10:00 am EDT, February 8, 2019

Look through the mirror at the cover reveal and excerpt for ‘The Evil Queen’ by Gena Showalter

Take a new look at evil with our exclusive cover reveal and excerpt from The Evil Queen by Gena Showalter.

In a world where fairytale has become prophesy and a girl from our own world must navigate mysterious magic, Gena Showalter begins a new fantasy trilogy that turns ideas of good and evil upside down. Chock full of talking mirrors, creepy forests, handsome princes, and oh-so-many apples, The Evil Queen deals with destiny, betrayal, and what truly lies beneath the surface of every story.

Check out the cover art for ‘The Evil Queen’

Intrigued? Read the prologue of The Evil Queen right here, with an introduction by Gena Showalter:

“One of my favorite fairy tales is Snow White… though I kinda sorta care more about the evil queen than Snow White. What secrets hide in her past? What made her evil? Is she really a villain to all or is she a hero to some? What if fairy tales are actually prophecies of the future, and those prophecies came true today? Does Prince Charming really fall in love with a dead chick in a glass casket? With those questions in mind, I sat down to write The Evil Queen — and ended up crafting one of my favorite books to date.

In the following excerpt from The Evil Queen, we’ve hidden the identities of the characters, using their fairy tale names, to protect the not so innocent…”

Exclusive excerpt from ‘The Evil Queen’ by Gena Showalter

PROLOGUE

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A brief glimpse into the future

The Enchantian Forest

“Well, well, well.” I unveiled my coldest, wickedest smile. “Hello, my darklings.”

My greatest enemies stood before me — Snow White, Prince Charming, and three of the seven dwarfs, who touted themselves as protectors. Golden sunlight filtered through an overhead canopy of ivory leaves, stroking majestic trees teeming with fruit and flowers. The loveliest war zone I’d ever seen.

Radiating her patented mix of shock and fury, Snow White bucked and strained for freedom. One by one, the protectors bowed their heads, ashamed. Too little, too late. All the while, Prince Charming held my gaze, unflinching. He remained unmoving, unafraid of my wrath. But then, he was a warrior to his core, forged in fire, then honed and sharpened like a blade one strike at a time.

I breathed deep. Mistake! I took in the sugar and spice of his scent. Focus. I met his gaze and said, “Only hours ago, you wanted to prove your love for me.” Would he prevail at last, or let me down once again? “Behold. Your chance. You can save her, or you can save me. What you cannot do? Save us both.”
I’d been wounded so deeply, so profoundly, I might never recover. Prince Charming alone had the power to heal my hurts. If he chose me. If he chose her, after everything she’d done…

I bit my tongue until I tasted blood. Calm. Steady. Whatever his decision, I would survive.

“I love you, Everly, and I choose you.” His ragged voice sent shivers careening down my spine. “I will always choose you.”

I’d actually won? Joy sparked.

Then he added, “But I cannot let you kill her.”

Air gushed from my mouth as my lungs deflated. “You love me, so you protect her? Good one. For your next trick, pull a rabbit out of your invisible hat.”

“I have killed for you, and I have bled for you,” he continued, sending more shivers down my spine. “I will always act as your shield. Even when you are your own worst enemy.”

A lie! There was no enemy worse than his precious Snow White.

Control your expression. If I revealed my true feelings, I would also reveal a vulnerability he could use against me later.

I tried to blank my features, I really did, but my muscles refused to obey my mind. My pain was simply too great. Very well. Illusion magic wasn’t second nature to me, but I could wield it when needed. If I syphoned enough power from someone nearby.

I refused to take from my enemies, refused to form a mystical link with someone I’d rather exterminate. Instead, I tapped into a different power source, one that came with too many strings. Still. I adored the outcome, streams of heat and energy flowing into my every cell.

Had strength ever been this intoxicating? I wanted more, more, more. More power meant better security, and better security meant I could safeguard who and what I loved. Or maybe I should simply cut ties with those loved ones, becoming bulletproof. No ties, no heartache.

I’d had enough heartache in my young life.

With a twirl of my finger, I crafted a magical illusion of calm. Then I faked a yawn and buffed the metal claws adorning my fingers, as if I hadn’t a care. “Why am I not surprised you claim to want me while defending her? Oh, yes. I remember. Because you always defend her.”

He lifted his chin, his hauntingly beautiful eyes tormented and sad. “Do you not see the irony, sweetling? Here you are, acting just like the one you loathe, committing the same crimes.”

Hurt and fury singed me. I would never be like Snow White. Inhale, exhale. “This just in,” I said, mimicking a primetime anchorman. “Prince Charming could have led an exciting life with the Evil Queen, the best thing to ever happen to him. Alas. The fool tossed her aside, and she moved on.”

You are the best thing to ever happen to him?” Snow White laughed, cold and derisive now. “Poor, poor Prince Charming.”

Do not react.

“I’m fighting for our happily ever after.” Prince Charming scowled at me. “Meanwhile, you are fighting for our happily never after.”

I kind of… was. He was one of the reasons I wanted — needed — to be bulletproof. “Why would I want a future with you? A supervillain in denial?”
Strong and proud, he said, “Every hero is a villain, and every villain is a hero. It just depends on who you ask. Today, we can be each other’s hero and her villain. She struck at you, so, we will punish her –calmly. Otherwise, we only perpetuate the cycle of violence.”

“How will we punish her?” I demanded, daring to hope for better again. But then, I had no defenses against his superpower. Prince Charming charmed, in more ways than one.

“We will lock her in the tower,” he said, “to suffer as you suffered.”

I waited for him to elaborate, to mention the whipping I’d suffered, too. But he didn’t. Of course he didn’t. “We both know you’ll fill her cell with luxuries and free her far too soon.” Not. Good. Enough. I doubted any sentence but death would be good enough. “Face it. You are blind to her many, many, many faults.”

“How can you…you can’t…” As Snow White peered at Prince Charming, all the coldness, all the fury melted from her countenance, leaving only raw despondency. Tears streamed down her pale cheeks. “She killed our king and hopes to break our bond. You cannot support her.”

“I can. I will.” He held my stare, unwavering. “I will do anything for Everly.”

Brow arched, I said, “Anything?”

“Except help her destroy herself,” he added.

I thrilled, then I cursed. Enough! If anyone had the power to sway me, it was this boy and his black-magic voice. But I couldn’t let him do it. Not this time. Pretty words meant nothing without consequent action.

“You have made your choice,” I told him, “and I have made mine. Our course is set.”

In an instant, Snow White’s fury returned, her gaze spitting fire at me. “Go ahead. Do your worst. Prophecy says I will come back to life and slay you. Prophecy is never wrong.”

Prophecy was fairy tale, and fairy tale was prophecy. While some parts were literal, other parts were symbolic. Oh, how I prayed my death and her victory were symbolic.

“You will not harm Everly,” Prince Charming snapped at Snow White, who flinched.

After kissing the tip of my middle finger, I blew in her direction. Once, I’d admired this girl, and yes, okay, I’d envied her, too. Such strength! Now? Pure, unadulterated rage blistered me inside and out.

“Why don’t we liven up this party?” I twirled my finger again, unleashing a tendril of magic.

No need to look over my shoulder to know thorny vines had grown together to construct a regal throne, sand orchids blooming over the seat.

Head high, I turned, swished the tail of my gown aside, and eased down. I sensed a wealth of creatures hiding in nearby shadows, watching as prophecy unfolded, the very prophecy Snow White had mentioned. I welcomed them, calling, “Come one, come all. Look. See. Learn what happens when you betray the Queen of Evil…”

One by one, the creatures moved into sunlight, forming a circle around us. Trolls, chimera, griffins, nymphs, centaurs, and minotaurs. What a fearsome sight they made.

I wondered how much more fearsome I was.
Who was I kidding? I already knew the answer. Incalculably. Should I fluff my hair? Nah. Too obvious.

Snow White shrank back, looking nervous. Prince Charming merely raised his chin higher, refusing to back down, no matter the odds stacked against him. The protectors began to struggle against their bonds, determined to aid their royal charges.

Drumming my metal claws against the throne, I announced, “Today I am judge, jury and executioner. Spoiler alert. You are all guilty, and you will die. But don’t let the outcome taint your enjoyment. There’s fun to be had — for me. Shall we begin?”

“No!” Stubborn to his core, never willing to cede defeat, Prince Charming took a step in my direction. An action he surely regretted when the vines jerked him back in place, sharp thorns cutting into his wrists. Blood dripped from the puncture wounds and soaked into the ground. “This isn’t you. Grief has hidden your joy, but we fill find it again.”

“I was born to be the Evil Queen. The monster other monsters fear. Selected by Fate herself. Joy is the carrot she forever dangles out of my reach.”

He shook his head, a lock of midnight hair falling over his forehead. “You, Everly, are the girl I crave more than breath. Fate might have predicted the course, and the outcome, but we still have freedom of choice. We decide what is literal and what is symbolic.”

Perhaps. No ties. “You may call me Your Majesty,” I told him. A howling wind blew past, leaves rattling and branches clapping, creating an eerie ballad I enjoyed. “Or Stepmother Dearest. Gentleman’s choice.”

“I’m sorry you were forced to wed him.” As indomitable as ever, he took another step forward, his eyes imploring me. Once again, the vines stopped him. “I’m sorry for everything that happened after. Words cannot adequately express my remorse.”

Another gust of wind. This time, the scent of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves — his scent — filled my nose. Awareness heated my blood, fracturing my defenses.

Well, why not? He was my most wicked fantasy come to startling life.

“Poor Prince Charming,” I said, pretending to pout. I drummed my claws with more force. “Let me think about whether or not I care what you feel… thinking… no. I don’t care.”

He radiated abject disappointment and renewed determination. Too bad, so sad.

As my determination renewed, I returned my attention to Snow White, who regarded me with haughty disdain. “Come closer, child.”

I didn’t give her a chance to disobey. I let the vines to push her forward. Okay, okay. I was showing off. But only a little! I had a link to never-ending power; she did not.

“Let’s forget the atrocities you’ve committed this day.” Do not choke on your hatred. Exhibit control. “You are also accused of selfishness, greed, and rampant stupidity. Opening argument?”

You are guilty of being a plague upon humanity.” Snarls left her as she struggled for freedom. “One day, one day soon, I will burn you alive, just as our fairytale suggests.”

I canted my head and met Prince Charming’s gaze. “No admonishments for her?

“I will deal with her later. Right now, you are my primary concern.” He searched my face. Hoping to find the optimistic girl he’d first met? “You have never enjoyed harming others. Don’t start now.”

“Don’t do this. Don’t do that,” I mocked. Inside, I commanded, Don’t soften. “You’re no fun anymore.”

Though he was right. Once, I’d been an innocent, thinking I could have anything I wanted, as long as I worked hard enough. Once, I’d chosen to believe the best of people. Once, but no longer. You could work yourself to death, gaining nothing. As for people, I’d learned they would always put themselves first, no matter how many others got hurt in the process.
To survive, I had to do the same. I had to be tougher, smarter, stronger.

Everything always came back to strength.

Finally, one of the helpers decided to speak up. The one I hated almost as much as Snow White. “If you do this,” she said, “if you step off this emotional cliff, you will fall.”

“I guess you would know,” I snapped. “All of you fail to comprehend a single, glaring fact.” Motioning to Snow White, I said, “I will eagerly walk into a sword as long as I impale her, too.” I stood and sauntered to Prince Charming, the hem of my gown swishing at my feet. “Evil isn’t born, it’s made. One thought and action at a time.” I paused for effect. “Take a good look at what you’ve made.”

The protectors flinched.

Snow White cursed me.

Roth swept his gave over me, his eyelids hooding. His irises flamed, every muscle in his body knotting with tension. His second sweep was slow and leisurely, devouring me one inch at a time — and I liked it.

“I’m looking,” he rasped. “Never want to stop.”

New shivers almost knocked me down. Hide your vulnerabilities. Grin. Better. I traced a fingertip along the dark stubble that shadowed his jaw. “Can you guess the difference between us?” I glided around him, scrutinizing every inch of his body, the way he’d so often scrutinized mine. Could I destroy this beautiful warrior? “I admit I’m bad. You pretend you’re good.”

He turned with me, twisting the vines that bound him. Fraying the vines. Suddenly free, he walked me backward. A tree trunk stopped my retreat. Prince Charming reached up to bracket one of my temples with his hand. Then he bracketed the other. With his six-foot-four frame and his gloriously broad shoulders, he caged me in, seeming to surround me… and I loved it.

In this position, we breathed for each other. I inhaled, he exhaled. He inhaled, I exhaled. Nice and slow — agonizingly slow. Awareness sizzled between us.

“Once, I hurt you when I should have safeguarded you. Something I will forever regret. But I have learned from my mistakes.” He moved one of those big, calloused hands to my jaw, then traced my cheekbone with his thumb. “What I know beyond a doubt? Your happiness is my happiness.”

Pull away. Pull away now! But my limbs had frozen and now refused to obey my mind. I stood there, floundering, trapped by my own weaknesses. For him. For what he made me feel.

And he wasn’t done! “Marry me, Everly. Become my wife. Let’s make each other smile and laugh for eternity.”
The moisture in my mouth dried, and I gulped.

Technically, I could wed him. My “husband” was dead. But…

No! “You can’t be serious,” I said, my heart thudding against my ribs.

“Stop this.” Snow White yanked at her bonds. “Has she ensorcelled you?”

The protectors protested, until my tree limbs stuffed their mouths full of leaves.

“Your thoughts and opinions are unwelcome,” he told Snow White, though his gaze never released mine. Those exquisite eyes, framed by the longest, thickest black lashes, created a beautiful portrait of fierce adoration. “Say yes, Everly.”

Must stay strong. If I weakened, the vulnerability he oh, so easily cultivated would cost me everything — again. I’d lost too much already. “I say… no. My vengeance will not be denied.”

I twirled my finger, and new vines snatched Prince Charming by the throat to wrench him back in line. Much better. I glided back to my throne and sat with far less grace than before.

“Do I have your full attention?” I asked.

He remained unperturbed. “You’ve had my full attention since the moment we met.”

Ignore the pleasure of his words. Forge ahead.

“I declare everyone is guilty as charged.” I extended my arm to the side and opened my fist. At the same time, a tree branch stretched out… out… to place a white apple in my palm. Prophecy proclaimed I would kill Snow White with a poisoned apple — at least for a time — so I would. Only, hers would not be a restful sleep.

“Now, for the sentencing portion of the trial.” Just as the Apple of New Beginnings had once strengthened me, the Apple of Life and Death would weaken Snow White.

“One bite,” I said, “and you will sleep for eternity.” Linked to the forest, I had access to various poisonous spores. I summoned a particularly nasty one able to put anyone to sleep — forever. Then I raked my claws over my forearm. Skin tore, my venomous blood welling.

I painted each claw crimson before I sank the metal tips into the fruit. The white apple quickly turned red.

Fear shook Snow White when I added, “You will willingly eat this poisonous, poisonous apple, princess, or you will watch me force feed it to your friends. Decide.”

Prince Charming released a soft growl.

Realization: Yes, I could destroy him, as long as I destroyed Snow White, too. I might feel guilty for it, but I wouldn’t be swayed from my course. Not again. This is justified.
She paled, her mouth floundering open and closed. “I won’t… you can’t…”

“This is what you need, Everly?” he asked, sounding resigned. The question surprised me. “This will help you heal from the damage we’ve caused?”

“Without a doubt,” I said, unflinching. Except, deep down, I knew I couldn’t heal. Some wounds were too raw.

“Very well. For you, my queen, I will do anything. Even this.” Somehow, he freed himself from the vines a second time and shot across the distance. Standing before me, he snatched the apple from my grip.

No, no, no. “Don’t you dare–” Too late.

With his gaze still locked on mine, he bit into the poisoned fruit.

Copyright © 2019 by Gena Showalter

The Evil Queen by Gena Showalter will be released on June 25.

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