To protect the throne, seventeen-year-old spy Kali must play a male guardsman trainee by day and royal lady by night.
Orphaned and trained on a spymaster’s remote estate, Kali is a scout who works alone in the shadows. But when a terror group threatens the Dansil throne, the king forces Kali to accept a mission at the palace or forfeit her sister’s life.
Suddenly thrust into the light, Kali must infiltrate high society as the royal Lady Lianna while penetrating the servant ranks as Kal, a male guardsman trainee. It doesn’t help that Trace, the harsh and enigmatic captain of the king’s guard, is soon assigned as both Lady Lianna’s palace escort and Kal’s commanding officer.
As Kali edges closer to the truth behind the violent group’s identity, she uncovers dangerous secrets that could bring her mission to a brutal end. A scout’s job is to observe and report, never to engage . . . but if it means saving her sister and kingdom, Kali may have no choice.
TRACING SHADOWS, by Amazon bestselling author Alex Lidell, is the first novel in the Scout series. Perfect for fans of Tamora Pierce, Leigh Bardugo, and Sarah J. Maas.
I should leave. Now.
Instead, I pick up a jagged stone and press myself against the wall. My heart pounds in my ears, sweat forming on my temples despite the chill wind. If Lord Gapral finds out . . . Swallowing, I lean around the corner and skip the stone along the side of the barn closest to Mustache’s men.
The men startle. Move toward the sound. I sprint in the opposite direction, banging my fist against the barn wall. “Loose horse! Wake up in there! Loose horse!”
Curses and agitated neighs sound from inside. A moment later, the barn’s back wall vibrates from the impact of kicking hooves. Good enough. Changing direction midstride, I sprint for the tree line.
“There he is,” a voice calls behind me.
My legs burn as I press into a faster run. The thud of pursuing boots echoes through my bones, but I’m smaller than the men. Faster. My breaths come in short, rapid bursts. Two dozen yards will see me into the blind blackness of the forest. They have to. One dozen.
A hand slams the back of my tunic, shoving me to the ground.
I twist as I fall, landing on my back. The impact takes my breath, but my legs are up and ready to kick. Burying my boots in my attacker’s hips, I lift the man into the air. The momentum of his weight rolls us, and with the next heartbeat I’m the one on top, straddling the man’s chest. I slam my fist down on his jaw and scramble away.
Another man grabs me from behind, his arms wrapping around my torso.
I stomp my heel onto his foot and twist free.
Something slams into my ribs. A fist or a boot. Maybe an elbow.
I move through the shock, loosening the throwing blades strapped to my forearms. Someone grabs my arms and wrenches them behind my back. My shoulders scream. I do too. Until a blow to the gut cuts my air.
“What are you doing here, boy?” Mustache demands.
“Nothing, sir,” I gasp, my voice catching. “A jest. I’m sorry. I’ll . . . I’ll settle the horses back for you. It was a stupid jest to wake up the hostlers. Lazy, drunken buggers. Just a bit of amusement.” The pressure on my shoulders tightens and I scream again. The Viva Sylthia aren’t buying my lie.
Alex Lidell is the Amazon Breakout Novel Awards finalist author of THE CADET OF TILDOR (Penguin, 2013). She is an avid horseback rider, a (bad) hockey player, and an ice-cream addict. Born in Russia, Alex learned English in elementary school, where a thoughtful librarian placed a copy of Tamora Pierce’s ALANNA in Alex’s hands. In addition to becoming the first English book Alex read for fun, ALANNA started Alex’s life long love for YA fantasy books. Alex is represented by Leigh Feldman of Leigh Feldman Literary. She lives in Washington, DC.
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