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Read an extract from The Prisoner’s Throne by Holly Black

Read an extract from The Prisoner’s Throne by Holly Black

Prince Oak is paying for his betrayal. Imprisoned in the icy north and bound to the will of a monstrous new queen, he must rely on charm and calculation to survive. With High King Cardan and High Queen Jude ready to use any means necessary to retrieve their stolen heir, should Oak attempt to regain the trust of the girl he’s always loved, or remain loyal to Elfhame and hand over the means to end her reign – even if it means ending Wren too…

With war looming and treachery lurking in every corner, neither Oak’s guile nor his wit will be enough to keep everyone he loves alive. He will have some terrible choices to make.


Guards wait for him in the hall when he emerges from the room, dressed in the clothes he was given.

The doublet is of some silvery fabric that feels sturdy and stiff, as though there might be silver threads woven into the cloth. His shoul- ders are a little broader and his torso a little longer than the original owner, and it feels even more uncomfortably tight than the uniform. The pants are black as a starless sky and have to be pushed up a little because of the curve of his leg above his hooves.

He says nothing to the guards, and their faces are grim as they escort him to a high-ceilinged dining room where their new queen is waiting.

Wren stands at the head of a long table in a dress of some material that seems to be black and then silver, depending on the light. Her hair is pulled away from her pale blue face, and while she does not wear a crown, the ornaments in her hair suggest one.

She looks every bit a terrifying Queen of Faerie, beckoning him to some final supper of poisoned apples.

He bows.

Her gaze rests on him, as though trying to decide if the gesture is mockery or not. Or maybe she’s only inspecting his bruises.

He’s certainly noting how fragile she looks. Harrowed.

And something else. Something he ought to have noted in her bedroom, when she’d given him orders, but he’d been too panicked to think about. There’s a defensiveness in herposture, as though she’s bracing for his anger. After having held him prisoner, she believes he hates her. She might still be angry with him, but she quite obviously expects him to be furious with her.

And every time he behaves as though he isn’t, she thinks he’s playing a trick.

“Hyacinthe told me you were reluctant to explain how you came to be hurt,” Wren says.

Oak doesn’t need to glance at the entrances to note the guards. He saw them upon his arrival. Not knowing their loyalties, he can hardly mention Valen, or even Straun, without stripping Hyacinthe of the ele-ment of surprise. Did she know that? Was this a play put on for their benefit? Or was this another test? “What would you say if I told you I grew so bored that I hit myself in the face?”

Her mouth becomes an even grimmer line. “No one would believe that lie, could you even tell it.”

Oak’s head dips forward, and he cannot keep the despair out of his voice. This is off to a bad start, and yet he truly does seem unable to keep himself from making it worse. “What lie would you believe?”

The Prisoner’s Throne by Holly Black is out 5 March, published by Hot Key Books and available at all good bookshops. 

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