From author of the Sea Witch series Sarah Henning comes a new YA fantasy novel inspired by The Princess Bride, specifically for anyone who wanted to see Buttercup save herself and Westley and maybe a few other people along the way.
It’s called The Princess Will Save You, and we’re excited to give a first look at this tale of romance and adventure. Check out the official synopsis…
A PRINCESSA STABLE BOYA QUEST
When her father dies, Princess Amarande is given an ultimatum: Marry the leader of one of the four neighboring kingdoms, or lose her crown—and possibly her life. And to force her hand, her beloved, the stable boy Luca, is kidnapped.
But Amarande was raised to be a warrior, not a sacrifice.
And nothing will stop her from saving her true love and rescuing her kingdom.
The acclaimed author of Sea Witch turns the classic damsel-in-distress tale on its head with this story of adventure, identity, and love.
And now revel in the gorgeousness that is this cover, illustrated by Charlie Bowater and designed by Lesley Worrell…
What are those people with the striking eyes up to? Happy you asked. We also have the first chapter of The Princess Will Save You, which gives some insight into our fierce protagonist Ama and the dashing stable boy she’s in love with. Check it out…
The whisper and clang of steel rang out over the foothills of Ardenia, a princess and a pauper meeting swords. Left. Right. Cross. High cut. Mid-cross. Hanging parry. Stab. “You’ve been practicing,” the princess accused the boy with a laugh that played across the little meadow they called theirs. The palace grounds of Itspi had plenty of rolling land but not much that provided privacy. But this patch of mostly flat earth surrounded on three sides by fragrant juniper trees was one they’d claimed long ago as children. It was an open secret within the castle that Princess Amarande of Ardenia spent far too much of her time here, and with this boy. Luca. It hadn’t been anything to worry about until recently. “Simply trying to avoid a devastating injury.” “Come, Luca, I think you want to do more than avoid injury.” She tilted her head as their swords met at chest height, their faces and flushed cheeks inches apart. They were dressed alike—training breeches, tunic, chest and wrist armor, but their heads bare. The princess’s auburn hair had already begun to abandon her hasty braid, swirling in curled wisps about her face. “I think you want to win.” At this, Luca only grinned, dimples flashing as he lunged forward. His sword—blunt for practice but still hard-as-nails Basilican steel—tapped Amarande against the waist, right under the protection of her chest plate. A warning of what could be done for real. “Always, princess.” “Then let’s make things more exciting, shall we?” She’d phrased it as a question but Luca knew better. Better than anyone. Luca, who ran her father’s stables. Who had as much a right to call the palace home as Amarande herself. He drew his sword back, high guard stance and ready to block—just as General Koldo had shown him in a moment of pity for the boy who dared tussle with the Warrior King’s daughter. Still, he wasn’t quick enough. Before his sword was in place, Amarande had bent to her boot, and in a lightning strike, launched a small knife straight for his face. It wasn’t a dull practice blade. It was real—the one she’d carried since before she’d learned her letters. Lessons from King Sendoa’s soldiers had always been just as important as anything her tutors managed to teach her. Blunt swords could bruise and hack but this knife could split, slice, cut. Luca moved just in time, sword useless and weak hand up, fingers just quick enough to catch the last inch of the knife’s hilt. This he’d practiced too. In the space of a blink, he had the blade flipped in his palm and shot it right back at her. He aimed to miss, of course, but it was a left-handed throw and not as accurate. Thus, it came far too close, snagging the leather of her shoulder guard and sending her flat on her back in the grass. “Ama,” he whispered, dropping his sword. Taking a tentative step toward her. Again, a mistake. From the ground, Amarande swung a leg hard, kicking his feet out from under him. Luca flew up and then back, landing in a heap, the wind and her name knocked out of him. Before he could even attempt to right himself, the princess was sitting atop his stomach, her knees locking his arms against his heaving ribs. One arm ran stiff across his chest plate, right under his collarbone, further pinning him in place; the other held the knife at striking distance. Before his next breath he could be dead. “You have been practicing.” She said it with admiration, but a tight-lipped type of triumph crossed the princess’s face. She examined her prey, trapped as he was—it was amazing what small but mighty could do to a boy even as strong as this one. A smear of dirt streaked across Luca’s forehead and up into his short black hair. Sweat ran in a single rivulet from one temple, snaking around his long lashes and down his cheek, pausing only briefly to dip into the shadow of a dimple as he grit his teeth in a smile. His eyes regarded the knife in the princess’s hand, an inch from his throat. And then those eyes lifted to hers, the golden color of sun on snow at dawn, and Amarande felt her heart melt like wax near a flame. The fighting tension of her body fled until the knife was still an inch from his throat but not a threat. Luca’s fingers brushed her cheek, sweeping a lock of windblown hair behind her ear. Growing up, the privacy of the meadow had given her room to share lemon cake stolen from the kitchens and him to calm her when the king went off on another journey with his regiments and beloved Koldo, keeping the kingdoms of the Sand and Sky safe by answering every ally’s call. But for the last year, there’d been this. Something almost tangible sat between them—responsibility, expectations, rules. The same inescapable things that had rendered the amusement in their earlier words heavy and misshapen. Luca raised himself onto his elbows. Amarande straightened, removing her arm from his chest. Their eyes remained locked as his lips parted, and Amarande wondered if he’d actually say it. That he felt it too and that she wasn’t the only one carrying an unspeakable hope thick in her gut. Instead, he said, “Of course I practice, I fight you.” As she found the words to answer him, a shout went up from well beyond their meadow, the call of welcome bells clanging across the grounds. Clearly Amarande’s father had returned from his solstice charity, empty-handed after delivering fruit and coin to mining families along the Ardenian border with the Torrent and Pyrenee. She would have to go soon—wash up for dinner by his side, listening to stories of sweet-faced mountain children running down dirt tracks after his horse, songs trailing. Someday, when the Warlord no longer reigned, maybe he’d let her go with him. But for now, for this moment, she wanted to be nowhere other than with Luca. Yet, they were interrupted again—a rider coming over the hill. Amarande’s training came back to her in a rush, her father having engrained it in her since the day he put a tiny wooden sword in her hand and began to share the things all living warriors knew.
Beware or be dead.
Make the first mark.
A warrior made is a warrior alive.
The first tenet whispered in her ear, and the princess shot to her feet, the abandoned knife now clutched in her fingertips. The castle grounds weren’t dangerous, but preparation paid off. The rider scrambled down the steepest part of the hill, a tough grade before hitting the flat of their meadow. Not armored—in riding gear only—he flew toward them on a dappled mare with wild legs. It was then that Amarande recognized that it wasn’t a he, it was a she—General Koldo, the king’s best friend and second. She was the leader of his army as much as she was Amarande’s surrogate mother, and the princess had never seen her with a note of fear on her sun-mottled face. And yet, there it was as she came closer, braid flying out behind her as the horse’s hooves kicked up plumes of rust-dirt dust. “Ama!” The dam broke on the panic rising within Amarande. Koldo called her Ama in private, alone, but never in front of anyone else, even Luca, who used the nickname in the same way. With the general, she was always “Princess” in a space such as this. The fact that Koldo broke her own protocol was just as terrifying as the fear that rode her tone. Luca felt it too, tensing at Amarande’s side. His fingers brushed hers as if he wanted to grab them, to give her an anchor for the blow that they could see coming. Koldo reached them and before she even dismounted the princess registered tear tracks on her dusty cheeks. Amarande’s heart began to fail before the words were even out, breath seeping out of her lungs, until all of her had evaporated into the mountain air. She watched the words fall from Koldo’s lips outside of herself, above, shattered. “The king is dead.”