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The Kinder Poison
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The Kinder Poison
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"A delicious high-stakes adventure"—People magazinePerfect for fans of Victoria Aveyard and Holly Black, The Kinder Poison is an enthralling fantasy adventure that follows a teenage girl chosen...
"A delicious high-stakes adventure"—People magazinePerfect for fans of Victoria Aveyard and Holly Black, The Kinder Poison is an enthralling fantasy adventure that follows a teenage girl chosen...
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  • "A delicious high-stakes adventure"—People magazine
    Perfect for fans of Victoria Aveyard and Holly Black, The Kinder Poison is an enthralling fantasy adventure that follows a teenage girl chosen to be the human sacrifice in a deadly game between three heirs who will do anything for the crown.

    Zahru has long dreamed of leaving the kingdom of Orkena and having the kinds of adventures she's only ever heard about in stories. But as a lowly Whisperer, her power to commune with animals means that her place is serving in the royal stables until the day her magic runs dry.
    All that changes when the ailing ruler invokes the Crossing. A death-defying race across the desert, in which the first of his heirs to finish—and take the life of a human sacrifice at the journey's end—will ascend to the throne. With all of the kingdom abuzz, Zahru leaps at the chance to change her fate if just for a night by sneaking into the palace for a taste of the revelry. But the minor indiscretion turns into a deadly mistake when she gets caught up in a feud between the heirs and is forced to become the Crossing's human sacrifice.
    Now Zahru's only hope for survival hinges on the impossible: somehow figuring out how to overcome the most dangerous people in the world.

Excerpts-

  • From the cover

    "The gods have woken Sabil's knife, signaling their desire for this contest, and the promise of unmatched power for the heir who would win it. As it did for the Mestrahs of old, this knife grants an ability to a new leader above and beyond the magic they already possess: the divine gift of Influence, the power to bend the will of enemies and allies alike. That said, the Mestrah would remind anyone who would desire this magic for themselves that though the knife has been reunited with its altar, it is heavily guarded, and its spell will only work for those of royal blood." The announcer casts a purposeful look across the crowd, who snicker and whisper. "But this power is not free." She waits for the muttering to quiet. "Representing the many difficult decisions a ruler must make, taking a human life is a seal between gods and leader. A promise to do whatever is commanded, and to realize that with each gain is a cost." She turns to me, sweeping a dramatic hand at the stairs. "Our sacrifice."

    Reverent silence falls over the crowd. I'm not given a name. I'm a symbol, and I know they think I was chosen for this, but it's eerie to see them look at me with such blind conviction. I can't help but feel it was too easy to fool them.

    "Go on," whispers the woman in pink.

    Like I'm being too shy in marching to my death. Gods, everyone is watching. Do I go like I've accepted this? Do I run? I don't think I'd get far in the crowd. The nobles won't risk disobeying the Mestrah to help me, if there's even anyone here who would. I can't go back the way I came. My guard will drag me screaming down the stairs or mark me to walk against my will. I can't stomach the thought of either.

    And I really can't believe that yesterday, I was watching a glass boat come down the river and dreaming of being here.

    Breathe, I tell myself. This isn't over yet. Jet may have failed epically as my rescuer, and Hen may have finally met a challenge she can't overcome, but maybe that means that in this story, I have to rescue myself. It's at least a week's ride to the finish. That's plenty of time to get used to the desert and whatever team I'm with, and make Fara proud by coming up with a plan.

    I can do that. Of course I can do that.

    I take a troubled step forward. The pressure of a thousand eyes on me thickens the air, but I force myself to keep my chin high, my shoulders straight. People bow their heads and cross their arms over their chests as I pass. I almost choke at the irony of being surrounded by so many people when there are only three I want to see in the entire world.

    "The Mestrah has awarded the advantage to Princess Sakira," the announcer says. "She will be the first to leave, and shall begin with the sacrifice in her possession. Following her, after the span of an hourglass, shall be Prince Jet, and an hour after, Prince Kasta."

    I've reached the platform. I don't want to walk past Kasta and his monstrous First any more than I want to walk through fire, but I grit my teeth and move without looking at them, though I feel Kasta's gaze as I go. Jet still won't look at me, no more than a glance and back at the crowd, and I bite back some choice words for him as I pass. At last I take my place beside Sakira, who glances at my dress and then has the decency to look sorry for me. And gives me hope my chances of escape are better than I thought. Maybe once I tell her what happened, she'll be horrified and let me go. You would think that among three siblings, one of them has to be reasonable.

    Her Healer looks as uncomfortable to be here as I am. She also looks like she wants to say something, but I have to confess I'm rather...

About the Author-

  • Natalie Mae is an ex-programmer, a dark chocolate enthusiast, and an author of young adult novels. She has also been a freelance editor and a Pitch Wars mentor, and she feels it notable to mention she once held a job where she had to feed spiders. When not writing, she can be found wandering the Colorado wilderness with her family. Find her on Twitter and Instagram @ByNatalieMae, and online at nataliemaebooks.com.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    June 1, 2020
    Mae’s ancient Egypt–inspired fantasy debut follows 16-year-old Whisperer Zahru, whose inherited power—animal communication, from her stablekeeper father—is considered unimpressive stacked against those of her fellow magical citizens. The dying monarch of Orkena, the Mestrah, has announced the gods’ reinstatement of an ancient tradition called the Crossing, which determines the kingdom’s next ruler through a desert race. Encouraged by her best friend, Hen, Zahru decides to assume the identity of her late mother, a powerful Potionmaker, to watch the lavish selection trials. The Mestrah’s three children—firstborn but ill-favored Prince Kasta; illegitimate, reluctant-to-compete Prince Jet; and charming, hedonistic Princess Sakira—will choose teammates for the competition, in which the first to reach the Glass Caves secures the crown with a divine-designated human sacrifice. When Zahru makes an enemy of Kasta, he marks her as the sacrifice, setting into motion a harrowing journey toward certain death. The engaging cast stands out, especially the antagonists, whose well-developed backgrounds ensure sustained narrative tension. Though inadequate details, particularly about Orkena’s history and magic, sometimes mar the worldbuilding, Zahru’s amusing mental dialogue and nascent romance complement the fast-paced plot, resulting in an entertaining duology opener. Ages 12–up. Agent: Brianne Johnson, Writers House.

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    Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group
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