Looking for a fantasy to read this summer? Kevin Weston’s Gryphon’s Eye might be the book for you—and we have an excerpt below!
As the only child of King Owyn of Fyngree, Jessalyn Suntold leads a life of luxury and ease. But despite her royal bloodlines and silken garments, Jess feels forsaken. For she has spent her life pining for a visitor that has never arrived—a familiar capable of unlocking her dormant magical abilities and legitimizing her place as her father’s successor.
Traejon Frost is a warrior who has spent the last five years of his life roaming the mist-shrouded forests and grassy plains of Fyngree. His mission? To guard the king’s wild familiar, a gyrfalcon that is the wellspring of King Owyn’s prodigious spellcasting abilities. It’s a lonely life, but what of it? At least out there, sleeping under the moon and stars, the harrowing memories of Traejon’s outlaw past do not haunt his dreams quite so much.
And so it goes, princess and soldier each grappling with their own private demons, until a night of terror in which Jess learns of a sinister plot to drag King Owyn from his throne. She unites with Traejon in a desperate quest to unmask the conspirators, only to find that allies can turn into enemies in the blink of an eye, and that monsters come in human as well as fantastical form. Yet still they press onward, searching for the truth in an empire teetering on the brink of collapse. Until the outlines of the murderous plot finally become clear and they stumble upon the most stunning revelation of all—that everything they know about the world of magic around them is a lie.
Jess felt a rising flush of embarrassment on her face. Holding the bird on one upraised arm and the goblet in the other, she felt like a piece of ridiculous statuary. Her dismay deepened when she peered down at the contents of the goblet for the first time. The liquid within reminded her of nothing so much as a miniature bog. An unhealthy-looking film had already congealed on the dark surface, which was flecked with floating bits of matter that looked like remnants of vegetation and bone—and was that a piece of feather? And the bitter odor wafting from the goblet smelled like the contents had come directly from the city’s sewers. She looked up at her father, anger flaring anew in her heart. “I’m not drinking this,” she said flatly.
“Now Jess,” Owyn said soothingly. “You promised.” He turned for support to Pynch, who adopted an impassive expression and clasped his hands behind him.
Owyn scowled. “You’re no help.”
“I’m sorry, Your Majesty, but I’ve no authority in this matter,” Pynch said. “This is between you and the princess. Besides, you know my perspective on these . . . exercises. ”
Jess leaped at this unexpected opening. “You see, father? Even Pynch recognizes that this is folly.” Her hands were full, so she gestured with her chin toward Gwyn—loyal Gwyn, her confidante and comfort throughout her childhood and adolescence—and the falconer. Jess felt the heat rising in her, and this time she let it slip its leash.
“Father, spare me this indignity. You have watched me swallow vile potions, smoke vile tobaccos, suffer defilement of my body with vile symbols conjured from vile paints, soak in vile baths, and chant vile passages from vile tomes for five years now, and what has come of it? Nothing!” Jessalyn paused guiltily as a cloud of unhappiness settled over her father’s craggy features. She proceeded more gently. “I’m sorry, father, but it’s hopeless. Please accept it. The truth of the matter is that I’m not meant to carry the Thread. The gift has passed me by. ”
Owyn shook his head. “That is nonsense,” he said. “Remember the example of Jerylyl Fjorsus. His familiar did not appear to him until his sixteenth year!”
“Father, you know that the Thread comes later to boys. And I am seventeen now! Have you ever, in all of your studies, come across an instance where a girl gained her familiar so late?”
“Jessalyn, we have to keep trying,” Owyn said. “Your place on the throne depends on it.”
“And what of Rylla Tallwyst?” Jess countered. “Queen Rylla ruled Fyngree for two decades without virtue of any sorcerous powers! How can you ignore that?”
“We have had this conversation before, Jess. Rylla reigned during a fallow period for casters in Tempyst’s history. Few wizards or witches roamed the continent during her time. Even Rojenhold was led by a threadbare during those years.”
“Noll Whytewender was not threadbare.”
“Well, a stoat hardly counts.” Owyn sighed. “I’m sorry, Jess. I wish it was not so. But we must keep trying. It is not just your future that hangs in the balance, but that of Fyngree. If Thylus Whytewender and the Faithful Shield were ever to learn that a threadbare sits on the throne . . . ” Her father’s voice trailed off, but Jess saw how his features curdled at the thought.
Jess looked down again at the foul liquid she held. Smoke and Ash, she thought resignedly. This stupid hawk is getting heavy anyway. And who knows? Maybe this time it will work. Maybe her father had finally unlocked the secret of the Thread.
Besides, arguing with her father was so exhausting.
“All right,” Jess said, breaking the lengthening silence. “You win.” She glanced around at the other faces in the room, trying to ignore the hollowed-out feeling that she always felt in her gut in these final moments. “Cheers!” she announced with forced good humor, as if the whole affair was a lark. Then she closed her eyes, brought the goblet to her lips, and took a great quaff from its contents.
As soon as Jess took her first swallow, the color of the room changed, as if a pale golden veil had fallen over her surroundings. She heard a rising roar in her ears, and beneath it a faint, almost musical sound, as if she was hearing notes from some strange and seductive instrument being played on the other side of the world. She turned her head to the hawk sitting on her right forearm. The bird still wore its hood, but she could feel the hawk’s eyes on her, blazing deep into her being, searching like powerful twin lighthouse beams. The beams spilled into every corner of her body, washing her bones and muscles and organs in a fearsome white light that grew in intensity with each passing second.
Then she felt it—a force that was both the hawk and something else entire. A force frantically pulling and tugging at her insides, like a thief rifling through the deepest corners of her being. And as the frenzied ransacking continued, an icy finger of fear touched her heart. That spell, whatever it was, might tear her apart in its quest for the nonexistent Thread it was seeking.
A hard nugget of pain abruptly sprouted in the center of her chest and began radiating outward, expanding in tandem with the swelling cacophony in her ears. The musical notes were gone now, drowned out by a rising, crashing tumult of sound. She felt as if the beams of light were flaying her insides as they lashed violently back and forth, deeper and deeper, in their frantic quest. Jess moaned in distress and swayed on her feet, her eyes rolling up in her head. Dimly, she felt a wave of shudders roll through her body, followed by painful tingling over every inch of her body, as if she had stumbled into a dense cloud of wasps.
And then suddenly it was all gone, snuffed out in the blink of an eye. Jess opened her eyes blearily, turned away, and vomited a huge gout of black liquid out onto the stone floor. The heavy glass goblet slipped from her left hand and shattered on the stones.
“Get this damned thing off me,” she said thickly, thrusting her gloved right arm, still adorned with the hooded hawk, toward Brundy. Never had she felt so hollowed out, so completely empty of possibility.
READ MORE: Read an excerpt of Ship It by Britta Lundin!