Sneak Peek Wednesday: Kingdom of Exiles by Maxym M. Martineau

Kingdom of Exiles
(The Beast Charmer #1)
by Maxym M. Martineau
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Publication date:June 25, 2019
Genre: Fantasy

Exiled Charmer Leena Edenfrell is running out of time. Empty pockets forced her to sell her beloved magical beasts—an offense punishable by death—and now there’s a price on her head. With the realm’s most talented murderer-for-hire nipping at her heels, Leena makes Noc an offer he can’t refuse: powerful mythical creatures in exchange for her life.

Plagued by a curse that kills everyone he loves, Noc agrees to Leena’s terms in hopes of finding a cure. Never mind that the dark magic binding the assassin’s oath will eventually force him to choose between Leena’s continued survival…and his own.

In a game of trust and half-lies, only one thing can be certain: traps capture more than beasts and ensnared hearts are impossible to untangle.

 

 

Sneak Peek

Shaking my head, I quickened my pace. Though the royal family’s jurisdiction technically covered the continent of Lendria, everyone knew that law didn’t apply past those glistening stones. Out here, magic and darkness and questionable dealings reigned supreme. Iky let out another private whine, and my gaze jumped to the forest line. My stalker was back. Invisible to me, but not hidden from my beast’s senses. My destination was the train station, but if this lurker was from the Council, I didn’t want them getting a whiff of the Myad and stealing my beast. I needed to deal with the threat first.I know you’re there, creep.

Flipping the collar of my jacket up, I picked my way down the winding dirt path away from Wilheim and the train depot. Lure them out, trap them, free and clear. Easy enough. The descending sun crept toward the riotous treetops of the Kitska Forest. Steeped in shadows, the dark leaves shivered in the dusk air, and a small whistling met my ears. The sheer density of the woods invited a certain level of hysteria to the unfamiliar—-out here, one couldn’t tell the difference between a pair of eyes and oversize pinesco pods.

Needles and mulch crunched beneath my knee–high boots, and my feet screamed at the ache of unbroken leather pressing against my joints. Soon enough, I’d wear the boots in and be wishing for more bits to replace the holes.

A twig snapped in the distance, and I splayed out my right hand. One of the forest’s many monsters, or my stalker?

The Charmer’s symbol, a barren rosewood tree on the back of my right hand, exploded to life. A crisscross network of roots inked down my knuckles and wrapped around my fingertips in gnarled directions. Iky responded to the flux of power and distanced himself from me. Searching. Pursuing. The lack of his watery scent left me unnerved, but I needed to give my lurker a chance to strike. Then Iky would snare him.

A frigid breath skated along the back of my neck.

I whirled, thrusting my hand forward and focusing on the well of power humming beneath the surface. But Iky had done his job without fault. Just beyond my reach stood a tall, slender man dressed entirely in black. With a voluminous pompadour, thin–rimmed silver specs, and freshly polished dress shoes, he looked suited for a night in Wilheim—-not a stroll in the Kitska Forest. His arms pressed flush to his sides, he was rendered immobile, and an unused, glittering black knife limply dangled from his gloved fingertips.

I dropped my hand, and the ink work along my skin receded. “Iky, be a dear.”

Iky materialized at last. Tall and amorphous with see–through skin, he adjusted his body constitution, color, and shape to suit my needs. With elongated arms, Iky had wrapped the man in a bundle, pressing him so tightly his chest struggled to inflate.

“Give him a bit more breathing room.”

Iky loosened his arms, and the man let out a sharp gasp. The shadows clinging to the forest’s limbs seemed to darken.

“Who are you?”

No response. Harsh ice–green eyes speared me. The high planes of his face sharpened, and a small vein throbbed along his temple.

“Why were you trying to kill me?” I glanced pointedly at the knife. He dropped it to the ground, and Iky nudged it toward me with a newly formed extremity. It receded as quickly as it appeared, folding back into his body mass with a quiet splash.

The man pursed thin lips, and a rattling breeze ushered in more thin shadows. It was no secret that these woods were cursed, but this darkness was thicker. Unfamiliar. Something else was going on here.

Deal with the threat, and get the hell out.

“Iky?” I nodded toward my beast. Iky’s arms tightened, and the man sputtered. “If you don’t tell me something, this is only going to get worse.”

The sharp snap of a splintering rib broke the silence. He wheezed, words I couldn’t make out intermingling with pained gasps. I glanced at Iky, and he stopped.

Murder dripped from my would–be killer’s glare. “I’d never dream of telling you a damn thing.”

My brows furrowed. “That so? Iky, you know what to do.” A new extremity formed, wrapping its way around the man’s pinky finger. With a sharp and fluid motion, Iky snapped it.

The man swallowed a cry, face gone parchment–pale as I studied him. He wasn’t a familiar presence in Midnight Jester. Most of the men and women who stumbled through the tavern were scarred, reeking of bad choices and worse fates, but this man? From his immaculately trimmed hair to the smooth glow of his clean skin, everything about him screamed privileged.

I resisted the urge to glance back toward Wilheim. “Who are you?” Taking a few steps forward, I studied his black garb. Long–sleeved, button–up tunic. Satin, no less. Slim–cut trousers hemmed just about his shoes. Not nearly ethereal enough to be a Charmer. Certainly not brilliant enough to be a Sentinel. Their armor threatened to outshine even the brightest diamond.

He glowered. “I don’t see the need to repeat myself.” In my peripheral vision, onyx tendrils slithered across the forest floor and edged toward me. A heartbeat pulsed from their swirling depths. Whatever monster watched us from the forest, we were clearly running out of time.

“You’re too scrawny to be a Sentinel, though you certainly have the arrogance of one.” I inched away from the cursed wood. “You don’t have the emblem of a Charmer, so you’re not one of my kind.” Thank the gods for that.

“Are you done fishing?”

“No.” I flicked my wrist, and Iky broke another finger. The man’s scream rattled pinesco pods, sending misshapen dead leaves to the ground. Shadows devoured them whole. “You were trying to kill me, which means you’re likely a murderer for hire.”

A slow smile dared to grace his lips. “You won’t make it out of this alive.”

Oh, but I would. And a new idea was brewing in the back of my brain. One that had to do with favors and blood and the golden opportunity standing right in front of me.
I started to circle him, assessing his potential. The problem was, offering freedom in exchange for his blood didn’t exactly mean the blood was “freely given.” Semantics, but in the game of taming beasts, semantics were everything. “And why is that?”

“Because I’m a member of Cruor.”

The world slipped out from beneath my feet. Heavy ringing filled my ears, and the treetops spun together. I’d assumed assassin from the get–go, but Cruor? Who would go to such lengths as to hire the undead?

Realization struck hard and fast, and my gaze jerked to the pooling mass of darkness near his feet. He leached shadows from the corners and hidden crevices of the forest. Even the once–solid blade had dispersed, joining the curling tendrils around my captive. They licked his skin and gathered in his aura, waiting to do his bidding. That wasn’t some Kitska monster gathering the darkness—-it was him.

He’d been toying with me all this time, and I had seconds to react.

 

 

 

Meet Maxym M. Martineau

Maxym M. Martineau is a staff writer and editor by day, and a fantasy romance author by night. When she’s not getting heated over broken hearts, she enjoys playing video games, sipping a well-made margarita, binge-watching television shows, competing in just about any sport, and of course, reading.

Following her passion, Maxym earned her bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Arizona State University. She is represented by Cate Hart of Corvisiero Literary Agency.

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3 Thoughts on “Sneak Peek Wednesday: Kingdom of Exiles by Maxym M. Martineau

  1. I haven’t read this author before but this sounds like a book that I would like.

  2. I like the sound of this! I like the sound of it lots.

  3. that cover does make me think she is a beast charmer. looks like a good one
    sherry @ fundinmental

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