The Scented Court Paperback Bundle
The Scented Court Paperback Bundle
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Your order includes 4 glossy 5x8 paperbacks:
- A Blossom at Midnight
- A Memory of Nightshade
- A Daughter of Winter
- A Prince of Autumn
With magic in their veins and destiny in their hands, three fae defy their fate.
Rejection has left fae courtier Laec wallowing in wine and disdainful of what he sees in the mirror. When Queen Elphame offers him a foreign commission, he jumps at the chance for a fresh start, but soon learns that healing his heart may inflame the very trouble his queen sent him to prevent.
Beautiful and eligible Çifta believes in the importance of duty. Wishing to please her father, she agrees to marry a powerful unseelie prince. But when she discovers his cold heart and attempts to break the engagement, the princess-to-be quickly finds herself in chains. Alone and trapped in a damp fortress, she cannot see a way out.
Half-fae Jess longs to leave her rural life. She’s always obeyed her mother’s commands to keep her pointed ears and winged familiars a secret, but the repressed teen is on the verge of rebellion. When she attends a flower festival and her secrets are discovered, it triggers a cascade of opportunity she never thought possible. As her exciting new life—and magic—blossoms, she learns that her mother has been keeping a much more serious secret from her, one that changes everything.
When a visit to another realm sparks a dark turn of events, it sets these three fae on a collision course with disaster. Will they wilt under pressure or become a thorny threat to evil?
The Scented Court is a YA noblebright fantasy quadrilogy by an award-winning author. If you like feisty protagonists, a dark villain, flora and fauna magic, slow-burn romance, and epic fables steeped in the beauty of nature, then you’ll love A.L. Knorr’s dreamy otherworld.
Read an excerpt
Read an excerpt
Jessica was wrangling her hair into a loose confection of curls when a pebble sailed in through her open window and skittered across the hardwood floor of her bedroom loft. She went to the window to see Clair standing in the flower bed beside the cottage, squirming and dancing in place like she needed the outhouse, her dark eyes lit up with excitement. Clair was Hanna and Tad’s daughter and the best friend Jess had ever had. They were different; Clair was boy-crazy and dreamed of marriage and babies while Jess fantasized about escape, but the girls had lived side by side all their lives and cared for one another.
Clair’s eyes shone up at Jess. “Come down! I have something to show you.”
Jessica descended the ladder to the single room that served as kitchen, dining room, firepit and Marion’s bedroom. Beazle was asleep in the rafters and Greta was in the front yard where her favorite flowers grew. Marion was in the squash patch. Jessica called to tell her mother that she was with Clair. She heard a reply but it wasn’t anything she understood. Good enough.
Clair pulled her into a run toward the village center. It appeared that at least half the town was milling around the vine-choked pavilion. People were talking and laughing, kids chased one another through the square, dogs nipping at their heels. A pair of oxen pulling a cart had been abandoned in a patch of wildflowers. A donkey brayed. Not until Clair pulled her through the crowd to read the notice nailed to the pavilion’s post did Jessica understand the commotion.
There was to be a flower festival in Dagevli, hosted by a retinue from Solana City in eight days, including a parade, a banquet and a dance, all paid for by King Agir and Queen Esha as a reward for last season’s exceptional harvest. But what held Jessica’s attention to the announcement was the last part: All children between the ages of ten and fifteen, who have a familiar or who exhibit the traits of flora fae, are invited to Discovery.
Discovery—whatever that was—was hosted at the palace, which was enough to give her goosebumps. She’d heard that the palace was so beautiful that more than one peasant had fainted at first sight of it. Even if that was an exaggeration, it was understood: the palace was worth seeing.
“The Calyx.” Clair grabbed Jessica’s hand and squeezed so tightly she could feel Clair’s fingernails biting into her skin. “We’ll get to see the Calyx!”
Jessica searched her memory. “The flora fae who work for the queen, right?”
Clair pulled Jessica aside so others could read the sign. “I forgot, you weren’t here for the last festival. Marion took you to Oubel, remember?”
Jess did remember; she had been eight when Marion woke her early and hustled her onto a loaded cart: supplies in cloth bags and filled with vegetables. They had trundled along the dirt roads all morning to reach the neighboring village of Oubel, where they sold their produce at the market. Jessica hadn’t understood why they had to go to Oubel. They never had trouble selling at the market in Dagevli. She hadn’t questioned it at the time, though, because to see another town was exciting.
Jessica replied, “I vaguely remember you saying there was a festival while we were away, but you didn’t say much about it.”
A look of guilt crossed Clair’s face. “Mum didn’t want me to go on about it, she was worried you’d be jealous. I remember wondering why your mother chose that day to leave.”
“Did they invite children with flora fae traits to the palace back then, too?”
“Yes. But there wasn’t anyone who qualified then, and there aren’t any now either. If there was, we’d know.” Clair sighed. “I can’t wait for you to see them.”
“The Calyx, of course; the flora fae.” Clair’s hands threaded together in front of her heart. “They are the most beautiful creatures you’ll ever meet. They smell like heaven. They can do all kinds of magic, and they give away gold, too. You’ll see for yourself in eight days. You’ll love them.” She looked wistful. “They kind of break your heart, though. The worst part comes after they leave. Life seems so dull, but while they are here, you’ll think you’ve been reborn in a storybook.”
As Jessica listened to the villagers describe the last festival to the children who were too young to remember or who hadn’t been born yet, she was only half present. Those who had seen a flower festival described the event with unbridled joy. It sounded so extravagant that Jessica couldn’t imagine it. If it was so wonderful and given free of charge as a reward for a successful harvest, then wouldn’t every villager who contributed want to be there? Marion would never willingly give up a chance at free gold.
No sane person would.
Read another excerpt, just to be sure...
Read another excerpt, just to be sure...
Laec woke when a booted foot nudged him off the porch and into the grass. The open bottle of wine he’d been cradling like a newborn spilled down the front of his tunic and one thigh. He jerked up to an elbow, bleary-eyed and blinking, his hair in his face. His head ached and the tumble had bruised him. Indignant, he clawed his hair out of his eyes and glared up at the backlit figure. Laec meant to say her name reproachfully but what came out was an inaudible slur.
Fyfa towered over him, hands on hips. “Get up. Wash yourself. You smell like the scum at the bottom of a wine barrel. You’ve drunk my stores dry, you’ve eaten my food and passed out on my porch for too long. Quit moping around.” She bent at the waist and he glimpsed smug satisfaction in her face as she added in a low tone, “The queen wants to see you.”
Laec bit back the retort he’d been mentally laboring to form and stared stupidly. “Queen Elphame?”
Fyfa straightened, her expression freighted with irony. “No, the Queen of Underpants and Stockings. Of course Queen Elphame. She’s expecting you at court within the hour.” Fyfa walked away in obvious disgust. She disappeared around her cottage and Laec could hear her murmuring complaints to Byrne.
Shame heated Laec’s cheeks. He got to his feet, grasping at the porch to steady himself. So, the queen had taken notice of his lifestyle. Either that or Fyfa had complained and her mother had decided to step in. As much as he wanted to, Laec couldn’t blame his friend. He could hardly stand himself these days, so why should he expect anyone else to? Fyfa and Byrne had been overly patient, expecting that any day now Laec would rouse himself from his slump and return to his usual clear-headed and irreverent self.
Laec wasn’t normally so lazy. He didn’t normally drink during the day, or even every night like many fae did, but somehow, he’d slid into a routine of indulgence that was proving difficult to break. There was no justifying his precipitous fall from grace. Daily he told himself that tomorrow he would climb out of this pit. Tomorrow would arrive, and he would ask himself why he should bother. What good thing was waiting for him at the top of the pit? Banquets, picnics, horseback riding, swordplay, running errands for members of the court, hunting, gardening. It had all lost its luster. What had seemed an enchanted life before Georjie now seemed dull and empty.
I’m depressed, thought Laec with chagrin. He stumbled into Fyfa’s cottage and staggered to her bathing room. And when I’m sober, I’m embarrassed that I’m depressed. I used to pride myself on being immune to such weakness. He winced as the truth sliced through his mind like bright morning sunlight. He guzzled water from the copper tap and splashed his face, analyzing his reflection through bloodshot eyes. A face-washing wasn’t going to do it, not for an audience with the queen. Laec stripped and bathed. He lathered himself with one of Fyfa’s homemade bars of soap, his hair too. He scrubbed and rinsed, scrubbed and rinsed. Afterward he felt better, but he wondered if he was sober enough to walk through the castle doors in a straight line.
Toweling dry, Laec searched for clean clothes and found some folded on the chair outside the loft he slept in—whenever he didn’t fall asleep on the living room floor or sprawled on the lawn. It was the same place Georjie had once slept. An annoying little voice whispered that that was part of his problem.
He made a mental note to thank Fyfa for doing his laundry, dressed and went into the kitchen to scavenge. There was fresh sourdough on the countertop, still warm from the oven, and cold butter in the ice cupboard. Laec helped himself to two slices of bread and butter and took a peach from the bowl on the counter and a handful of nuts. He felt ready to handle an audience with the queen now but already resentment burned in his chest. What right did Elphame have to interfere with his wallowing?
Laec left Fyfa’s cottage, pausing on the porch. He could hear Fyfa and Byrne behind the house, laughing together, their drunken friend forgotten. His eyes drifted closed for a moment and he changed his mind about letting them know he was leaving.
I don’t enjoy being sober, thought Laec as he strolled the path leading to the rear gardens of the castle. Being sober meant realizing fully what an ass you’ve been. It meant feeling that delayed sense of humiliation about things you did or said while you were not sober. Everything one should have felt while one was doing or saying the humiliating things came roaring in like a rabid animal.
Laec’s head still ached. He was in for a reprimand, and he deserved it. Still, he was surprised that the queen would bother to involve herself. Laec was a courtier, but he wasn’t an aristocrat—he was the offspring of a family that the queen had once been fond of. Being centuries old, Queen Elphame knew better the stock Laec had come from than Laec did himself. Maybe she felt she had to keep Laec straight from some misplaced sense of loyalty. Maybe Fyfa had complained about Laec using her cottage as a flophouse. That was probably it.
Laec wove his way through fae playing games in the gardens, drinking daisy wine from crystal goblets, listening to lutists and flautists playing spritely music, sitting on tree swings and whiling away the afternoon.
I’m not so different from these courtiers, Laec thought bitterly. Just because I choose to drink by myself instead of in the queen’s backyard with a bunch of popinjays and sycophants, I get reprimanded?
Laec had worked himself into a state of pure rebellion by the time he entered the queen’s reception hall. He took his usual place against the wall to wait for the queen to call on him, quietly fuming. His head was pounding and he wanted something to drink, but he kept away from the sideboards. Better not to smell of wine during his audience, especially when he’d taken such pains in the shower.
Queen Elphame was usually seated on the marble bench atop the dais while she held sessions, but she was not there today. Instead, she paced restlessly. A small wiry man in spectacles followed along behind her, short legs working to keep up with the long-legged queen as she dictated to him. She wore a close-fitting gown of pale green. Today, her hair was icy white and swept up in a mass of curls scattered with small green blossoms. The queen had different-colored hair every day, but she favored white above all. Many claimed she was the most beautiful fae to ever live, but Laec was immune to such beauty. He had long ago come to believe that her true appearance was most likely that of a crooked old crone with no teeth and a withered bosom. Why should he let her attractiveness affect him if it wasn’t real?
Now that he was thinking about it, that was one of the things that had made Georjie so attractive. She had magic but not guile. Even better, she had chosen love over immortality. No one else Laec knew would ever make that same choice, least of all Laec himself. If Georjie had professed her love to him and asked him to leave Stavarjak and live in the earthly realm with her—in Scotland or her homeland of Canada, or anywhere else—he would have declined, in spite of his desire for her. But Georjie had—without struggle or a moment’s hesitation—turned her back on immortality and opted to stay with Lachlan.
It wasn’t so much the loss of Georjie’s love that had sent Laec into the downward spiral. It was the mirror that Georjie had inadvertently held up by making such a choice herself. Against her conviction, Laec had compared himself and hadn’t liked what he had seen. Laec certainly was not worthy of her. The fact that he’d treated her with such disdain when he first met her made this simple truth unbearable. Wine made it bearable, at least for a little while.
Laec let his memories torture him until the queen’s violet eyes found him. Her gaze never left Laec as she ripped off a few more instructions to her secretary and then sent him away. Dispensing with the usual ceremony of having a guardsperson call subjects in an orderly fashion, the queen beckoned him with a sharp chin gesture.
Mutinously, Laec pushed away from the wall and ascended to the throne. When he reached it, Queen Elphame was no longer there. She had disappeared through a door at the back of the dais, leaving it open behind her. Laec slipped into the private chamber where the queen had resumed pacing.
The room bristled with carvings in dark wood: famous battles, famous lovers, famous fae inventors and poets. A new panel had been added since the last time Laec had been in this room. He recognized Georjie’s visage and form, half carved, striking a heroic pose, one he was fairly sure she’d never struck. Curls of wooden shavings peppered the carpet beneath the panel. Carving tools lay against the wall. Another week or two and the black witch Georjie had destroyed would also appear in the wood. He struggled to pull his gaze away. No one would carve him in this room or any other. What had he ever done that deserved to be lovingly rendered in hardwood?
A semi-circular alcove with a padded bench sat beneath tall vertical windows. Outside, the glass was overladen with vines. Slender beams of sunlight filtered into the room. The queen went to this alcove but did not sit, instead she paced in slower, tighter circles. Her agitation was contagious.
He was supposed to wait for her to speak before he spoke himself, but he’d never been great at self-control or following rules. He settled his forearms into a barrier over his chest and glared. “What are you going to do, cut off my other thumb?”
She had punished him for helping Georjie steal something from her stores by cutting off his right thumb. The fact that the thumb grew back had not lessened the sting of his chastisement.
At his cheek, the queen cocked an eyebrow. “Why? Have you done something else to justify losing a digit?”
“There’s no law against drinking too much.”
The queen waved a hand. “That’s not why I summoned you. Though I’m not impressed with your behavior of late, I am not your mother. If you want to spend a few decades drinking and getting fat, that’s your choice.”
Laec was surprised by how much this stung. Did the queen not care what happened to him, then? In some distant corner of his mind, he was aware of his hypocrisy and grimaced. Another reason to avoid sober self-examination for as long as possible.
“I have foreseen trouble for my cousin, Esha,” the queen went on, still pacing.
Laec searched his memory. “The Queen of Solana?”
She nodded, her beautiful face pinched. Frustration stiffening every movement. “As usual, my premonitions are dark and vague. I cannot see the shape of this threat. I cannot tell if it is to her directly or to her kingdom, or perhaps to some individual in her care, but it is dark and it is persistent.”
Solana was far away. It might as well be in another dimension. Laec’s annoyance was supplanted by confusion. “What does that have to do with me?”
“I want you to go to Solana and present yourself to the king and queen, make yourself of service. Report any important happenings or developments back to me. Be my eyes and ears. I don’t know if the threat is imminent or far off, but I would rather take precautions, and I cannot see well beyond our borders.”
The queen could not demand this of Laec, she could only ask, since it meant Laec would have to leave Stavarjak’s protective borders—and what magic he had—behind.
Laec had explored the hills, dales, forests and mountains of Stavarjak, but he’d never been outside it. Somehow, he found crossing the veil to Scotland less intimidating. The other kingdoms of Ivryndi had weak magic, if they had any at all, which meant the citizens lived hard lives. Laec was not interested in living a harder life.
“And if I decline?”
The queen’s fine brows hiked up in surprise. “I thought you would want to go. Your uncle is the royal gardener,” Queen Elphame reminded him, and added in a tone that suggested Laec should be more impressed: “He manages the Calyx.”
Laec frowned. “I know.”
Rather, he’d known about the royal gardener bit, but managing the Calyx was news. Laec’s mother’s brother, Ilishec, had gone to Solana City for a special occasion when Laec was a toddler, some event to do with Ilishec’s kind of magic. He had liked Solana so well that he’d made a life there and eventually married a Solanan citizen. Ilishec and Hazel had visited from time to time while Laec was growing up, always during Solana’s winters, but as a teen Laec had never paid much attention to his uncle’s stories about gardening in Solana.
“I do not ask you this just for my cousin’s benefit,” Queen Elphame said, acknowledging the cynicism in his tone. “There is some reason you are supposed to go.”
Her eyes shuttered. “I can’t see that.”
Laec let out a breath. The queen did have some kind of foresight, and had used it to the benefit of herself and her kingdom for many centuries. The citizens of Stavarjak believed their kingdom to be the most beautiful, the safest, the richest, the most abundant and educated of all the kingdoms of Ivryndi, thanks to their queen. How much of that was true was impossible to know without going to see for oneself, but why would anyone bother? Further, the queen was also known to invent premonitions in order to manipulate citizens into doing what she wanted. She could just as easily be making it up as a pretext to exile Laec in a bid to break him of his self-destructive habits.
Or, she was telling the truth.
“Will you send me there with your…” Laec waved his fingers to indicate he was referring to Elphame’s magic.
The queen shook her head. “You’ll go there under your own power. Magic is not a crutch or a shortcut; it has a cost, and its value is high. You know this. I’ll not waste it to save you a journey that will do you good. A fit fae like you should be eager to meet people, see the continent, learn about life elsewhere. It will make you strong.”
“I am strong,” Laec replied, insinuating that she meant physical strength when he knew better. Laec was lucky to have a naturally lean and muscular frame. Even his binge drinking had not yet marred his body, though it showed in the shadows under his eyes and the pallor of his cheeks.
Queen Elphame narrowed her amethyst eyes. “So strong you allow a pretty elemental you cannot have to send you into a spiral of self-loathing?”
“She had nothing to do with it,” Laec lied, struck by Elphame’s knife-like accuracy.
Ignoring that, Queen Elphame brightened. “It’s perfect for you. I can already foresee that the journey will benefit you. It will build character. Go on horseback, book yourself passage across the Saltless Sea, enjoy the journey. If trouble finds you, so much the better to exercise your wits. When you reach Solana, there will be a lot to learn. Queen Esha will take care of you, and you will be free to be my eyes.” She took on a faraway expression, chewing on a thumbnail. “Ivryndi has long been at peace.”
“You say that like it’s a bad thing.”
She faced him. “Long periods of peace make both men and fae soft, ungrateful and unappreciative of their freedoms and wealth. New generations who have never known trouble are complacent and weak. Tyranny looms. It’s a cycle as old as time and we are overdue. Like I said, I don’t know if the risk is to Queen Esha alone, but it’s rooted there in Solana, and it is destined to grow. Something is coming, maybe even all the way to Stavarjak. I do not wish to be caught unaware.”
Throughout the queen’s speech, Laec found himself warming to the idea. He’d once been useful and productive. He’d once made a routine of vigorous activity: riding, hunting, fencing, dancing. He was quite good with a sword. He’d fallen, but not so far that he couldn’t rebound. Whatever the queen’s premonition, she’d put Laec in front of it. It was an opportunity to make himself important, something that—when he wasn’t intoxicated—actually meant something to him. Maybe he’d never be carved in wood or sculpted in marble, but he could make his mark, and in the process, he might locate his self-respect.
“I’ll serve you in this matter, My Queen,” Laec replied, concealing his enthusiasm. It wouldn’t do if Queen Elphame thought that he thought she was doing him a favor. That would only mean he would owe her later. Better if he appeared to be inconvenienced for her sake.
Queen Elphame looked satisfied. “I’ll send a letter to Esha ahead of you by bird.”
Within Stavarjak, Queen Elphame did not need to resort to crows or pigeons to deliver messages the way other courts of Ivryndi did, but outside the spring court, the queen had no legal right to extend her powers.
“I will also send with you a list of items I would like you to ship back to me. I am low on some items that only Solana can produce.” The queen found a writing tablet in the desk and began to scribble, using a flamboyant quill with a beautiful green feather. She paused to give Laec a sly look. “You will thank me for this assignment. I have heard that both the fae and the palace at Solana have beauty that rivals our own.”
“You’ve never been there?” Laec was surprised, although maybe he shouldn’t have been. Queen Elphame was a famous homebody. But she was so old that he assumed she’d had her fill of traveling many decades ago.
“Ivryndi was a different world the last time I ventured beyond our borders.” The queen tore off the note and handed it to Laec.
He folded it and tucked it into his jacket. “Do you wish me to see you again before I leave?”
She returned her quill to its inkpot. Her movements were stronger now, more confident. Laec wondered just how much this commission meant to her; it was impossible to tell what anything meant to Elphame in comparison to anything else going on in her kingdom. “Yes. I will have one or two things I will give you for Esha, along with some gold for your journey.”
“Very well.” Laec dropped his chin. “Am I dismissed, My Queen?”
“Almost,” she said, and he paused. “There is a mount in our stables who is seaworthy. His name is Grex.”
“I know him.” Grex was a huge black stallion that the stableman claimed had Vargilath blood in him somewhere far back. Laec didn’t believe that for a second, but that didn’t diminish the quality of the horse. Grex was intelligent, spirited and swift, but he was also calm, an unusual combination in a stallion.
The queen looked pleased. “Good. I’ll have the stablehands told to prepare him.”
Laec thanked her and left. He’d gone into the meeting tipsy, half-sick and dreading a reprimand. He’d left with an important commission.
As he passed a sideboard loaded with sparkling decanters filled with a rainbow of liquids, his fingers itched to hold a goblet. He paused and a battle commenced within. A battle he might have lost or might have won, depending upon his perspective. Perspective is everything, he thought as he poured a small glass of apricot liquor to celebrate his new purpose in life.