We’re thrilled to share an excerpt from Lore of the Wilds by Analeigh Sbrana, a romantasy debut about an enchanted library, two handsome Fae, and one human who brings them all together—out from Harper Voyager on February 27.
You know, if you continue along that corridor, you’ll eventually end up in the dungeons. They’re quite a dreary place to visit—unless you’re into dampness and foul smells.”
Lore started at the accented, deep timbre of a male’s voice coming from behind her. Turning, she pressed her back to the red earth of the wall and took in the fae before her.
It was the same guard who had lingered by the trash bins in the dining hall, watching her. In this light, his almond-shaped eyes seemed the color of onyx, matching his black hair. His antlers almost brushed the low ceiling.
Lore became acutely aware of every one of those layers of dust and grime coating her. She sniffed and thought she could, in fact, smell something foul wafting from the direction she’d just been headed.
“I…” She cleared her throat. “I’m looking for my quarters. The maidservant, Elra, disappeared after bringing me to the dining hall and, well, I thought I would have run into her by now.”
Buy the Book
Lore of the Wilds
“Elra is rarely where she ought to be. I don’t know how she still has her position here.” The guard took a step toward her, sliding his hands into his pockets. “But I am more concerned about why you are wandering the halls like a lost little puppy.”
“Should I alert the steward about you sneaking around the halls?”
Fear crawled up Lore’s back. “I’m not sneaking! I’m trying to find my way back to the library, or actually, to—”
The guard cut her off. “You shouldn’t be in the library at this hour. You should be in your room.”
If he had let her finish. “I was looking for the library or Elra, so she could show me to my room.”
The guard rolled his eyes and sighed, like he was making a massive sacrifice. “Follow me,” he said.
Panic flared in Lore’s chest as her gaze fell to the blue stripes on his uniform. He could take her anywhere and she would have no way of knowing if it was the right direction.
But, then again, the dungeons definitely weren’t where she wanted to go either.
Why would he be so kind as to take her to her quarters? Everyone else had been… a slew of unpleasant adjectives ran through her head. And earlier, he’d been glaring at her so furiously, too. “Follow you where, exactly?”
His mouth quirked, a hint of a dimple appearing on either cheek. “Do you not know how to follow orders?”
Lore wanted to glare at him, but she stilled her features and waited a beat, hoping he would answer her question.
“Hmm.” The thoughtful sound rumbled from his broad chest. “I’m a castle guard. It would be remissive of my duties to let an outsider wander unescorted through the castle. And anyway, I’ve nothing better to do than show a little mouse to a safe place.”
“I am not a rodent!” Lore hissed. Anger writhed through her. She knew the Alytherians viewed her as less than them, but to be compared to a mouse?
“No, you are not a rodent. But you are small, weak, and you work in the library—a place a mouse would love to be. Are you going to follow me or not, Mouse?”
She clenched her fists, bit the retort on the tip of her tongue, and gave him a slight nod.
“Maybe you aren’t as dim as you appear.” He turned, walking in the opposite direction of where he claimed the dungeons were.
“What gives you the right to call me dim?” Lore mouthed to his back.
“You would have to be dim to voluntarily explore this area of the castle at night.”
Lore jumped. How had he seen her? She needed to bite her tongue. But some strange brand of courage seemed to have gripped her, and she said, rather stupidly, “It’s not like I thought to myself, ‘Hmm, I shall explore the dungeons today.’”
“Exactly. You didn’t seem to think at all. This way.” He turned left.
She felt uneasy following him so blindly, but the thought of finding herself alone once again in the maze of low corridors was worse than enduring the company of a sentry.
Eventually, he led her to a different low-lit corridor with considerably more signs of life. This one had doors with symbols carved on them. He stopped at a blue door with a swirling symbol on it: three swirls connected by one line.
“It’s this one. I would suggest you not do any more ‘exploring.’” The disbelief was obvious in his tone. “There are some in this castle who would like to know what a little mouse such as yourself tastes like.”
She supposed she should thank him, even though the thought made her stomach turn. “Well, thanks,” she grit out.
“Try not to sound so appreciative.”
I’ll do that, she thought, just as soon as you try not to sound like such a prick.
The guard’s cold eyes flitted over her face like he knew what she was thinking. She stilled her features, putting on a blank mask.
He didn’t know. Couldn’t know. Because if he really knew her thoughts, he would have broken her jaw for her insolence by now.
“Now, do what you’re told and go to your room.”
It was a dismissal.
Without a word, Lore pressed down on the latch and pushed the door open. Relief coursed through her when she saw that she had, indeed, been led to a small room.
When she turned back to the guard, he was already halfway down the corridor, his hands still in his pockets.
Maybe he’s on his way to find another waste bin to lurk by.
Lore stepped into a sparsely furnished room. A small bed stood against one wall, with a thin pillow and an even thinner quilt adorning it. Next to the foot of the bed frame was a wardrobe that held two pale green tunics, two pairs of thick tights, underclothes, and a worn pair of boots. The only other furniture was a small chair and table in the corner with a singular candle and flint.
Her door had a lock on the inside. She latched it. Checked that the lock worked. It did. She removed her boots with a pained hiss and sunk onto the lumpy mattress. It was stuffed with hay, not unlike her bed at home. She thought she might be too anxious to sleep, but it’s amazing what the body will do when faced with two days of terror. Lore was asleep before her head hit the pillow.
Excerpted from Lore of the Wilds by Analeigh Sbrana. Copyright © 2024 by Analeigh Sbrana. Reprinted courtesy of Harper Voyager, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.