No electricity, no phones, and a broken princess to blame. Winter in the Seven Kingdoms just got colder...
Girl in the Snow is a YA dystopian fantasy novel by Nicole Adrianne. Check out the first chapter of this clean, thrilling tale featuring a destroyed power grid, an arranged marriage, an autistic heroine, and a swoon-worthy slow-burn romance.
The queen would thrash Eira once she finally arrived at the castle. But the uneven cobblestones beneath Eira’s skateboard rattled her bones in a way the queen only wished she could replicate.
Wind scored her cheek with sharp, heartless fingers as it breezed past her, unrelenting. Eira’s inevitable suffering, in reality, was quite evitable. She possessed—along with skateboarding prowess, a slight obsession with bats, and a great deal of generalized misanthropy—excellent time-management skills.
If she’d genuinely wanted to attend yet another of her stepmother’s meetings in the council chamber, punctuality would have been a priority. Nevertheless, there she was, flying past a boxy manor house on the four wheels of her Santa Cruz instead of sitting quietly on her throne at the proper time.
The comforting rhythm of hammers hitting metal and the acrid scent of molten iron drifted on the wind as she passed the forge. She wrinkled her nose.
Maybe she shouldn’t have procrastinated so much. What if the queen took another uninvited tour of her room? Eira had locked her door before leaving the castle, and the only key sat in her backpack beside a helping of homemade granola, but the queen had countless ways of accomplishing whatever nefarious tasks she set her mind to.
The last thing Eira wanted was to find her room in disarray again, with her insect collection strewn across the bed like remnants of an ancient battle. It had taken her months just to find the proper mounting pins again for her prized Leiopus linnei beetles.
Her teeth clicked as she rolled across the drawbridge planks, the skateboard rumbling against her leather boots. It wasn’t until she was nearly on the ground that she noticed her heels had slid out from under her.
She skidded across the splintering wooden bridge, too quickly to brace herself against her momentum. Once she lay still on the ground, she rolled onto her back and took a deep breath, the contents of her pack shifting against her spine. Everything would be okay.
The undersides of her dark blue sleeves were shredded since she’d thrown up her forearms to protect her face. Ragged drops of blood fought their way to the open air, staining whatever fabric remained on her arms. It was time for a new cloak, and probably another dress too.
After sitting up, Eira grinned when she saw the cause of her dramatic failure. A few meters away, wedged between two drawbridge planks, one of her skateboard wheels stared at her accusingly. The rest of her board was conveniently silent, hiding its shame somewhere out of sight.
Eira wriggled to make sure her backpack was still strapped on. She drew her shoulders back and let the pack fall to the ground.
Turning toward the man’s voice, she refused to wince. A dark-haired knight wearing a uniform decorated with the Royal Guard’s golden fringes crouched and held her skateboard out to her.
“Are you all right?”
“Fine.” Eira smiled, accepting her board from the man with what she hoped was an air of grace. “Thank you.”
Had she seen him around before? The constant turnover in the Royal Guard’s ranks made it difficult to keep track of individual members, along with Eira’s constant struggles with facial recognition. She could meet the same person five times and still not recognize them on the street. Facial recognition was all about context, and the moment the context shifted, even long-time acquaintances suddenly looked like strangers.
Turning the skateboard over in her hands, she inspected all three wheels and the deck, tracing the faded decal outline of a disembodied hand. The board had survived her crash with nothing but a tiny dent to show for it. That, and one missing wheel.
After standing with a heavy sigh, Eira danced across the drawbridge to pluck her skateboard’s fourth wheel out of the wood with a gentle pop. She fitted the wheel back in place beside its siblings, folded the silver trucks against the wooden deck, and accordion-folded the entire board until it fit snugly in her hand.
She ran back to her backpack, slid the skateboard inside, then drew out her pen to scribble the words tighten wheel on the back of her hand.
She broke into a jog, passing the concerned guard as she made her way to the main entrance of the castle, then wove through the entryway and up the stairs to the doors of the council chamber. Standing in front of the doors, she took a deep breath to steady herself, tugging down her ragged sleeves to hide the drops of blood. She tightened her fingers around the cool bronze handle of the right-hand door and carefully pulled.
What she hadn’t foreseen, however, was that the servants had forgotten to oil the ancient hinges. The door stuck after opening just a sliver. Eira pulled on it with increased strength, stepping her left foot back to brace herself against the effort. Another tug, and another.
Hope flared in her chest. Maybe, if she couldn’t get the doors open, she wouldn’t have to suffer through the humiliation of another council meeting. After relaxing her tense muscles in preparation for failure, she gave the door one final tug.
The huge wooden door slammed open against the wall with a deafening crack, flattening a canvas painting with its massive weight. The painting trembled, then fell, its frame cracking against the white tiled floor.
A headache pressed against Eira’s temples, protesting the mixture of unexpected noises.
As Eira peered into the council chamber, every head turned to look at her—except the queen’s, whose painted eyes stared straight ahead from her ornate golden throne and met Eira’s. Carvings of leaves, stems, branches, and berries danced across the chair’s generous armrests, the relief resembling ancient Grecian patterns.
“How kind of you to join us, darling,” the queen called across the council chamber, draping her straying golden cape behind her shoulder.
If the councilors, who sat at long wooden tables arranged neatly throughout the chamber, hadn’t already been staring at Eira, surely they would have after the queen’s loud introduction. Her words still echoed between the room’s stone walls, which were lined by nearly the entire Royal Guard.
The queen brushed invisible lint off her floor-length burgundy dress. “Would you please tell us why you’re tardy? These kind nobles have been patiently waiting for their princess.”
The queen settled against the back of her throne with a self-satisfied flutter of her cape. As Eira scurried inside the council chamber with her eyes trained on the floor, the door squeaked closed with all the speed of a racing snail. When Eira reached the front of the room, she dared raise her eyes to the onlooking nobles.
They gave her only glares, winces, and empty gazes. Some things would never change, even in the face of Eira’s extreme embarrassment.
After throwing the hood off her head and tossing her dark, cropped hair, Eira tucked the folds of her dress beneath her and sat quietly on her cold throne of silver beside the queen’s. The seat was hard and unforgiving, pushing into bruises she hadn’t realized existed along her back. For the first time in her life, she silently cursed the uneven planks of the drawbridge.
Eira cleared her throat. “I apologize, Queen Mother. My transportation suffered a grave malfunction on the road.”
“Is that so?” the queen replied with wide eyes and raised, plucked eyebrows, leaning over her throne to pat at Eira’s dress with long, probing fingers. Pinching Eira’s sleeve, the queen held up Eira’s arm before the council and examined it.
Eira winced, the fabric pulling against freshly formed scabs as the queen held her arm high. The queen twisted her head to study the scrapes on Eira’s forearms, sharply tugging Eira’s injured arm to the side for a better view. Eira yelped as the queen poked at her wounds with a sharp fingernail.
“You’ve sustained quite a lot of damage here,” the queen said, finally releasing Eira's arm, which fell limply back into her lap. “When will you, at last, agree to use a more respectable mode of transportation?”
Undeterred by Eira’s silence, the queen continued, addressing the council. “These kinds of injuries are hardly befitting of the crown princess. Alas, our beloved Eira has shown time and time again that my wise suggestions are not worth her precious time and consideration. If only there were someone in this castle she respected.”
The queen glared at Eira through a layer of mascara, straightening.
Trying not to let her fists shake, Eira set down her backpack beside her throne. “I do respect you, Queen Mother.”
She hoped her voice sounded less empty than she felt.
One member of the council, a rotund man clothed in purple, yawned loudly.
“Back to business!” the queen said, jabbing her index finger into the air. “Toko, what’s next on the agenda?”
“That would be the matter of distributing the East Islands, Your Majesty.” Toko didn’t look up from her tablet.
“Ah, yes. Distributing the East Islands.” The queen purveyed the rows of councilors before letting her eyes fall onto the chamber’s massive doors, which had finally closed all the way. “And who wishes to lay claim to a portion of the islands?”
Everyone in the room raised a hand, except for Eira, who’d hunched and crossed her arms over her bloody scrapes, and Toko, who diligently scribbled away on her tablet screen.
“All right,” the queen said, failing to contain a smile. “Tell me why you deserve part of this land. Let’s start with you, Councilor Weiss.”
The queen pointed at the councilor who sat closest to the thrones on a handcrafted wicker chair. The councilor stood, smoothing the wrinkles from her long, iridescent dress to fully demonstrate her opulence to the queen.
“Your Majesty, I have contributed countless funds towards the excavation of the islands and their—”
“Boring,” the queen interrupted, resting her cheek against her index finger. “However, I understand why you may find that a legitimate reason to stake your claim. Let me rephrase my question. Why should I be interested in giving you any of this land?”
“Oh,” the councilor replied, taking a moment to collect her thoughts.
“We’ll come back to you, Councilor Weiss,” the queen said, propping her feet up on an extravagantly embroidered golden ottoman in front of her throne. She pointed at the next councilor, who sat to Councilor Weiss’ right. “You. Go.”
“Your Excellency,” the next councilor began as he stood without hesitation. His emerald-green tunic drew eye rolls and disdainful coughs from his peers. “You may remember that, last month, I donated a generous percentage of my personal vassal knights to the Royal Guard’s service. Allow me to govern a few of the East Islands, and I’ll gladly offer ten percent of its produce and taxes to the castle.”
The queen locked eyes with the councilor, a smile spreading across her lips. She sat up and leaned forward, supporting her pale, narrow chin on her fingertips. “When can I expect to collect these assets?”
“In two months’ time,” the councilor responded confidently.
“Done. You’ll be allowed the first choice of five islands.”
A murmur echoed through the council chamber.
The procession continued, with each councilor around the room standing up and convincing the queen of their island management skills. In time, all forty-six of the East Islands were distributed to their respective landowners, and Eira was ready to start plucking hairs out of her arm, follicle by follicle, just to relieve her boredom. Instead, she discreetly reached for her backpack and pulled out her trusty black pen.
Toko rapped her tablet with the end of her stylus. “Next on the agenda is a dispute between Councilor Pulitzer and Councilor Birch. Councilor Pulitzer, you have the floor.”
Councilor Pulitzer stood, a thin, veiny man who barely looked strong enough to remain upright. The autumn breeze outside would undoubtedly flatten him.
“Respected nobles,” he said before interrupting his croaking with a dry cough. “I bring before you this concern as a matter of national security. As you all know, our supply of fish off the coast of Lumihavn has dwindled greatly.”
Only since you reinvented commercial fishing. Eira stared at the man’s wrinkly forehead, discreetly doodling an Esox Lucius pike fish on her palm.
“Several miles northeast of here stands a lake which forms the border of my territory,” Councilor Pulitzer continued. “That border is shared with Councilor Birch. Last week, my knights discovered that Councilor Birch’s vassals—even his peasants—have been fishing in that lake.
“Since I owned that lake long before Councilor Birch even received his share of land, I’d like to stake my rightful claim to exclusive ownership of the lake and its contents. I respectfully submit this matter for Your Royal Majesty’s glorious consideration.”
Councilor Pulitzer ended his speech with a long, sweeping bow, then sat, hands folded atop the table in front of him.
The queen smiled and tilted her head, tossing her long blonde hair behind her shoulder. “Flattery will only get you so far, Councilor Pulitzer. The fish will remain the property of whoever acquires them first. Next issue. Toko?”
Councilor Pulitzer stood up again, his chair scraping the floor with a long screech. “But, Your Majesty—”
The queen waved her hand at Councilor Pulitzer. Two guards moved from the wall to flank him. The councilor’s eyes dropped to the floor as he melted back into his chair, his shoulders slumped.
A sad old man who cares for nothing but his own wealth. Any intelligent person would have thought the Seven Kingdoms would be smart enough not to repeat the mistakes that brought the Great Plague upon them. Looking around the room, though, Eira knew that was far from the truth.
Toko’s rich, thickly accented voice swam through the space, echoing between the four stone walls. “That’s all, Your Majesty. The agenda’s been cleared.”
“Thank you, Toko.” The queen nodded at the secretary, and the wordless chatter of restless movement rolled across the room as the councilors prepared to leave.
The queen clapped her hands once and stood. “We’re not quite finished yet, councilors. I still have a few announcements to make.”
After straightening the wrinkles in her velvet dress, the queen turned on her heel and walked off the raised platform where her throne sat beside Eira’s. The queen walked over to Toko, then continued down the line of tables, making eye contact with each councilor as she passed.
“First, I have an important question for you, councilors, as you make up the backbone of Lumiallis. Who here has experienced insubordination from a member of an inferior class this week?”
The hairs on Eira’s arms stood as most of the councilors waved their hands readily. Eira tried to count the hands, but the queen continued too quickly, which prompted the councilors to lower their eager arms.
“A disturbing trend,” the queen replied, taking a piece of paper from Councilor Birch’s table and looking it over with a critical eye. “I think we can all agree that something needs to be done to maintain order in Lumiallis, particularly within our fine city, Lumihavn.”
The only sound in the room was the tapping of the queen’s feet as she moved. She cleared her throat. “I said, I think we can all agree—”
“Hear, hear!” Councilor Pulitzer shouted, raising his fist in the air. A few council members followed his enthusiastic example, while everyone else waited in bated suspense.
As usual, Eira had no idea what the queen’s plan for controlling the masses would be but knew it wouldn’t be good for anyone—and that included herself.
The queen tossed Councilor Birch’s paper toward him, letting it flutter back onto the table as she returned to her throne’s platform. Then, she turned to face the nobles. “We need to present an unbreakable, unified front to the other six kingdoms if we hope to survive this era of change.”
The queen’s gaze caught Eira’s, and the elated spark in the queen’s eyes opened a cold, gaping chasm in Eira’s stomach. Eira flicked her eyes to her feet, pretending that the queen hadn’t just made eye contact with her. Eira hoped the queen would either forget or reconsider whatever fresh torture she’d planned.
“Unfortunately,” the queen said, taking a seat on her throne and crossing one leg over the other, “it’s terribly difficult to maintain a solid presence in our government when my heir—my only heir—consistently refuses to take an interest in council meetings.”
Eira, once young and full of hope, could still remember how eager she’d been to attend the council meetings. Her tiny legs had carried her from one noble to another, asking every question she could think of about the way her kingdom worked. She’d wanted nothing more than to improve the world around her.
But when Eira glanced at the queen, every trace of hope in her chest evaporated into the morning air.
“I’ve arranged a solution for both of these pressing issues,” the queen said, the rising tone of her voice indicating the nearing climax of her speech.
Eira’s jaw tensed as her stepmother pointed to the door on the right side of the chamber.
“Allow me,” the queen said, “to present Benedict Coventry of Melumeana.”
Benedict strode in with outstretched arms, wearing a beige three-piece suit and a titanium-white necktie that barely distracted from the absurdly high, upright coif of his hair.
“Hello, hello, hello!” His odd transatlantic accent carried through the stone-walled chamber.
A Coventry! In Lumiallis? The sprawling Coventry line held more than their fair share of wealth in Melumeana, from concert pianist Hamilton Coventry to infamous drug lord Malcolm Coventry. Even the country’s Vice President, Timothy, hailed from the Coventry family.
But Benedict Coventry couldn’t have been more than two or three years older than Eira’s nineteen years; even with his impressive lineage, how exactly was he supposed to save the kingdom and motivate her to behave? His annoying accent and melodramatic gestures certainly weren’t doing him any favors.
“Eira, sweetheart?” the queen asked with a feather-light voice, turning to her. “Won’t you come greet your fiancé?”
Eira frowned as the gears in her brain stopped turning. She looked at Benedict, at the queen, back at Benedict, and back at the queen again. Her hands began to shake.
Eira rose from her throne, grabbed her backpack, took a few steps to the left, and kicked open the door. She left the room without so much as a glance over her shoulder.
Her pulse beat hard against her throat.
No matter what the queen might threaten, scream, or destroy because of Eira’s disobedience, she had to get out.
I hope you enjoyed this excerpt from Girl in the Snow!
No electricity, no phones, and a broken princess to blame. Winter in the Seven Kingdoms just got colder...
After being promised in marriage to a smug, stuck-up stranger, Eira thought she couldn't get any angrier. Now, she's on the run, and the entire kingdom is convinced that she built an EMP device and destroyed their power grid.
With Eira's best friend, infuriating fiancé, and the entire Royal Guard on her tail, staying hidden in a tiny village seems like her best—and only—option. But, as Eira uncovers a series of long-hidden truths about the Queen and late King, hiding from her destiny becomes nearly impossible.
Will Eira's evidence be enough to convince the kingdom of her innocence, or will it be just enough to get her executed?
If you can't get enough of Grimm's imaginative Fairy Tales, Marissa Meyer's Cinder, and Kiera Cass' The Selection series, then you'll be enchanted by the heart and suspense of Post-Apocalyptic Princesses. Girl in the Snow, a dystopian fairytale retelling loosely inspired by Snow White and the Huntsman, is the first book in the series. It takes place chronologically after the Post-Apocalyptic Princesses prequel, Girl in the Dark.
Grab a copy of Girl in the Snow to start the dangerously clever journey today!
This article was written by Nicole Adrianne.
Nicole Adrianne is an autistic author living in Stockholm, Sweden. She writes lush, compelling, and clean YA dystopian fiction. Check out more of her work by clicking any of the book covers below.