Sleeping Beauty never had troubles like this. For most princesses, a sleeping curse means a few inconvenient weeks unconscious and a happily-ever-after with their true love. Elena's curse, however, was designed without a cure, which means that she's getting a century-long nap for her 18th birthday whether she wants it or not. After years of study she's still no closer to finding a cure, even with the help of an undead godfather and an enchanted-mirror turned therapist. And with only a year until the deadline she's learned to accept her fate. Sadly, there's one prince who doesn't seem to have gotten the memo and who's continually trying to activate the curse so he can be the one to wake her up again. Only slightly less annoying is Cam, her new bodyguard and former childhood acquaintance who disagrees with Elena at pretty much every turn. When the curse threatens to come early, however, they both realize that fate is a lot more complicated than they'd ever imagined.
|Publisher:||North Star Editions|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)|
|Age Range:||12 - 18 Years|
About the Author
Jenniffer Wardell is the arts, entertainment, and lifestyle reporter for the Davis Clipper. She is the author of Beast Charming and Fairy Godmothers, Inc., and has won several awards from the Utah Press Association and the Utah Headliners Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. She lives in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Read an Excerpt
By Jennifer Wardell
Jolly Fish PressCopyright © 2016 Jenniffer Wardell
All rights reserved.
"So, how are we feeling today?"
Elena was fairly certain that Dr. Flyte knew exactly how annoying the question was and kept asking it in the hopes that one day when she would snap and hurl something at him instead of answering. The fact that he was a magic mirror and likely wouldn't survive the experience didn't seem to faze him.
Thankfully, Elena was more practical than he was. She let her eyes linger on the pale taupe walls of the small office, wondering if the color was supposed to be soothing. "Actually, I'm a little tired. A spell book I'd been waiting for finally arrived yesterday, and I'm afraid I stayed up later reading it than I should have." Her smile was an old defensive reflex, well-used and entirely meaningless. "I assure you, Alan gave me a suitably firm talking-to."
Had her personal bodyguard been close enough to hear them, rather than standing at attention on the other side of the thankfully sound-muffling wooden door, he would have given her that look that made it clear he could see right through her. Dr. Flyte, however, carefully had no expression at all. "Shall I talk to Commander Merrick? Given the damage he did to his leg during that incident with Prince Nigel, it would comfortably fall within the range of post-trauma employee evaluations."
Elena would have sworn she kept her face blank, but one of the doctor's eyebrows still twitched upward. It was, she knew from experience, his version of a smirk. "Of course, questions about his job duties would naturally come up, particularly about the mental state of the princess he spends his days guarding."
That was the problem with verbally fencing with a true magic mirror, the sentient entities that were so much more than the mass-produced communication devices they'd inspired. Though some continued their traditional work assisting particularly lucky sorcerers or sorceresses with their spells, many of the original mirrors had gone on to have second careers in a variety of fields where information and perceptiveness were more important than arms and legs.
Elena lifted her chin slightly, abandoning evasion for simple stubbornness. "What makes you think Alan could tell you any more about how I feel than these endless years worth of sessions have? After poking and prodding me all these years, surely you've figured me out by now."
Dr. Flyte sighed, his ghostly face sagging gently into something she refused to acknowledge as sadness. "Elena." The disappointment in his voice was worse than chiding would have been. "I'm only trying to help."
She pressed the palms of her hands flat against her legs, refusing to let them betray her emotions. "Curses are supposed to help you attract a royal spouse, or temporarily punish a business rival when a lawsuit doesn't quite get the message across. The worst ones are supposed to simply kill people." Elena couldn't keep the edge out of the words. "And then there's me."
Her mother, a sorceress who had decided to take the "evil" track after grad school simply because her beloved older sister had, decided to leave the family business when she fell in love. It was a common enough situation, normally nothing more serious than a story told at parties. This time, though, that older sister hadn't taken it well. As a result, Elena had inherited both her mother's talent and the curse that would eventually shut her down.
Thankfully, Dr. Flyte was an old friend of her mother's, which meant she didn't have to go into detail.
"Elena, you know perfectly well how unusual your situation is. The 'evil' part of an evil sorceress' title is often nothing more than a marketing tool, and the Worldwide Council of Sorcery is quick to punish those who would do irreversible harm outside the boundaries of a contract. Though there are any number of scholarly papers out there debating the merits of this, curses are generally seen as instructional at their worst and helpful at their best. Not ..." The word hovered alone for a moment, the doctor's normal verbal acuity apparently having failed him. He was a magic user in his own right, as knowledgeable about sorcery as anyone she'd ever met, and had studied her curse intently. Despite all that, it still pained him sometimes to talk about the curse.
To Elena, that meant they should all stop talking about it. No one ever seemed to listen, though. "Cruel?" Elena finished, feeling the old anger stir and forcing it back down. It never helped anything. "Appallingly vindictive to both her supposedly beloved younger sister and her only niece?"
"Yes," the doctor said quietly. "What happened to you is terrible, Elena. Which is why your mother and I feel it's important that you talk about what you're going through."
Elena took a deep breath, smoothing the non-existent wrinkles out of her dress as she ordered her emotions to steady. "I'm exactly like I was yesterday, Dr. Flyte." Then she pushed herself further back into the too-cushioned chair, deliberately turning the conversation towards a particularly relevant bit of gossip she'd been saving. "So, I ran into a particular young lady we both know who was asking about you yesterday. You know, I think she still hasn't gotten over her crush on you."
There was a flash of eagerness across the mirror's face, quickly suppressed. "You saw Maladicta?" There was a brief, very telling hesitation. "What did she say?"
She smiled, far more warmly this time, easing the sharp lines of her face into something that might have been welcoming. "Braeth is the one who saw her. He said that she's looking for a tutor to help her with a graduate course, and was so disappointed to find out you weren't still teaching."
"Well, I —" Catching himself, Dr. Flyte scowled. "For a supposedly eldritch nightmare, Braeth is entirely too fond of generating gossip."
"He's dead." She lifted her shoulders, long pale hair shifting as she moved. "There's only so many entertainment options available to him."
"I am, unfortunately, familiar with that." There was a definite undercurrent of sympathy in his voice, and Elena made a mental note to send him mirror copies of some of the harder-to-obtain magical journals she'd hunted down. Then his gaze sharpened on her again, and her impulse for generosity faded somewhat. "We are not, however, here to talk about either Braeth or Maladicta."
She held her hands out in a conciliatory gesture. "I was just attempting to be friendly. You always tell me I should take comfort from my relationships with the people around me." They'd had nearly a half hour-long argument about that particular piece of advice, consisting mostly of tense silences and disapproving looks on both sides, but there was no need to bring that up now.
The doctor, however, clearly remembered it, and he gave her a look that suggested he could see through her just as well as Alan Merrick. "I don't offer advice simply as some kind of complex scheme to torture you, Elena. Or," he added as her mouth opened, "because your mother pays me to."
She'd stopped using that particular argument when she was sixteen. Her mother had found out, and the guilt and sadness that had been on her face had robbed the accusation of any pleasure. "She is the queen, though. Maybe you do it out of fealty to our tiny little kingdom's tragic, beloved leader."
The mirror snorted disbelievingly. "I was manipulating kings and queens long before even your mother was born, princess. If I hadn't been foolish enough to teach you all my tricks, we'd be having a very different conversation right now."
Elena smiled again. When the good doctor was feeling particularly expansive, she could even get him to tell stories. "Oh, I'm sure there's a trick or two in there somewhere you haven't told me about yet."
Dr. Flyte started to nod, then caught himself. "You're distracting me again. If you won't talk about yourself, you can tell me more about the incident with Prince Nigel. Tell me, how did you feel ..."
* * *
Finally, mercifully, the session was over. Closing the door to Dr. Flyte's office firmly behind her, Princess Elena Augusta Randall let herself simply stand there and take slow, deep breaths through her nose until she stopped wanting to hit things.
"Every time I see you leave a session, there's a part of me that waits for you to at least kick the door behind you." Voice gentle and just a little bit amused, Commander Alan Merrick stepped away from the wall to follow her out of the office. The enormous cast freezing his leg into place made movement far more awkward than it normally was for the lifelong soldier, and Elena sent a dozen more mental curses in Nigel's direction for causing the injury. "I know better than anyone that it won't happen, but you remind me so much of my oldest daughter sometimes that the picture of it is always there."
Elena sighed, sending him a weak but real smile. "I will never understand why everyone seems so excited by the thought that I'll explode one day." She lifted her hands, some of the wariness leaving her hazel eyes. "When a sorceress gets angry, there's a lot more at risk than a few dishes. I might actually take a mountain down with me if I ever snapped, or at the very least blow huge chunks out of the castle walls."
Alan paused as he held the door open for her, as if genuinely considering the question. "Well, it might inspire them to update the décor a little."
She was surprised to find herself chuckling, and she held onto the feeling for a few precious extra seconds as they stepped out onto the street. Almost immediately they were surrounded by the bustle of a busy weekday morning, the noise of the people around them almost enough to disguise the brace of guards carefully positioned throughout the immediate vicinity. Normally, Alan guarded her alone, which was more than enough security to handle whatever dangers slipped past her magical defenses. But Nigel had used a curse charm on Alan, which meant no healing spell could fix her guard's leg, forcing him to be at diminished capacity until it healed naturally. He wasn't taking it well.
Elena, taking in a deep breath of the sausage-scented air surrounding the cart they just passed, had learned to accept such things. "I'll explode in Braeth's office, then get an interior decorator to redo everything in pink." Her smile widened at the mental image. "He'd kill me, but it might be worth sacrificing my last eight months just to see the steam coming out of his nonexistent ears."
Alan was the only one who didn't flinch when she joked about the curse, and she hoped he knew how much she cherished the freedom that gave her. "Actually, for all we know he might have enormous clown ears hidden under that —" He stopped, eyes going distant, then blinked and refocused on her. "We're being followed."
Had it been anyone but Alan, there were a number of smart comments she would have been tempted to make. Since it wasn't, she began scanning the crowd. "Won't the other guards be able to handle it?" Alan felt that most of the castle guard was poorly trained — he and the guard master had arguments about it all the time — but surely he had some faith in the group he'd requisitioned himself.
He caught her gaze when it moved past his, and the seriousness in his eyes made her go still with wariness. "Maybe." His hand moved to the hilt of his sword. "But I'm not about to trust either of our lives on it."
With the smallest tilt of his head, he gestured back to the alley they had just passed. They moved toward it with a deliberate casualness that only the person following them would even notice, then ducked inside. Alan went first, making sure whoever was following them hadn't chosen it as their own hideout, and at his signal Elena slipped in behind him. A search spell would be useless since there were likely to be more than a few perfectly innocent magic users on the street, and she didn't have enough idea of what she was looking for to narrow it down. Offensive combat spells would draw too much attention, and depending on who was following them potentially lead to assault charges if they were seen as unwarranted. A paralysis spell would be simpler and more effective, pinning whoever it was in their tracks and saving her guard from fighting with his broken leg. She just needed to know who she was aiming at.
A moment later, Alan answered that question for her. With no signal she could see or hear, he suddenly pivoted around on his good leg and slammed what seemed to be absolutely nothing against the wall. His arm stopped about six inches away from the bricks, resting on something solid despite the distance, and Elena shifted tactics and muttered the words needed to disable an invisibility spell. One quick yanking motion later, an embarrassed-looking young man wearing far too much silk was standing in front of them. "Well." He cleared his throat, then tried an overly bright smile. "How ... how lovely to see you both. Have you been having a pleasant afternoon?"
Elena's fist clenched as she stared at Prince Nigel, who had been officially barred from the castle grounds but was unfortunately still allowed to wander the streets without supervision. "You fool," she hissed, stalking towards him. "What did you think you were doing, following us like that?, The only reason you escaped after the last time you tried to knock me unconscious is because I was too busy worrying about Alan to punish you suitably. Now you actually bring me a knife? Do you want to die?"
Nigel's cheeks reddened. "I told youthat was just a terribly unfortunate accident! The curse charm was meant for the wall, not his leg!"
Alan, who was far too calm to punch the idiot like he deserved, kept the nobleman pinned in place while he used his free hand to check for any weapons. When he pulled an old spindle out of the young man's vest, he turned back to Elena. "Has this been enchanted?"
She waved her hand over it, murmuring the key word, but there was no responding glow. "Nothing, which makes no sense. What use would —" Remembering, Elena narrowed her eyes at Nigel. "You know that was a rumor, right? Started hundreds of years ago by a sorcerer whose ex-wife specialized in making spinning wheels." She grabbed the spindle out of Alan's hand, holding the pointed end uncomfortably close to Nigel's face. "They're far more capable of damaging, say, someone's eye than setting off a sorceress's curse."
"I just — it seemed so much more civilized." Nigel swallowed, his cheeks starting to get red. "The man at the junk shop was more than happy to sell me a spindle, and I thought —"
"No. You didn't think." Alan's voice was hard as he yanked Nigel away from the wall, giving the prince his best "Commander" glare. "And if I see your face again, I will tell the Queen that you're stalking her only child with the intent to harm. I don't believe she'll like that."
Nigel's eyes widened. Elena's mother was generally a quiet, responsible, faintly sad woman, the kind of queen people felt protective towards rather than afraid of. But rumors, rumors were powerful things. Especially when there were still scorch marks on the castle walls that had been there as long as Elena could remember. "I didn't — I never meant to harm Princess Elena! I just, I wanted —"
"To start my curse early, so you could be the one to break it," Elena finished for him, the words flat to hide the bitterness behind them. "Kiss the poor cursed princess and everyone will be thrilled enough to forget what made her lose consciousness in the first place." She paused as his face turned an even more crimson. "Of course, it never occurred to you what would happen if your kiss didn't work, did it? You wouldn't be the hero. You'd be nothing more than the bastard who trapped the princess in a century of sleep months before she had to be, just because you'd decided to be clever." A quick spell was enough to make the spindle transport away as he watched. "Unless, of course, I decided to take care of you first."
Nigel couldn't say a word, just staring at her like his voice had been stolen. Looking disgusted now, Alan shoved the prince back out onto the main street. Once he was safely gone, Elena pressed the heels of her hands against her eyes and reminded herself to breathe. "If you don't want to kill him," she said quietly. "I'm sure Braeth would be willing to do it. We could say it was an early death-day present for him."
"He's not worth it," Alan smoothed a gentle hand against her hair. "Besides, I need to get you home. I have to explain to several supposedly skilled guardsmen why they need to start looking for work in the food service industry."
That last part was a little too edged to have been directed at her, and she lowered her hands to see three guardsmen standing at the entrance to the alley looking far more embarrassed than even Nigel had managed. Alan jerked his head back in the direction of the castle, and the three disappeared as quickly as if he'd barked an actual order.
Seeing them flee, Elena was surprised to find a smile tugging at the corners of her mouth. "It's not really their fault, you know." She glanced over at Alan. "The fool was invisible, remember. You can't expect all the guards who work for us to be as frighteningly talented as you are."
Excerpted from Dreamless by Jennifer Wardell. Copyright © 2016 Jenniffer Wardell. Excerpted by permission of Jolly Fish Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
What I liked: What a book! I absolutely enjoyed my time with Jenniffer Wardell’s Dreamless. The synopsis is good but doesn’t do justice to the intricacies of this amazing story! I LOVED Cam and Elena! They’re both strong characters who are fun and excellent at hiding their emotions. When they break through each other’s carefully constructed walls and finally see the person under it all they fall hard… for a hopeless fantasy. Elena’s coming curse has started with blackouts and she’s powerless to stop it. The adventure of finding a cure and learning to be yourself is perfect for teens & adults alike. No one will be sorry to have read Dreamless! What I didn’t like: At the beginning of Dreamless I felt a bit lost, it lasted less than a chapter though and then I was immersed in the story. More… Author: Jenniffer Wardell Source: An eCopy of Dreamless was given to me in exchange for an honest review by Jolly Fish Press. Publisher & Date: February 16th 2016 by Jolly Fish Press Genre: Fantasy, YA, Romance ISBN: 0988649152 Pages: 350 Grade: A+ Ages: 14+ Steam: YA | Just a quick kiss or two