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Throne of Glass

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When magic has gone from the world, and a vicious king rules from his throne of glass, an assassin comes to the castle. She does not come to kill, but to win her freedom. If she can defeat twenty-three killers, thieves, and warriors in a competition to find the greatest assassin in the land, she will become the King’s Champion and be released from prison.

Her name is Celaena Sardothien.

The Crown Prince will provoke her. The Captain of the Guard will protect her.

And a princess from a foreign land will become the one thing Celaena never thought she’d have again: a friend.

But something evil dwells in the castle–and it’s there to kill. When her competitors start dying, horribly, one by one, Celaena’s fight for freedom becomes a fight for survival–and a desperate quest to root out the source of evil before it destroys her world.
Bloomsbury USA
ISBN 10:
ISBN 13:
Throne of Glass
EPUB, 520 KB
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Most frequently terms

I love this book, let alone this series! The author slowly unravels myseries and feelings throughout. This story may be fantasy, but It plays like a real movie in my head. So expressive and mysterious!
17 April 2020 (15:57) 
wonderful! I loved the book. got hooked and just kept on flipping.
11 June 2020 (08:07) 
I love this book it's expressive and strong
25 August 2020 (14:38) 
This book is amazing
01 September 2020 (10:09) 
Aaahh I don’t know where to begin... First of all this was my first fantasy book. I was so intimidated that I wouldn’t understand because English is not my first language but I’m so glad i was proven wrong.. The book was really great, the language was simple enough.. Our main Character.. oh I just love herr ❤️. She is badass!! I ship Dorian and Celeana..
25 September 2020 (21:43) 
I want to read this but I have always liked good ships. Does she have any good love interests?
14 October 2020 (20:38) 
This is one of my favorite series i have ever Read and i have read countless series and this is at least in my top 5!!
07 January 2021 (00:46) 
have to admit I hoped celeana and choal got together but overall its a good book to kick start the series.
26 January 2021 (22:19) 
OMG!!!Why the hell haven't I found this book long before??This is just amazing.
01 February 2021 (09:32) 
(Read till the end)
Ngl when I first read this book I was really disappointed, it wasnt at all like the fantastical and addicting read that people had said, the build up promised a twist and I only finished the book to see if any of my theories were right, and to see it was the most obvious person all along uggghh :// ??
And the fact that there were so many other books after in the series just made me so unmotivated but I decided I'd give book 2 a try, and boy am I glad I did....
Because erm I finshed ALL of the books in 8 days ;-;
The last book tho: Kingdom of Ash - prepare yourself when you make it that far, bcs the heartbreaks hit harder than being run over times by a double decker bus, multiple times :D

Also, I CANNOT believe that this first book took place in ONE CASTLE!?!?!? Yall first time readers ain't prepared ♡ have fun
01 February 2021 (20:01) 
i just love this entire series.. unbelievable i just nearly couldnt make sense at the beginning but later it was like i became addicted to the series.. JUST AMAZING FOR ANY1 WHO LOVES ADVENTURE THRILLERS ACTION FANTASY WITH A TINGE OF ROMANCE THIS IS THE BEST SERIES... You'll also find the loyalty between true friends,true love and a lot of heartbreaks which will make u teary and love the series more
21 February 2021 (11:44) 
This was my first fantasy book after agess of not reading fantasy and it got me HOOKED! I guess to begin with it isn't suuper catchy, but once you get through the first one and onto the rest, it is sooo worth your while. I HIGHLY recommend this series. The plot is so intricate and the ships are amazing, as well as the way Maas develops the characters, just brilliant!
29 March 2021 (22:20) 
If you are skeptical about starting this series, let me tell you... It is WORTH IT!!! The first book may not be the best but it is an amazing kickstart to the rest of the series. I finished the entire series three years ago and it is STILL to this day my favorite series of all time.

The character development is PHENOMENAL and the worldbuilding is amazing. You will not want to put this series down.

I love every single character in this series dearly. They all hold a special place in my heart. I dont want to spoil anything but if you think the first book is wild... Man you hot something else coming. By the time i got to the last book I was SOBBING wishing I could go back and read it from the beginning again. There are so many small details that I picked up on when I re read the series.

Phew, I am rambling on and on. Let me just say. This is the best series I have EVER read. Never have I been so invested in a fandom as much as this.
31 March 2021 (11:34) 
THIS SERIES IS PHENOMENAL! There were so many little details I originally thought were plot holes but I soon discovered they ALL CONNECTED and everything MADE SO MUCH SENSE IN THE END. MY JAW WAS DROPPED. I WAS ON THE EDGE OF MY SEAT. I SOBBED THE ENTIRE TIME!!

Such a beautiful world. When I finished I was so so so sad to say goodbye to the world I became obsessed with. I'm in love with all of the characters. Please. You will not regret reading this.
31 March 2021 (11:37) 
To be honest this was my 4th read and at this point the story was a bit slow and boring, but i still loved it and the plot is still intriguing and I loved the characters, especially Celaena and her past, wish Sam was alive though. But even though this is my 4th read I still loved it and it will forever be one of my comfort reads. I highly recommend to anyone really, even though you don't usually read fantasy, you will love it.
03 April 2021 (05:14) 
the plot is interesting but i wanted to reach inside the book and strangle the main character a few times
05 April 2021 (10:39) 
2/5 the main character has a sudden personality change after they put her in a dress lmao. the ending felt unreal (what a great thing to say about a fantasy book) and like a fever dream. still better than a court of thorns and roses tho
07 April 2021 (23:45) 
About to read far the post i read about it are good hoping that its true..?
15 April 2021 (02:06) 
100000× better than Sarah J Maas' other series A Court of Thorns and Roses lol. This series is still so dear to me. All the characters feel like a family to me.

If you like the found family trope this series is for you. These characters own my whole heart. I cried in the end. This is truly a lovely series imo
18 April 2021 (10:40) 
100/10 would recommend. This is a good fucking series. Chefs kiss!
18 April 2021 (10:41) 
I love ? this novel it's interesting
29 April 2021 (21:53) 
Whats the name of the second book please
02 May 2021 (13:18) 
This is flipping amazing series
08 June 2021 (17:43) 
Hey guys, I can’t read because it says that it have been downloaded but I don’t see anything
13 June 2021 (17:53) 
1: Throne of glass
2: From blood and ash
3: A court of thorns and roses
4: Crescent city
5:Six of crows


I am left speechless...again
10 August 2021 (19:03) 
I love this series. It was fantastic and I would definitely put it in my favorites. If you’re a fan of YA or want to get into them, this is a great one.
22 November 2021 (19:20) 
~Maryam Nisar~
Seeing the reviews rn... getting interested!!! ?
28 November 2021 (03:41) 
If you think this book is good, just wait until the next!
30 November 2021 (09:50) 
Read this book.. you won't regret it
18 December 2021 (08:48) 
To be honest the book seemed like a combination of hunger games with abit of dystopian feel and idk maybe keepers of lost city with all that love triangle and creepy creatures over all i enjoyed this book .nice read people has a bit of everything if u ask
22 December 2021 (09:08) 
I cried when it was all over
07 January 2022 (03:00) 

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Throne of Glass

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To all my readers from FictionPress—

for being with me at the beginning and staying long after the end.

Thank you for everything.



Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

Chapter 48

Chapter 49

Chapter 50

Chapter 51

Chapter 52

Chapter 53

Chapter 54

Chapter 55


About the Author

Chapter 1

After a year of slavery in the Salt Mines of Endovier, Celaena Sardothien was accustomed to being escorted everywhere in shackles and at sword-point. Most of the thousands of slaves in Endovier received similar treatment—though an extra half-dozen guards always walked Celaena to and from the mines. That was expected by Adarlan’s most notorious assassin. What she did not usually expect, however, was a hooded man in black at her side—as there was now.

He gripped her arm as he led her through the shining building in which most of Endovier’s officials and overseers were housed. They strode down corridors, up flights of stairs, and around and around until she hadn’t the slightest chance of finding her way out again.

At least, that was her escort’s intention, because she hadn’t failed to notice when they went up and down the same staircase within a matter of minutes. Nor had she missed when they zigzagged between levels, even though the building was a standard grid of hallways and stairwells. As if she’d lose her bearings that easily. She might have been insulted if he wasn’t trying so hard.

They entered a particularly long hallway, silent save for their footsteps. Thou; gh the man grasping her arm was tall and fit, she could see nothing of the features concealed beneath his hood. Another tactic meant to confuse and intimidate her. The black clothes were probably a part of it, too. His head shifted in her direction, and Celaena flashed him a grin. He looked forward again, his iron grip tightening.

It was flattering, she supposed, even if she didn’t know what was happening, or why he’d been waiting for her outside the mine shaft. After a day of cleaving rock salt from the innards of the mountain, finding him standing there with six guards hadn’t improved her mood.

But her ears had pricked when he’d introduced himself to her overseer as Chaol Westfall, Captain of the Royal Guard, and suddenly, the sky loomed, the mountains pushed from behind, and even the earth swelled toward her knees. She hadn’t tasted fear in a while—hadn’t let herself taste fear. When she awoke every morning, she repeated the same words: I will not be afraid. For a year, those words had meant the difference between breaking and bending; they had kept her from shattering in the darkness of the mines. Not that she’d let the captain know any of that.

Celaena examined the gloved hand holding her arm. The dark leather almost matched the dirt on her skin.

She adjusted her torn and filthy tunic with her free hand and held in her sigh. Entering the mines before sunrise and departing after dusk, she rarely glimpsed the sun. She was frightfully pale beneath the dirt. It was true that she had been attractive once, beautiful even, but— well, it didn’t matter now, did it?

They turned down another hallway, and she studied the stranger’s finely crafted sword. Its shimmering pommel was shaped like an eagle midflight. Noticing her stare, his gloved hand descended to rest upon its golden head. Another smile tugged at the corners of her lips.

“You’re a long way from Rifthold, Captain,” she said, clearing her throat. “Did you come with the army I heard thumping around earlier?” She peered into the darkness beneath his hood but saw nothing. Still, she felt his eyes upon her face, judging, weighing, testing. She stared right back. The Captain of the Royal Guard would be an interesting opponent. Maybe even worthy of some effort on her part.

Finally, the man raised his sword hand, and the folds of his cloak fell to conceal the blade. As his cloak shifted, she spied the gold wyvern embroidered on his tunic. The royal seal.

“What do you care for the armies of Adarlan?” he replied. How lovely it was to hear a voice like her own—cool and articulate—even if he was a nasty brute!

“Nothing,” she said, shrugging. He let out a low growl of annoyance.

Oh, it’d be nice to see his blood spill across the marble. She’d lost her temper once before—once, when her first overseer chose the wrong day to push her too hard. She still remembered the feeling of embedding the pickax into his gut, and the stickiness of his blood on her hands and face. She could disarm two of these guards in a heartbeat. Would the captain fare better than her late overseer? Contemplating the potential outcomes, she grinned at him again.

“Don’t you look at me like that,” he warned, and his hand drifted back toward his sword. Celaena hid her smirk this time. They passed a series of wooden doors that she’d seen a few minutes ago. If she wanted to escape, she simply had to turn left at the next hallway and take the stairs down three flights. The only thing all the intended disorientation had accomplished was to familiarize her with the building. Idiots.

“Where are we going again?” she said sweetly, brushing a strand of her matted hair from her face. When he didn’t reply, she clenched her jaw.

The halls echoed too loudly for her to attack him without alerting the whole building. She hadn’t seen where he’d put the key to her irons, and the six guards who trailed them would be nuisances. Not to mention the shackles.

They entered a hallway hung with iron chandeliers. Outside the windows lining the wall, night had fallen; lanterns kindled so bright they offered few shadows to hide in.

From the courtyard, she could hear the other slaves shuffling toward the wooden building where they slept. The moans of agony amongst the clank of chains made a chorus as familiar as the dreary work songs they sang all day. The occasional solo of the whip added to the symphony of brutality Adarlan had created for its greatest criminals, poorest citizens, and latest conquests.

While some of the prisoners were people accused of attempting to practice magic—not that they could, given that magic had vanished from the kingdom—these days, more and more rebels arrived at Endovier. Most were from Eyllwe, one of the last countries still fighting Adarlan’s rule. But when she pestered them for news, many just stared at her with empty eyes. Already broken. She shuddered to consider what they’d endured at the hands of Adarlan’s forces. Some days, she wondered if they would have been better off dying on the butchering blocks instead. And if she might have been better off dying that night she’d been betrayed and captured, too.

But she had other things to think about as they continued their walk. Was she finally to be hanged? Sickness coiled in her stomach. She was important enough to warrant an execution from the Captain of the Royal Guard himself. But why bring her inside this building first?

At last, they stopped before a set of red-and-gold glass doors so thick that she couldn’t see through them. Captain Westfall jerked his chin at the two guards standing on either side of the doors, and they stomped their spears in greeting.

The captain’s grip tightened until it hurt. He yanked Celaena closer, but her feet seemed made of lead and she pulled against him. “You’d rather stay in the mines?” he asked, sounding faintly amused.

“Perhaps if I were told what this was all about, I wouldn’t feel so inclined to resist.”

“You’ll find out soon enough.” Her palms became sweaty. Yes, she was going to die. It had come at last.

The doors groaned open to reveal a throne room. A glass chandelier shaped like a grapevine occupied most of the ceiling, spitting seeds of diamond fire onto the windows along the far side of the room. Compared to the bleakness outside those windows, the opulence felt like a slap to the face. A reminder of how much they profited from her labor.

“In here,” the Captain of the Guard growled, and shoved her with his free hand, finally releasing her. Celaena stumbled, her calloused feet slipping on the smooth floor as she straightened herself. She looked back to see another six guards appear.

Fourteen guards, plus the captain. The gold royal emblem embroidered on the breast of black uniforms. These were members of the Royal Family’s personal guard: ruthless, lightning-swift soldiers trained from birth to protect and kill. She swallowed tightly.

Lightheaded and immensely heavy all at once, Celaena faced the room. On an ornate redwood throne sat a handsome young man. Her heart stopped as everyone bowed.

She was standing in front of the Crown Prince of Adarlan.

Chapter 2

“Your Highness,” said the Captain of the Guard. He straightened from a low bow and removed his hood, revealing close-cropped chestnut hair. The hood had definitely been meant to intimidate her into submission during their walk. As if that sort of trick could work on her. Despite her irritation, she blinked at the sight of his face. He was so young!

Captain Westfall was not excessively handsome, but she couldn’t help finding the ruggedness of his face and the clarity of his golden-brown eyes rather appealing. She cocked her head, now keenly aware of her wretched dirtiness.

“This is she?” the Crown Prince of Adarlan asked, and Celaena’s head whipped around as the captain nodded. Both of them stared at her, waiting for her to bow. When she remained upright, Chaol shifted on his feet, and the prince glanced at his captain before lifting his chin a bit higher.

Bow to him indeed! If she were bound for the gallows, she would most certainly not spend the last moments of her life in groveling submission.

Thundering steps issued from behind her, and someone grabbed her by the neck. Celaena only glimpsed crimson cheeks and a sandy mustache before being thrown to the icy marble floor. Pain slammed through her face, light splintering her vision. Her arms ached as her bound hands kept her joints from properly aligning. Though she tried to stop them, tears of pain welled.

“That is the proper way to greet your future king,” a red-faced man snapped at Celaena.

The assassin hissed, baring her teeth as she twisted her head to look at the kneeling bastard. He was almost as large as her overseer, clothed in reds and oranges that matched his thinning hair. His obsidian eyes glittered as his grip tightened on her neck. If she could move her right arm just a few inches, she could throw him off balance and grab his sword . . . The shackles dug into her stomach, and fizzing, boiling rage turned her face scarlet.

After a too-long moment, the Crown Prince spoke. “I don’t quite comprehend why you’d force someone to bow when the purpose of the gesture is to display allegiance and respect.” His words were coated with glorious boredom.

Celaena tried to pivot a free eye to the prince, but could only see a pair of black leather boots against the white floor.

“It’s clear that you respect me, Duke Perrington, but it’s a bit unnecessary to put such effort into forcing Celaena Sardothien to have the same opinion. You and I know very well she has no love for my family. So perhaps your intent is to humiliate her.” He paused, and she could have sworn his eyes fell on her face. “But I think she’s had enough of that.” He stopped for another moment, then asked: “Don’t you have a meeting with Endovier’s treasurer? I wouldn’t want you to be late, especially when you came all this way to meet with him.”

Understanding the dismissal, her tormentor grunted and released her. Celaena peeled her cheek from the marble but lay on the floor until he stood and left. If she managed to escape, perhaps she’d hunt down this Duke Perrington fellow and return the warmth of his greeting.

As she rose, she frowned at the imprint of grit she left behind on the otherwise spotless floor, and at the clank of her shackles echoing through the silent room. But she’d been trained to be an assassin since the age of eight, since the day the King of the Assassins found her half-dead on the banks of a frozen river and brought her to his keep. She wouldn’t be humiliated by anything, least of all being dirty. Gathering her pride, she tossed her long braid behind a shoulder and lifted her head. Her eyes met those of the prince.

Dorian Havilliard smiled at her. It was a polished smile, and reeked of court-trained charm. Sprawled across the throne, he had his chin propped by a hand, his golden crown glinting in the soft light. On his black doublet, an emblazoned gold rendering of the royal wyvern occupied the entirety of the chest. His red cloak fell gracefully around him and his throne.

Yet there was something in his eyes, strikingly blue—the color of the waters of the southern countries—and the way they contrasted with his raven-black hair that made her pause. He was achingly handsome, and couldn’t have been older than twenty.

Princes are not supposed to be handsome! They’re sniveling, stupid, repulsive creatures! This one . . . this . . . How unfair of him to be royal and beautiful.

She shifted on her feet as he frowned, surveying her in turn. “I thought I asked you to clean her,” he said to Captain Westfall, who stepped forward. She’d forgotten there was anyone else in the room. She looked at her rags and stained skin, and she couldn’t suppress the twinge of shame. What a miserable state for a girl of former beauty!

At a passing glance, one might think her eyes blue or gray, perhaps even green, depending on the color of her clothing. Up close, though, these warring hues were offset by the brilliant ring of gold around her pupils. But it was her golden hair that caught the attention of most, hair that still maintained a glimmer of its glory. In short, Celaena Sardothien was blessed with a handful of attractive features that compensated for the majority of average ones; and, by early adolescence, she’d discovered that with the help of cosmetics, these average features could easily match the extraordinary assets.

But now, standing before Dorian Havilliard as little more than a gutter rat! Her face warmed as Captain Westfall spoke. “I didn’t want to keep you waiting.”

The Crown Prince shook his head when Chaol reached for her. “Don’t bother with the bath just yet. I can see her potential.” The prince straightened, keeping his attention on Celaena. “I don’t believe that we’ve ever had the pleasure of an introduction. But, as you probably know, I’m Dorian Havilliard, Crown Prince of Adarlan, perhaps now Crown Prince of most of Erilea.”

She ignored the surge and crash of bitter emotions that awoke with the name.

“And you’re Celaena Sardothien, Adarlan’s greatest assassin. Perhaps the greatest assassin in all of Erilea.” He studied her tensed body before he raised his dark, well-groomed brows. “You seem a little young.” He rested his elbows on his thighs. “I’ve heard some rather fascinating stories about you. How do you find Endovier after living in such excess in Rifthold?”

Arrogant ass.

“I couldn’t be happier,” she crooned as her jagged nails cut into her palms.

“After a year, you seem to be more or less alive. I wonder how that’s possible when the average life expectancy in these mines is a month.”

“Quite a mystery, I’m sure.” She batted her eyelashes and readjusted her shackles as if they were lace gloves.

The Crown Prince turned to his captain. “She has somewhat of a tongue, doesn’t she? And she doesn’t sound like a member of the rabble.”

“I should hope not!” Celaena interjected.

“Your Highness,” Chaol Westfall snapped at her.

“What?” Celaena asked.

“You will address him as ‘Your Highness.’ ”

Celaena gave him a mocking smile, and then returned her attention to the prince.

Dorian Havilliard, to her surprise, laughed. “You do know that you’re now a slave, don’t you? Has your sentence taught you nothing?”

Had her arms been unshackled, she would have crossed them. “I don’t see how working in a mine can teach anything beyond how to use a pickax.”

“And you never tried to escape?”

A slow, wicked smile spread across her lips. “Once.”

The prince’s brows rose, and he turned to Captain Westfall. “I wasn’t told that.”

Celaena glanced over her shoulder at Chaol, who gave his prince an apologetic look. “The Chief Overseer informed me this afternoon that there was one incident. Three months—”

“Four months,” she interrupted.

“Four months,” Chaol said, “after Sardothien arrived, she attempted to flee.”

She waited for the rest of the story, but he was clearly finished. “That’s not even the best part!”

“There’s a ‘best part’?” the Crown Prince said, face caught between a wince and a smile.

Chaol glared at her before speaking. “There’s no hope of escaping from Endovier. Your father made sure that each of Endovier’s sentries could shoot a squirrel from two hundred paces away. To attempt to flee is suicide.”

“But you’re alive,” the prince said to her.

Celaena’s smile faded as the memory struck her. “Yes.”

“What happened?” Dorian asked.

Her eyes turned cold and hard. “I snapped.”

“That’s all you have to offer as an explanation for what you did?” Captain Westfall demanded. “She killed her overseer and twenty-three sentries before they caught her. She was a finger’s tip from the wall before the guards knocked her unconscious.”

“So?” Dorian said.

Celaena seethed. “So? Do you know how far the wall is from the mines?” He gave her a blank look. She closed her eyes and sighed dramatically. “From my shaft, it was three hundred sixty-three feet. I had someone measure.”

“So?” Dorian repeated.

“Captain Westfall, how far do slaves make it from the mines when they try to escape?”

“Three feet,” he muttered. “Endovier sentries usually shoot a man down before he’s moved three feet.”

The Crown Prince’s silence was not her desired effect. “You knew it was suicide,” he said at last, the amusement gone.

Perhaps it had been a bad idea for her to bring up the wall. “Yes,” she said.

“But they didn’t kill you.”

“Your father ordered that I was to be kept alive for as long as possible—to endure the misery that Endovier gives in abundance.” A chill that had nothing to do with the temperature went through her. “I never intended to escape.” The pity in his eyes made her want to hit him.

“Do you bear many scars?” asked the prince. She shrugged and he smiled, forcing the mood to lift as he stepped from the dais. “Turn around, and let me view your back.” Celaena frowned, but obeyed as he walked to her, Chaol stepping closer. “I can’t make them out clearly through all this dirt,” the prince said, inspecting what skin showed through the scraps of her shirt. She scowled, and scowled even more when he said, “And what a terrible stench, too!”

“When one doesn’t have access to a bath and perfume, I suppose one cannot smell as finely as you, Your Highness.”

The Crown Prince clicked his tongue and circled her slowly. Chaol—and all the guards—watched them with hands on their swords. As they should. In less than a second, she could get her arms over the prince’s head and have her shackles crushing his windpipe. It might be worth it just to see the expression on Chaol’s face. But the prince went on, oblivious to how dangerously close he stood to her. Perhaps she should be insulted. “From what I can see,” he said, “there are three large scars—and perhaps some smaller ones. Not as awful as I expected, but . . . well, the dresses can cover it, I suppose.”

“Dresses?” He was standing so near that she could see the fine thread detail on his jacket, and smelled not perfume, but horses and iron.

Dorian grinned. “What remarkable eyes you have! And how angry you are!”

Coming within strangling distance of the Crown Prince of Adarlan, son of the man who sentenced her to a slow, miserable death, her self-control balanced on a fragile edge—dancing along a cliff.

“I demand to know,” she began, but the Captain of the Guard pulled her back from the prince with spine-snapping force. “I wasn’t going to kill him, you buffoon.”

“Watch your mouth before I throw you back in the mines,” the brown-eyed captain said.

“Oh, I don’t think you’d do that.”

“And why is that?” Chaol replied.

Dorian strode to his throne and sat down, his sapphire eyes bright.

She looked from one man to another and squared her shoulders. “Because there’s something you want from me, something you want badly enough to come here yourselves. I’m not an idiot, though I was foolish enough to be captured, and I can see that this is some sort of secret business. Why else would you leave the capital and venture this far? You’ve been testing me all this time to see if I am physically and mentally sound. Well, I know that I’m still sane, and that I’m not broken, despite what the incident at the wall might suggest. So I demand to be told why you’re here, and what services you wish of me, if I’m not destined for the gallows.”

The men exchanged glances. Dorian steepled his fingers. “I have a proposition for you.”

Her chest tightened. Never, not in her most fanciful dreams, had she imagined that the opportunity to speak with Dorian Havilliard would arise. She could kill him so easily, tear that grin from his face . . . She could destroy the king as he had destroyed her . . .

But perhaps his proposition could lead to escape. If she got beyond the wall, she could make it. Run and run and disappear into the mountains and live in solitude in the dark green of the wild, with a pine-needle carpet and a blanket of stars overhead. She could do it. She just needed to clear the wall. She had come so close before . . .

“I’m listening,” was all she said.

Chapter 3

The prince’s eyes shone with amusement at her brashness but lingered a bit too long on her body. Celaena could have raked her nails down his face for staring at her like that, yet the fact that he’d even bother to look when she was in such a filthy state . . . A slow smile spread across her face.

The prince crossed his long legs. “Leave us,” he ordered the guards. “Chaol, stay where you are.”

Celaena stepped closer as the guards shuffled out, shutting the door. Foolish, foolish move. But Chaol’s face remained unreadable. He couldn’t honestly believe he’d contain her if she tried to escape! She straightened her spine. What were they planning that would make them so irresponsible?

The prince chuckled. “Don’t you think it’s risky to be so bold with me when your freedom is on the line?”

Of all the things he could have said, that was what she had least expected. “My freedom?” At the sound of the word, she saw a land of pine and snow, of sun-bleached cliffs and white-capped seas, a land where light was swallowed in the velvety green of bumps and hollows—a land that she had forgotten.

“Yes, your freedom. So, I highly suggest, Miss Sardothien, that you get your arrogance in check before you end up back in the mines.” The prince uncrossed his legs. “Though perhaps your attitude will be useful. I’m not going to pretend that my father’s empire was built on trust and understanding. But you already know that.” Her fingers curled as she waited for him to continue. His eyes met hers, probing, intent. “My father has gotten it into his head that he needs a Champion.”

It took a delicious moment for her to understand.

Celaena tipped back her head and laughed. “Your father wants me to be his Champion? What—don’t tell me that he’s managed to eliminate every noble soul out there! Surely there’s one chivalrous knight, one lord of steadfast heart and courage.”

“Mind your mouth,” Chaol warned from beside her.

“What about you, hmm?” she said, raising her brows at the captain. Oh, it was too funny! Her—the King’s Champion! “Our beloved king finds you lacking?”

The captain put a hand on his sword. “If you’d be quiet, you’d hear the rest of what His Highness has to tell you.”

She faced the prince. “Well?”

Dorian leaned back in his throne. “My father needs someone to aid the empire—someone to help him maneuver around difficult people.”

“You mean he needs a lackey for his dirty work.”

“If you want to put it that bluntly, then, yes,” the prince said. “His Champion would keep his opponents quiet.”

“As quiet as the grave,” she said sweetly.

A smile tugged on Dorian’s lips, but he kept his face straight. “Yes.”

To work for the King of Adarlan as his loyal servant. She raised her chin. To kill for him—to be a fang in the mouth of the beast that had already consumed half of Erilea . . . “And if I accept?”

“Then, after six years, he’ll grant you your freedom.”

“Six years!” But the word “freedom” echoed through her once more.

“If you decline,” Dorian said, anticipating her next question, “you’ll remain in Endovier.” His sapphire eyes became hard, and she swallowed. And die here was what he didn’t need to add.

Six years as the king’s crooked dagger . . . or a lifetime in Endovier.

“However,” the prince said, “there’s a catch.” She kept her face neutral as he toyed with a ring on his finger. “The position isn’t being offered to you. Yet. My father thought to have a bit of fun. He’s hosting a competition. He invited twenty-three members of his council to each sponsor a would-be Champion to train in the glass castle and ultimately compete in a duel. Were you to win,” he said with a half smile, “you’d officially be Adarlan’s Assassin.”

She didn’t return his smile. “Who, exactly, are my competitors?”

Seeing her expression, the prince’s grin faded. “Thieves and assassins and warriors from across Erilea.” She opened her mouth, but he cut her off. “If you win, and prove yourself both skilled and trustworthy, my father has sworn to grant you your freedom. And, while you’re his Champion, you’ll receive a considerable salary.”

She barely heard his last few words. A competition! Against some nobody men from the-gods-knew-where! And assassins! “What other assassins?” she demanded.

“None that I’ve heard of. None as famous as you. And that reminds me—you won’t be competing as Celaena Sardothien.”


“You’ll compete under an alias. I don’t suppose you heard about what happened after your trial.”

“News is rather hard to come by when you’re slaving in a mine.”

Dorian chuckled, shaking his head. “No one knows that Celaena Sardothien is just a young woman—they all thought you were far older.”

“What?” she asked again, her face flushing. “How is that possible?” She should be proud that she’d kept it hidden from most of the world, but . . .

“You kept your identity a secret all the years you were running around killing everyone. After your trial, my father thought it would be . . . wise not to inform Erilea who you are. He wants to keep it that way. What would our enemies say if they knew we’d all been petrified of a girl?”

“So I’m slaving in this miserable place for a name and title that don’t even belong to me? Who does everyone think Adarlan’s Assassin really is?”

“I don’t know, nor do I entirely care. But I do know that you were the best, and that people still whisper when they mention your name.” He fixed her with a stare. “If you’re willing to fight for me, to be my Champion during the months the competition will go on, I’ll see to it that my father frees you after five years.”

Though he tried to conceal it, she could see the tension in his body. He wanted her to say yes. Needed her to say yes so badly he was willing to bargain with her. Her eyes began glittering. “What do you mean, ‘were the best’?”

“You’ve been in Endovier for a year. Who knows what you’re still capable of?”

“I’m capable of quite a lot, thank you,” she said, picking at her jagged nails. She tried not to cringe at all the dirt beneath them. When was the last time her hands had been clean?

“That remains to be seen,” Dorian said. “You’ll be told the details of the competition when we arrive in Rifthold.”

“Despite the amount of fun you nobles will have betting on us, this competition seems unnecessary. Why not just hire me already?”

“As I just said, you must prove yourself worthy.”

She put a hand on her hip, and her chains rattled loudly through the room. “Well, I think being Adarlan’s Assassin exceeds any sort of proof you might need.”

“Yes,” Chaol said, his bronze eyes flashing. “It proves that you’re a criminal, and that we shouldn’t immediately trust you with the king’s private business.”

“I give my solemn oa—”

“I doubt that the king would take the word of Adarlan’s Assassin as bond.”

“Yes, but I don’t see why I have to go through the training and the competition. I mean, I’m bound to be a bit . . . out of shape, but . . . what else do you expect when I have to make do with rocks and pickaxes in this place?” She gave Chaol a spiteful glance.

Dorian frowned. “So, you won’t take the offer?”

“Of course I’m going to take the offer,” she snapped. Her wrists chafed against her shackles badly enough that her eyes watered. “I’ll be your absurd Champion if you agree to free me in three years, not five.”


“Fine,” she said. “It’s a bargain. I might be trading one form of slavery for another, but I’m not a fool.”

She could win back her freedom. Freedom. She felt the cold air of the wide-open world, the breeze that swept from the mountains and carried her away. She could live far from Rifthold, the capital that had once been her realm.

“Hopefully you’re right,” Dorian replied. “And hopefully, you’ll live up to your reputation. I anticipate winning, and I won’t be pleased if you make me look foolish.”

“And what if I lose?”

The gleam vanished from his eyes as he said: “You’ll be sent back here, to serve out the remainder of your sentence.”

Celaena’s lovely visions exploded like dust from a slammed book. “Then I might as well leap from the window. A year in this place has worn me through—imagine what will happen if I return. I’d be dead by my second year.” She tossed her head. “Your offer seems fair enough.”

“Fair enough indeed,” Dorian said, and waved a hand at Chaol. “Take her to her rooms and clean her up.” He fixed her with a stare. “We depart for Rifthold in the morning. Don’t disappoint me, Sardothien.”

It was nonsense, of course. How difficult could it be to outshine, outsmart, and then obliterate her competitors? She didn’t smile, for she knew that if she did, it would open her to a realm of hope that had long been closed. But still, she felt like seizing the prince and dancing. She tried to think of music, tried to think of a celebratory tune, but could only recall a solitary line from the mournful bellowing of the Eyllwe work songs, deep and slow like honey poured from a jar: “And go home at last . . .”

She didn’t notice when Captain Westfall led her away, nor did she notice when they walked down hall after hall.

Yes, she would go—to Rifthold, to anywhere, even through the Gates of the Wyrd and into Hell itself, if it meant freedom.

After all, you aren’t Adarlan’s Assassin for nothing.

Chapter 4

When Celaena finally collapsed onto a bed after her meeting in the throne room, she couldn’t fall asleep, despite the exhaustion in every inch of her body. After being roughly bathed by brutish servants, the wounds on her back throbbed and her face felt like it had been scrubbed to the bone. Shifting to lie on her side to ease the pain in her dressed and bound back, she ran her hand down the mattress, and blinked at the freeness of movement. Before she’d gotten into the bath, Chaol had removed her shackles. She’d felt everything—the reverberations of the key turning in the lock of her irons, then again as they loosened and fell to the floor. She could still feel the ghost chains hovering just above her skin. Looking up at the ceiling, she rotated her raw, burning joints and gave a sigh of contentment.

But it was too strange to lie on a mattress, to have silk caress her skin and a pillow cradle her cheek. She had forgotten what food other than soggy oats and hard bread tasted like, what a clean body and clothes could do to a person. Now it was utterly foreign.

Though her dinner hadn’t been that wonderful. Not only was the roast chicken unimpressive, but after a few forkfuls, she’d dashed into the bathroom to deposit the contents of her stomach. She wanted to eat, to put a hand to a swollen belly, to wish that she’d never eaten a morsel and swear that she’d never eat again. She’d eat well in Rifthold, wouldn’t she? And, more importantly, her stomach would adjust.

She’d wasted away to nothing. Beneath her nightgown, her ribs reached out from inside of her, showing bones where flesh and meat should have been. And her breasts! Once well-formed, they were now no larger than they’d been in the midst of puberty. A lump clogged her throat, which she promptly swallowed down. The softness of the mattress smothered her, and she shifted again, lying on her back, despite the pain it gave her.

Her face hadn’t been much better when she glimpsed it in the washroom mirror. It was haggard: her cheekbones were sharp, her jaw pronounced, and her eyes slightly, but ever so disturbingly, sunken in. She took steadying breaths, savoring the hope. She’d eat. A lot. And exercise. She could be healthy again. Imagining outrageous feasts and regaining her former glory, she finally fell asleep.


When Chaol came to fetch her the next morning, he found her sleeping on the floor, wrapped in a blanket. “Sardothien,” he said. She made a mumbling noise, burying her face farther into the pillow. “Why are you sleeping on the ground?” She opened an eye. Of course, he didn’t mention how different she looked now that she was clean.

She didn’t bother concealing herself with the blanket as she stood. The yards of fabric they called a nightgown covered her enough. “The bed was uncomfortable,” she said simply, but quickly forgot the captain as she beheld the sunlight.

Pure, fresh, warm sunlight. Sunlight that she could bask in day after day if she got her freedom, sunlight to drown out the endless dark of the mines. It leaked in through the heavy drapes, smearing itself across the room in thick lines. Gingerly, Celaena stretched out a hand.

Her hand was pale, almost skeletal, but there was something about it, something beyond the bruises and cuts and scars, that seemed beautiful and new in the morning light.

She ran to the window and nearly ripped the curtains from their hangings as she opened them to the gray mountains and bleakness of Endovier. The guards positioned beneath the window didn’t glance upward, and she gaped at the bluish-gray sky, at the clouds slipping on their shoes and shuffling toward the horizon.

I will not be afraid. For the first time in a while, the words felt true.

Her lips peeled into a smile. The captain raised an eyebrow, but said nothing.

She was cheerful—jubilant, really—and her mood improved when the servants coiled her braided hair onto the back of her head and dressed her in a surprisingly fine riding habit that concealed her miserably thin form. She loved clothes—loved the feeling of silk, of velvet, of satin, of suede and chiffon—and was fascinated by the grace of seams, the intricate perfection of an embossed surface. And when she won this ridiculous competition, when she was free . . . she could buy all the clothes she wanted.

She laughed when Chaol, irked at how Celaena stood in front of the mirror for five minutes, admiring herself, half-dragged her out of the room. The budding sky made her want to dance and skip down the halls before they entered the main yard. However, she faltered as she beheld the mounds of bone-colored rock at the far end of the compound, and the small figures going in and out of the many mouthlike holes cut into the mountains.

Work had already begun for the day, work that would continue without her when she left them all to this miserable fate. Her stomach clenching, Celaena averted her eyes from the prisoners, keeping up with the captain as they headed to a caravan of horses near the towering wall.

Yapping filled the air, and three black dogs sprinted from the center of the caravan to greet them. They were each sleek as arrows—undoubtedly from the Crown Prince’s kennels. She knelt on one knee, her bound wounds protesting as she cupped their heads and stroked their smooth hair. They licked her fingers and face, their tails slashing the ground like whips.

A pair of ebony boots stopped before her, and the dogs immediately calmed and sat. Celaena lifted her gaze to find the sapphire eyes of the Crown Prince of Adarlan studying her face. He smiled slightly. “How unusual for them to notice you,” he said, scratching one of the dogs behind the ears. “Did you give them food?”

She shook her head as the captain stepped behind her, so close that his knees grazed the folds of her forest-green velvet cape. It would take all of two movements to disarm him.

“Are you fond of dogs?” asked the prince. She nodded. Why was it already so hot? “Am I going to be blessed with the pleasure of hearing your voice, or have you resolved to be silent for the duration of our journey?”

“I’m afraid your questions didn’t merit a verbal response.”

Dorian bowed low. “Then I apologize, my lady! How terrible it must be to condescend to answer! Next time, I’ll try to think of something more stimulating to say.” With that, he turned on his heel and strode away, his dogs trailing after him.

She scowled as she stood. Her frown deepened when she discovered the Captain of the Guard smirking as they walked into the fray of the readying company. However, the unbearable urge to splatter someone across a wall lessened when they brought her a piebald mare to ride.

She mounted. The sky came closer, and it stretched forever above her, away and away to distant lands she’d never heard of. Celaena gripped the saddle horn. She was truly leaving Endovier. All those hopeless months, those freezing nights . . . gone now. She breathed in deeply. She knew—she just knew—that if she tried hard enough, she could fly from her saddle. That is, until she felt iron clamp around her arms.

It was Chaol, fastening her bandaged wrists into shackles. A long chain led to his horse, where it disappeared beneath the saddlebags. He mounted his black stallion, and she considered leaping from her horse and using the chain to hang him from the nearest tree.

It was a rather large company, twenty all together. Behind two imperial flag-bearing guards rode the prince and Duke Perrington. Then came a band of six royal guards, dull and bland as porridge. But still trained to protect him—from her. She clanked her chains against her saddle and flicked her eyes to Chaol. He didn’t react.

The sun rose higher. After one last inspection of their supplies, they left. With most of the slaves working the mines, and only a few toiling inside the ramshackle refining sheds, the giant yard was almost deserted. The wall suddenly loomed, and her blood throbbed in her veins. The last time she’d been this close to the wall . . .

The crack of the whip sounded, followed by a scream. Celaena looked over her shoulder, past the guards and the supplies wagon, to the near-empty yard. None of these slaves would ever leave here—even when they died. Each week, they dug new mass graves behind the refining sheds. And each week, those graves filled up.

She became all too aware of the three long scars down her back. Even if she won her freedom . . . even if she lived in peace in the countryside . . . those scars would always remind her of what she’d endured. And that even if she was free, others were not.

Celaena faced forward, pushing those thoughts from her mind as they entered the passage through the wall. The interior was thick, almost smoky, and damp. The sounds of the horses echoed like rolling thunder. The iron gates opened, and she glimpsed the wicked name of the mine before it split in two and swung wide. Within a few heartbeats, the gates groaned shut behind them. She was out.

She shifted her hands in their shackles, watching the chains sway and clank between her and the Captain of the Guard. It was attached to his saddle, which was cinched around his horse, which, when they stopped, could be subtly unbridled, just enough so that with a fierce tug from her end, the chain would rip the saddle off the beast, he’d tumble to the ground, and she would—

She sensed Captain Westfall’s attention. He stared at her beneath lowered brows, his lips tightly pursed, and she shrugged as she dropped the chain.

As the morning wore on, the sky became a crisp blue with hardly a cloud. Taking the forest road, they swiftly passed from the mountainous wasteland of Endovier and into fairer country.

By midmorning they were within Oakwald Forest, the wood that surrounded Endovier and served as a continental divide between the “civilized” countries of the East and the uncharted lands of the West. Legends were still told of the strange and deadly people who dwelt there—the cruel and bloodthirsty descendents of the fallen Witch Kingdom. Celaena had once met a young woman from that cursed land, and though she’d turned out to be both cruel and bloodthirsty, she was still just a human. And had still bled like one.

After hours of silence, Celaena turned to Chaol. “Rumor has it that once the king is finished with his war against Wendlyn, he’ll begin colonizing the West.” She said it casually, but hoped he’d confirm or deny. The more she knew of the king’s current position and maneuverings, the better. The captain surveyed her up and down, frowned, and then looked away. “I agree,” she said, sighing loudly. “The fate of those empty, wide plains and those miserable mountain regions seems dull to me as well.”

His jaw tightened as he clamped his teeth.

“Do you intend to ignore me forever?”

Captain Westfall’s brows rose. “I didn’t know I was ignoring you.”

She pursed her lips, checking her irritation. She wouldn’t give him the satisfaction. “How old are you?”


“So young!” She batted her eyelashes, watching him for some kind of response. “It only took a few years to climb the ranks?”

He nodded. “And how old are you?”

“Eighteen.” But he said nothing. “I know,” she continued. “It is impressive that I accomplished so much at such an early age.”

“Crime isn’t an accomplishment, Sardothien.”

“Yes, but becoming the world’s most famous assassin is!” He didn’t respond. “You might ask me how I did it.”

“Did what?” he said tightly.

“Became so talented and famous so quickly.”

“I don’t want to hear about it.”

Those weren’t the words she’d wanted to hear.

“You’re not very kind,” she said through her teeth. If she were going to get under his skin, she’d have to push a lot harder.

“You’re a criminal. I’m Captain of the Royal Guard. I’m not obligated to bestow any kindness or conversation upon you. Be grateful we don’t keep you locked up in the wagon.”

“Yes, well, I’d wager that you’re rather unpleasant to talk to even when you’re bestowing kindness upon others.” When he failed to respond again, Celaena couldn’t help but feel a bit foolish. A few minutes passed. “Are you and the Crown Prince close friends?”

“My personal life is none of your concern.”

She clicked her tongue. “How wellborn are you?”

“Well enough.” His chin lifted almost imperceptibly higher.



“Lord?” He didn’t reply, and she smiled slowly. “Lord Chaol Westfall.” She fanned herself with a hand. “How the court ladies must fawn over you!”

“Don’t call me that. I’m not given the title of lord,” he said quietly.

“You have an older brother?”


“Then why don’t you bear the title?” Again, no response. She knew she should stop prying, but she couldn’t help it. “A scandal? A deprived birthright? In what sort of messy intrigue are you involved?”

His lips squeezed together so tightly they turned white.

She leaned toward him. “Do you find that—”

“Shall I gag you, or are you capable of being silent without my assistance?” He stared ahead at the Crown Prince, his face blank again.

She tried not to laugh when he grimaced as she began speaking again. “Are you married?”


She picked at her nails. “I’m not married, either.” His nostrils flared. “How old were you when you became Captain of the Guard?”

He gripped the reins of his horse. “Twenty.”

The party halted in a clearing and the soldiers dismounted. She faced Chaol, who swung a leg over his horse. “Why have we stopped?”

Chaol unhooked the chain from his saddle and gave it a firm yank, motioning for her to dismount. “Lunch,” he said.

Chapter 5

Celaena brushed a stray wisp of hair from her face and allowed herself to be led into the clearing. If she wanted to break free, she’d have to go through Chaol first. Had they been alone, she might have attempted it, though the chains would make it difficult; but with an entourage of royal guards trained to kill without hesitation . . .

Chaol remained close beside her while a fire was kindled and food prepared from the boxes and sacks of supplies. The soldiers rolled logs to make small circles, where they sat while their companions stirred and fried. The Crown Prince’s dogs, who had dutifully trotted alongside their master, approached the assassin with wagging tails and lay at her feet. At least someone was glad for her company.

Hungry by the time a plate was finally laid in her lap, Celaena became a bit more than irritated when the captain did not immediately remove her irons. After giving her a long warning look, he unlocked her chains and clamped them onto her ankles. She only rolled her eyes as she raised a small portion of meat to her lips. She chewed slowly. The last thing she needed was to be sick in front of them. While the soldiers talked amongst themselves, Celaena took in their surroundings. She and Chaol sat with five soldiers. The Crown Prince, of course, sat with Perrington on their own two logs, far from her. While Dorian had been all arrogance and amusement the previous night, his features were grave as he spoke to the duke. His entire body seemed tensed, and she didn’t fail to notice the way he clenched his jaw when Perrington spoke. Whatever their relationship was, it wasn’t cordial.

Midbite, Celaena tore her focus from the prince to study the trees. The forest had gone silent. The ebony hounds’ ears were erect, though they didn’t seem to be bothered by the stillness. Even the soldiers quieted. Her heart skipped a beat. The forest was different here.

The leaves dangled like jewels—tiny droplets of ruby, pearl, topaz, amethyst, emerald, and garnet; and a carpet of such riches coated the forest floor around them. Despite the ravages of conquest, this part of Oakwald Forest remained untouched. It still echoed with the remnants of the power that had once given these trees such unnatural beauty.

She’d been only eight when Arobynn Hamel, her mentor and the King of the Assassins, found her half-submerged on the banks of a frozen river and brought her to his keep on the border between Adarlan and Terrasen. While training her to be his finest and most loyal assassin, Arobynn had never allowed her to return home to Terrasen. But she still remembered the beauty of the world before the King of Adarlan had ordered so much of it burned. Now there was nothing left for her there, nor would there ever be. Arobynn had never said it aloud, but if she’d refused his offer to train her, he would have handed her to those who would have killed her. Or worse. She’d been newly orphaned, and even at eight, she knew that a life with Arobynn, with a new name that no one would recognize but someday everyone would fear, was a chance to start over. To escape the fate that led her to leap into the icy river that night ten years ago.

“Damned forest,” said an olive-skinned soldier in their circle. A soldier beside him chuckled. “The sooner it’s burned, the better, I say.” The other soldiers nodded, and Celaena stiffened. “It’s full of hate,” said another.

“Did you expect anything else?” she interrupted. Chaol’s hand darted to his sword as the soldiers turned to her, some of them sneering. “This isn’t just any forest.” She beckoned with her fork to the woods. “It’s Brannon’s forest.”

“My father used to tell me stories about it being full of faeries,” a soldier said. “They’re all gone now.” One took a bite from an apple, and said: “Along with those damned wretched Fae.” Another said: “We got rid of them, didn’t we?”

“I’d watch your tongues,” Celaena snapped. “King Brannon was Fae, and Oakwald is still his. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the trees remember him.”

The soldiers laughed. “They’d have to be two thousand years old, them trees!” said one.

“Fae are immortal,” she said.

“Trees ain’t.”

Bristling, Celaena shook her head and took another small forkful of food.

“What do you know about this forest?” Chaol quietly asked her. Was he mocking her? The soldiers sat forward, poised to laugh. But the captain’s golden-brown eyes held mere curiosity.

She swallowed her meat. “Before Adarlan began its conquest, this forest was cloaked in magic,” she said softly, but not meekly.

He waited for her to continue, but she had said enough. “And?” he prodded.

“And that’s all I know,” she said, meeting his gaze. Disappointed at the lack of anything to mock, the soldiers returned to their meals.

She had lied, and Chaol knew it. She knew plenty about this forest, knew that the denizens of this place had once been faeries: gnomes, sprites, nymphs, goblins, more names than anyone could count or remember. All ruled by their larger, human-like cousins, the immortal Fae—the original inhabitants and settlers of the continent, and the oldest beings in Erilea.

With the growing corruption of Adarlan and the king’s campaign to hunt them down and execute them, the faeries and Fae fled, seeking shelter in the wild, untouched places of the world. The King of Adarlan had outlawed it all—magic, Fae, faeries—and removed any trace so thoroughly that even those who had magic in their blood almost believed it had never really existed, Celaena herself being one of them. The king had claimed that magic was an affront to the Goddess and her gods—that to wield it was to impertinently imitate their power. But even though the king had banned magic, most knew the truth: within a month of his proclamation, magic had completely and utterly disappeared of its own accord. Perhaps it had realized what horrors were coming.

She could still smell the fires that had raged throughout her eighth and ninth years—the smoke of burning books chock-full of ancient, irreplaceable knowledge, the screams of gifted seers and healers as they’d been consumed by the flames, the storefronts and sacred places shattered and desecrated and erased from history. Many of the magic-users who hadn’t been burned wound up prisoners in Endovier—and most didn’t survive long there. It had been a while since she’d contemplated the gifts she’d lost, though the memory of her abilities haunted her dreams. Despite the carnage, perhaps it was good that magic had vanished. It was far too dangerous for any sane person to wield; her gifts might have destroyed her by this point.

The smoking fire burned her eyes as she took another bite. She’d never forget the stories about Oakwald Forest, legends of dark, terrible glens and deep, still pools, and caves full of light and heavenly singing. But they were now only stories and nothing more. To speak of them was to invite trouble.

She looked at the sunlight filtering through the canopy, how the trees swayed in the wind with their long, bony arms around each other. She suppressed a shiver.

Lunch, thankfully, was over quickly. Her chains were transferred to her wrists again, and the horses were refreshed and reloaded. Celaena’s legs had become so stiff that Chaol was forced to help her onto her horse. It was painful to ride, and her nose also suffered a blow as the continual stench of horse sweat and excrement floated to the back of the entourage.

They traveled for the remainder of the day, and the assassin sat in silence as she watched the forest pass, the tightness in her chest not easing until they’d left that shimmering glen far behind. Her body ached by the time they stopped for the night. She didn’t bother to speak at dinner, nor to care when her small tent was erected, guards posted outside, and she was allowed to sleep, still shackled to one of them. She didn’t dream, but when she awoke, she couldn’t believe her eyes.

Small white flowers lay at the foot of her cot, and many infant-sized footprints led in and out of the tent. Before someone could enter and notice, Celaena swept a foot over the tracks, destroying any trace, and stuffed the flowers into a nearby satchel.

Though no one mentioned another word about faeries, as they traveled onward, Celaena continually scanned the soldiers’ faces for any indication that they’d seen something strange. She spent a good portion of the following day with sweaty palms and a racing heartbeat, and kept one eye fixed on the passing woods.

Chapter 6

For the next two weeks, they traveled down through the continent, the nights becoming colder, the days shorter. Icy rain kept them company for four days, during which time Celaena was so miserably cold that she contemplated throwing herself into a ravine, hopefully dragging Chaol with her.

Everything was wet and half-frozen, and while she could bear sodden hair, she couldn’t withstand the agony of wet shoes. She had little sensation in her toes. Each night, she wrapped them in whatever spare, dry clothing she could find. She felt as though she were in a state of partial decay, and with each gust of frigid, stinging wind, she wondered when her skin would rip from her bones. But, as it was autumn weather, the rain suddenly disappeared, and cloudless, brilliant skies once more stretched over them.

Celaena was half-asleep on her horse when the Crown Prince pulled out of line and came trotting toward them, his dark hair bouncing. His red cape rose and fell in a crimson wave. Above his unadorned white shirt was a fine cobalt-blue jerkin trimmed with gold. She would have snorted, but he did look rather good in his knee-high brown boots. And his leather belt did go nicely—even though the hunting knife seemed a bit too bejeweled. He pulled up alongside Chaol. “Come,” he said to the captain, and jerked his head at the steep, grassy hill that the company was starting to ascend.

“Where?” the captain asked, jangling Celaena’s chain for Dorian to notice. Wherever he went, she went.

“Come see the view,” Dorian clarified. “Bring that one, I suppose.” Celaena bristled. “That one”! As if she were a piece of baggage!

Chaol moved them out of line, giving her chain a fierce tug. She grasped the reins as they advanced into a gallop, the tangy smell of horsehair creeping into her nostrils. They rode quickly up the steep hill, the horse jerking and surging beneath her. Celaena tried not to wince as she slid backward in the saddle. If she fell, she’d die of humiliation. But the setting sun emerged from the trees behind them, and her breath caught in her throat as a spire, then three, then six more appeared, piercing the sky.

Atop the hill, Celaena stared at the crowning achievement of Adarlan. The glass castle of Rifthold.

It was gargantuan, a vertical city of shimmering, crystalline towers and bridges, chambers and turrets, domed ballrooms and long, endless hallways. It had been built above the original stone castle, and cost a kingdom’s wealth to construct.

She thought of the first time she’d seen it, eight years ago, cold and still, frozen like the earth beneath her fat pony. Even then, she found the castle tasteless, a waste of resources and talent, its towers reaching into the sky like clawed fingers. She remembered the powder-blue cloak that she kept touching, the weight of her fresh curls, the scratch of her stockings against the saddle, how she’d worried about the spot of mud on her red velvet shoes, and how she kept on thinking about that man—the man she’d killed three days earlier.

“One more tower and the whole thing will collapse,” the Crown Prince said from his spot on the other side of Chaol. The sounds of their approaching party filled the air. “We’ve still got a few miles left, and I’d rather navigate these foothills in the daylight. We’ll camp here tonight.”

“I wonder what your father will think of her,” Chaol said.

“Oh, he’ll be fine—until she opens her mouth. Then the bellowing and the blustering will begin, and I’ll regret wasting the past two months tracking her down. But—well, I think my father has more important matters to worry over.” With that, the prince moved off.

Celaena couldn’t keep her eyes from the castle. She felt so small, even from far away. She’d forgotten how dwarfing the building was.

The soldiers scurried about, lighting fires and raising tents. “You look as if you’re facing the gallows, not your freedom,” the captain said beside her.

She wound and unwound a strap of leather rein around a finger. “It’s odd to see it.”

“The city?”

“The city, the castle, the slums, the river.” The shadow of the castle grew across the city like a hulking beast. “I still don’t entirely know how it happened.”

“How you were captured?”

She nodded. “Despite your visions of a perfect world under an empire, your rulers and politicians are quick to destroy each other. So are assassins, I suppose.”

“You believe one of your kind betrayed you?”

“Everyone knew I received the best hires and could demand any payment.” She scanned the twisting city streets and the winding glimmer of the river. “Were I gone, a vacancy would arise from which they could profit. It might have been one; it might have been many.”

“You shouldn’t expect to find honor amongst such company.”

“I didn’t say that I did. I never trusted most of them, and I knew they hated me.” She had her suspicions, of course. And the one that seemed most likely was a truth she wasn’t yet ready to face—not now, not ever.

“Endovier must have been terrible,” Chaol said. Nothing malicious or mocking lay beneath his words. Did she dare call it sympathy?

“Yes,” she said slowly. “It was.” He gave her a look that asked for more. Well, what did she care if she told him? “When I arrived, they cut my hair, gave me rags, and put a pickax in my hand as if I knew what to do with it. They chained me to the others, and I endured my whippings with the rest of them. But the overseers had been instructed to treat me with extra care, and took the liberty of rubbing salt into my wounds—salt I mined—and whipped me often enough so that some of the gashes never really closed. It was through the kindness of a few prisoners from Eyllwe that my wounds didn’t become infected. Every night, one of them stayed up the hours it took to clean my back.”

Chaol didn’t reply, and only glanced at her before dismounting. Had she been a fool to tell him something so personal? He didn’t speak to her again that day, except to bark commands.


Celaena awoke with a gasp, a hand on her throat, cold sweat sliding down her back and pooling in the hollow between her mouth and chin. She’d had the nightmare before—that she was lying in one of those mass graves in Endovier. And when she tried to pull herself from the tangle of rotting limbs, she’d been dragged down into a pile twenty bodies deep. And then no one noticed that she was still screaming when they buried her alive.

Nauseated, Celaena wrapped her arms around her knees. She breathed—in and out, in and out—and tilted her head, her sharp kneecaps pushing against her cheekbone. Due to the unseasonably warm weather, they’d foregone sleeping in tents—which gave her an unparalleled view of the capital. The illuminated castle rose from the sleeping city like a mound of ice and steam. There was something greenish about it, and it seemed to pulse.

By this time tomorrow, she’d be confined within those walls. But tonight—tonight it was so quiet, like the calm before a storm.

She imagined that the whole world was asleep, enchanted by the sea-green light of the castle. Time came and went, mountains rising and falling, vines creeping over the slumbering city, concealing it with layers of thorns and leaves. She was the only one awake.

She pulled her cloak around her. She would win. She’d win, and serve the king, and then vanish into nothing, and think no more of castles or kings or assassins. She didn’t wish to reign over this city again. Magic was dead, the Fae were banished or executed, and she would never again have anything to do with the rise and fall of kingdoms.

She wasn’t fated for anything. Not anymore.


A hand upon his sword, Dorian Havilliard watched the assassin from his spot on the other side of the sleeping company. There was something sad about her—sitting so still with her legs against her chest, the moonlight coloring her hair silver. No bold, swaggering expressions strutted across her face as the glow of the castle rippled in her eyes.

He found her beautiful, if a bit strange and sour. It was something in the way that her eyes sparked when she looked at something lovely in the landscape. He couldn’t understand it.

She stared at the castle unflinchingly, her form silhouetted against the blazing brightness that sat on the edge of the Avery River. Clouds gathered above them and she raised her head. Through a clearing in the swirling mass, a cluster of stars could be seen. He couldn’t help thinking that they gazed down at her.

No, he had to remember she was an assassin with the blessing of a pretty face and sharp wits. She washed her hands with blood, and was just as likely to slit his throat as offer him a kind word. And she was his Champion. She was here to fight for him—and for her freedom. And nothing more. He lay down, his hand still upon his sword, and fell asleep.

Still, the image haunted his dreams throughout the night: a lovely girl gazing at the stars, and the stars who gazed back.

Chapter 7

Trumpeters signaled their arrival as they passed through the looming alabaster walls of Rifthold. Crimson flags depicting gold wyverns flapped in the wind above the capital city, the cobblestone streets were cleared of traffic, and Celaena, unchained, dressed, painted, and seated in front of Chaol, frowned as the odor of the city met her nose.

Beneath the smell of spices and horses lay a foundation of filth, blood, and spoiled milk. The air held a hint of the salty waters of the Avery—different from the salt of Endovier. This brought with it warships from every ocean in Erilea, merchant vessels crammed with goods and slaves, and fishing boats with half-rotted, scale-covered flesh that people somehow managed to eat. From bearded peddlers to servant girls carrying armfuls of hatboxes, everyone paused as the flag-bearers trotted proudly ahead, and Dorian Havilliard waved.

They followed the Crown Prince, who, like Chaol, was swathed in a red cape, pinned over the left breast with a brooch fashioned after the royal seal. The prince wore a golden crown upon his neat hair, and she had to concede that he looked rather regal.

Young women flocked to them, waving. Dorian winked and grinned. Celaena couldn’t help but notice the sharp stares from the same women when they beheld her in the prince’s retinue. She knew how she appeared, seated atop a horse like some prize lady being brought to the castle. So Celaena only smiled at them, tossed her hair, and batted her eyelashes at the prince’s back.

Her arm stung. “What?” she hissed at the Captain of the Guard as he pinched her.

“You look ridiculous,” he said through his teeth, smiling at the crowd.

She mirrored his expression. “They’re ridiculous.”

“Be quiet and act normally.” His breath was hot on her neck.

“I should jump from the horse and run,” she said, waving at a young man, who gaped at what he thought was a court lady’s attention. “I’d vanish in an instant.”

“Yes,” he said, “you’d vanish with three arrows buried in your spine.”

“Such pleasant talk.”

They entered the shopping district, where the crowd swelled between the trees lining the broad avenues of white stone. The glass storefronts were nearly invisible beyond the crowd, but a ravenous sort of hunger arose in her as they passed shop after shop. Each window displayed dresses and tunics, which stood proudly behind lines of sparkling jewelry and broad-rimmed hats clumped together like bouquets of flowers. Above it all, the glass castle loomed, so high she had to tilt her head back to see the uppermost towers. Why had they chosen such a long and inconvenient route? Did they really wish to parade about?

Celaena swallowed. There was a break in the buildings, and sails spread like moth’s wings greeted them as they turned onto the avenue along the Avery. Ships sat docked along the pier, a mess of rope and netting with sailors calling to each other, too busy to notice the royal procession. At the sound of a whip, her head snapped to the side.

Slaves staggered down the gangplank of a merchant ship. A mix of conquered nations bound together, each of them had the hollow, raging face she’d seen so many times before. Most of the slaves were prisoners of war—rebels who survived the butchering blocks and endless lines of Adarlan’s armies. Some were probably people who had been caught or accused of trying to practice magic. But others were just ordinary folk, in the wrong place at the wrong time. Now that she noticed, there were countless chained slaves working the docks, lifting and sweating, holding parasols and pouring water, eyes on the ground or the sky—never on what was before them.

She wanted to leap from her horse and run to them, or to simply scream that she wasn’t a part of this prince’s court, that she had no hand in bringing them here, chained and starved and beaten, that she had worked and bled with them, with their families and friends—she was not like these monsters that destroyed everything. That she had done something, nearly two years ago, when she had freed almost two hundred slaves from the Pirate Lord. Even that, though, wasn’t enough.

The city was suddenly separate, ripped from her. People still waved and bowed, cheering and laughing, throwing flowers and other nonsense before their horses. She had difficulty breathing.

Sooner than she would have liked, the iron and glass gate of the castle appeared, latticework doors opened, and a dozen guards flanked the cobblestone path that led through the archway. Spears erect, they held rectangular shields, and their eyes were dark beneath bronze helmets. Each wore a red cape. Their armor, while tarnished, was well crafted from copper and leather.

Beyond the archway sloped a road, lined with trees of gold and silver. Glass lampposts sprouted up between the hedges bordering the path. The sounds of the city vanished as they passed under another arch, this one made of sparkling glass, and then the castle rose before them.

Chaol sighed as he dismounted in the open courtyard. Hands pulled Celaena from the saddle and set her on wobbly legs. Glass gleamed everywhere, and a hand clamped on her shoulder. Stableboys quietly and quickly led her horse away.

Chaol pulled her to his side, keeping a firm grip on her cloak as the Crown Prince approached. “Six hundred rooms, military and servant’s quarters, three gardens, a game park, and stables on either side,” said Dorian, staring at his home. “Who could ever need so much space?”

She managed a weak smile, a bit baffled by his sudden charm. “I don’t know how you can sleep at night with only a wall of glass keeping you from death.” She glanced up, but quickly lowered her focus to the ground. She wasn’t afraid of heights, but the thought of being so high up with nothing but glass to protect her made her stomach clench.

“Then you’re like me.” Dorian chuckled. “Thank the gods I gave you rooms in the stone castle. I’d hate for you to be uncomfortable.”

Deciding that scowling at him wouldn’t be the wisest decision, Celaena looked instead toward the massive castle gates. The doors were made of cloudy red glass, gaping at her like the mouth of a giant. But she could see the interior was made of stone, and it seemed to her that the glass castle had been dropped on top of the original building. What a ridiculous idea: a castle made of glass.

“Well,” said Dorian. “You’ve fattened up a bit, and your skin has some color now. Welcome to my home, Celaena Sardothien.” He nodded at a few passing nobles, who scraped and bowed. “The competition begins tomorrow. Captain Westfall will show you to your chambers.”

She rolled her shoulders and searched for any sign of her competitors. No one else seemed to be arriving, though.

The prince nodded to another flock of cooing courtiers, and didn’t look at either the assassin or the Captain of the Guard as he spoke again. “I have to meet with my father,” he said, running his gaze along the body of a particularly pretty lady. He winked at her, and she hid her face behind a lace fan as she continued her walk. Dorian nodded to Chaol. “I’ll see you later tonight.” Without saying a word to Celaena, he strode up the steps to the palace, his red cape blowing in the wind.


The Crown Prince lived up to his word. Her chambers were in a wing of the stone castle, and much bigger than she anticipated. They consisted of a bedroom with an attached bathing chamber and a dressing room, a small dining room, and a music and gaming room. Each room was furnished in gold and crimson, her bedroom also decorated with a giant tapestry along one wall, with couches and deep-cushioned chairs scattered in a tasteful manner. Her balcony overlooked a fountain in one of the gardens, and whichever it was, it was beautiful—never mind the guards she spotted posted beneath.

Chaol left her, and Celaena didn’t wait to hear the door shut before closing herself in her bedroom. Between her murmurs of appreciation during Chaol’s brief tour of her rooms, she’d counted the windows—twelve—the exits—one—and the guards posted outside her door, windows, and balcony—nine. They were each armed with a sword, knife, and crossbow, and though they’d been alert while their captain passed by, she knew a crossbow wasn’t exactly a light weight to bear for hours on end.

Celaena crept to her bedroom window, pressing herself against the marble wall, and glanced down. Sure enough, the guards had already strapped the crossbows across their backs. It would waste precious seconds to grab the weapon and load it—seconds when she could take their swords, cut their throats, and vanish into the gardens. She smiled as she stepped fully in front of the window to study the garden. Its far border ended in the trees of a game park. She knew enough about the castle to know that she was on the southern side, and if she went through the game park, she’d reach a stone wall and the Avery River beyond.

Celaena opened and closed the doors of her armoire, dresser, and vanity. Of course, there weren’t any weapons, not even a fire poker, but she grabbed the few bone hairpins left in the back of a dresser drawer, and some string she found in a mending basket in her giant dressing room. No needles. She knelt on the carpeted floor of the dressing room—which was void of clothes—and, one eye on the door behind her, she made quick work of the hairpins, snapping their heads off before binding them all together with the string. When she finished, she held up the object and frowned.

Well, it wasn’t a knife, but clustered together like that, the jagged points of the broken pins could do some damage. She tested the tips with a finger, and winced as a shard of bone pricked her calloused skin. Yes, it would certainly hurt if she jammed it into a guard’s neck. And disable him long enough for her to grab his weapons.

Celaena reentered the bedroom, yawning, and stood on the edge of the mattress to tuck the makeshift weapon into one of the folds of the partial canopy over the bed. When she’d concealed it, she glanced around the room again. Something about the dimensions seemed a little off—something with the height of the walls, but she couldn’t be sure. Regardless, the canopy provided plenty of hiding places. What else could she take without them noticing? Chaol had probably had the room looked over before they arrived. She listened at the bedroom door for any signs of activity. When she was certain no one was in her chambers, she entered the foyer and strode through it to the gaming room. She beheld the billiards cues along the far wall, and the heavy colored balls stacked on the green felt table, and grinned. Chaol wasn’t nearly as smart as he thought he was.

Ultimately, she left the billiards equipment, if only because it would arouse suspicion if it all disappeared, but it would be easy enough to get a stick if she needed to escape, or to use the dense balls to knock the guards unconscious. Exhausted, she returned to her bedroom and finally hoisted herself onto the enormous bed. The mattress was so soft that she sank down a few inches, and it was wide enough for three people to sleep without noticing each other. Curling on her side, Celaena’s eyes grew heavier and heavier.

She slept for an hour, until a servant announced the arrival of the tailor, to outfit her with proper court attire. And thus another hour was spent being measured and pinned, and sitting through a presentation of different fabrics and colors. She hated most of them. A few caught her attention, but when she tried to recommend specific styles that flattered her, she received only the wave of a hand and a curl of the lip. She considered jabbing one of the tailor’s pearl-headed pins through his eye.

She bathed, feeling almost as dirty as she had in Endovier, and was grateful for the gentle servants who attended her. Many of the wounds had scabbed or remained as thin white lines, though her back retained most of its damage. After nearly two hours of pampering—trimming her hair, shaping her nails, and scraping away the callouses on her feet and hands—Celaena grinned at the mirror in the dressing room.

Only in the capital could servants have done such fine work. She looked spectacular. Utterly and completely spectacular. She wore a dress with skirts and long sleeves of white, streaked and spotted with orchid-purple. The indigo bodice was bordered with a thin line of gold, and an ice-white cape hung from her shoulders. Her hair, half up and twisted with a fuchsia ribbon, fell in loose waves. But her smile faltered as she remembered why, exactly, she was here.

The King’s Champion indeed. She looked more like the King’s Lapdog.

“Beautiful,” said an older, female voice, and Celaena pivoted, the yards of cumbersome fabric twisting with her. Her corset—the stupid, cursed thing—pushed on her ribs so hard that the breath was sucked from her. This was why she mostly preferred tunics and pants.

It was a woman, large but well contained within the gown of cobalt and peach that marked her as one of the servants of the royal household. Her face, while a bit wrinkled, was red-cheeked and finely colored. She bowed. “Philippa Spindlehead,” said the woman, rising. “Your personal servant. You must be—”

“Celaena Sardothien,” she said flatly.

Philippa’s eyes widened. “Keep that to yourself, miss,” she whispered. “I’m the only one who knows. And the guards, I suppose.”

“Then what do people think about all my guards?” she asked.

Philippa approached, ignoring Celaena’s glower as she adjusted the folds of the assassin’s gown, fluffing them in the right places. “Oh, the other . . . Champions have guards outside their rooms, too. Or people just think you’re another lady-friend of the prince.”


Philippa smiled, but kept her eyes upon the dress. “He has a big heart, His Highness.”

Celaena wasn’t at all surprised. “A favorite with women?”

“It’s not my place to speak about His Highness. And you should mind your tongue, too.”

“I’ll do as I please.” She surveyed the withered face of her servant. Why send such a soft woman to serve her? She’d overpower her in a heartbeat.

“Then you’ll find yourself back in those mines, poppet.” Philippa put a hand on her hip. “Oh, don’t scowl—you ruin your face when you look like that!” She reached to pinch Celaena’s cheek, and Celaena pulled away.

“Are you mad? I’m an assassin—not some court idiot!”

Philippa clucked. “You’re still a woman, and so long as you’re under my charge, you’ll act like one, or Wyrd help me!”

Celaena blinked, then slowly said: “You’re awfully bold. I hope you don’t act like this around court ladies.”

“Ah. There was surely a reason why I was assigned to attend you.”

“You understand what my occupation entails, don’t you?”

“No disrespect, but this sort of finery is worth far more than seeing my head roll on the ground.” Celaena’s upper lip pulled back from her teeth as the servant turned from the room. “Don’t make such a face,” Philippa called over her shoulder. “It squishes that little nose of yours.”

Celaena could only gape as the servant woman shuffled away.


The Crown Prince of Adarlan stared at his father unblinkingly, waiting for him to speak. Seated on his glass throne, the King of Adarlan watched him back. Sometimes Dorian forgot how little he looked like his father—it was his younger brother, Hollin, who took after the king, with his broad frame and his round, sharp-eyed face. But Dorian, tall, toned, and elegant, bore no resemblance to him. And then there was the matter of Dorian’s sapphire eyes—not even his mother had his eyes. No one knew where they came from.

“She has arrived?” his father asked. His voice was hard, edged with the clash of shields and the scream of arrows. As far as greetings went, that was probably the kindest one he’d get.

“She shouldn’t pose any threat or problem while she’s here,” Dorian said as calmly as he could. Picking Sardothien had been a gamble—a bet against his father’s tolerance. He was about to see if it was worth it.

“You think like every fool she’s murdered.” Dorian straightened as the king continued. “She owes allegiance to none but herself, and won’t balk at putting a knife through your heart.”

“Which is why she’ll be fully capable of winning this competition of yours.” His father said nothing, and Dorian went on, his heart racing. “Come to think of it, the whole competition might be unnecessary.”

“You say that because you’re afraid of losing good coin.” If only his father knew that he hadn’t just ventured to find a champion to win gold, but also to get out—to get away from him, for as long as he could manage.

Dorian steeled his nerve, remembering the words he’d been brooding over for the entire journey from Endovier. “I guarantee she’ll be able to fulfill her duties; we truly don’t need to train her. I’ve told you already: it’s foolish to have this competition at all.”

“If you do not mind your tongue, I’ll have her use you for practice.”

“And then what? Have Hollin take the throne?”

“Do not doubt me, Dorian,” his father challenged. “You might think this . . . girl can win, but you forget that Duke Perrington is sponsoring Cain. You would have been better off picking a Champion like him—forged in blood and iron on the battlefield. A true Champion.”

Dorian stuffed his hands in his pockets. “Don’t you find the title a little ridiculous, given that our ‘Champions’ are no more than criminals?”

His father rose from his throne and pointed at the map painted on the far wall of his council chamber. “I am the conqueror of this continent, and soon to be ruler of all Erilea. You will not question me.”

Dorian, realizing how close he was to crossing a boundary between impertinence and rebellion—a boundary that he’d been very, very careful to maintain—mumbled his apologies.

“We’re at war with Wendlyn,” his father went on. “I have enemies all around. Who better to do my work than someone utterly grateful for being granted not only a second chance, but also wealth and the power of my name?” The king smiled when Dorian didn’t reply. Dorian tried not to flinch as his father studied him. “Perrington tells me that you behaved yourself well on this trip.”

“With Perrington as a watchdog, I couldn’t do otherwise.”

“I’ll not have some peasant woman banging on the gate, wailing that you’ve broken her heart.” Dorian’s face colored, but he did not drop his father’s stare. “I’ve toiled too hard and long to establish my empire; you will not complicate it with illegitimate heirs. Marry a proper woman, then dally as you will after you give me a grandson or two. When you are king, you will understand consequences.”

“When I’m king, I won’t declare control over Terrasen through thin claims of inheritance.” Chaol had warned him to watch his mouth when speaking to his father, but when he spoke to him like that, as if he were a pampered idiot . . .

“Even if you offered them self-rule, those rebels would mount your head on a pike before the gates of Orynth.”

“Perhaps alongside all my illegitimate heirs, if I’m so fortunate.”

The king gave him a poisonous smile. “My silver-tongued son.” They watched each other in silence before Dorian spoke again.

“Perhaps you should consider our difficulty in getting past Wendlyn’s naval defenses to be a sign that you should stop playing at being a god.”

“Playing?” The king smiled, his crooked teeth glowing yellow in the firelight. “I am not playing. And this is not a game.” Dorian’s shoulders stiffened. “Though she may look pleasant, she’s still a witch. You are to keep your distance, understood?”

“Who? The assassin?”

“She’s dangerous, boy, even if you’re sponsoring her. She wants one thing and one thing only—don’t think she won’t use you to get it. If you court her, the consequences will not be pleasant. Not from her, and not from me.”

“And if I condescend to associate with her, what would you do, father? Throw me in the mines as well?”

His father was upon him before Dorian could brace himself. The back of the king’s hand connected with Dorian’s cheek, and the prince staggered, but regained his countenance. His face throbbed, stinging so badly he fought to keep his eyes from watering. “Son or no son,” the king snarled, “I am still your king. You will obey me, Dorian Havilliard, or you will pay. I’ll have no more of your questioning.”

Knowing he’d only cause more trouble for himself if he stayed, the Crown Prince of Adarlan bowed silently and left his father, eyes gleaming with barely controlled anger.

Chapter 8

Celaena walked down a marble hall, her dress flowing behind in a purple and white wave. Chaol strode beside her, a hand on the eagle-shaped pommel of his sword.

“Is there anything interesting down this hall?”

“What else would you care to see? We’ve already seen all three gardens, the ballrooms, the historical rooms, and the nicest views offered from the stone castle. If you refuse to go into the glass castle, there’s nothing else to see.”

She crossed her arms. She’d managed to convince him to give her a tour under the pretense of extreme boredom—when, in fact, she’d used every moment to plot a dozen escape routes from her room. The castle was old, and most of its halls and stairwells went nowhere; escaping would require some thought. But with the competition beginning tomorrow, what else did she have to do? And what better way to prepare for a potential disaster?

“I don’t understand why you refuse to enter the glass addition,” he went on. “There’s no difference between the interiors—you wouldn’t even know that you were inside it unless someone told you or you looked out the window.”

“Only an idiot would walk in a house made of glass.”

“It’s as sturdy as steel and stone.”

“Yes, until someone just a bit too heavy enters and it comes crashing down.”

“That’s impossible.”

The thought of standing on floors of glass made her queasy. “Is there no menagerie or library that we could see?” They passed by a set of closed doors. The sounds of lilting speech reached them, along with the gentle strumming of a harp. “What’s in there?”

“The queen’s court.” He grabbed her arm and pulled her down the hall.

“Queen Georgina?” Didn’t he have any idea what information he was giving away? Perhaps he honestly thought she wasn’t a threat. She hid her scowl.

“Yes, Queen Georgina Havilliard.”

“Is the young prince at home?”

“Hollin? He’s at school.”

“And is he as handsome as his older brother?” Celaena smirked as Chaol tensed.

It was well known that the ten-year-old prince was rotten and spoiled, inside and out, and she remembered the scandal that had erupted a few months before her capture. Hollin Havilliard, upon finding his porridge burnt, had beaten one of his servants so badly that there was no possibility of it being concealed. The woman’s family had been paid off, and the young prince shipped to school in the mountains. Of course everyone knew. Queen Georgina had refused to hold court for a month.

“Hollin will grow into his lineage,” Chaol grumbled. There was a bounce to her step as Celaena walked on, the court fading away behind them. They were silent for a few minutes before an explosion sounded nearby, then another.

“What is that awful noise?” Celaena said. The captain led her through a set of glass doors, and he pointed up as they entered into a garden.

“The clock tower,” he said, his bronze eyes shining with amusement, as the clock finished its war cry. She’d never heard bells like that.

From the garden sprouted a tower made of inky black stone. Two gargoyles, wings spread for flight, perched on each of the four clock faces, soundlessly roaring at those beneath. “What a horrible thing,” she whispered. The numbers were like war paint on the white face of the clock, the hands like swords as they slashed across the pearly surface.

“As a child, I wouldn’t go near it,” Chaol admitted.

“You’d see something like this before the Gates of Wyrd—not in a garden. How old is it?”

“The king had it built around Dorian’s birth.”

“This king?” Chaol nodded. “Why would he build such a wretched thing?”

“Come on,” he said, turning as he ignored her question. “Let’s go.”

Celaena examined the clock for a second more. The thick, clawed finger of a gargoyle pointed at her. She could have sworn that its jaws had widened. As she made to follow Chaol, she noticed a tile on the paved pathway. “What’s this?”

He stopped. “What’s what?”

She pointed at the mark engraved on the slate. It was a circle with a vertical line through the middle that extended beyond the circumference. Both ends of the line were hooked, one directing downward, the other up. “What is this mark on the path here?”

He walked around until he stood beside her. “I have no idea.”

Celaena examined the gargoyle again. “He’s pointing at it. What does the symbol mean?”

“It means you’re wasting my time,” he said. “It’s probably some sort of decorative sundial.”

“Are there other marks?”

“If you looked, I’m sure you’d find them.” She allowed herself to be dragged from the garden, away from the shadow of the clock tower and into the marble halls of the castle. Try as she might, and walk as far as they did, she couldn’t shake the feeling that those bulging eyes were still upon her.

They continued past the kitchen quarters, which were a mess of shouting, clouds of flour, and surging fires. Once beyond, they entered a long hallway, empty and silent save for their footsteps. Celaena suddenly halted. “What,” she breathed, “is that?” She pointed at the twenty-foot oak doors, her eyes widening at the dragons that grew out of either side of the stone wall. Four-legged dragons—not vicious, bipedal wyverns like those on the royal seal.

“The library.” The two words were like a shot of lightning.

“The . . .” She looked at the claw-shaped iron handles. “Can we—may we go in?”

The Captain of the Guard opened the doors reluctantly, the strong muscles of his back shifting as he pushed hard against the worn oak. Compared to the sunlit hallway, the interior that stretched beyond them seemed formidably dark, but as she stepped inside, candelabras came into view, along with black-and-white marble floors, large mahogany tables with red velvet chairs, a slumbering fire, mezzanines, bridges, ladders, railings, and then books—books and books and books.

She’d entered a city made entirely of leather and paper. Celaena put a hand against her heart. Escape routes be damned. “I’ve never seen—how many volumes are there?”

Chaol shrugged. “The last time anyone bothered to count, it was a million. But that was two hundred years ago. I’d say maybe more than that, especially given the legends that a second library lies deep beneath, in catacombs and tunnels.”

“Over a million? A million books?” Her heart leapt and danced, and she cracked a smile. “I’d die before I even got through half of that!”

“You like to read?”

She raised an eyebrow. “Don’t you?” Not waiting for an answer, she moved farther into the library, the train of her gown sweeping across the floor. She neared a shelf and looked at the titles. She recognized none of them.

Grinning, she whirled and moved through the main floor, running a hand across the dusty books. “I didn’t know assassins liked to read,” Chaol called. If she were to die now, it would be in complete bliss. “You said you were from Terrasen; did you ever visit the Great Library of Orynth? They say it’s twice the size of this—and that it used to hold all the knowledge of the world.”

She turned from the stack she was currently studying. “Yes,” she admitted. “When I was very young. Though they wouldn’t let me explore—the Master Scholars were too afraid I’d ruin some valuable manuscript.” She hadn’t returned to the Great Library since—and wondered how many of those invaluable works had been ordered destroyed by the King of Adarlan when he outlawed magic. From the way Chaol said “used to” with a tinge of sadness, she assumed much had been lost. Though part of her savored the hope that those Master Scholars had smuggled many of the priceless books to safety—that when the royal family had been slaughtered and the King of Adarlan invaded, those stuffy old men had had the good sense to start hiding two thousand years’ worth of ideas and learning.

A dead, empty space opened inside her. Needing to change the subject, she asked, “Why are none of your folk here?”

“Guards are of no use in a library.” Oh, how wrong he was! Libraries were full of ideas—perhaps the most dangerous and powerful of all weapons.

She said, “I was referring to your noble companions.”

He leaned against a table, a hand still on his sword. At least one of them remembered that they were alone together in the library. “Reading is a bit out of fashion, I’m afraid.”

“Yes, well—more for me to read, then.”

“Read? These belong to the king.”

“It’s a library, isn’t it?”

“It’s the king’s property, and you aren’t of noble blood. You need permission from either him or the prince.”

“I highly doubt either would notice the loss of a few books.”

Chaol sighed. “It’s late. I’m hungry.”

“So?” she said. He growled and practically dragged her from the library.

After a solitary supper, over which she contemplated all of her planned escape routes and how she might make more weapons for herself, Celaena paced through her rooms. Where were the other competitors being kept? Did they have access to books, if they wanted?

Celaena slumped into a chair. She was tired, but the sun had barely set. Instead of reading, she could perhaps use the pianoforte, but . . . well, it had been a while, and she wasn’t sure she could endure the sound of her own stumbling, clumsy playing. She traced a finger over a splotch of fuchsia silk on her dress. All those books, with no one to read them.

An idea flashed, and she jumped to her feet, only to sit at the desk and grab a piece of parchment. If Captain Westfall insisted on protocol, then she’d give it to him in abundance. She dipped the glass pen in a pot of ink and held it over the paper.

How odd it felt to hold a pen! She traced the letters in the air. It was impossible that she’d forgotten how to write. Her fingers moved awkwardly as the pen touched the paper, but she carefully wrote her name, then the alphabet, three times. The letters were uneven, but she could do it. She pulled out another piece of paper and began to write.

Your Highness—

It has come to my attention that your library isn’t a library, but rather a personal collection for only you and your esteemed father to enjoy. As many of your million books seem to be present and underused, I must beg you to grant me permission to borrow a few so that they might receive the attention they deserve. Since I am deprived of company and entertainment, this act of kindness is the least someone of your importance could deign to bestow upon a lowly, miserable wretch such as I.

Yours most truly,

Celaena Sardothien

Celaena beamed at her note and handed it to the nicest-looking servant she could find, with specific instructions to give it immediately to the Crown Prince. When the woman returned half an hour later with a stack of books piled in her arms, Celaena laughed as she swiped the note that crowned the column of leather.

My Most True Assassin,

Enclosed are seven books from my personal library that I have recently read and enjoyed immensely. You are, of course, free to read as many of the books in the castle library as you wish, but I command you to read these first so that we might discuss them. I promise they are not dull, for I am not one inclined to sit through pages of nonsense and bloated speech, though perhaps you enjoy works and authors who think very highly of themselves.

Most affectionately,

Dorian Havilliard

Celaena laughed again and took the books from the woman’s arms, thanking her for her trouble. She walked into her bedroom, shutting the door with a backward kick, and dropped onto the bed, scattering the books across the crimson surface. She didn’t recognize any of the titles, though one author was familiar. Choosing the book that seemed the most interesting, Celaena flipped onto her back and began to read.


Celaena awoke the next morning to the wretched booming of the clock tower. Half-asleep, she counted the chimes. Noon. She sat up. Where was Chaol? And, more importantly, what about the competition? Wasn’t it supposed to have started today?

She leapt from bed and stalked through her chambers, half expecting to find him sitting in a chair, a hand upon his sword. He wasn’t there. She popped her head into the hallway, but the four guards only reached for their weapons. She paced onto the balcony, the crossbows of five guards beneath clicking into position, and put her hands on her hips as she surveyed the autumn day.

The trees in the garden were gold and brown, half of the leaves already dead on the earth. Yet the day was so warm it could have passed for summer. Celaena took a seat on the rail, and waved at the guards with their crossbows aimed at her. Out across Rifthold, she could make out the sails of ships, and the wagons and people streaming through the streets. The green roofs of the city glowed emerald in the sun.

She looked again at the five guards beneath the balcony. They stared right back at her, and when they slowly lowered their crossbows, she grinned. She could knock them senseless with a few heavy books.

A sound flitted through the garden, and some of the guards glanced toward the source. Three women appeared from around a nearby hedge, clustered in conversation.

Most of the talk Celaena had overheard yesterday was immensely dull, and she didn’t expect much as the women neared. They wore fine dresses, though the one in the middle—the raven-haired one—wore the finest. The red skirts were the size of a tent, and her bodice was so tightly bound that Celaena wondered if her waist were any more than sixteen inches. The other women were blondes dressed in pale blue, their matching gowns suggesting their rank as ladies-in-waiting. Celaena backed away from the ledge as they stopped at the nearby fountain.

From her place at the back of the balcony, Celaena could still see as the woman in red brushed a hand down the front of her skirts. “I should have worn my white dress,” she said loudly enough for everyone in Rifthold to hear. “Dorian likes white.” She adjusted a pleat in her skirt. “But I’ll wager that everyone’s wearing white.”

“Shall we go change, milady?” asked one of the blondes.

“No,” snapped the woman. “This dress is fine. Old and shabby as it is.”

“But—” said the other blonde, then stopped as her mistress’s head whipped around. Celaena approached the rail again and peered over. The dress hardly looked old.

“It won’t take long for Dorian to ask me for a private audience.” Celaena now leaned over the edge of the balcony. The guards watched the three girls, rapt for another reason entirely. “Though I worry how much Perrington’s courting will interfere; but I do adore the man for inviting me to Rifthold. My mother must be writhing in her grave!” She paused, and then said: “I wonder who she is.”

“Your mother, milady?”

“The girl the prince brought into Rifthold. I heard he traveled all over Erilea to find her, and that she rode into the city on the Captain of the Guard’s horse. I’ve heard nothing else about her. Not even her name.” The two women lagged behind their mistress and exchanged exasperated looks that informed the assassin this conversation had been held many times before. “I don’t need to worry,” the woman mused. “The prince’s harlot won’t be well-received.”

His what?

The ladies in waiting stopped beneath the balcony, batting their eyelashes at the guards. “I need my pipe,” the woman murmured, rubbing her temples. “I feel a headache coming on.” Celaena’s brows rose. “Regardless,” the woman continued, striding away, “I shall have to watch my back. I might even have to—”


The women screamed, the guards whirled with their crossbows pointed, and Celaena looked skyward as she retreated from the rail and into the shadows of the balcony doorway. The flowerpot had missed. This time.

The woman cursed so colorfully that Celaena clamped a hand over her mouth to keep from laughing. The servants cooed, wiping mud from the woman’s skirts and suede shoes. “Be quiet!” the woman hissed. The guards, wisely, didn’t let their amusement show. “Be quiet and let’s go!”

The women hurried off as the prince’s harlot strode into her chambers and called for her servants to dress her in the finest gown they could find.

Chapter 9

Celaena stood before the rosewood mirror, smiling.

She ran a hand down her gown. Sea-foam white lace bloomed from the sweeping neckline, washing upon her breast from the powder-green ocean of silk that made up the dress. A red sash covered the waist, forming an inverted peak that separated the bodice from the explosion of skirts beneath. Patterns of clear green beads were embroidered in whorls and vines across the whole of it, and bone-colored stitching stretched along the ribs. Tucked inside her bodice was the small makeshift hairpin dagger, though it poked mercilessly at her chest. She lifted her hands to touch her curled and pinned hair.

She didn’t know what she planned to do now that she was dressed, especially if she’d probably have to change before the competition started, but—

Skirts rustled from the doorway, and Celaena raised her eyes in the reflection to see Philippa enter behind her. The assassin tried not to preen—and failed miserably. “It’s such a pity you are who you are,” Philippa said, turning Celaena to face her. “I wouldn’t be surprised if you managed to ensnare some lord into marriage. Maybe even His Highness, if you were charming enough.” She adjusted the green folds of Celaena’s dress before kneeling down to brush the assassin’s ruby-colored slippers.

“Well, it seems rumor has already suggested that. I overheard a girl saying that the Crown Prince brought me here to woo me. I thought the entire court knew about this stupid competition.”

Philippa rose. “Whatever the rumors are, it’ll all be forgotten in a week—just you wait. Let him find a new woman he likes and you’ll vanish from the whisperings of the court.” Celaena straightened as Philippa fixed a stray curl. “Oh, it’s not meant as an offense, poppet. Beautiful ladies are always associated with the Crown Prince—you should be flattered that you’re attractive enough to be considered his lover.”

“I’d rather not be seen that way at all.”

“Better than as an assassin, I’d wager.”

She looked at Philippa and then laughed.

Philippa shook her head. “Your face is much more pretty when you smile. Girlish, even. Far better than that frown you always have.”

“Yes,” Celaena admitted, “you might be right.” She made to sit down upon the mauve ottoman.

“Ah!” Philippa said, and Celaena froze, standing upright. “You’ll wrinkle the fabric.”

“But my feet hurt in these shoes.” She frowned pitifully. “You can’t intend for me to stand all day? Even through my meals?”

“Only until someone tells me how lovely you look.”

“No one knows you’re my servant.”

“Oh, they know I’ve been assigned to the lover the prince brought to Rifthold.”

Celaena chewed on her lip. Was it a good thing that no one knew who she truly was? What would her competition think? Perhaps a tunic and pants would have been better.

Celaena reached to move a curl that itched her cheek, and Philippa batted her hand away. “You’ll ruin your hair.”

The doors to her apartment slammed open, followed by an already familiar snarling and stomping about. She watched in the mirror as Chaol appeared in the doorway, panting. Philippa curtsied.

“You,” he began, then stopped as Celaena faced him. His brows lowered as his eyes traveled along her body. His head cocked, and he opened his mouth as if to say something, but only shook his head and scowled. “Upstairs. Now.”

She curtsied,