some passages in ancient Ventian—a dead language purported to be the root of both Tempesian and Sudesian, but which none of us could translate. I was sure Brother Thistle could.
“We must be realistic,” Kai said. “The book may not contain clear directions, in which case a search will be necessary.” He cleared his throat. “And at the risk of starting another argument, we must talk about how to secure ships to help us in our search. You’ve made it clear you need the Frost Court’s approval to deploy your navy.”
Arcus’s eyes held a warning. “That’s what our laws require, yes.”
“And for them to agree, the Frost Court must be convinced of the danger. Therefore, we need to show them proof the Minax exists.”
“You will not use Ruby to give them proof,” Arcus said with narrowed eyes.
“I don’t need your permission,” I added quietly.
He turned to me, his tone somewhere between commanding and begging me to see reason. “Either you could lose control of the creature and it could find another host, leaving it free to wreak carnage like the frost Minax did. Or you could lose control and hurt someone. Either way, the risk is too great.”
My jaw tightened. “I notice both of those scenarios involve me losing control.”
Kai straightened, an intense look in his golden-brown eyes. “If she allowed it to partially possess a few key members of your court, just so they could see how powerful—”
“No,” Arcus said, instant and emphatic, blocking the argument the way he’d block an attack.
“I’ve been able to control it throughout the voyage,” I reminded him with growing irritation.
“Or it has chosen to remain dormant to lull you into a false sense of security.”
That possibility had occurred to me, too, but he didn’t need to know that. “Your faith in me is flattering.”
“It’s not lack of faith in you. It’s simple caution. Do you deny that I could be right?”
Kai’s jaw moved as if his teeth were grinding together. “Listen, you stubborn…” He pressed his lips together. “They need to see this to believe it.”
Arcus dropped his arms from around me and used his extra inches of height to loom over Kai. “No.”
Kai stood his ground, heat flowing from him in waves. “Then how do you plan to convince your court?”
“I am their king. I don’t need to convince them.”
I sighed, pushing between them. “You know it’s not that simple. Your connection with me has made people distrustful. And your recent alliance with Firebloods won’t win you favor with some.”
Arcus took a breath and spoke with firm conviction. “You are the crown princess of Sudesia, heir to the fire throne. And the prince here is now the queen’s official emissary. Those things carry weight. They’ll know I’ve built trust with our enemy.”
Kai snorted angrily, and Arcus said, “I’m not calling you an enemy. I’m stating how the court sees it. Now that we have a signed treaty with the Fire Queen, that will gain my court’s full attention.”
“Weren’t you nearly assassinated by your own court? Twice?”
“Kai!” I shook my head at him. It wasn’t fair to bring up the most traumatic episode of Arcus’s life. The first assassination attempt had burned him and left him with scars.
“I thought we were stating unpleasant truths,” Kai countered without remorse.
“You won’t speak of that,” I said, low and fierce.
Arcus took my hands and squeezed them. “It’s all right, Ruby.” He addressed his next comment to Kai. “I’m convinced the Blue Legion was behind both attacks. They will have to be discovered and routed.”
“I’m relieved to hear you concede that, at least,” Kai replied. He looked up to where sailors were adjusting the sails for our arrival. “I have things to do.” He strode off toward the quarterdeck.
I moved next to Arcus, watching his stiff back and white-knuckled grip on the rail. Frost spread, melting as it touched my hand, a sign that he was losing control of his emotions. He huffed out a breath. “Every instinct is telling me to send you off somewhere safe and to fix all this myself.”
“Even if you could ‘fix this’ without me—which you can’t—I won’t be pushed aside. Kai and I are your allies. Our opinions deserve your full consideration.”
He turned to me, his brows lowered. “I listen to you. I take everything you say seriously.”
“And Kai? Do you listen to him?”
His expression closed off. “Not if I can help it.”
“That’s a problem. At least trust that Kai is on our side and behave accordingly. I’m tired of watching you trying to goad each other into fisticuffs.”
His mouth twitched up on one side. “Is it that obvious?”
“It’s obviously unnecessary, and I don’t want either of you to get hurt. Not him, whom I love like a brother, and—”
Arcus made a disgruntled noise. “I saw you kiss him, remember? Not like a brother.”
“Fine. Like a good friend who won’t ever be more because I’m already madly… attached… to someone else.”
The word love wouldn’t come to my lips. It felt like tempting the gods to express that emotion, as if Tempus himself would swoop in and snatch Arcus away from me for daring to voice it.
“So you love him,” Arcus said in a low voice, “and are attached to me.”
“That’s not what I meant. Don’t read into things. I’ve made it clear how I feel. Kai sees it. The entire ship sees it. Why don’t you?”
His mouth twisted, his eyes the color of a winter sea. “I never thought I’d be the jealous sort, and yet I often have the urge to throw him overboard.”
“He flirts with everyone, not just me.”
After a thoughtful pause, he conceded, “I suppose that is true. I will try not to smash his pretty mouth in when he directs his charm at you.”
“No smashing or you’ll answer to me.”
His mouth quirked up at one corner. “In that case, I am all compliance.”
“Just the way I like you.”
He huffed a laugh and pulled me into a tight embrace. “No doubt.”
I relaxed in his arms, lifting my face to the breeze. Land filled the skyline, the seagulls screaming like tortured spirits as we neared shore. From now on, time would move faster, and our race to defeat Eurus had to be the first and only concern.
It felt as if an hourglass had been turned over, the sands beginning to fall.
DOREENA SIDLED UP NEXT TO ME ON the foredeck, her skirts swaying with the movement of the ship. She wore a thick cloak, but she kept her arms wrapped around herself. I smiled in greeting and subtly sent out a pulse of heat to warm her. For as long as I’d known her, she’d shown no signs of a gift of frost or fire, so the cold must have felt piercing to her thin frame.
Somehow, she always reminded me of a woodland creature. Her big, serious brown eyes, along with her nut-brown hair, small nose, and pointed chin gave her the aspect of a nervous fawn.
Her assessing gaze took in my gown. “You look very fine, my lady. I mean, Your Highness.”
“Thank you, Doreena, but I’ve told you not to use my title,” I chided. “I’m Ruby to you.”
The princess identity still didn’t quite fit, like wearing a pair of fancy slippers that pinched. Most of the time I tried not to think about it, but I knew it would shortly become a necessary mask. My title would give me credibility with any Frostblood nobles we might encounter on our way to the castle. I hoped my newfound identity as Sudesian royalty would force them to take our efforts to mend ties between the kingdoms more seriously.
I smoothed the velvet bodice of my dress. In preparation for our arrival, I had changed from my sailor’s togs into a raspberry gown with full sleeves and a vermilion belt, the same shade as the ribbons threaded through the bodice and hem. Pearl earrings matched a pearl necklace with a ruby pendant. It was part of the wardrobe given to me by Queen Nalani when we’d departed Sudesia.
As we leaned on the rail, Doreena’s eyes kept flicking to the quarterdeck, where the Fireblood prince stood at the helm, deftly guiding the ship into the harbor. I’d been careful to pretend I didn’t notice that she’d spent most of the past few weeks staring at him. From clues in his expression—an extra-bright gleam of amusement in his eyes and a slight twitch of his lips—I had the sense he was aware of her regard and enjoyed it, even though he treated her with polite neutrality. She was smitten, and I couldn’t really blame her. In his finery, he was a splendid thing to behold.
I shaded my eyes with my hand and returned to my study of the harbor. Tevros was usually a bustling port filled with merchant ships and fishing boats, the wharf swarming with sailors carrying crates and barrels of cargo. Instead, it was eerily empty, only a few unoccupied rowboats bobbing in their berths.
“Something is wrong,” I worried aloud. “It almost looks abandoned.”
Doreena tore her gaze from Kai and turned her head to examine the scene with me. She pointed to flagpoles jutting up from several buildings. “The flags are wrong.”
A white fist holding a shard of ice had replaced the king’s white arrow on a blue background.
She glanced at me. “What can it mean?”
“I don’t know.” I had a suspicion but hoped I was wrong.
We weren’t the only ones to notice something amiss. The Tempesian sailors, who knew the port well, muttered to one another in low tones. The bustle and stamp, exclamations, and raucous singing were over.
After a few minutes, Arcus appeared at the top of the companionway and moved to join us. It took only a second before he went rigid. His voice cracked like thunder. “What in Tempus’s name is that?”
Doreena shrank away, then hustled off. Apparently the king’s wrath was too much for her, even if her fears were rooted in memories of the former king and not this one.
“The flags.” I pointed. “What do they—”
Praise for Nightblood:"Romantic and thrilling."—Booklist
Praise for Fireblood:"Brimming with new adventures, Ruby's story shimmers and expands.... A thrilling romp through an engrossing world. A sucker punch of escalating evil, sizzling romance, and a spitfire coming into her own."—Kirkus Reviews
"A satisfying sequel. The plot is well paced and engaging...fans of the series will not be disappointed."—School Library Journal
Praise for Frostblood:"This series opener is perfect for fans of Victoria Aveyard's Red Queen and will delight those who love fantasy, adventure, and romance. A strong addition to any YA fantasy collection."—School Library Journal
"This enchanting and fast-paced debut lights up the page with magic, romance, and action, all of which is expertly interwoven throughout the text. Readers will be eagerly anticipating the next book in the series."—Booklist
"Ruby's a spitfire who faces her challenges with grit."—Kirkus Reviews
"This strong debut for Blake succeeds in laying down intriguing framework for the books to come."—Publishers Weekly
- On Sale
- Aug 21, 2018
- Page Count
- 448 pages
- Little, Brown Books for Young Readers