Because my current deadline is eating my brain (zombie-style), I’m afraid I only have an excerpt to offer you today. However, the book I’m working on is The Stone Demon – so that’s what I can offer, hot off the keyboard. Hopefully, I’ll be back to my normal blogging self next week. In the meantime, enjoy!
Please note: This is mostly non-spoilery. Probably very minor spoilers for Book Two (The Wood Queen), but only in terms of character names that you won’t yet be familiar with.
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Donna stepped into the ballroom and immediately forgot how much her shoes pinched her toes. She thought this must have been how Alice felt when she first set eyes on Wonderland.
The air was thick with a cloying sweetness that almost made her choke. The ceiling swept far above her head, much of its wide expanse lost in shadows cast by flickering candles and chandeliers that seemed to float suspended in the air. The room seemed endless, in all directions, as though she could get lost if she wasn’t careful.
There were floor-to-ceiling ivory pillars lining each wall. The floor was decorated with a mosaic in every shade of red that Donna could think of—and a few she’d never seen before. It looked as though someone had spilled blood across the entire space and then frozen it in place. The parts of the ceiling that were visible were midnight blue and studded with tiny stars.
It was stunning and creepy, and just a little overwhelming.
The room was full of revellers such that she had never even imagined. Donna had seen strange. She’d seen magical. But this… this was something else. Alien, twisted, and yet beautiful in spite of its strangeness. Perhaps even because of it. It was like walking into a storybook, where monsters really did exist and if you looked hard enough you might find a beanstalk or two.
As that thought crossed her mind, Donna felt her gaze drawn to what looked like tree roots climbing the walls, spreading across the domed ceiling, and swallowed. She hoped there weren’t any giants around.
Some of the people that filled the room danced, whirling and spinning on the crowded floor. Others stood at the edges of the ballroom, masked faces close together as they shared secrets and laughed behind their hands. It was impossible to recognize anybody because of the masquerade. That was the point of it: mystery. Magic.
The only faces that Donna could see were those of wolves and goblins; bears and eagles; stags and foxes and dragons. Many of the masks depicted things that Donna had never even seen before, and she wasn’t sure they actually existed—perhaps only in her nightmares. Some of them were so bizarre, she hoped that she never saw them again whether waking or sleeping.
She cautiously walked in the direction of a raised dais, waving away the servers dressed all in black, remembering Miranda’s warning. The smell of sweet pastries and sticky-red wine was intoxicating, and she wished she could taste something, but the thought of being enchanted by faery magic or by demon curses was enough to squash the visceral urge. Donna knew that this kind of hunger wasn’t real; it was a hunger for oblivion rather than sustenance.
Demian sat on a throne carved from silver bones threaded with black roses. He wore a white suit that made him look monochromatic, apart from his onyx eyes and the single black rose in the lapel of his jacket. He was attended by beings that could have been demons or faeries or even humans glamoured to within an inch of their lives. It was difficult to tell, what with everyone wearing such ornately carved masks.
The Demon King was the only person in the room not wearing one. His face looked carved from marble anyway, so it wasn’t like he needed to, Donna thought.
His eyes rested on her and she saw the corner of his thin mouth flicker. He turned away and said something to a tall man standing beside him. The man nodded behind his goat-mask and slid from the dais with inhuman speed, disappearing through a doorway that appeared out of nowhere.
“May I have this dance?” a low voice said in her ear.