The Last Princessby Galaxy Craze
Happily ever after is a thing of the past.
A series of natural disasters has decimated the earth. Cut off from the rest of the world, England is a dark place. The sun rarely shines, food is scarce, and groups of criminals roam the woods, searching for prey. The people are growing restless.
When a ruthless revolutionary sets out to overthrow the crown, he makes
Happily ever after is a thing of the past.
A series of natural disasters has decimated the earth. Cut off from the rest of the world, England is a dark place. The sun rarely shines, food is scarce, and groups of criminals roam the woods, searching for prey. The people are growing restless.
When a ruthless revolutionary sets out to overthrow the crown, he makes the royal family his first target. Blood is shed in Buckingham Palace, and only sixteen-year old Princess Eliza manages to escape. Determined to kill the man who destroyed her family, Eliza joins the enemy forces in disguise. She has nothing left to live for but revenge, until she meets someone who helps her remember how to hope-and love-once more.
Now she must risk everything to ensure that she does not become . . .
The Last Princess.
A pulse-pounding, sobering look at human nature..."Booklist"
There is plenty of action, with daring rescue capers, good old-fashioned battles, secret-identity mishaps, and thrilling near-escapes set against an English dystopian landscape. Genre fans will appreciate this old-school take on a futuristic predicament."BCCB
Read an Excerpt
The Last Princess
By Craze, Galaxy
PoppyCopyright © 2012 Craze, Galaxy
All right reserved.
THE DAY BEGAN AS A BEAUTIFUL AND VIVID DREAM. It was one of those rare days when the sun was out, and the light was soft and warm, Easter yellow. We were in the garden, just my mother and me; Mary had gone out with our father, but my mother was eight months pregnant and tired, so I had stayed to keep her company.
“Oh.” Mother rested her hands on her pregnant belly. We had packed a picnic, with bamboo mats and a lime-green gingham tablecloth and a few pillows to lie on. “I think your brother wants to join us.”
I was reaching for her belly to feel my brother moving when we heard our butler, Rupert, calling to us. There was a delivery.
Standing at the doorway was a handsome man with golden-blond curls. In his arms he held a basket of fresh, perfectly ripe fruit: peaches and plums, apricots and apples, deep red strawberries. I hadn’t tasted fruit since the Seventeen Days.
“Who is it from?” my mother asked, unable to take her eyes from the gift.
The man smiled as he handed over the basket, revealing a row of perfectly white teeth. I remember staring at his teeth, thinking they looked plastic.
“Long live the queen,” he said, and she smiled as he backed out the door. My mother had always been embarrassed by the expression.
We carried the basket outside to the blanket and sat down in the emerald grass.
Mother reached into the basket and plucked out a perfect-looking peach. She brought it to her nose, closing her eyes as she breathed in its scent.
“Look, there’s a card inside.” I plucked a small white note from the pile of strawberries, and read it aloud.
To the royal family and the new baby. Enjoy.
“Who is C.H.?” Mother asked.
I ignored her, distracted by the fruit, wondering what to try first: a plum? A strawberry?
My mother opened her mouth, biting into the peach. A drop of juice rolled down her chin.
“Oh, it’s delicious. It’s the most delicious thing I’ve ever tasted.” As she took another bite, her serene smile turned to a look of concern. She plucked something off her tongue and placed it on her palm. “But peaches don’t have seeds,” she said.
I leaned forward, looking at her hand; in it lay a tiny metal star.
My mother’s face drained of color as she fell back onto the blanket, her hands clawing at the grass, her fingernails digging into the earth. In the breeze, I heard a rasping sound.
It was my mother’s last breath.
CAREFULLY, I UNCLASPED THE LOCKET FROM MY NECK, LETTING the weight of the Welsh gold fall into the palm of my hand. It was the end of August, but it was cool inside the castle’s thick stone walls. Even in summer, a draft wafted through its rooms like a lonely ghost.
I opened the locket and stared at the miniature portrait of my mother, then at my reflection in the window’s leaded glass, then back again, until my eyes blurred. We had the same dark hair and light blue eyes. Would I grow up to look like her? I closed my eyes, trying to feel her arms around me, hear the low murmur of her voice, smell the rose oil she dabbed on the inside of her wrists every morning. But the memories weren’t coming back as clearly today. I snapped the locket shut and wiped away my tears.
I could stare at my reflection all day, but I would never recognize myself. I would never be the girl I was before the Seventeen Days, before my mother was killed. My family had grown hollow inside, like an old tree dead at the roots but still standing. Our hearts were broken.
They never caught Cornelius Hollister, the man who had killed my mother. He haunted my dreams. His blond hair, his intense blue eyes, his gleaming white teeth followed me down darkened streets while I slept. Sometimes I dreamed I was killing him, stabbing him in the heart over and over again, until I woke up drenched in sweat, my hands clenched in fists. Then I would curl up and weep for what I had lost, and what I had found in myself during those dreams.
Outside Balmoral Castle, a gray veil of rain fell over the barren landscape. The color of the rain had changed since the Seventeen Days. It was no longer clear and soft like teardrops. This rain was gray, sometimes dark as soot. And it was bitter cold.
I watched the soldiers circling the courtyard, rain beading off their heavy black rain gear. Round, half-empty ammunition belts hung around their necks, carefully protected from the weather. No cartridge could be wasted with ammunition so low. Like the bags of flour in the pantry, the jars of oats, the salted snakes and pigeons hanging in the larder—nothing could be wasted. Everything, scarce.
A thick dust swirled through the air, marking the sky like a bruise. Six years ago, everything had changed. For seventeen straight days, the world was battered by earth-splitting quakes, torrential hurricanes, tornadoes, and tsunamis. Volcanoes erupted, filling the sky with fiery smoke that blocked out the sun and covered the fields with strange purple ash that suffocated crops.
Scientists called it a catastrophic coincidence. Zealots said it was the act of a vengeful God, punishing us for polluting His universe. But I just remembered it as one of the last times I had my mother with me. We spent those seventeen days in the bomb shelter below Buckingham Palace, along with government aides and palace staff, holding each other tight as the world shattered around us. Only my mother kept calm. She was in constant motion, passing out blankets and canned soup, her soft voice reassuring everyone that it would be okay.
When we finally came to the surface, everything had changed.
I missed the light the most. The watery early-morning sunshine, the hot blaze of a summer afternoon, the sparkle of Christmas tree lights, even the soft glow of a naked lightbulb. We emerged from the dark into smoke and ashes, into a world lit by fire.
I felt something cold on my hand and looked down to see my dog, Bella, staring up at me with her large, dark eyes. I had found her with Polly, the groundskeeper’s daughter and my best friend, shivering under the garden shed when she was just a tiny puppy. We had fed her milk from a doll’s bottle and nursed her back to health.
“Let me guess—you want to go for a walk. Even in this soaking rain?” My voice sounded quiet in the high-ceilinged bedroom.
Bella wagged her tail in excitement, looking up hopefully.
“Okay, in a minute. But I have to finish packing first, or Mary will nag me to death.”
Bella barked again, as though she understood. My suitcase lay open on the four-poster bed, under the shade of a white eyelet canopy. This was our last day in Scotland. We were taking the train to London this afternoon to make it home in time for the Roses Ball tomorrow. The annual Roses Ball marked the traditional opening of Government Offices and Parliament after the summer recess, and my father always made a speech. Even though I hated leaving Scotland, I was ready to see him again. This was the first summer he hadn’t spent at least part of the holiday with us. He kept sending notes with the Carriers, saying that he was busy with the rebuilding projects and would visit as soon as he could, but he never did.
After our mother was killed, my father had retreated from the world. Once, right after it happened, I found him alone in his office in the middle of the night. Without turning to look at me, he said, “I wish I had eaten the peach. It should have been me. That poison was meant for me.”
I grabbed my hairbrush, my toothbrush, my pajamas, and my book, quickly throwing them into the suitcase. It wasn’t exactly neat, but it would do.
Bella barked impatiently by the door. “I’m hurrying.” I grabbed my raincoat from the hook on the wall, slipped my feet into a pair of bright yellow Wellingtons, and ran into the hallway.
I knocked softly on Jamie’s door but didn’t wait for a response before opening it. Inside, the curtains were drawn; only a hazy line of light crept in to illuminate the dark room. The astringent smell of Jamie’s medicine hung in the stifling air. A small cup of the deceivingly cheerful cherry-red syrup sat untouched on his bedside table, next to a bowl of oatmeal and a cold chamomile tea. It was already midday and he hadn’t taken his medicine yet?
My younger brother had barely made it into the world. After our mother was poisoned, the doctors had to force his birth surgically. He survived, but his blood had been tainted by the mysterious poison. It would be with him, slowly killing him from the inside, for the rest of his life.
Our sister, Mary, had made Jamie stay in his room most of the summer, bundled up against the constant drafty dampness so he wouldn’t risk catching a cold. She had the best intentions, but I knew how depressed he felt, trapped inside. Today was his last chance to be outside in the fresh air before returning to the smog-filled London streets.
I walked over to where Jamie lay sleeping under the covers. I hated to wake him, especially from what seemed to be a peaceful sleep. The medicine kept him alive but also stole his energy and fogged his thoughts. Worst of all, it gave him terrible nightmares.
I gently turned back the pale blue comforter with pictures of the planets on it. “Jamie?” I whispered. But the bed was empty.
I was about to turn away when I spotted the corner of his writing pad hidden beneath the pillow. The book where he drew intricate drawings of what he imagined the world looked like before the Seventeen Days. The animals were far too big, the cars looked like spaceships, and the colors were all off, but Mary and I never had the heart to tell him. So what if he imagined the world from before as a wonderful, impossible place? It wasn’t as though he would ever get to see it.
I turned the page of the notebook to his most recent entry, and my heart started to beat faster.
Last night I heard two of the housekeepers talking in the kitchen. They said my name and I stopped to listen. I know I shouldn’t eavesdrop. They said how worried my father and sister are about me. How difficult it is to get my medicine now and how expensive and hard to find it is. They could do so much good for the people with the petrol and ammunition they have to trade for it. They said I’m a burden to my family.
I’m sick and useless. The doctors say I won’t live much longer anyway. I can’t stay here. I don’t want to be a burden anymore.
I RACED DOWN THE LONG HALLWAY TO THE BACK STAIRCASE, Bella following close at my heels. I jumped down the stone steps three, four at a time, keeping one hand on the banister for balance.
My Wellingtons squelched in the mud as I ran down the winding trail to the stables. Only three horses were out to pasture, and Jamie’s mare, Luna, was missing. Hurrying, I unlatched the wooden gate to the field.
“Jasper! Quick, quick!” I called to my horse. There was no time to bother with a saddle or reins, but I’d been riding bareback on Jasper since I could walk. I clambered up onto his back and turned toward the woods. We were almost out the gate when I saw a pale green cardigan looped over the post. It was Jamie’s. He must have left it when the rain stopped. I felt an immediate pang of relief. He hadn’t been gone long, and on gentle old Luna, he couldn’t have gotten far.
If he was in the woods, I’d need a weapon. The Roamers could be out there. I grabbed the only thing I could find, an old knife with a broken leather-bound handle. I could throw it or, if I had to, fight with it. After the Seventeen Days, without phones or computers or television, Mary and I amused ourselves play-fighting with the Royal Swords. The Master of Arms gave us lessons, teaching us to slash, stab, and parry. Mary and I would fence against each other, betting on the little luxuries that were still left over from before: a square of Cadbury chocolate, a piece of spearmint gum. Later, when the government food rations were gone, we would take spears and throwing knives to the woods around Balmoral, hunting the snakes and pigeons and few other creatures that remained. I was surprised to find that I had quite good aim, unlike Mary, who never could get the hang of throwing a knife.
“Bella, come!” I held out the sweater for her to sniff. Bella could catch almost any scent you gave her. Polly and I had trained her one summer, hiding things in the woods—a toy, a shirt, an old shoe—rewarding her with a treat when she found them. Bella sniffed the sweater up and down. “Track,” I said firmly.
She placed her nose to the ground. After a few seconds, she took off running toward the fields.
The brown earth blurred beneath me as Jasper galloped behind Bella. I leaned forward and wrapped my arms around his neck, closing my eyes. I hated seeing my woods like this. The Seventeen Days had transformed the sun-drenched forest of my childhood into a dark, tangled place. Most woodland animals had died in the destruction, or were later hunted to extinction by the Roamers. Only the worms, leeches, and snakes were left. The ground was covered with gnarled, rotting tree roots, spreading out in every direction like giant hands.
I pulled Jasper to a stop at the top of the hill, scanning the woods for signs of the Roamers—smoke, fire pits, grave markers. Or worse, the hearts of their prey, human and animal, mounted on sticks. The Roamers had banded together after the Seventeen Days, when electric security in the prisons failed and the inmates were able to escape. They gathered in the woods, eating anything they could kill. Since most wild animals were dead, they hunted humans. You could tell a Roamer camp by the sickly sweet smell of roasting human flesh.
I felt something brush against my forehead and looked up. It was a frayed rope, hung from a high branch. The base was knotted to the tree, a piece of webbing left hooked on a branch. A trap. I fingered the edge of the rope, looking for footprints. They were there, clear outlines in the mud.
“Go!” I shouted to Jasper, trying not to think of Jamie caught in a web of rope. Bella raced up the logging trail along the side of the hill. Finally, I spotted Jamie’s small figure in the distance, hunched over on Luna, riding deeper into the woods.
“Jamie!” I yelled, even though I knew the Roamers might hear us. “Jamie, stop!” He paused but didn’t turn around. The small backpack on his shoulders was filled to bursting, and I wondered what he had packed for the outside world. A pillow? A flashlight? I spurred Jasper on, and quickly reached Jamie and Luna.
I slid off Jasper and ventured closer. “Jamie,” I said softly. “Please come home.”
He turned to look at me. Dark circles like bruises spread below his blue eyes, which were sunk into the hollows of his face. His skin was white as rice paper, and in the dim light of the forest, he seemed almost translucent.
“I don’t want to be a burden anymore,” he said simply, his voice so weak it was nearly lost.
I took a step closer. “You can’t just leave us.” My words sounded awkward and slight, even to me. “You can’t just give up.”
“You don’t know what it’s like,” he said. “You’ll never understand.”
“You’re right, I can’t possibly understand.” I choked back a sob. I had no idea what he suffered every day. “But think of all the pain you’ll cause everyone by leaving us. Think of Father, think of Mary. Please stay… for me?” I held out my hand.
Jamie slid down from his horse and took a step toward me. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a wisp of smoke rising above the trees in the distance. I stiffened, pressing my fingers to my lips so that he would know to be quiet.
I heard the deep rumbling of men’s voices. A strange whirring. The sound of a motor starting. Jamie stared up at me, his eyes wide. “What is it?” he whispered.
I shook my head and took his hand. He didn’t know about the Roamers; Mary and I had tried to protect him from the world’s worst horrors. We ran for the granite rock at the edge of the clearing and crawled underneath. I held Bella in my lap, grabbing her snout with both hands so she wouldn’t bark. One sound and we would be caught. Jasper’s ears pricked up as if he sensed the danger. He and Luna trotted into the woods and vanished from sight just in time.
A band of men entered the clearing just a few yards away. They were dressed in tattered gray prison uniforms, the words “MaxSec” tattooed in coarse black letters on their foreheads. A few had guns. Most carried makeshift weapons: hooks, chains, gardening shears, bludgeons, old pipes filed down and sharpened to points, and what appeared to be a hedge trimmer that had been stripped of its casing so that the blade rotated menacingly. Two of the men carried a thick branch between them. A sack, soaked red with blood, hung from it heavily.
I tried to cover Jamie’s eyes with my hands, but I knew he had seen. He had seen the worst of humanity. Don’t look over here, don’t look over here, I thought desperately. If the Roamers gave the rock a second glance, they would notice the shadowy area underneath and come looking for us. We would be as good as dead.
I tried to hold Bella close, but in a burst of strength she wriggled away from me and sprinted toward the men, barking aggressively. I wanted to call her back, but I bit my lips until I tasted blood.
The two men carrying the bloodied bundle stopped and laid the branch down on the ground. One of them stepped forward, aiming his pistol into the darkness of the surrounding forest.
“Who’s there?” he called.
I pressed closer to the rock, holding my breath.
“Stop jumping at nothing,” the second man told him. “It’s just a wild dog. A dirty old mutt.”
The man with the gun turned toward Bella. He was missing one eye, a metal plate covering the empty socket.
“Come on, the others are ahead of us,” the second man complained. “Can’t waste the bullet on a stringy, skinny dog. We’ve got other food needs eating.” The first man lowered his gun with a sigh. They lifted the branch and its bloodied cargo onto their shoulders and started walking into the distance.
Jamie and I waited under the rock, holding each other and shaking. When I finally smelled the sickly sweet burning smell, I knew we could make our escape.
THE SUN WAS FINALLY STARTING TO EMERGE FROM BEHIND THE heavy blanket of clouds when we returned to Balmoral Castle.
“Eliza! Jamie!” Mary’s voice rang out in the still air.
“You can’t tell her,” I reminded my younger brother. “You promised.”
“I know,” he said, his voice shaking.
“Jamie, I need you to know something.” I pulled Luna’s reins toward me so our horses were side by side. “You have to understand that people didn’t used to eat other people. Before the Seventeen Days, there was no such thing as the Roamers. You have to believe things will get better.” I thought of him alone in those woods. “You know there are good people in the world. That’s our side. If we give up, if we run away, then the bad people win.”
Jamie nodded, his eyes wide. Mary galloped toward us, pulling the reins fiercely to reach a sudden stop. Her long blonde hair fell around her face, and her ivory complexion was flushed from the wind and exercise.
“Where have you been?” she yelled, looking from me to Jamie. “I’ve been looking everywhere. The train is leaving in an hour. Did you forget we were going back today?”
“Jamie! You know better than to leave your room,” she said, ignoring my protests. “You have to take care of yourself!”
She swung back to me, her eyes narrowing. “How could you let this happen?”
“I know, it’s my fault,” I said, fighting the urge to break down and tell her everything that had happened. “We wanted to have a nice last day…”
“No, it’s my fault,” Jamie interrupted. “I begged Eliza to let me go riding.”
“While I did all the cleaning and packing as usual.” She sighed. “I hope you didn’t go near the woods.”
“Of course not! Just the fields.” I hated lying to Mary, but sometimes I had no choice.
Mary looked at me, the frown between her eyes softening. “Do you know what it’s like for me, always having to take care of you?”
“You’re not our mother!” I said angrily, immediately regretting it.
“Someone has to be the mother here,” Mary replied quietly. I wanted to apologize, but she was already riding away.
On my way back to the castle, I saw George, our grounds-keeper. He had unlocked the steel doors of the gardening shed and unwound the thick metal chain holding them shut. The petrol tanks were in there, guarded by shepherd dogs, as protected as we could keep them without electricity.
The black Jeep we always drove to the train station stood next to the shed. I watched as George tipped the end of the gasoline spout into its tank, a grim look on his face. Even from where I stood, I could hear the slow drip-drip-drip of the gasoline.
“It’s almost gone?”
George turned toward me, and I noticed for the first time how he had aged this summer. There was a hollowness in his cheeks, a troubled look in his eyes that hadn’t used to be there.
“They should get the rigs mended soon enough,” George said, which we both knew was a lie.
“We can take the horses. They don’t need oil.”
I was trying to make a joke, but George didn’t laugh. “We have enough for this trip. The roads are too dangerous to go in an open carriage and risk the horses getting stolen.”
I looked over at the Jeep. It was made of bulletproof steel and glass, but George had added an extra layer of steel over the windows. Shields of metal now protected the tires, and sharp spikes had been welded to the roof and sides. He had also sanded away the W that stood for Windsor. Without it, I realized, no one would know us. Ever since my mother’s death, my father had refused to let us appear in public or even to circulate royal portraits. Only our name was recognizable.
“Is it the Roamers?” I asked.
“The Roamers don’t go on the roads.”
“Then what’s all this for?”
“Just extra protection. Don’t worry your pretty head about it,” he said, turning away from me to pour the last of the petrol in the Jeep.
I shook off the comment, knowing George didn’t mean to offend me, and continued on. “Who was in the kitchen last night? Late?”
George looked at me curiously. “Why?”
“One of the staff called Jamie a burden. He heard her say it. Find out who it was. Please,” I added, in as polite and princesslike a voice as I could muster. “It nearly killed him hearing her say that.”
The door of my room creaked as I pushed it open. The girl at my writing desk turned around, her blue eyes wide with surprise.
“Eliza!” Polly jumped up out of the chair, holding a piece of paper behind her back. “I thought you were out riding.” Her voice wavered with unshed tears.
“What’s the matter?” I said, walking toward her. Her hand shook as she kept the paper hidden from my sight.
“Nothing.” She forced a smile. “I was just writing you a good-bye note. Not finished yet.”
“I’ll miss you so much, Polly.” I drew my best friend in for a close hug, blinking back tears of my own.
We heard footsteps approaching the door, and Clara walked in. “Eliza, honey, it’s time to go.” She was carrying a basket of food and a blanket. “I’ve packed you some sandwiches for the train.”
I leaned in to give Polly’s mother a big hug. She’d been like a second mother to me ever since my own died. Wrapped in her arms, her rough wool sweater scratching my cheek, I felt safe.
“Eliza! Hurry!” I heard Mary’s voice from the courtyard. Polly and I rolled our eyes at each other as we grabbed my luggage and raced down the stairs, starting to laugh.
In the courtyard, Mary was standing at the door to the Jeep, tapping her foot in impatience. I was surprised to see that Eoghan, our stablemaster, was in the front passenger seat next to George.
“Why is he coming? We’re not taking the horses,” I whispered as I slid in the back next to Jamie.
“I asked Eoghan to come,” Mary mumbled, and I was even more surprised to see that she was blushing. “We need help carrying the bags.”
I refrained from pointing out that we’d always done fine with just George. I leaned back, closing my eyes against the rattling and sputtering of the motor, which was protesting the watered-down fuel. George had been adding corn oil to the petrol to make it last longer. Bella jumped in beside me and I patted her soft dark fur.
“Wait!” I heard a tapping and opened my eyes to see Polly running alongside the truck, waving at me. I quickly rolled down the window, and she tossed a white envelope into my lap.
“I almost forgot,” she gasped, “to give this to you.”
I clutched it tight to my chest. “I’ll read it on the train! Good-bye, Polly!” I turned and waved out the back of the Jeep, watching her figure grow smaller and smaller until she disappeared in the mist.
AFTER THE SEVENTEEN DAYS, MY FATHER HAD AN OLD VICTORIAN steam train taken out of the underground tunnels, where it had been used as a museum piece. We visited it once when I was very little: I remembered chasing Mary around the red velvet seats, drinking tea in the dark-paneled dining carriage. Now, as the only train in the country that ran on coal, it was also the only train able to run at all. A few coaches were kept open for passengers, but its main purpose was to haul heavy crates of coal, scrap metal, broken glass, wood—anything that could be melted down or welded into something usable—back to London.
We walked up to find the beautiful coaches of the old train hidden behind reams of barbed wire fencing. Men wearing mesh masks perched on top, their guns aimed down into the crowd, holding giant three-pronged hooks so that they could pry off any stowaways. Crowds of people shoved and pushed on the platform; some had tickets, while others tried to barter cans of food, dried meat, even clothes and mittens for a seat.
“Ticket holders only!” the conductor shouted at the crowd. “Stowaways will be thrown off on sight!” I held tight to Jamie’s hand as George and Eoghan rushed us through the crowd to the Royal Compartment.
We were quiet as the train pulled out of the station. Jamie drew stick figures in the misted glass of the window, then wiped them away with his sleeve. Bella curled up on her blanket by my feet. I looked out at the abandoned towns we were passing. The setting sun cast eerie shadows on an old playground. The chains had been cut from the rusted swing sets, probably to be made into weapons, or to be used by the Roamers to tie up their captives. I shuddered, thinking of how close to danger Jamie and I had come.
Eventually, the moon appeared in the sky, but even the moon was different after the Seventeen Days. It was a grayish color, and splotchy, as though it too was covered in the fine gray ash that had fallen over everything. Jamie had once asked me if the moon was sick, just like him.
The cabin grew dark. Mary reached for the coal-light, compressed coal ash inside a heat-resistant glass bulb. Slowly the black mound turned blue, then red, casting a circle of golden light above us. She pulled out two ball gowns and a sewing kit from her case. Jamie fished out a book of crosswords and a packet of colored pencils, and started drawing pictures of colorful, fiery trains. I looked at the gowns spilling over Mary’s knees. One was the color of wine, with crystal beading sewn around the neckline, while the other was a simple peach-colored silk gown with a ruffle along the sleeves.
“Which one are you going to wear?” I asked, realizing that I hadn’t even thought about tomorrow night’s ball.
“The red one. I’m mending this one for you. It will be perfect with your eyes.”
“Thank you, Mary,” I said softly.
“It was Mum’s, so it’ll look good on you.”
I said nothing, just watched the careful movement of Mary’s needle along the seam. Once upon a time we had a whole staff of royal seamstresses, but Mary had learned to do a lot since the Seventeen Days. “I found them in the storage wardrobe. Remember how she used to let us play dress-up in there? This was the dress she was wearing the night she met Dad.”
I thought of the room in Buckingham Palace filled with dresses belonging to past princesses and queens. The magnificent white wedding gowns worn by Princess Diana and Princess Kate, the fur-lined cloak Queen Elizabeth wore the day of her coronation. But I couldn’t remember the story behind the peach dress.
I made myself smile, but inside I ached. Mary had so much more of our mother than I would ever have, and Jamie, none at all.
He looked up from his notebook, his wide blue eyes shifting anxiously from Mary to me. “Do you think Dad will be happy to see us?”
“Of course he will,” Mary scolded. “Why would you even ask that?”
Jamie shrugged. “Because he never came this summer. He’s been gone since June.”
Mary gently brushed his hair away from his forehead. “He’s been very busy with work this summer. He had to meet with the prime minister almost every day,” she explained.
“Did he ever say why exactly?” I asked.
Mary shook her head, but I had the feeling she knew more than she was saying. “The rebuilding projects, I guess.” Strands of her thick blonde hair fell loose from her ponytail and down the shoulders of her cream-colored blouse. Our mother always said Mary had roses in her cheeks, but I couldn’t help noticing how very pale she looked these days.
Silence fell as we ate the sandwiches Clara had packed for us and shared the jar of well water. It tasted cool and fresh. Like the gasoline, the well was guarded day and night. Clean water was so hard to find now, a treasured commodity.
I turned to the train window as we passed through the outskirts of an abandoned coastal city called Callington. The buildings had collapsed like a pile of toy blocks. Pieces of debris floated like dead flies on the water. A peeling, faded billboard was scrawled in black paint with the words THE NEW GUARD IS RISING.
I shivered at the menacing words, uncertain what they meant. “Mary, what is that?” I asked.
“What, Eliza?” But by the time she turned to look, we had already passed it.
The train rocked rhythmically over the rails and soon Jamie lay asleep between us. I covered him with the blanket and tucked it under his chin.
“He looks so peaceful when he sleeps,” I whispered.
Mary nodded, placing her hand on his cheek. “It’s the only time he’s not in pain.”
I held my breath. I wondered if she suspected what had happened this afternoon. I wanted so badly to tell her, but she had enough to worry about.
“I’m getting sleepy too.” Mary unfolded another plaid woolen blanket and covered herself with it. I turned down the coal lamp and laid my head on the pillow.
“Eliza?” Mary whispered, and my heart skipped a beat. I was certain she would ask me about what happened. “Do you think the red dress is too dark for my skin?”
I stared up at the dark ceiling, fighting a strange urge to laugh. Why were we holding a ball while bands of criminals stalked our lands? Roses didn’t even grow anymore. But I knew that the Roses Ball was one last thread of tradition that Parliament could cling to. Like the thread in Mary’s needle, desperately trying to repair the holes.
“Mary, you know you’d look beautiful in a potato sack.”
I was about to close my eyes when a burst of orange flame came cascading through the sky, leaving smaller trails of fire in its wake. I sat up, watching it anxiously to see where it would land. A flash of heat passed the train window, then disappeared in an instant. The sky went black again. The sunball had died out falling to earth.
The flare was gone, but I couldn’t bear to take my eyes from the dark fields. I watched, waited, just in case another one fell from the sky. The sunballs—pieces of the sun that spun off toward Earth—had been falling out of the sky since the Seventeen Days. No one knew exactly what caused them, but getting caught in their fiery rain was fatal.
Even after the destruction of the Seventeen Days, we had been hopeful. There was still electricity thanks to the backup generators, which my father allotted for use in the hospitals and fire and police stations. The hum of the generators was oddly comforting—it was the sound of rebuilding, of putting the pieces back together. The water lines were destroyed, the sun was hidden behind a cloud of ash, but as long as I heard the generators, I hoped everything would somehow be okay.
Except that England was utterly alone.
My father had sent the Queen Mary, the navy’s eight-thousand-ton steel warship, to find news of the rest of the world. The earth had stilled, laying itself down among the mess like an exhausted child after a temper tantrum, but the oceans were still furious. The Queen Mary only made it a few miles offshore before the ocean swallowed her whole. There wasn’t enough fuel to send another ship, and no one had answered a single one of our radio transmissions. Maybe we were the only survivors.
I pressed my hand against the window glass, still warm from the burst of the sunball’s flame. The cabin suddenly felt unbearably cold. I shrugged into my coat, putting my hands in the pockets, and felt the sharp corner of an envelope. I’d forgotten about Polly’s letter. I unfolded it with a smile and started to read.
I am so sorry to have to tell you this. You are my best friend and if anything happened to you I would never feel whole again.
Do you remember my uncle, the one who worked in a metal factory before the electricity stopped? Late last night he banged on our door with his wife and their baby son. They said they had been lucky enough to escape a raid on the district LS12 in Manchester, a raid led by a group calling themselves the New Guard. They had weapons, guns, and ammunition, and they were shooting everyone who resisted. My uncle’s family was able to escape through the underground to another district. They were the lucky ones.
My uncle said the New Guard have already seized many of the districts in London. They are led by Cornelius Hollister, who wants to kill your entire family and become king.
Please be careful, Eliza. Your life is in danger.
My hands trembled as I held the letter. In the dim glow of the coal lamp, I looked at my brother and sister sleeping soundly.
It dawned on me that all summer I had not heard any news of the outside world. Usually the Carriers brought us updates from London when they delivered letters from our father, but this year Clara had collected the mail for us. I thought of the time I walked into the kitchen and saw her with her ear pressed to the radio. She had switched it off as soon as she saw me, claiming that all she could find was static.
I sank back into the train’s seat, staring out at the dark night. I wondered how much my father knew of Cornelius Hollister’s plan and how much he was trying to hide from us. Maybe that was the reason he had stayed in London all summer.
Excerpted from The Last Princess by Craze, Galaxy Copyright © 2012 by Craze, Galaxy. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Galaxy Craze is the author of two novels, Tiger, Tiger and By the Shore, which was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction and won the Betty Trask Award in her native England. She lives in Northampton, Massachusetts, with her husband and their two children and is currently working on a sequel to The Last Princess, coming in spring 2013.
Find out more at www.savethelastprincess.com
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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I fell in love with The Last Princess the moment I glimpsed the cover and the title of the novel. The title has this aura of mystery in it that had me begging to get started. Lucky for me, when I did begin reading The Last Princess, I immediately did not want to stop reading. It started with a fast pace prologue that introduces us to the darkness that has consumed our world in the future as well as the fact that in this future murders will occur. This is an evident fact when Princess Eliza’s mother is murdered in the prologue. Sure it was dark and grim, but I ate it right up and continued on with the novel. From that point on, I was sure that the opening chapter wouldn’t manage to top the awesome-sauce prologue… Boy was I wrong. Immediately after the first couple pages, we watch as Princess Eliza goes on a hunt to find her sickly younger brother, Jamie, and to prevent him from committing suicide. That opening chapter not only tugged on my heartstrings, but it had me falling in love with the story even more so. Death was a concept that was constantly used in the novel. People are dying of starvation and illness, and eventually people who supported the royal family are murdered as well. As the novel progressed, I have to admit that the story did not manage to lose my attention. At. All. Every single detail cannot be missed! Galaxy Craze wrote the story with so much beautiful detailing and thoughtfulness that you feel compelled to read more and I can assure you that you won’t want to miss a thing. Personally, one of my favorite scenes was during the Buckingham Palace overthrow, when the Tudor army murders the king and kidnaps Eliza’s family. From that moment on in the novel, the reader really gets to see that Eliza is a much stronger, smarter and braver character than we all assumed she was from the beginning. Especially when, to save her siblings, Eliza joins the Tudor army where we see just what Cornelius Holister plans on doing to the world to help “save” it. As a good quarter of the novel was spent from Eliza’s POV within the Tudor army, we were introduced to two new characters. One an antagonist: Portia. The other a love interest: Wesley. I found that the romance between Wesley and Eliza was adorable; it was cute and also dangerous. The only thing that I was cautious towards was my cut instinct on the fact that Wesley might not be exactly who he says he is…. I would recommend this book to (obviously) fans of dystopia and as well as people who enjoy the story of Anastasia because really, that’s what this story reminds me a lot of. I cannot wait for the sequel to the novel, especially since the novel ended on such a dramatic high note that tells us that Eliza’s story is far from over…
I read the preview and was very excited to buy the whole book when it came out, which I did. I had high expectations for this story as I enjoyed the preview. I was disappointed however by the general lack of character and story development. It is hard to have a full and engaging story with only 182 pages. I enjoyed the authors writing and wish I could of had more. This book should have been 4-5$ not $10. If you want a quick read I recommend this book, but if you are looking for a story to get lost in this is not the book for you.
I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS BOOK!!! I got caught at least 4 times in school reading it. I couldn't stop reading it. I can't wait to purchase the second one when it comes out in spring of 2013!!! :D Galaxy Craze does a fantastic job on setting the scene of what is happening. This book is full of suspense, a little bit of romance, and action. In my opinion it was one of the best books I have ever read.
It wasn't really worth reading. The events were forced and the plot was terrible. Half the time I only continued reading to see if the book would get better. Not worth ten dollars. The only really good part was the story line. It was orignal and creative.
Overall Thoughts: This was such an inspiring story about a courageous girl looking for revenge in a hopeless and bleak world! The Last Princess is about a sixteen year old girl named Princess Eliza who suddenly finds herself alone when everyone she loves is devastatingly ripped away from her by one man - Cornelius Hollister, who killed both her parents and captured her brother and sister. The world of London, England has seen better days especially because it's experiencing things like natural disasters, food scarcity, and revolutionary revolt groups. To Princess Eliza, these are the least of her problems because she plans on throwing away her crown and secretly joining the rebels in the hopes of gaining the upper advantage so she could avenge her family's downfall on the one man who is responsible for it all. But what happens when Princess Eliza falls irrevocably in love with his son... who has a little secret of his own. What I liked about this book: Princess Eliza! I loved that she starts out as a sweet and innocent girl who is used to everyone fighting her battles for her and by the end of the book she turns into this powerful, unyielding warrior. Also, I really adored the ending. It has the "happy every after" feeling to it that you'd expect from a story about a princess, with a world-stopping twist that would make any Dystopian novel proud! What I disliked about this book: Um... it ended? Verdict: This was such an empowering novel that will make you want to fist pump until you've finished it!
This book really reminded me of the Romanov's minus the complete death sentence. I loved how the author described the dystopian world, complete with evil murderers and a faction against the crown. Eliza is a princess in this torn apart world. Her family lives very grandly, but sometimes it seems like they may be ignoring what it going on right outside their front door. The prologue itself is enough to draw a reader in; the reader will have to know just what happened and why...but all will be revealed soon. Eliza was an interesting character. She felt dynamic to me, as if she actually matured during the course of the novel. She is brave and stubborn; she could be accused of being hard-headed at times. The other characters in the book have an impact on the plot, but not so much on the reader. The reader will probably only feel a true attachment to Eliza. The love interest is perfect and somewhat unexpected in this dystopian. The author does a good job of keeping the reader in the dark until the last possible moment. The plot was very fast-paced. The reader will have the opportunity to meet Eliza at a very young age and then meet her again later on. Eliza is constantly in motion, rarely stopping to think or plot. She keeps the reader very involved with her thoughts and worries. Overall, this book is a quick and exciting read, recommended to young adult/teen readers.
At a family cook out, my moms friend and I started a conversaion about reading and books. She leaves and then comes back with a book and gave it to me. I forgot about it for a little while. Later I started reading it. I could not put it down!! It was AMAZING!! Even seven months after reading it it continues to be my favorite book!! I read all the time and I think this is the best book I have read and will ever read!!! If you took the time to read this, PLEASE buy it!!!!!!!!!!!! It is one of those amazing things that nobody can completely explain....
This bookis worth the time and money. The wholestory leaves you on the edge of your seat! READ IT READ IT READ IT READ IT READ IT READ IT READ IT READ IT
I was left very dissapointed. There were many times that i had to put the book down and walk away because it was getting to the point that i no longer wanted to read it. I came in with such high expectations and finished the book wanting my $10 back. I do NOT recommend this book.
So l read this book aboet a year ago and I have read it seven times. At first glance at the cover it looks like gooey lovey book but it really is about a girl who is known as princess eliza. After the sevebteen days her mother was murdered. Years later her family has the anual rose ball where her father is murdered by the sam man who killed her mom and has kidnapped her brother and sister eliza has a choice. Hide and hope to survive or set out on a quest to save her brother and sister and stop evil while discovering love. This story grabs you and doesn't let go. But in this case that is a good thing
I LITERALLY READ THIS BOOK IN THREE DAYS!!! When I was walking down Barnes & Noble, I was looking in the Science Fiction area and saw The Last Princess. I decided to take it along with the other books I had. I started reading it and was suddenly hooked to it. I definitely recommend this book to ANY high-schooled or middle-schooled girl. 100% the best book I have ever read and touched.
I really didn't like the book as much as i wanted too. The plot felt like it was rushed, interesting events where forced and characters popped in and out- i couldn't keep track. I found it hard to like the main character and i felt like she fell in "love" with Weasley in a short period of time. I didn't like her family as much as i should've and that made it hard for me to like the book even more because the whole thing was about saving them. Also i think that the random fast forwards a couple weeks into the future were annoying. And the whole rivalry between her and Portia was stupid and unexplained. Other than that the overall storyline was good, it had alot of action, and it was a fairly short read.
I was a bit wary when I first saw this book but I absolutly couldn't stop reading it when I got into it. I did buy the book, not the sample, so results for everyone else might vary. Overall this book is an exilerating adventure that is Sci-fi, Historical Fiction, and slightly romantic. I am not much of a fan of romance, but I still loved the book. And as many other reviews said, it is a Romeo and Juliet type of romance, well,(SPOILER) without them both dying in the end. A very great read, will recomend this book to anyone.
The plot just felt like a heart flatline and it totally needed resuscitation! At the beginning, I really didn't think the book had it. The writing is a little...ummm...not very good. By that I mean, it has a lot of conversation. The world building lacks quite a lot. I mean, it is a setting where world building is key, but Galaxy...well, not very well done. I constantly asked the question: how old are the girls? When I read the book, I felt like they are around 9. They felt kiddish. But as I read on, I started to enjoy the book more, and more. (Funny thing how this reminds me of my After the Snow by S. D. Crockett review, because I had the feelings when I was reading that this book was written from the same level author as S. D Crockett.) That said, I do enjoy I did like how Galaxy didn't go overly crazy about the palace; I always like imagining my own. Yes this sounds like a contradictory sentence comparing to my comment about the setting previously, but this is different. I needed more details about how the world is like, how the sceneries looked. I wasn't sure what to picture when Galaxy described this dystopia London. The setting felt very historic. If I didn't know better, I thought it was set in the 1600-1700. It takes me a moment to realize it is not in the 1600 when I read a "steel street sign". Oh! Right! Not a historical YA fiction...Oops? On to the character...Eliza reminded me of Carys in the Relic Master series by Catherine Fisher. So if Catherine wrote about how Carys became Carys, this book would be it. She was strong and smart. She was also in a...military like of squadron. But Eliza felt one dimensional. Portia is quite the character. I really wanted to punch her. I felt like even though we don't get much time with Portia than Eliza, I felt like Portia had more character. Great job Galaxy for conveying my emotions. :) And as for Wesley...oh Wesley. I just didn't feel my desire for him. I can see he must be a gorgeous guy, but his personality...didn't pull me to him. Guess it is because I don't feel like he is old enough. I personally like older men and with Eliza feeling like 9, Wesley felt like a 10 or 12 years old. Ew? Ha-ha, I did love how the horse was named Caligula! Wooot! Badass! And as for the plot...well...they were predictable. Remember? Resuscitation? Yeah, the plot definitely needed one. I totally saw the thing with Wesley happening and couldn't stop myself from screaming "I KNEW IT!". I did LOVE how short the chapters are. They are the perfect length. I really don't enjoy authors who writes a book with like 6 chapters in them. When I read, I read a small part at a time (since reading is my away-from-homework-break). So the short chapters allow me to "detach" with the book more. Futhermore, I did enjoy like the cover? :) The colours are beautiful and very quite different. I might sound super critical about this book, but I think it is readable. I guess it is easier to write about the flaws of a book than the virtues. There were amazing moments in the book that kept me up reading. This book definitely was good but it didn't have the spark or the shabam like some other books. It just felt more like a MG book instead of an YA. If it is a MG book, I think I would've rated higher based on the fact that it would be more accurate. And I do have my YA standards higher. :P
4 Stars THE LAST PRINCESS was a brilliant, and spellbinding adventure, that had murder, chaos, and destruction, all twisted around layers of hope, survival, and determination!! It was beautifully done, with addicting characters, and world building that kept me entertained for hours!! THE LAST PRINCESS was a highly entertaining story, with compelling characters, addicting world that was filled with dangerous situations, tragic events, a deadly dictator, and a forced army that was willing to do their dictators evil bidding's. I LOVED IT!!! BUT, as much as I loved it, I also had some issues with it. Manly that some of the events that unfolded were unrealistic and preposterous. But because of my love for this book, I overlooked them on mostly every occasion! THE PLOT... The world is full of destruction and ruins after Seventeen straight days of disasters brought a Country to it's knees. Only the lucky survived—the ones that were sheltered during the Seventeen days, the ones who are determined to survive. Now, six years later, England is still trying to pick up the pieces of those fateful days their world changed forever. England still remains in ruins, cut off from the rest of the world, unknown of what lies beyond their borders... REWIND SIX YEARS: After the Seventeen days of natural disasters, they royal family and their court rises from their underground sanctuary to find their Country in an uproar. Chaos, destruction and murder fill the streets of England. Hunger and lack of security remain instilled in the peoples hearts. And their are some who feel their are others better suited to wear the crown and rule all of England. Then, on a routine picnic with her youngest princess, the queen is assassinated—poisoned with child in her belly, forced to leave her sickly prince behind in a world where medicine and health care is a struggle, even for the royal family. FAST FORWARD SIX YEARS: After six years, the King of England still fights to regain control of his kingdom and subjects. With a kingdom on it's knees, and war on the horizon, and he's wife's murderer still free to wreck havoc and murder who he pleases, the king feels it's best to keep his two daughters and sickly son in a distant location, secluded from the outside world—shielded from the hard truths of what really lies outside of their save haven. But then all of the king's fears come true, as their is a new leader, Cornelius Hollister, the same man that murdered the queen, trying to rise up and take over England. His army, The New Guard, is gearing up for war, determined to kill off the remaining Royal line, and become crowned as the new King of England. He is terrorizing the already broken people that remain from the Seventeen days, raiding houses and forcing them with force to join his army and fight for him, or be forced to work in the Death Camps where they will be forced to dig their own graves. And then there are the roamers, the ones that roam the Country, hiding from the New Guard while killing what they can, either human or animal, whatever they can find to fill their bellies. When all seems like it couldn't get worse, the same day both the princesses and the young prince come back to England to join the Roses Ball, The New Guard storms the caste and the King of England is murdered by Cornelius Hollister in front of his daughters and loyal subjects. Then while trying to escape, the eldest daughter Mary, now the queen of England, and the young prince Jamie are captured and taken by The New Guard to await their horrific fates. But the youngest daughter, princess Eliza barley manages to escape the same fate as her siblings. And now, she is England's last hope of survival... Now, Princess Eliza is the last free Royal standing, and she plans to fight until her death. She plots to free her sister and brother from the clutches of her parents murderer, and make him suffer for all the pain he inflicted upon her and her family, but also their Country. But as adrenaline fades, and clarity sinks in, she realizes that she is only one person verses Hollister's thousands. How could she possible fight them odds and take down the man who has conquered England with an iron fist? All she has is limited weaponry and fighting skill, and her wits, but how far would that really take her before she is killed and her Country left in the hands of a sadistic killer?? But their is one thing that she has that Hollister doesn't: A pure hatred and determination to destroy the man that has taken everything she loves from her. The Last Princess will rise, and take back what was taken from her, or die trying... That is when Eliza decides the best way to take down the man that's taken everything from her is to infiltrate his army, and work from the inside out. But how could she possible go against thousands? Then she meets Wesley, the same guard who let her escape the night her kingdom was overthrown, and they join forces. Now Eliza isn't as alone as she thought, and she is ready to play Hollister's game, and willing to do anything in order to save the people and kingdom she loves, even if she has to die for it... Doesn't that sound like such a great book?? It was. But like I mentioned above, as much as I enjoyed THE LAST PRINCESS, it had it's flaws. On one hand, I REALLY enjoyed it, but on the other, it had many aspects that were unbelievable, and hard to swallow. But since I really enjoyed the actual story and the plot and characters, I was able to look past them almost every time they would arise, and see through to the actual meaning. So overall, I HIGHLY enjoyed THE LAST PRINCESS, and would definitely recommend it if you enjoy apocalyptic/dystopian type books, with a shattered kingdom on it's knees in the break of war!! I can't WAIT for the next book, INVASION to release in 2015!!!
Loved the book, had so many suprises in it leaving me almost screaming in tue middle of class mostly because my friend made me think the oppisite, BUT i do reccomend this book, it is AWESOME
I really enjoyed this book. I liked how there was a lot of mystery in what would happen next. Read in one day. I want book 2!
8.99 at B&N. But is a really great book
Couldn't put it down!
I’m tired of dystopian novels but it seems I went through a phase where I accumulated post-apocalyptic books like nobody’s business, and now I’m stuck with it and have to read them all. Luckily for me this turned out to be a surprisingly good book. The Characters: I didn’t really connect with any of the characters, because there wasn’t much opportunity to really get to know any of them, other than making the distinction of which characters fought on which side of the battle lines. The good guys were really good and the bad guys were caricatures of the evil villains we find in every other movie. But, I really liked Eliza and her siblings, Mary and Jamie. What I didn’t like is that it’s never explained why the bad guy has it in for the royals. Yes, he offered a flimsy excuse to Eliza of his motives, but once it is proven later in the story that that isn’t the real reason why Cornelius wants to be king, no other explanation was ever offered to satisfy my curiosity. The Setting: This is the first dystopian novel ever I’ve read which takes place in England and Scotland respectively. That is one of the main reasons I enjoyed it so much. For some reason this author managed to do something no other author whose dystopian novel I’ve read this far, managed to do. Craze made this English dystopian setting feel realistic and possible. For a welcome change the world didn’t end by some unexplainable virus, plague or war. Though the Seventeen Days natural disasters felt a little over the top, I rather appreciated this ending to the world, to the usual. The Plot: The reason I don’t give it a solid five-star rating is because of three reasons. First, before reading this book, throw all logic out of the window. If you, like me, are going to ask questions about elements and happenings in Eliza’s world, you’re not going to enjoy this post-apocalyptic novel. Don’t expect things to make logical sense. Secondly, the “twists” and “reveals” can be spotted a mile away. Well, I saw it coming a mile away. That predictability sort of dampened my enjoyment of this original tale just a tiny bit. Lastly, a lot of the scenes – especially the execution scene – felt a little rushed. I don’t know if there is a sequel in the works, but I for one would like to know what happened to Portia and her two sidekicks, and to Vashti. I’m definitely not on the series bandwagon, but I have to admit that because the story is rushed in so many places and some parts of it are mostly skimmed over, this would’ve actually worked better as, at the very least, a trilogy. The Romance: This is not a book I’d recommend to readers looking for swoony romance. I was more than happy to find that the romance in this story was so miniscule, it’s hardly worth mentioning. It was used more as a plot device to get Eliza out of sticky situations, than to move the plot along. Needless to say, I was overjoyed to read a book where the romance was pretty much non-existent (which just proves my point that a book can work very well with little to no romance in it). Conclusion: Compared to a multitude of dystopian novels, The Last Princess offers the reader something different. I’m always complaining that dystopian novels are all the same, but I was delighted to find that this quick read – which I finished in a couple of hours – had elements I haven’t come across in other dystopian novels. I highly recommend it to fans of the dystopian genre looking for something slightly different, and to those who like their heroine to kick butt and rise as the justly deserving victor after she has been put through hell.
I loved this book. Oh and for those who wrote that they finished the book in 3 days you should know i finished it in 1. Dont blame me i could barely put the book down. Its an increadible so be prepared for this book will take your breath away.
Love the way Princes Eliza tries to get all her family back....... Can't wait for te sequel !!!!!!!!!!!!!!