Get swept away into the first book of a dark fantasy series combining sorcery and magic, Arthurian legend turned upside down, and a coming of age that leaves Persephone Fury choosing between love and honour, between desire and destiny.
The Fury family is known for its extraordinary music, its powerful magic, and its historic role as kingmakers. But the Furys have their secrets as well, none so dangerous as the daughter whose Shadow magic spills from her, unchecked. Unless her powers are concealed, she's not only ruined in Society, but marked as a target for those who would use and abuse her magic.
Persephone Fury is the Dark daughter, the one they hide.
But desperate times call for desperate measures, and a good marriage for this frightening daughter is desperately needed. On the night of her debut, her world comes crumbling down around her when she is abducted from the man she loves by the man she most loathes.
Evil powers circle, calling her to the destiny foretold at the moment of her birth, drawing her to the source of her power, to the one place she can finally be free. By embracing the Shadows, by embracing the Darkness within her.
Persephone is ruthless, devious, and clever, but when confronted with the truth, she must make horrifying choices. Can she defy destiny and seize her own fate?
"This Crumbling Pageant is an exhilarating blend of court politics, folklore, romance, and mystery- the threads all woven together into one expertly designed tapestry. Persephone is a balanced, intriguing, and honestly fun female protagonist. She is not the prettiest, she is not the tomboy stereotype, instead she is delightfully difficult to pin down and define. The whole Fury family breathes life into the setting, pulling the plot through its paces."– Amazon Vine Voice, April Broughton
"If you took Harry Potter, changed him to Harriet and moved his birthday back almost 200 years, you might get this book. Might. Like Harry Potter, this world of This Crumbling Pageant is imaginative and vividly drawn. There is no school of witchcraft and wizardry, but there is a tutor who practices a form a Legilimancy (and who is very likely to remind the reader of Severus Snape on occasion)…. As dark as the HP books got, however, this book is far, far darker. I wasn't expecting violence to get to George R. R. Martin level, but yeah, it went there a time or two!"– USA Today Best-Selling Author Ashlyn Macnamara
"Beautifully, lushly written, sweeping epic fantasy that will take you to another place and time and make you believe it's real. A heroine toroot for, scary choices, heroes, really bad guys, and the bone-deepfeeling that the bottom will drop out at any minute. Things are notwhat they seem!"– Author of the Night Calls Series & Campbell Award Nominee, Katharine Eliska Kimbriel
HE'D BEEN WORKING on his swagger again, the cocksure walk of the village louts who held power in their brawny shoulders and sometimes coin in their pockets. There was a time when he'd thought the swagger would make him more like them, make him one of them.
It had done him no good, for they'd taunted him still, the bone-thin bastard with a grand name beyond his station, Vespasian Wyltt.
He'd gone back to slinking in the shadows, watching from dark corners, fashioning wands from various tree branches in an effort to find the one that would work for him, that would give him the power those lads were too stupid to conjure, even in their dreams.
They'd all ended as kindling.
As would the oafs who mocked him, who overpowered him with their numbers, whose taunts had turned into beatings when the first strands of white showed up in his dirty black hair on the very morn he'd awakened to find his first seed-spilling dream had soiled him.
They would all be kindling to the fire of his ambition, and he would glory in their burning.
But now, upon entering Oxford for the first time, he pulled that swagger back around him, hoping to meld into the tangle of newly arriving students without drawing suspicious glances at his shabby dress. Even amongst the others like him, lining up at the kitchen door to Pendragon College, awaiting interviews for positions as servants in order to fund their own studies, he sensed the others drawing away from him, as if he carried the stench of a sty instead of clean clothes and tight shoes he'd stolen this very morning from an Ordinary family's cottage in Coventry and kept hidden until safely back amongst the Magi.
Watching arrogant young gentlemen select obsequious young scouts made resentment sour in him like curdled milk.
This could not be the path to the future his goddess had promised him before sinking back into the icy deep lake in the shadows of Wales. These pustulent, primping peacocks could not be the glorious future of the Magi she had foretold. None amongst them could possibly be worthy of his fealty.
None could be the True King.
And then, the hair rose on his neck, on his arms, and awareness tingled uncomfortably like sparks of electricity on a winter's day.
He squinted through the tangled locks of his hair, the better to observe without being observed, and saw a perfumed young gent strolling past, trailing Shadows behind him.
And Vespasian knew, as he knew his own worth, that the promised path was finally opening before him.
He abandoned the queue at Pendragon and followed after, slinking instead of swaggering, watching from the darkness between the buildings, simmering with schemes and dreams.
I know not your name, he thought, but I hold your destiny in my hands.
For the goddess had laid this destiny upon him.
SHE WAS PINNED like a moth to a velvet backing, pinned against her brother's pillow. She couldn't breathe, couldn't move, and yet the tutor had not touched her, but held her frozen with his black, black eyes.
"Out of bed and make haste about it," he hissed.
Mister Jones's rough hands yanked her from the bed.
She stood wavering, fighting free of the mists that tried to cloud her mind.
"Dress." His voice was harsh and fear pulsed through her for something was wrong. This was not at all what she had expected.
But she could do this. She must. She turned away and pulled her brother's breeches up over his nightshirt and then tugged on a pair of boots he'd outgrown. She hoped—prayed—that her disguise wouldn't be discovered before she learned enough to put an end to the presence of the despicable Mister Jones as her brothers' tutor.
He would never hurt Dardanus again.
She tugged a cap over the knot of hair on the back of her head and shrugged on the heavy jacket she'd chosen because she could hide her narrow shoulders in its voluminous depths.
"Hurry, we haven't got all night." He pushed her to the window and the moonlight.
Gods. The moonlight! She shrank back into the shadows, but he shoved her through the open window with a growl.
She grabbed the heavy limb and hauled herself up into the oak tree that spanned the moat below. With a light grasp on higher branches, she crossed the limb that had provided a convenient exit to generations of Fury sons and fell back against the trunk. Nervously, she watched Mister Jones follow her steps, as nimble as she.
She slid down the steep bank with Mister Jones close behind. When they reached the deeper shadows of the sunken garden, she found Hades, a sturdy black gelding, tied to the gate. Only then did she allow herself to breathe, to realize with a sick clench of her stomach that she'd done it. The deception was working.
Tonight, she, Persephone Fury, would discover why her beloved Dardanus three times had lied to her about injuries, had eyes bruised with shadows on the day following the full moon. When she had demanded answers the month before he'd slid his gaze to his tutor, who stared at her over his templed fingers, his lips curled in a taunting sneer.
She would discover what happened on full moon nights and, finally, her father would have to listen to her and stop dismissing it all as schoolboy antics.
"Put this on your back." Mister Jones thrust a small pack at her. "I'll bespell you to stay stuck."
She snorted her disdain as she saw the magical pillion saddle. As if she'd fall from a horse. But she felt a twinge of pity for poor Dardanus, whose seat on horseback was always precarious at best. She remembered the bruises he'd sported the month before and now suspected he'd fallen from behind Mister Jones. But what humiliation, to put him on a magical saddle created for children and women incapable of riding their own mounts!
She smoldered with anger at having to ride the demeaning thing herself but had no choice. He dragged her up behind him, and she felt the sharp tug of the binding spell as she settled into the curve of leather. She would be unable to free herself, should she try.
The horse moved forward with its steady gait and, once onto the road, was prodded into a fast canter. At least as a boy, she could ride astride. She clutched her cap to her head with one hand, clinging to the edge of the saddle with the other. No wonder Dardanus had been so terror-stricken that morning when she'd coaxed him from bed and he'd claimed to have no memory of the night before. How could he have such bruises and not know why? What had he been hiding?
Never before had she experienced the world at midnight; strange shapes etched with silver moonlight. The heavy fragrance of wisteria in the damp night air heralded the bank of tangled vines at the curve in the road. The bleat of new-born lambs and the odor of sheep dung, the rise in the road and sudden gloom of overhanging trees—all were as familiar as her own land, but not at night.
If she weren't so tense in anticipation of being discovered—and of course her trickery would eventually be discovered—she'd have been exhilarated. The rhythm of the horse beneath her was music thrumming through her, and where there was music, she needed no extra magic to hold her steady.
A rabbit darted across the road.
Pride fled. She clutched the saddle and fought for balance as Mister Jones pulled the gelding under control.
Heart pounding, she sucked great gasps of chilly air into her lungs and found herself leaning forward against the tutor's scarecrow back.
"Rutting hell! There's no way that little brat would have stayed astride—" With movements surprisingly powerful for such a shabby excuse for a man, he reined the horse in and swung down from the saddle. He pulled her off so abruptly that she fell into the road in an ignominious pile.
Hades shied sideways, hooves kicking up a spray of dirt and rock, but before Persephone could respond to the gelding's distress, Mister Jones quieted the beast with a guttural command more effective than any she'd ever witnessed from groom or even her own father. He seized the reins in one hand and yanked Persephone's cap from her head with the other. He grabbed her chin with hard fingers and angled her face up to the moonlight. "You!"
She jerked away. She'd despised him for almost as long as she'd known him, but never had she actually feared him until now, vulnerable and alone as she was in the middle of the road, in the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere. His features were malevolent contours of light and shadow. She pulled herself to her feet and stood straight with her chin high. "When I tell my Papa, you'll never teach in a decent home—in any home—again!"
"Indeed." He scoffed, the sound bitter and arrogant in the darkness. "You think I am the one with everything to lose? Must I remind you, at thirteen years of age, you're old enough to create a scandal yourself, caught out with your brothers' tutor in the middle of the night. A scandal that won't just touch you, but your sister as well."
Electra. Persephone's blood ran cold.
"About to be presented at Court. On the brink of her first Season, and by all accounts likely to be the Incomparable. Are you truly willing to bring such disgrace to your family?"
"But—but you're the one who—"
"I won't miss being tutor to spoiled children overmuch. Your sister's chances, however, will be ruined."
He dropped the horse's reins and circled her slowly, his boots crunching on loose rocks. When he'd made a complete circuit, he sniffed through his long, arrogant nose. "Should you co-operate and fulfill your brother's role in this night's business, I shall return you to your home safely with not a soul knowing the tale, just as I've always done with your brother. That is—if you think you're up to the task."
"Well?" His tone was bored, as if her decision meant little to him.
This was exactly what she wanted, to go along with the wretched man, discover his secrets, and finally be able to protect her brother.
She dusted off her breeches and gave a small shrug. "There is nothing Dardanus can do that I cannot."
"You'd best be right." He mounted the horse, then jerked her up behind him.
"Where are we going?"
"London," he replied, as the horse lunged forward with a powerful ground-eating stride.
They flew through the night once more.