Where do you land on the debate about prologues and epilogues and whether or not to use them in fiction? I will tell you right now that they are often some of my favorite parts of the book—both as a reader and as a writer. When done well, prologues are terrific nuggets and often fast paced openers, and epilogues give you hope for the future of the story.
Which is why I find it impossible to comprehend that some readers skip them. Skip them? How? Why? Maybe you’ve had a bad experience? Or just think that they’re information you don’t need? But please don’t skip them. If a writer is doing their job right, every part of the book has a purpose and moves the story forward. Including (and for me especially) the prologue and the epilogue.
Give it a shot! Maybe…maybe you’ll get hooked. Why not dip your toes in the water with this one… The prologue to my new release, The Liar’s Crown!
Once Upon a Curse
Eighteen years ago…
The first cry of a newborn infant pierced the heavy night air, and the women in the room heaved a collective sigh of relief. Except for Hesperia.
She checked the shadows instead.
Was the king watching? Lurking? Confirming that she completed the task he had commanded?
As a sand nymph, Hesperia was called upon to bless newborn life in the dominion of Aryd. She had been coming to the palace for centuries. On behalf of the goddess of this dominion, she had sanctified the birth of every royal child. The women in the room would assume she was a revered acolyte, skin painted in the colors of the deserts from which her kind were made.
They didn’t know she was also a spy.
Or that the reason she’d come tonight had nothing to do with blessings.
After severing the umbilical cord, the midwife cleaned and wrapped the child in a soft blanket. But she didn’t give the baby to its mother, wife of the Crown Prince, who was still sitting, limp and coated in sweat, legs splayed open on the birthing stool. Instead, the child was passed to the Queen of Aryd. Hesperia’s sovereign, technically.
Only Hesperia didn’t serve this queen. She served him.
Eidolon. The King of Tyndra. A cold and brutal man, lurking under the veneer of a charming liar.
“What is it?” the mother demanded past chalky lips as a servant wiped her brow with a clean linen dipped in cool water.
The queen didn’t even glance her way. Instead, she stared at her precious legacy, so tiny, hardly a wisp. “A girl,” she said in a voice much harsher than the moment should warrant. “The Princess Tabra Eutheria I of Aryd.”
“A girl?” the mother sobbed. “But my husband wanted a boy.”
The queen’s narrowed blue eyes sharpened. “My dead son wanted a boy?” She sneered. “Queens are what keep this dominion alive.”
Judging by the state of the desert dominion under her reign, Hesperia wasn’t so sure about that. Aryd had become a poorer and more desperate place to live. However, she’d foolishly pledged herself to the wrong sovereign long ago, so to her, none of that mattered.
At the queen’s nod, Hesperia stepped forward.
She bent over the child. An Imperium, just like all the queens before her. This one she could sense was Enfernae, one with a rare soul ability passed down only through this line.
The one the king wanted.
The one she’d been ordered to curse.
Hesperia started to whisper over the child, but she only got a few words out before the glimmer of a rare vision stopped her. A horror of a future flashed across her mind, a chilling warning of the world she would help to create if she kept going.
She jerked back. Was this the future that the king had planned? Eidolon had grown more desperate in recent years, and for reasons he would not share, he wanted this particular Enfernae bound to him the moment her powers manifested.
Behind her, the mother moaned, doubling over her still-swollen belly, and shock whispered through the helpers in a series of gasps.
Unlike the others, Hesperia wasn’t surprised. This line of royals had twin queens every other generation. The best-kept secret of Aryd. Her mind spun for a different reason. Because of the vision she’d just seen…and a new possibility.
Do I dare defy him?
The queen thrust the firstborn closer. “Finish your rite.”
Hesperia made her choice, and, instead of the curse, she whispered a simple blessing and marked the child’s forehead with her fourth finger.
When she finished, she slowly backed away, fighting to hide a tremble threatening to take hold of her body at the realization of what she had done.…and what she was about to do. Did he see? He seemed weaker lately. Maybe he wasn’t watching from the shadows. Regardless, she knew she’d sealed her own fate. She listened as violent screams ripped through the mother’s throat, one after the other, a symphony to her own damnation.
“The babe is turned,” the midwife said to the queen. “I must move it the right way, or we’ll lose both the mother and the child.”
The queen showed no emotion—she never did. “Save the child,” she commanded in a low voice.
The screaming went on and on until, suddenly, silence. Then a new cry filled the room. This child’s wail was sharper, as though furious with the world already.
Hesperia didn’t wait for the queen to signal her. She stepped over to the baby, still slick with birth. Just like each set of royal twins before these, one child was Enfernae, the other Hylorae and nothing special. Which was perfect for what Hesperia had in mind. She whispered words over the child, imbuing every syllable with power.
“No need for that,” the queen said, unaware of what was truly happening.
Hesperia touched a finger to the tiny princess’s hand, completing the ritual through touch, and the sharp burn of magic passed from nymph to babe. A curse bestowed.
Did King Eidolon see that coming? I bet you didn’t, you ageless bastard.
It was done, either way. He wouldn’t discover her deception until he sought out the future Queen of Aryd and felt…nothing.
The full truth would be revealed when he locked eyes with her sister.
Without so much as a glance at the second infant’s face, the queen flicked her gaze to the corner of the room. A woman stepped into the light. Heavily cloaked despite the sweltering desert heat, with the hood pulled low over her face, the woman took the baby from the midwife, who swung a wide, questioning gaze to the queen.
Her words dripping with the threat—no, the promise—of vengeance for any who would defy her will, the queen addressed the room. “The second child was stillborn,” she declared. “Dead. Do you understand?”
Hesperia doubted she would live to breathe a word of this to anyone, not that she had in generations. No one in this room would talk, either. Only a fool would ignore that command if they wanted to live.
But the curse…a day would come when that would not be so silent.
“An addictive, action-packed, scorcher of a read!” —#1 New York Times bestselling author Alyson Noël
Some shadows protect you…others will kill you in this dazzling new fantasy series from award-winning author Abigail Owen.
Everything about my life is a lie. As a hidden twin princess, born second, I have only one purpose—to sacrifice my life for my sister if death comes for her. I’ve been living under the guise of a poor, obscure girl of no standing, slipping into the palace and into the role of the true princess when danger is present.
Now the queen is dead and the ageless King Eidolon has sent my sister a gift—an eerily familiar gift—and a proposal to wed. I don’t trust him, so I do what I was born to do and secretly take her place on the eve of the coronation. Which is why, when a figure made of shadow kidnaps the new queen, he gets me by mistake.
As I try to escape, all the lies start to unravel. And not just my lies. The Shadowraith who took me has secrets of his own. He struggles to contain the shadows he wields—other faces, identities that threaten my very life.
Winter is at the walls. Darkness is looming. And the only way to save my sister and our dominion is to kill Eidolon…and the Shadowraith who has stolen my heart.
Award-winning paranormal romance author Abigail Owen grew up consuming books and exploring the world through her writing. She loves to write witty, feisty heroines, sexy heroes who deserve them, and a cast of lovable characters to surround them (and maybe get their own stories). She currently resides in Austin, Texas, with her own personal hero, her husband, and their two children, who are growing up way too fast.