Maeve, princess of Connacht, seems to have won her freedom. Her father, the High King, is finally allowing her to explore the world beyond his castle. But Maeve soon discovers that being the High King’s daughter doesn’t protect her from bullying or the attention of unwelcome suitors.
Struggling to navigate a new court, she must discourage the advances of her father’s rival, who is vying with her host’s son for her hand in marriage. Maeve is a pawn trapped between these two boys. Her bold defiance will bring her to the brink of disaster, but her clever gamble may also lead to her independence. Though she faces danger and intrigue, Maeve will also discover what kind of person—and queen—she’s destined to become.
Praise for award-winning author Esther Friesner:
“Fans of Disney’s Brave will be delighted to explore the Celtic landscape with another determined, redheaded princess.” —SLJ
“Bring on the adventure!” —Tamora Pierce, New York Times bestselling author
“A perfect blend of the historical and fantastic.” —Cindy Pon, author of Silver Phoenix
|Publisher:||Random House Children's Books|
|Sold by:||Random House|
|File size:||3 MB|
|Age Range:||12 - 17 Years|
About the Author
Esther is married and the mother of two. She harbors cats and lives in Connecticut. Visit her at sff.net/people/e.friesner and learn more about her Princesses of Myth books at princessesofmyth.com.
Read an Excerpt
I woke with a gasp in a strange bed, my heart beating rapidly. Where was I? Midnight surrounded me. I’d been dreaming of unfettered flight, of joy, of soaring fearlessly across open skies. Now all that wild, glorious liberty was abruptly gone. A frightening thought shook me: Was this harsh waking an omen? I had worked hard to remake my life, to be more than the High King’s daughter, the prize he’d once used to tempt and tame lesser kings. Could all my hard-won freedom be torn away from me so easily? I shivered at the possibility.
Thank all the gods, my good sense finally woke up as well. I took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Enough, I thought. I left the safety of Father’s home because I’m not a coward, and I won’t act like an infant now, making monsters out of every nighttime shadow. Yawning, I turned onto my side. It will all be better by sunrise.
“Ugh, is it morning?” I grumped like an old badger who’d been dug out of his burrow and brushed aside the tangled curls that had fallen across my face while I slept. All of yesterday’s excitement and fuss surrounding my arrival at Dun Beithe left me too exhausted to braid my hair before bedtime. I’d pay for it this morning. I winced, imagining the pain of unsnarling so many knots.
My eyes blinked in the faint wash of daylight in the chamber I shared with three other girls. I stared up at the rafters and listened to the sound of unfamiliar breathing coming from their beds. One of my new companions snored so badly, it was as if she were breathing mud. Another muttered in her sleep. I thought I heard her say a boy’s name, but then she giggled and rolled onto her stomach. At least she had pleasant dreams.
I wasn’t used to this. When my older sisters still lived within the protective walls of Cruachan ringfort, the six of us slept in a single room. But year by year, by ones and twos, I watched them leave until I had a room of my own. I grieved most bitterly when my favorite, Derbriu, went off to fosterage. I hadn’t seen any of them since, except for our eldest sister, Clothru. She was a girl when she left us, but she returned as a married woman with her first baby on the way.
How changed would I be when--and if--I went home again?
I turned onto my side but didn’t go back to sleep. The bed coverings made my bare skin itch. They smelled . . . not bad, exactly, but different. Too different. They’d been washed in water that didn’t come from our streams, water that never raced over the stones of our land, Connacht’s land, my family’s realm, my birthplace and my home. I wished I hadn’t been so tired last night that I simply stripped off my clothes and threw myself into bed. At least the thin shift I sometimes wore to sleep would have carried a comforting, familiar scent.
The alien smell of my bedding was only the beginning. From this moment on my world would be nothing but unfamiliar names, places, customs, and expectations. From the food I ate to the people I met, everything would be strange. I’d come to Dun Beithe to find my Ea, the wild kestrel who’d bonded to me, but I’d come here to claim a new life as well. I’d fought to get free of being Father’s little girl and I’d tasted the thrill of strength and self-reliance when I rescued our bard, Devnet, from Lord Morann’s arrogant plotting. Why did I feel so vulnerable now, and so uncertain and weak?
A tear trickled down the side of my nose, shaming me. Why am I crying? I thought, angry at myself. Ridiculous. This is what I wanted. I asked to leave home!
I’d cast away the dust and shadows of my father’s house to seek a fresh life of my own making. I would not let the lies and broken promises and deaths of the past touch it. Like a newly forged sword, I would draw it from the smith’s fire and brandish it so that all the world could see how bright it shined.
Bold words, pretty words, and not one speck of a notion how to turn them into reality. I was free to be myself, but . . . what did that mean? My fingers clutched the bedclothes like a kestrel’s talons, as if holding the cloth in a tight grip would also hold back more tears.
It didn’t work. I buried my head and wept without a sound until my eyes were dry and I could take a deep breath that wouldn’t come out as a sob.
“Lady Maeve?” A girl’s voice sounded tentatively behind me. “Lady Maeve, are you all right?” I felt the bed give a bit and heard the dried grass in the mattress crunch under her weight as she rested her hand gently on my shoulder. “Did you have a bad dream?”
“I’m fine.” I wiped away the last of my tears and sat up, tucking the blanket under my arms. “Thank you, um . . .”
What was her name? We’d been introduced last night, during my welcome feast. What an uproar that had been! In the midst of the festive din, Lord Artegal and his wife, Lady Lassaire, took turns introducing me to every person present. So many! I smiled, nodded, and said how happy I was to meet them, but the noise that filled the great room swallowed all their names before they reached my ears. By the time I was allowed to stumble sleepily off to bed, I was still surrounded by total strangers.
The plump girl who perched on the edge of my bed was one of my fellow fosterlings. Why couldn’t I recall her name, at least? I blushed with embarrassment. She’d believe I was too haughty, that I didn’t think her name was worth remembering. Oh, what a bad start to a new life!
To my great relief, the girl gave me a shy smile and said, “I’m Gormlaith.” She showed no sign that I’d insulted her by failing to recall who she was.