Book Title: The Steel Rose
Series: The Boar King’s Honor Trilogy (Book 2)
Author: Nancy Northcott
Publication Date: April 29, 2021
Publisher: Falstaff Books
Page Length: 370 Pages
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The Boar King’s Honor Trilogy
A wizard’s misplaced trust
A king wrongly blamed for murder
A bloodline cursed until they clear the king’s name
Book 2: The Steel Rose
Amelia Mainwaring, a magically Gifted seer, is desperate to rescue the souls of her dead father and brother, who are trapped in a shadowy, wraith-filled land between life and death as the latest victims of their family curse. Lifting the curse requires clearing the name of King Richard III, who was wrongly accused of his nephews’ murder because of a mistake made by Amelia’s ancestor.
In London to seek help from a wizard scholar, Julian Winfield, Amelia has disturbing visions that warn of Napoleon Bonaparte’s escape from Elba and renewed war in Europe. A magical artifact fuels growing French support for Bonaparte. Can Amelia and Julian recover the artifact and deprive him of its power in time to avert the coming battles?
Their quest takes them from the crowded ballrooms of the London Season to the bloody field of Waterloo, demanding all of their courage, guile, and magical skill. Can they recover the artifact and stop Bonaparte? Or will all their hopes, along with Amanda’s father and brother, be doomed as a battle-weary Europe is once again engulfed in the flames of war?
The Steel Rose is the second book in the time-traveling, history-spanning fantasy series The Boar King’s Honor, from Nancy Northcott (Outcast Station, The Herald of Day).
This is set at a gathering in London several days after Bonaparte escapes Elba. Amelia has Seen riots occurring in France. She and her friends have sought privacy to share her vision by scrying in the fire and to discuss his prospects. The Merlin Club, which is mentioned in this excerpt, is a group of Gifted covertly working in Britain’s defense. Julian is their director.
To think, Julian mused, he’d expected this evening to be a waste, another tedious occasion enlivened by the occasional need to dodge a snare. Instead, he was hearing a tale that fit disturbingly well with information trickling out of France. Amelia’s composure and her orderly presentation as she created a scrying of her earlier vision were admirable.
If he asked, would she join the Merlin Club? Women could be members, though that was kept secret. To mask its true nature, the club needed to seem like the others in St. James’s, which admitted only men. His aunt, who sat in an armchair by the divan, had declined to join.
“And then we came in here,” Amelia concluded as the fiery image faded.
Julian glanced at Robin, who stood on the opposite side of the hearth from him. “Those soldiers wore the uniforms of the gendarmerie, the military who provide security for the country. Do you think this is happening now?”
To her credit, she didn’t answer at once but frowned, apparently examining her memories.
The firelight that cast a glow over the old leather books on the shelves also gilded her face and shadowed the hollow between her breasts. She made an enchanting picture. Perhaps too much so. No matter how much she had to offer, no matter how trustworthy he believed her to be, he would never lose his head over a woman again.
“I don’t think so,” Amelia replied at last. “It feels…uncertain.”
“Could you tell this time whether they’re rioting in Bonaparte’s favor or against him?” If the mob was against him, that could be a boon to the allied nations.
“I still can’t, no.” The thoughtful look in her eyes sharpened into worry. “Do you think Bonaparte will start another war?”
“Almost certainly,” Robin said. “Even if France cedes the government to him, he’ll want to even scores against the Allies, to regain the reach he once had. It’s heartening to hope some in France may not favor that.”
Julian nodded. “Can you scry Bonaparte, Amelia, or summon a vision of him?”
“I’ll try.” Extending her hand, she poured argent power into the flames until even he could feel it where he stood by the mantel. The image of a small chateau formed.
“I’ll try to see inside.” Frowning, she fed in more magic, but the view didn’t change.
She had so much power but less training than she should’ve, thanks to her idiot father’s inability to stand up to her foolish mother. This was what came of marrying the unGifted. England’s wizards were dying out or poorly trained while the more selective French and Germans, even the Italians, added daily to their numbers. Julian had the normal complement of Gifts, scrying, wielding witchlightand using it to ignite small flames, throwing it in larger volumes calledwitchfire, pushing or pulling objects or people, and projecting magic to light candlesorcreate glamours, but he couldn’t pretend he was as strong in any of them as his ancestors had been two generations back.
The flames turned blue at the edges. “I can’t draw more,” Amelia said.
“He’s hidden,” Julian responded. “Blocked from the scrying by French wards, no doubt. He could be anywhere.”
He and Robin exchanged an angry glance. Julian added, “Only wizards raise wards. First the French Gifted helped him escape Elba, and now they shield him. They’ve broken accords going back to King Alfred’s day.”
Feeling his way, Julian said, “Amelia, you were scrying in the fire, not relying on your seer Gift at all, were you not?” When she nodded, he continued, “Do you know the saying ‘A seer need not scry to See—”
“—‘what is, what was, and what will be,’” she finished with him. They smiled at each other, the same idea blooming in both their minds.
“Perhaps if I don’t scry, if I simply open myself to it,” she said, voicing that shared idea, “I could See something.”
Scanning the shelves and tables, Julian frowned. “You know more than I about what spurs your Gift, but perhaps if we had something related to Bonaparte or to France?”
“That might help,” Amelia said. “I’ve only used what my grandmother calls triggering objects that were related to my family or home.”
Aunt Augusta walked to the table under the lone window. She picked up a porcelain shepherdess statuette and peered at the bottom. “Italian,” she announced. The bust of Caesar was, oddly, German, as was the swan on the bookshelf. The dancing couple in Georgian attire on the mantel, though, were French.
“Better than nothing,” she said, handing the figurine to Amelia.
Amelia turned it over, and the firelight picked out delicate gold detailing on the man’s long coat and the woman’s jewelry. Holding it loosely, opening her senses, she brushed Julian’s magical awareness with her power.
“Don’t watch me,” she said. “I can feel your attention.”
France, Amelia thought, glory and Napoleon… eagles and sabers. She called up the memory of the battle she’d envisioned. Moments ticked by, but patience was key here, essential to—
The room winked out of being. Purple-gray mists swirled around her with the stink of rotten eggs. The mists dispersed. Through the last wisps, stone and stucco buildings came into view, their roofs steep. A dozen men in the blue uniforms of the French army rode their horses at a walk down a narrow street. They stopped before an inn and walked inside. Their leader, a narrow-faced man whose brown hair held traces of ginger, followed the stout landlord up the stairs.
The landlord knocked on a door and opened it, revealing a comfortable parlor. In the chair opposite the door sat Bonaparte.
Amelia’s breath caught as the onetime Emperor of France rose. “Ney,” he said, “so good to see you. Bienvenue, mon frère. With you at my side, who can prevail against us?”
Bonaparte and the man—Ney—embraced. Swirling fog obscured the vision.
“I lost it,” she murmured. “Trying…”
But she couldn’t recapture it. Rubbing her brow, she said, “It’s gone.”
Everyone looked to her, their faces hopeful. If only she had more to report.
She described the vision. When she mentioned Ney, her listeners’ faces hardened.
“Who is Ney?” she asked.
Robin replied, “Possibly the bravest of Bonaparte’s marshals. He commanded the rear guard in the retreat from Russia and is a brilliant cavalry officer. After Bonaparte abdicated, Ney made his peace with Louis XVIII and stayed in the army. If he has switched sides, that’s a grave problem.”
“I don’t think he has,” Amelia said slowly. “I think he will, but I don’t know when. It feels…not definite.”
Shaking his head, Robin said, “Ney commands six thousand men. He’s doing well enough under the Bourbons. Why would he risk all that?”
An image flashed across her sight, a mounted figure in glistening armor and a cloth-of-gold surcoat waved a sword as though exhorting the men in front of him. Above, the fleur-de-lys of France flapped in the breeze.
“Amelia?” Sophie said.
The vision faded. She regained it but couldn’t amplify it. Quickly, she told her companions about it.
“How odd,” Julian said. “Nobles wore armor in the time of Richard III, so maybe it’s to do with that. It wouldn’t be anything to do with Bonaparte. Let us know if that happens again, but we’ve more pressing concerns than this mystery just now.”
Robin shook his head. “If Ney turns his coat, if his command goes over to Bonaparte…”
“We must go,” Julian said, “and alert the Merlin Club since the government will not listen.”
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Nancy Northcott’s childhood ambition was to grow up and become Wonder Woman. Around fourth grade, she realized it was too late to acquire Amazon genes, but she still loved comic books, science fiction, fantasy, history, and romance. She combines the emotion and high stakes, and sometimes the magic, she loves in the books she writes.
She has written freelance articles and taught at the college level. Her most popular course was on science fiction, fantasy, and society. She has also given presentations on the Wars of the Roses and Richard III to university classes studying Shakespeare’s play about Richard III. Reviewers have described her books as melding fantasy, romance, and suspense. Library Journal gave her debut novel, Renegade, a starred review, calling it “genre fiction at its best.”
In addition to the historical fantasy Boar King’s Honor trilogy, Nancy writes the Light Mage Wars paranormal romances, the Arachnid Files romantic suspense novellas, and the Lethal Webs romantic spy adventures. With Jeanne Adams, she cowrites the Outcast Station science fiction mysteries.
Married since 1987, Nancy and her husband have one son, a bossy dog, and a house full of books.
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Nancy-Northcott/e/B00ITY5KLS