The Herald of Day by @NancyNorthcott is a Toasty Reads pick #historicalfantasy #fantasy #giveaway
Title: The Herald of Day
Author: Nancy Northcott
Genre: Historical Fantasy
The Boar King’s Honor Trilogy
A wizard’s fatal mistake
A king wrongly blamed for murder
A bloodline cursed until they clear the king’s name
Book 1: The Herald of Day
In 17th-century England, witchcraft is a hanging offense. Tavern maid Miranda Willoughby hides her magical gifts until terrifying visions compel her to seek the aid of a stranger, Richard Mainwaring, to interpret them. A powerful wizard, he sees her summons as a chance for redemption. He bears a curse because an ancestor unwittingly helped murder the two royal children known as the Princes in the Tower, and her message uses symbols related to those murders.
Miranda’s visions reveal that someone has altered history, spreading famine, plague, and tyranny across the land. The quest to restore the timeline takes her and Richard from the glittering court of Charles II to a shadowy realm between life and death, where they must battle the most powerful wizard in generations with the fate of all England at stake.
Most of Dover’s folk turned out for the witch’s hanging. Merchants in fine silk and linen mingled with farmers and laborers in stained homespun. Shoulders hunched against the damp ocean breeze, they chatted and waited.
“Black Bess, now,” said a short woman, “she danced like a hen on a hot slate b’fore she stopped.”
Her burly, male companion shook his head. “That don’t compare to Jack Dawes, the highwayman--took near an hour dyin’.”
Their anticipation rasped across Miranda Willoughby’s magical senses as harshly as rough surf scraped the shore. Standing by a small wagon in the midst of the crowd, selling hot bread from the inn where she worked, she steeled herself against the callous talk.
Although she hid her own powers, they would alert her to anyone else’s gifts, and she’d never caught a whiff of magic around old Mistress Smith. But saying so wouldn’t save the woman. It would only win Miranda a hanging of her own.
With luck, perhaps her limited magic could somehow ease the prisoner’s death.
Her cart sat near the hanging tree, a stout oak. Swaying in the breeze, a noose dangled from a thick branch. It seemed to taunt her with her lack of skill.
A sturdy, blond man in rough woolen garb stopped by the cart. “A hot cross bun, mistress.” He drummed his fingers on the cart’s side, whistling tunelessly.
As she expected, he barely looked at her. Men did not favor ugly women, and she’d used her magic to become so. Her dark hair appeared thin and greasy, her form scrawny, and her face pox-ravaged. In homeliness lay safety, worth its cost in other ways.
She uncovered one of the pails in the back of the cart, where warm bricks kept the buns hot. When she reached in, the sweet, yeasty smell of hot bread teased her nose. “That’ll be a ha’penny, if you please, sir.”
He passed her the coin and accepted his bread. As he turned away, the crowd roared.
People surged toward the road. In the sheriff’s approaching wagon stood a lone passenger, her hands bound behind her and her aged face twisted with fear.
People grabbed rocks and dirt clods. Threw them at that helpless woman.
Miranda gripped the edge of her cart, the weather-worn wood biting into her palms. What use was power if you didn’t know enough about it to help anyone?
When the wagon reached the tree, Mistress Smith’s face was dirty and bleeding. The sheriff climbed up beside her to read the sentence. The wind mostly carried his words away, but Miranda caught some bits. “For the crime of witchcraft...Squire Mason’s cows...”
Miranda frowned. Cows, hah! This had more to do with Squire Mason’s desire for the old woman’s land. Everyone knew he’d tried to buy her little plot at an absurdly low price, which gossip said the widow resented. Those rumors had opened the way for the witchcraft charge. As had Mistress Smith’s eccentric ways and homely, pox-scarred features.
Miranda’s hand rose to the pox scar illusions on her cheek. She forced it down. Her disguise could carry risks she hadn’t expected.
“Hanged by the neck until dead,” the sheriff finished. He rolled his parchment with a flourish and jumped from the wagon.
“I’m innocent. I done nothing!”
The crowd’s derisive shouts drowned the old woman’s screech. “Nothing anymore,” a man yelled, and everyone laughed.
Sick at heart, Miranda put one foot on the hub of one of the cart’s wheels, boosting herself above everyone’s heads. Her eyes sought the condemned woman’s in the probably vain hope of making her last sight a kindly one.
“Now,” the sheriff yelled.
The rope tightened. Mistress Smith’s body thrashed wildly in the air. Her desperate, pleading gaze met Miranda’s. In her reddening face, her eyes bulged.
Miranda’s stomach lurched, and she tasted bile. Swallowing frantically, she thought, Ease, and tried to push power into her thought. Have ease for the pain. It wasn’t working. Oh, if only she could do something. Anything!
Wrenching pain lanced through her head, and the crowd vanished. Purple-gray mists swept around her, swallowing the shouting, hooting voices.
Beneath her feet lay solid shadow, and the nasty odor of rotten eggs pervaded the dank, foggy twilight. Her neck and arms tingled with magic. With cold foreboding. Stumbling, she groped for something solid.
The fog receded, revealing a white boar—with blue eyes, not small, black, piggy ones—lying on a carpet of deep blue bordered in mulberry. It struggled to rise, its eyes dark with pain that wrenched her heart. Above it loomed a red dragon bugling in triumph. White and green striations shimmered on the undersides of its spread wings. Blood dripped from its talons and flowed from gouges in the boar’s side. The dragon’s joy stabbed into her with the certainty that it was evil.
Summon the boar’s knight, said a voice in her head.
Buy Links (including Goodreads and BookBub):
Amazon (KU): readerlinks.com/l/604266
What makes your featured book a must-read?
The Herald of Day offers a fresh spin on the mystery of Richard III and the Princes in the Tower that puts the hero’s soul at risk. When a wizard changes history to seize power, the good guys and a ghost must scramble to restore the true timeline and undo this new, grim reality. It’s aimed at readers who like historical mysteries with magic, ghosts, and high stakes.
Enter to win a $17 Amazon gift card:
Open Internationally. You must have a valid Amazon US or Amazon Canada account to win.
Runs February 15 – February 23, 2022.
Winner will be drawn on February 24, 2022.
Nancy Northcott 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 currently enjoys attending and volunteering at science fiction conventions.
Nancy 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 that king. A sucker for fast action and high stakes, Nancy combines the elements she loves in the books she writes.
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