Attention fantasy fans! If you aren’t already, it’s time to start counting down the days until Realm Breaker by Victoria Aveyard because the author of the Red Queen series certainly knows how to take us on an epic fantasy adventure! Realm Breaker has everything we could possibly want—unlikely allies who could turn on each other at any moment, heart-stopping fight scenes, pirates, portals to other realms, and a creepy villain intent on conquering the world even if it means he has to destroy it first. Are you freaking out yet?! Okay, here’s a little bit more info about Realm Breaker:
A strange darkness grows in Allward. Even Corayne an-Amarat can feel it, tucked away in her small town at the edge of the sea. She soon discovers the truth: She is the last of an ancient lineage—and the last hope to save the world from destruction. But she won’t be alone. Even as darkness falls, she is joined by a band of unlikely companions:
- A squire, forced to choose between home and honor.
- An immortal, avenging a broken promise.
- An assassin, exiled and bloodthirsty.
- An ancient sorceress, whose riddles hide an eerie foresight.
- A forger with a secret past.
- A bounty hunter with a score to settle.
Together they stand against a vicious opponent, invincible and determined to burn all kingdoms to ash, and an army unlike anything the realm has ever witnessed.
Check out the excerpt below and don’t forget to preorder Realm Breaker, which hits shelves on May 4th!
Between the Dragon and the Unicorn
“Put out the word I’m looking for oarsmen,” Meliz interrupted, swirling her glass.
Her demand caught Corayne off guard. She blinked, confused. “We’ve at least two weeks before we need to prepare for another run, and we can do that shorthanded if need be.”
Short sails in easy water, running light and quick routes along the coast. Corayne knew the voyages of the Tempestborn too well and planned around them as best she could. The summer runs are without much danger. Good to learn on.
Meliz’s grin slid, a mask coming undone. “Strong backs, good rhythm, no fuss.”
“For what destination? For when?” Changes in schedule meant mistakes, greater risk. And it threw her own plans into disarray.
“Are you my mother now?” Meliz teased, but her voice was sharp. “Just make sure they’re good recruits. I’ve no need for wide-eyed imbeciles looking for an adventure, chasing a Spindle story or a fairy tale or plain old glory on the Long Sea.”
Corayne flushed. Her voice dropped. “Where are you going, Mother?”
“They have a tendency to die, and die disappointed,” Meliz muttered, pulling at her wine.
“Since when have you minded losing crew?” Corayne snapped, half to herself. The words tasted bitter in her mouth, unfair and unwise. She wanted to call them back as soon as they passed her lips. “Where are you going?”
“I always mind, Corayne,” Meliz said coldly. “The winds look to be favorable.”
“The winds will still be favorable in a month’s time.”
Meliz looked to the windows, in the direction of the Sea, and Corayne felt lost.
“The Jaiah of Rhashir has finally died, leaving sixteen sons to war for his throne. Some say he died of his age or illness. Some say he was murdered. Either way, the conflict makes things easier for us. It is a good opportunity,” Meliz said firmly and quickly. As if the words needed only be spoken to become true.
A map ate up Corayne’s vision in a weathered swirl of blue, green, and yellow. She saw it clearly in her head, the familiar sea lanes and coasts, rivers and mountains, borders and kingdoms. All places she had never seen but still knew, had heard of but never set foot in. Miles flew past, racing from Lemarta to the Tiger Gulf, the Allforest, the Crown of Snow—the great wonders of distant lands. She tried to picture Jirhali, the great capital of Rhashir, a city of pale green sandstone and burnished copper. Corayne’s imagination failed her.
“It’s near four thousand miles to their shores, as the crow flies,” she breathed, opening her eyes. There was only the map. Her mother was already far away, well beyond her reach. “With a good wind, favorable current, no storms, no trouble . . . you’ll be gone for months at best.” Her voice caught. “If you return at all.”
A dangerous voyage, far from what we planned.
Meliz did not move. “It is a good opportunity. Have the ship prepared. We leave in three days.”
So soon, Corayne cursed, her fingers curling on the tabletop. “I must ask—”
“Don’t,” Meliz said without blinking, raising her glass to her lips again.
An angry spark flared in Corayne’s chest, chasing off her fear. “In winter you said—”
“I made no promises in winter.”
Her word was so terribly final, like the closing of a door.
Corayne clenched her jaw, using all her will to keep her hands on the table and not slap the wine from her mother’s grasp. Something roared in her ears, drowning out all sound but her mother and the refusal.
You knew what she would say, she thought. You knew and you prepared. You’re ready to earn this.
“I’m a year older than you were when you went to sea.” Corayne willed herself to look part of the crew. Determined, confident, capable. All things she was to so many people. So many but for Mother.
Meliz clenched her jaw. “It wasn’t my choice then.”
Corayne’s reply was quick, the arrow already nocked and aimed. “I’m more use on the water. I’ll hear more; I can bargain; I can guide. Think of what the Tempestborn was before I started helping. Aimless, disorganized, barely scraping by, dumping half your cargo for want of a buyer,” Corayne said, trying her best not to beg. Her mother did not move, did not blink, did not even seem to listen. “I know the charts almost as well as Kireem or Scirilla. I can help, especially on a voyage so long and so far away.”
You sound stupid. You sound like a child pleading for a favorite toy. Be reasonable. Be logical. She knows your value; she knows and cannot deny it. Corayne took a breath, quieting her thoughts even as she spoke aloud.
“With me on board your profits will triple, at the very least.” Corayne clenched her fist on the tabletop. “I guarantee you that. And I won’t even take payment.”
There was more to say: more lists to rattle off, more hard truths her mother would not be able to brush aside. But Meliz only stared.
“My decision is made, Corayne. Not even the gods can change it,” the captain said, her voice shifting. Corayne heard some begging in her too. “My love, you don’t know what you’re asking for.”
Corayne narrowed her black eyes. “Oh, I think I do.”
Something crumbled in Meliz, like a wall tumbling down.
“I’m good at my job, Mother,” Corayne said, stony. “And my job is to listen, to think, to connect and anticipate. You think the people here don’t talk about you and your crew?” She pointed with her chin to the rest of the room, carrying on in their loud manner. “About what you do out there on the open water?”
Meliz leaned forward so quickly Corayne nearly fell from her seat.
“We’re criminals, yes,” the captain hissed. “We move around crown laws. We transport what others won’t or can’t. That’s what smuggling is. There’s a danger to it. You’ve known that your entire life.” The explanation was expected too, another lie of Meliz an-Amarat. “My operation is dangerous, that’s true,” the woman pushed on. “I’m at risk every time we set sail; so is every person in this room. And I will not risk you with the rest of us.”
“The Jydi recruits. They survived, didn’t they?” Corayne asked, her tone flat and detached. At the bar, the pale-skinned twins looked as jumpy as rabbits in a snare.
Meliz scowled. “They joined up in Gidastern. Fled some godsforsaken clan war.”
More lies. She fixed her mother with a dark stare, hoping to see through her. Hoping Meliz knew she was seen through.
“They survived whatever ship you found in the Watchful Sea, whatever ship you attacked, emptied, and sank,” she said.
“For once that isn’t true,” Meliz snapped back, near to spitting. “You with all your charts and your lists. That doesn’t mean you know what the world is really like. The Jydi aren’t raiding. Something is wrong in the Watchful. Those boys were running and I gave them a place to go.”
LIES, Corayne thought, feeling each one like a knife.
“You are a smuggler,” she answered, banging her hand on the table. “You’ve broken the laws of every kingdom from here to Rhashira’s Mouth. And you are a pirate, Captain an-Amarat. You are feared across the Ward for what you do to the ships you hunt and devour.” Corayne pushed forward so that they were nearly nose to nose over the table. Meliz’s mask was gone, her easy grin abandoned. “Don’t bother with shame. I know what you are, Mother, what you have to be. I’ve known for a long time. And I’ve been part of this, whether you believe it or not, all my life.”
Across the seden, a glass shattered, followed by a roar of laughter. Neither mother nor daughter flinched. A canyon yawned between them, filled only with silence and longing.
“I need this.” Corayne’s voice broke, bowed by the weight of desperation. “I need to leave. I can’t stay here any longer. It feels like the world is growing over me.” She reached for her mother’s hands, but Meliz pulled her fingers away. “It’s like being buried alive, Mama.”
The captain stood, her wine in hand. Her stillness was unfamiliar. And foreboding. Calm waters before a storm. Corayne steeled herself, preparing for more lies and excuses.
The captain did not bother with either.
“My answer will always be no.”
Be reasonable, Corayne chided herself, even as she jumped out of her chair, fists clenched. The pirate captain didn’t move, her stare unbroken and unamused.
Despair bubbled beneath Corayne’s skin. She felt like a crashing wave, rolling over with foam as she broke upon the shore. Be reasonable, she thought again, though the voice was smaller, more distant. She dug her nails into her palms, using the sting to stay anchored.
“You don’t get to make my decisions for me,” she said with great restraint. “I’m not asking for permission. If you won’t take me on, I’ll find a captain who will. Who sees my value.”
“You will do no such thing.” Meliz shattered her wine glass across the floor. Her eyes lit from within, threatening to burn the world down. She took her daughter by the collar, and not gently. The crew took little notice.
“Look around,” she snarled in her ear. Corayne kept still, unable to move, shocked by her mother. “This is my crew. They’re killers, every single one of them. Look at us, Corayne.”
Swallowing around the lump in her throat, she did as told.
The crew of the Tempestborn were a family, of sorts. Alike in their scarred hands, sun-damaged skin, bleached hair, corded muscles. Similar as brother to sister, despite their varying origins. They drank and fought and schemed as one, beneath a single flag, united before the mast and her mother’s command. Corayne saw them as she’d always known them to be: loud, drunk, loyal. But the warning echoed. They’re killers, every single one of them.
Nothing changed, and yet nothing was the same as before.
Her vision swam, and she saw them as the world did, as they were on the water. Not family, not friends. She felt like prey in a den of predators. A knife glinted on Ehjer’s hip, as long as his forearm. How many throats has it claimed? The big Jydi bruiser held hands with their navigator, golden Kireem, who was missing an eye. He lost it to gods-knew-what. Everywhere she looked, Corayne saw familiar faces, and yet they were unknown to her, distant and dangerous. Symeon, young and beautiful, his skin like smooth black stone, an ax balanced at his feet. Brigitt, a roaring lion tattooed up her porcelain neck. Gharira, bronze-skinned and bronze-maned, who wore chain mail everywhere, even at sea. And on and on. They dripped with scars and weaponry, hardened to the Ward and the waters. She did not know them, not really.
How many ships, how many crews, how many left dead in my mother’s wake? She wanted to ask. She wanted to never know. But you knew this—you knew what they were, Corayne told herself. This is what Mother wants, to frighten you away, to keep you onshore, alone in a quiet place at the edge of the world. A doll on a shelf, with only the fear of gathering dust. She bit her lip, forcing herself to remain steady and staring. The room was filled with beasts wearing human skin, their claws made of steel. If Corayne looked hard enough, she might see the blood all over their hands. As well as her own.
“Killers all,” Meliz said again, her grip unyielding. “So am I. You are not.”
Corayne drew a shuddering breath, her eyes stinging. She blamed the smoky air.
“You think you carry no illusions, Corayne, but you are still blinded by many. Be rid of them. See us for what we are, and what you cannot be.” Meliz stared intently, her gaze intensified by the rim of dark color drawn around her eyes. Her voice softened. “You don’t have the spine for it, my dearest love. You stay.”
Never had Corayne felt so alone, so distant from the only family she knew. You don’t have the spine. You don’t belong. When Meliz let go of her collar, she felt as if she were falling, dragged away by an unseen tide. It was cold and cruel, and so unfair. Her blood flamed.
“At least my father was good enough to only abandon me once,” Corayne said coolly, her teeth bared. With a will, she stepped away from Meliz. “You’ve done it a thousand times.”
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