Melissa de la Cruz’s next series kicks off with The Queen’s Assassin on February 4, 2020, and we’ve got an exclusive excerpt for you to check out!
Melissa de la Cruz is one of the most recognizable names in YA fiction today and for good reason. Her novels are always incredibly captivating and seriously tough to put down.
From the looks of the excerpt below (as well as the book’s summary), The Queen’s Assassin, the first book in her upcoming Queen’s Secret series, will be no different.
Smolderingly attractive male characters, fantastical court intrigue, and a relatable badass female character… Judging from our exclusive snippet of the novel below, there’s a little bit of something in The Queen’s Assassin for everyone to love and go crazy over.
We’d tell you to sit back, relax, and enjoy this excerpt from chapter 2 of The Queen’s Assassin, but this special sneak peek will have you at the very edge of your seat with your heart pounding.
But don’t just take our word on it…
Read an exclusive excerpt from ‘The Queen’s Assassin’ now
“Who’s there?” a gruff voice calls out from within the tunnel. It echoes: Who’s there? Who’s there? Who’s there?
Frantically, I search for somewhere to hide. They heard me! But the tunnel appears to be the sole way out and I can’t go back the way I came. There’s only the river below. The voices whisper to one another from inside the tunnel as I slide off the edge of the dock and into the water, trying not to make a splash. I hear clanging as the men run toward the stream, their boots shuffling on the ground as they turn around looking for whoever was there.
“Got away,” one says. His voice is deep, gravelly. It’s the same man who called out before.
“Could be you’re hearin’ things again,” says the other. Higher-pitched, scratchy. Younger than the first, I think.
“Is that so? Then who moved the stone?” the first replies. “More like they jumped in the river.”
The second scoffs. “Then they’re dead for sure.”
His words are prescient as the flow of the river drags me along, turns a corner, and slopes down, the current picking up speed. I try to retain control but the water swallows me. I struggle to push myself above the surface and gasp for air. They were right, I won’t make it. The undertow is too strong.
I kick as hard as I can, barely keeping my head out of the river, which is splashing against my face and into my nose and mouth. I can’t keep the water out and also let air in. Don’t panic, I tell myself. Never panic.
I spot a heavy branch sticking out of the water. I reach for it and fail, falling back into the current. I should never have come here. I’m going to drown. I’m going to die.
Also: My aunts are going to kill me.
No, no! I absolutely refuse to give up! My arms and legs shove me on as if being controlled by an outside force. I manage to propel my body toward another floating branch and grab on to it.
Water washes over my head again. I keep my eyes closed and hang on to the branch with all my might. When my head emerges, I try to suck in air but immediately begin coughing. Wheezing. There’s water in my lungs. My nose and throat are burning. The men at the abbey can probably hear me splashing now but I hardly care. I just want to make it out of here alive.
There’s a light ahead. The mouth of the cave. I hear banging noises from behind me, where the men were at the shoreline. It sounds like some kind of battle, as if the men I’d heard back there were suddenly attacked. My breathing is returning to normal, though I still feel the sting in my nose and chest. If I hadn’t come across the branch . . . or if my leg had caught on one under the surface . . .
I emerge with the river. I look around and see I’m on the other side of the abbey now. Right near the hill I saw in the distance earlier—the site of the great battle. I feel the oppressive weight of death all around me, even within the earth itself.
The branch runs up against some rocks near the shoreline, beneath an ancient weeping willow. My arms are weak. Shaking. I have to get out of the water. I can take refuge in the tree. Its full, low-hanging branches are spread out around its wide, trunk-like curtains. A good place to hang on, stay concealed.
Please just this one thing, I beg myself. Get out of the water. Gritting my teeth, I lift my upper body until I’m lying across the top of a stone. A horse whinnies from beyond the hill; a man shouts. Another man grunts again and again, as if he’s punching someone. I rest a moment to catch my breath and listen to the brawl beyond the hill. The men are still struggling against some interloper, but it means they’re not coming any nearer to me, so I swing my right leg up onto the rock and hoist myself out. The heavy boots I’m wearing definitely weren’t helping me in the water.
The sounds of struggle subside abruptly, as if someone’s won. Dripping wet, I crawl over to the willow and hide beneath its curtain of leaves. It’s quiet now. They may have left—or killed one another. Either way, not my concern.
The sun is already setting; one of my aunts would definitely have started looking for me by now.
There hasn’t been any other sound from beyond the hill for some time now. I don’t like it here. Unlike the ruins, this place bears the stain of death. Violence. Its energy is an invisible fog. I place my palm against the willow’s sturdy trunk to brace myself so I can stand.
A powerful shock surges straight through me.
Suddenly, I can see a soldier wearing the Renovian colors, bleed-ing out into the earth. Another soldier with a missing arm, leg snapped upward into a terrifying pose, is groaning. I want to go home, he cries. I want to go.
One man is almost fully submerged in the river, only his legs sticking out. And countless others are strewn about in the same condition, or worse. Everywhere. The dead. This is the Battle of Baer, playing out before my eyes. I can smell the stench in the air and hear the death groans, but it isn’t real. I’m not there; this is just an illusion, a place memory. One so powerful that those with the sight can see it if they try. Even if they don’t try. Aunt Moriah said sometimes such visions find the seeker, rather than the other way around.
I have been seeing visions since I was ten years old.
Then I look up. And there he is. King Esban.
I recognize him from his chiseled profile on Renovian coins. A striking figure, like the fabled shipbuilders of the north countries: tall, broad shouldered, bearded, golden hair flowing from under a dented silver helmet. Noble and brave, just as the stories say, but with kind eyes. They never mention that.
I feel the urge to go to him but I can’t move. I know what’s about to happen, and I want to call to him, to warn him. But when I try to yell, nothing comes out.
A man charges toward him, sword raised above his head. He’s wearing a gray Aphrasian robe and their unmistakable black mask. The king is steady. Metal meets metal with a clang. They struggle, the rebel monk pushing the king back; the king shoves him off with equal force. The monk aims his right leg directly at the king’s stomach, but Esban steps away so the kick lands off its mark, barely grazing his hip. He stretches his arm back and swings the sword at the rebel with all his might. The monk dodges the strike. The king is furiously red, chest heaving, teeth bared. He lunges at the monk again.
They go on like this. It seems that neither can win. The other soldiers haven’t even noticed the skirmish on the mound yet. I try to scream, Help him! But I can’t, because as real as it seems, I’m only watching. Witnessing the past.
I look back up.
The rebel is on the ground. The king walks over to him and lifts his sword. For a brief moment I hope King Esban will win this time. That the past can change. But the monk rolls and swipes the king’s leg out from under him. He stumbles, falls. He’s about to get up when it happens.
The monk drives his sword straight through King Esban’s chest.
I yank my hand away from the willow. I start gagging, retching. I haven’t eaten all day, so all I bring up is bile. Tears are streaming down my face. This is what my aunts meant when they told me to be careful for what you wish. For the answer might not be the one you seek. I wanted danger and adventure as a Guild apprentice, and alas, I seem to have found it.
I stand to leave. Based on where the sun hangs in the sky, I’ve a little time left until complete darkness. I’ll dry off as I go, as long as I’m moving. Good thing it’s still warm at night. I won’t freeze to death, at least.
I walk away, just as something slams into me. I’m knocked straight onto my back, totally winded. For a frenzied second I expect to see the jaguar again—but no, there’s a man standing over me.
Gray robes. The dreaded black mask of the Aphrasian order covering his face. The mask that’s given children nightmares for centuries. The monk raises his sword.
This is no vision.
This is all too real.
This must be who was following me earlier. The smell is the same—of rot and death. I was right, there was a predator on my trail, one who is intent on killing me. I am too shocked to move.
I shut my eyes and cross my arms over my face, anticipating the blow.
But someone comes out of nowhere, swooping over me and knocking the assailant away, running a sword through his belly.
I open my eyes. A hooded man stands over my attacker, whom he has impaled to the ground.
As he leans over to inspect the dead man’s pockets, I catch a glimpse of my savior.
I’d know that face anywhere. It’s Caledon Holt.
Scruffy beard over deep olive skin, messy brown hair falling over his eyes. He’s nineteen, not much older than me, and already the Queen’s Assassin. The Guild’s golden child. No other commoner in Renovia knows who he is, or exactly what he does, but my mother and aunts are part of the Guild, so they know, and I know what they know.
I dash away while he searches the monk. I don’t know what he’s doing here. I don’t understand what just happened. But I do not want him to see me; he could remember who I am and drag me back to my aunts, telling them where I’d gone. That I was nearly killed. My mother will hear of it and I will never be allowed to leave the house again.
So I hide, even though I doubt he’d recognize me. I’d only met him at his father’s funeral, but I’m still well aware of who he is. My aunts keep close tabs on him. They admired his father, Cordyn, greatly.
I watch him from behind a nearby bush. He turns back to the monk and peels off the mask. The man beneath is golden haired and handsome, with a huge pink scar across his cheek, from when he was attacked years ago while avenging his king.
I gasp. But when Caledon looks up, I’ve already disappeared into the brush.
The rebel monk who tried to kill me was Alast, the Grand Prince of Renovia, King Esban’s younger brother.
About ‘The Queen’s Assassin’ by Melissa de la Cruz
Perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas and Red Queen, this is the first novel in a sweeping YA fantasy-romance duet about a deadly assassin, his mysterious apprentice, and the country they are sworn to protect from #1 NYT bestselling author Melissa de la Cruz.
Caledon Holt is the Kingdom of Renovia’s deadliest weapon. No one alive can best him in brawn or brains, which is why he’s the Guild’s most dangerous member, and the Queen’s one and only assassin. He’s also bound to the Queen by an impossible vow–to find the missing Deian Scrolls, the fount of all magical history and knowledge, stolen years ago by a nefarious sect called the Aphrasians.
Shadow has been training all her life to follow in the footsteps of her mother and aunts–to become skilled enough to join the ranks of the Guild. Though magic has been forbidden since the Aphrasian uprising, Shadow has been learning to control her powers in secret, hoping that one day she’ll become an assassin as feared and revered as Caledon Holt.
When a surprise attack brings Shadow and Cal together, they’re forced to team up as assassin and apprentice to hunt down a new sinister threat to Renovia. But as Cal and Shadow grow closer, they’ll uncover a shocking web of lies and secrets that may destroy everything they hold dear. With war on the horizon and true love at risk, they’ll stop at nothing to protect each other and their kingdom in this stunning first novel in the Queen’s Secret series.
The Queen’s Assassin by Melissa de la Cruz will be available on February 4, 2020. You can preorder your copy now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, The Book Depository, or Indiebound. Also, don’t forget to add it to your Goodreads “to read” shelf!