READ THE FIRST TWO CHAPTERS: The Other Side of Magic by Ester Manzini
In a world inspired by 16th century Italy, magic is a common occurrence. Everyone in the realms of Epidalio and Zafiria is gifted with it at birth, but with every spell cast, their power wanes.
Gaiane Asares is the result of an accurate selection by her mother, the queen of Zafiria. She’s infinitely powerful; a weapon of mass destruction kept segregated in a tower and used against her will to conquer Epidalio.
Meanwhile, in Epidalio, Leo was born with no magic at all, a rarity. She lost her home and family when Zafiria attacked, and her resentment toward the invaders still burns.
Gaiane manages to escape her gilded cage, and the two girls cross paths. But when war threatens the land again, their loyalty will be put to the test. Will they manage to overcome their differences in the name of freedom?
Get carried away into the sparkling world of Italy in THE OTHER SIDE OF MAGIC by Ester Manzini—out next Tuesday, April sixth. Pre-order your copy NOW!
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"You can do it."
Her mother’s voice fluttered against the shell of her ear.
“You were trained for this. You were born for this. I believe in you.” The hands clutching her fingers shook just a little. Exaltation, of course. Not fear.
Gaiane squeezed her eyes shut. Staring at her mother’s face, so ageless and confident, made her doubts feel twice as big and silly.
Mother knew best. Mother knew what to do, and if she said she was ready, Gaiane needed to be. She nodded once, and the cold metal of the collar around her neck bounced against her collarbones.
A precaution. A constant companion in the ten short years of her life. Peeking from under her lashes, Gaiane caught the faintest glimmer from the ornament. Smooth and plain, a perfect ring of polished iron keeping her magic subdued. So different from the silver and gold of her mother’s crown or her father’s brooch—a queen and her consort.
She couldn’t take it off
She hated it. Even if it was for her own good.
Her quarters, at the top of the highest tower in Zafiria's royal palace, were crowded. The whole Council shuffled at the edge of Gaiane’s attention. From the ridge of the arched ceiling, where a large chandelier glimmering with golden light globes, the two sloping sides descended in a blaze of lapis lazuli blue sky and silver stars. The immaculate walls, inter‐ rupted here and there by slender columns hosting more magical lights, were covered in bookshelves, and the spring sun shone through the great windows, glittering in gold on the bars.
“I’m going to open the seal, my little dove. And after that, I only need you to trust me. Will you, Gaiane?”
She could. She needed to—wanted to, because it was one thing to heed Queen Cibele Asares’ command, but having her mother caress her hands and call her by her name filled the ever gaping void in Gaiane’s heart. Gaiane would do anything to please her mother, in those rare moments she had to spare.
Gaiane took a deep breath and tried to focus on her hands, gently held in her mother’s grip. Golden rings sparkled on her fingers, white and silver silks embroidered in a motif of stars and butterflies on her wrists.
She shifted into place, the soft blue carpet tickling her bare feet.
She forced herself to swallow her dread and straighten her back, she then raised her head.
The queen was staring at her. No, her mother, with her ivory skin and shiny black hair, with her bluebell eyes and the freckles on her nose. Gaiane could see herself in those refined features, less so in the black ring flashing under her hairline. Under the black paint, it was fading. Gaiane’s was still as black as when she was born. It was never going to change.
“Will you, my daughter?” her mother asked again, and this time Gaiane looked her in the eye.
“Yes,” she said. Behind the queen, the whole council was standing at a respectful distance.
Her father was there, his graying hair and the dimple on his cheek when his lips curled in a smirk. The members of the Council held their breath at Gaiane’s consent, and the sound made her little birds uncomfortable. Chirping and fluttering around in their gilded cage, the soft little creatures mirrored Gaiane’s nervousness.
The queen dropped her hands and got to her feet, towering above Gaiane with a triumphant smile.
“Come, then.” A slow flick of her chin, and she moved to the large window between the bookcases behind her.
Gaiane hesitated. Her eyes went to the only person in the room not wearing silks and jewels.
“Your majesty, she’s still very young. You’re asking a lot of her.” Alcmena’s voice rose high and clear, with no trace of fear. Gaiane envied her strength, even if such insolence was unseemly in a servant.