The Princess Bride meets Game of Thrones in this commercial YA trilogy from acclaimed fantasy author Sarah Henning.
Princess Amarande is finally on the verge of having everything she wants. To be with her true love Luca, no one nor law standing in the way. To rule Ardenia as queen outright, no marriage necessary, as Luca does the same with the reformed Torrence. To rebuild the continent of The Sand and Sky into a place not defined by archaic, patriarchal laws, but by the will of its people.
However, threats await in the shadows of Amarande’s hoped-for happily ever after. One expected and deadly to both her love and every one of her objectives. The other, unexpected, and arising with a vicious aim: revenge at any cost. Against the princess who killed him, the boy whose love made her do it, and the continent cruel enough to deserve his rage.
The King Will Kill You is the epic, pulse-pounding conclusion to Sarah Henning’s Kingdoms of Sand and Sky trilogy.
The King Will Kill You will be available on August 2nd, 2022. Please enjoy the following excerpt!
High in the hills of Ardenia, a queen and a king met swords in the meadow they’d always called theirs.
Amarande and Luca each wore chest plates and pained grins, color flush in their cheeks as they sparred with blunt blades as they’d done for years.
Whenever she had too much on her mind, all Amarande needed was Luca and a good fight. To work out her nerves, her thoughts, her feelings—all the inconveniences she often kept buried so deep. She had dreamed of today for ages, but troubles still nipped at her, and the most soothing combination in the world was the movement of her body and a dimpled smile on Luca’s face.
Even better—they were blessedly alone.
Well, almost. Beltza, the black wolf, watched from the trees on the far side of the meadow. She’d been Luca’s shadow since the Otxoa supporters’ arrival. As the breathing symbol of his fallen family, perhaps Beltza thought it her duty to keep a watchful eye on the last Otxoa in existence. Still, the wolf always gave them space, so long as she could keep her golden gaze pinned to Luca.
It was close enough to being alone for Amarande and Luca— because, for all the power that being royalty provided, solitude was hard to come by.
They had an hour, maybe two, and they would make the most of it. In fact, they had already, proof in the slick of sweat glinting in the cloudless sun as they raised their blades and crashed together yet again. “What hurts more, your arm or your leg?” Luca inquired, his mouth curling along with the jest in his sweet voice as they met in a body-jolting high cross, Amarande’s face just inches from his. He hit as hard as he was handsome, but Amarande was stubborn and Luca was fighting with as many injuries as she was. He’d just had a head start in healing, that was all. “Nothing hurts.”
Luca pivoted to the left, forcing Amarande to hack across her body in such a way that tested both her arm and leg—straining Ula’s careful sutures with the brunt of the blow. Amarande’s teeth ground together as she attempted to muscle Luca’s sword away.
It didn’t work.
Her guard failed, and Luca tapped her waist with a hit.
“Stars and dragon’s piss,” Amarande grit out. With her good arm she smashed the blunt tip of the practice sword into the dry summer earth. The hit bruised her pride much more than her body. Luca wasn’t one to gloat, but he did pause before returning to his starting stance.
“Do my ears deceive me or have you perhaps picked up a colorful phrase or two from Urtzi?”
“Yes, for when things hurt.” Luca’s dimples flashed and Amarande knew she’d laid her cards on the table.
It did hurt.
It’d been three days since they’d won back the Itspi—when her mother had stabbed her in the leg, and four days since her arm was mangled in a rescue from sure death in the Warlord’s firepit.
She grimaced up at him and grumbled, “Don’t be easy on me. If Geneva shows her face, I won’t be allowed a breather in the middle of the battle. Be brutal, just don’t rip my sutures.”
Luca scoffed. “Ula would have my head if I ripped yours—or mine.” “That is precisely why I didn’t tell Ula we would be here,” Amarande answered. “Besides, she could just sew your lovely head back onto your body. You know she would. You’re more her king than I am her queen.”
Luca laughed and backpedaled toward the edge of the trees that lined the meadow to reset his stance for the next parry to her attack. “Ah, but she’s loyal to both of us. And we’ll face equal fury.”
Amarande arched a brow. “Then let’s not rip our sutures, shall we?” The words were barely out when Amarande charged without warning, blade held high in a double grip, stabilizing her weak points as much as possible. As she barreled toward him, Luca raised his weapon, angling it to again strain her injured arm, pulling the crux of
their sword clash from the center of their bodies out to the side.
The force of his blow not only pushed her sword in a useless wide arc but whirled her around.
In a blink, Amarande was pinned against a juniper tree. Her arms were wrenched over her head, one wilting under the strain of the sutures along it, Luca’s angle much more comfortable because of his height. Worse for Amarande’s situation, he’d changed his grip—one hand pushed against the hilt, the other using the lack of sharp edges on the practice sword to his advantage, grabbing hold of the blade, and pressing it hard against the trunk at her back, the leverage terrible on her position.
Luca was close enough now that she could either kick him or kiss him.
Honestly, Amarande wasn’t sure which she preferred in the moment. She hated to lose a fight but even with the painful torque against her shoulders, she was already lost in Luca’s golden eyes. Warm, inviting, safe. Hers. She was a well-trained fighter, but there was no defense against what she felt when he looked at her like this.
In the end, Luca chose for both of them.
With a quick shift in pressure, he swept both swords aside. They dropped in a metallic thump to the fallen juniper needles that littered the meadow from seasons past.
Luca released her hands and pressed his lips to hers.
All the fight fled out of her as Amarande’s arms fell first to her sides, and then around Luca’s waist, struggling to gain a grip against the smooth metal of his chest guard as it clanged into hers. Her hands snaked up Luca’s neck, finding better purchase to deepen the embrace. His skin was flushed with the salt of sweat, but the taste of him sweet. Amarande felt as if she could stay in that moment forever, warm and sheltered, and whole. One heartbeat, one suspended breath, one experience under the sun.
After a time—too soon, in her opinion—Luca pulled away, shifting his hands so that they could protect her head from the scratch and tear of the tree bark at her back. At this changed distance, Amarande could look into his eyes again, and brush a lock of black hair from his brow. “Luca, do you remember when we fought here the day my father died?”
She watched as his golden gaze disappeared, eyelashes brushing his cheekbones. “That is not something I will ever forget.”
Oh, this softhearted boy. “That day, I had you pinned to the ground, a knife to your throat.”
He laughed a little. “I haven’t forgot that either.”
Amarande arched a brow, though she knew he wouldn’t see it. “I’d imagine not—a knife to the throat isn’t easily forgotten.”
Luca grinned then as he lifted his eyes to meet hers. “Well, it’s not the knife, but the closeness of you with the knife that, um, is the memorable combination.”
“For me too.”
She wet her lips to continue, only to have him swoop in and kiss her again, quick and insistent. Amarande laughed against the press of his mouth because she hadn’t been trying to entice him, but kissed him back with enough force that she was able to gain leverage, spin him around, and pin him to the tree.
They stumbled over one of the practice swords, but steadied like the quick-footed fighters they were—Luca pressed against the trunk, and Amarande enjoying every moment of it as she gazed up at him from this new vantage.
Luca’s breathing was still labored from sparring, and Amarande relished the rise and fall of his chest against her own, despite the metal protecting and muffling their hearts. Her hands slid down Luca’s neck, his pulse thrumming under her palms. Her forearms draped across the solid cut of his collarbones and chest, his stablebuilt body as sturdy as the tree at his back.
Amarande sunk into the gold flecks shimmering in the depths of Luca’s eyes. They were the same as they always had been. The only difference was now that she could not misread the love there as anything but his heart on display. That love had been in his tender gaze for so long, and yet she’d been blind to it, thinking it was only her hopes reflected back.
The exaggerated clearing of a throat cut off her words. Both of them wrenched around to the entrance of the meadow, where General Koldo stood, inspecting one gloved hand as if she had not just witnessed such a private moment.
Just as she had on the terrible day of King Sendoa’s death, Koldo knew exactly where Amarande would be.
In the meadow, with Luca. Always with Luca.
There was no reason to question the how or why about Koldo seeking them here. Of course, she knew. In fact, it was likely the entire castle knew. A queen and a king could not merely escape together unnoticed, even if those who loved them let them. Perhaps solitude was a myth in their new stations.
Luca and Amarande pulled apart, straightening their clothes and protective gear for a moment until Koldo looked up from her glove. The general already had donned her finest garnet-and-gold regalia—and did not comment as to their current royal entanglement. “It’s time, Ama. The gates will open soon, and we must get you properly prepared.”
Amarande gestured to her sweat-stained clothing. “Perhaps I should be introduced as their queen in my training gear. That would be more truthful to my nature. Not in a gown and diamonds, but in the trappings of one who will fight for my people.”
Koldo gave a typical inclination of her head, her dark braid settling across her proud shoulders. “While the metaphor is much appreciated, I do believe the maids who have been hard at work on perfecting your coronation gown the past three days would be terribly upset if you left it hanging in your quarters.”
Indeed. There were some concessions a queen must make. “Fair enough.”
Amarande gathered her blunt sword and stepped into line with Koldo. Luca caught her in stride and the three of them pointed themselves toward the towering red spires of the Itspi. From behind them came the soft steps of Beltza, who had a habit of escorting her wolf cub to the castle doors before returning to the Otxoa encampment set upon the grounds.
“However,” Amarande continued, catching eyes with the general, “I think the next time I represent my people, I’d like to wear a uniform like you.”
And like her father.
King Sendoa had many fine suits but the one the Warrior King wore the most often and most proudly matched Koldo’s own.
The general actually smiled—a rare and stunning sight. “It would be most fitting, Ama.”