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Authors: Colleen Oakes

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The Crown

BOOK: The Crown
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Advance Praise for
The Queen of Hearts
by Colleen Oakes:

 

“Dinah is a headstrong, spirited princess grappling with a lot of the same issues that even us non-princesses in the real world face—anxiety, confusion, jealousy, anger, and the growing burden of responsibilities that often feel too heavy to bear. The fact that I cared so much about this complex young woman on the cusp of adulthood and can’t wait for the next book is just a testament to the amazing talent of this breakout author.”

— Jessica Hickam, author of
The Revealed

 

“Colleen Oakes has written Wonderland like it’s never been written before. If you loved Gregory Maguire’s
Wicked,
you won’t be able to put down
Queen of Hearts.

— Editorial Director, SheKnows.com

 

“Fans of Frank Beddor’s
The Looking Glass Wars
will lose themselves in Colleen Oakes’s dark vision of Wonderland, which challenges everything Alice fans thought it was and takes readers on the Queen of Hearts’ journey from adolescence to off with their heads.”

— Kayleigh Roberts,
BOP
and
Tiger Beat

 

“This beautifully written series presents the captivating backstory of the Queen of Hearts from Lewis Carroll’s beloved
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
and is sure to intrigue both fantasy fans and young adult readers alike.”

— Emily Kiebel, author of
Serenade

 

“Colleen Oakes creates a fantastic, dark backstory for the Queen of Hearts from
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
in her novel
Queen of Hearts
.”

— POPSUGAR

Queen of Hearts

 

 

 

By Colleen Oakes

 

SparkPress, a BookSparks imprint

A division of SparkPoint Studio, LLC

 

COPYRIGHT

Copyright © 2014 by Colleen Oakes

All rights reserved
.

 

Published by SparkPress, a BookSparks imprint,

A division of SparkPoint Studio, LLC

Tempe, Arizona, USA, 85281

www.sparkpointstudio.com

 

 

Printed in the United States of America.

 

ISBN: 978-1940716022 (pbk)

ISBN: 978-1940716039 (ebk)

 

Cover design © Julie Metz, Ltd/
metzdesign.com

Cover photo © Arcangel Images

Cover silhouette illustration of Queen by Monica Gurevich, based on previous art by Truenotdreams Design

Formatting by Polgarus Studio

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

 
This book is for Ryan, forever the good king of my heart.

 
“How do you like the Queen?” said the Cat in a low voice.

“Not at all,” said Alice: “she’s so extremely—” Just then she noticed that the Queen was close behind her, listening: so she went on
“—likely to win, that it’s hardly worth while finishing the game.”

 

— Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
by Lewis Carroll

 
“Wisdom is much better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroyeth much good.”

— Ecclesiastes 9:18

Volume One:
The Crown

Chapter One

“Get up, get up, you’re late!” Harris hopped from one foot to the other, his plump face soaked with a cold sweat. He pulled his thick-rimmed glasses off and wiped them on his white checkered ascot. “Dinah! Get up! We are late, late, late!”

Dinah gave an unhappy moan and buried herself deeper under the thick covers, which were gilded with fine peacock feathers. “Mmrrpph . . . ,” she answered. She longed to return to her mid-afternoon dream—she had been wandering through the Twisted Wood, chasing an iridescent white butterfly, its skeleton glowing through its sheer skin. Just when she had closed her hand around its tiny body, the butterfly was yanked into the sky by something unseen. When she had looked down, its beating heart was still in her hand.

Dinah settled down into the mattress, fully awake now. Harris politely stood beside her bed, waiting. Bright Wonderland light streamed through her balcony windows.

“Harris, I order you to let me sleep. I was having a lovely nap.” She kicked a bare leg at him, narrowly missing the pocket watch that he was dangling over her body.

“Princess, you need to get up. We have a very important summons from the King of Hearts. Your father wishes to see you.”

Dinah pushed herself up from the bed with a yawn. Naps were an essential part of Wonderland life, and sometimes her favorite part of the day. She was naked and considered covering herself, but then thought better of it. Harris had seen her undressed a million times, seeing as how he had raised her from a child. She was right not to bother herself with worry, not about him. The chubby old man barely gave her a second look.

“Emily! Draw a bath for the Princess, right away. Extra hot.”

Dinah jutted out her strong chin. “I don’t want it hot. I like cold baths, thank you very much.”

Harris gave a belly laugh, the few remaining pieces of his white hair falling over his glasses. “Princesses don’t get to choose many things, Dinah, you know that.”

Dinah padded over to the side of the tub. Emily was filling it from a long silver swan neck that ran out of the ceiling and poured into the enormous black tub. Large cream bubbles the size of melons rose out of the tub. Dinah sighed unhappily.

“Why should I have to go to the Great Hall? I never get to say anything, and father won’t even talk to me.”
Or look at me
, she thought.

Emily patted her roughly on the head. “You shouldn’t say such things about the King of Hearts.”

Dinah put one chubby toe into the bath. The heat of the water raced up her leg, making her wince. “I hate bath day.”

“We know,” replied Emily and Harris.

Harris looked again at his silver pocket watch. “Go, go! We are very late indeed.”

Dinah let out a loud cry as she stepped into the tub. She growled at Emily, who dumped a large bucket of water over her head and began scrubbing her with two tiny hedgehog skins.

“Princess, your ears are filthy!” Emily cried. “What did you do today?”

“Nothing.”
Listened to the ground
, she thought.
Rode Speckle
.
Climbed the Julla Tree. Had sword fights with Wardley near the stables. Spied on the Cards.

Dinah would rather be anywhere but in this bath tub, about to see her father. Her arm was yanked up and Emily attacked underneath it, scrubbing with a vigor that left Dinah feeling raw. She then went to work on Dinah’s torso and legs. With a hefty grunt, Emily helped Dinah out of the tub and placed her on the floor.

“Dry yourself,” she ordered.

Smiling, Dinah walked out onto the balcony, into the afternoon Wonderland sun. Standing with arms outstretched, she felt the droplets of water on her skin shrivel and dry. From the balcony she could see almost all of Wonderland proper, the villages outside the palace that would soon be hers to govern and rule. Dinah allowed herself a deep breath of pleasure as her eyes hungrily ate up everything in sight. Out to the north stretched endless fields of wildflowers, and eventually, the Ninth Sea, though she had never seen it. Beyond that, she knew from her studies, were the dreaded Caves of Mourning, which bordered a massive lake. The lake was called the Todren, home to mermaids and sea monsters, of child’s tales and nightmares. To the east, beyond the plains, she could vaguely make out the topless Yurkei Mountains that lay past the Twisted Wood, where explorers and adventurers went to die at the hands of white bears or the Yurkei Mountain tribes. To the south lay the Darklands, a moist, swamp-like region that hosted rogue Cards and wandering ghosts, the home of the Penitent Swamps and other places of untold horrors.

Closer to her was Wonderland proper, which included dozens of small towns, roads, windmills, and rivers that sat just beyond the iron palace gates—this was HER country—the heart of Wonderland, as far as the eye could see. Dinah raised her arms as if to embrace them all.

Harris popped his head around her red curtain. “We are late, my child! Let’s GO! Dinah, we are very, very late. You do not want the King to be even angrier than he already is.”

Dinah gave her body a final shake in the sun and sullenly walked inside.

“Please sit, Your Highness,” Emily prodded.

Dinah sat. Emily pulled a brush through her thick black hair and Dinah gave a soft whimper. “Oh, stop.”

Her lady-in-waiting tugged lovingly on her ear. “It wouldn’t get so tangled if you took care of it.”

“It wouldn’t hurt so much if you didn’t yank,” Dinah retorted. Emily clucked her tongue.

After the brushing was done, the intolerable undergarments were put on and laced up into place. A white slip and white corset followed. “Why do I need all of this?” huffed Dinah as Emily labored over the laces. “I’m only fifteen.”

Emily did not answer right away and instead gave a hard yank. The corset’s whalebone ribs tightened around Dinah’s waist. “Because you don’t want your father to see you’ve been having extra tarts, do you?”

Dinah bit her lip and braced herself against the dresser. When that torture was finished, Harris led her to the center of the room where she stood like a stuffed doll—arms out, legs open, as her entourage clucked about her dresses. A plain black frock with a high white collar was decided upon, one that flared about the face. Dinah hated that dress. Dinah hated
all
dresses.

They dressed her in silence and finished it off with a peacock brooch. Emily rubbed rouge on her lips and cheeks to prevent Dinah from looking sickly and drew a small red heart under her right eye. What seemed to be an eternity later, Dinah shuffled down the Hallway of the Golden Birds, feeling quite like one of the bronzed birds perched on golden pedestals that surrounded her. Her silly black dress bulged at the seams. She had told Emily that she was too big for that dress, but Emily wouldn’t listen.

She’s so silly
, thought Dinah.
Silly and stupid.

It was a mean thought, and she instantly regretted it. Dinah’s anger could overwhelm her if she wasn’t careful. Her hair was twisted up in an insufferably tight bun, one that exaggerated Dinah’s already-large black eyes. Upon her head sat the princess crown—a thin string of red ruby hearts outlined in gold spikes. Even though it was thin, it was still heavy. It glittered in the sunlight, and it was the only thing Dinah was wearing today that she liked. On her feet twinkled a pair from the Queen’s shoe collection—molded white slippers, inlaid with tiny white diamonds. Before she died, her mother, Queen Davianna, had taken up the lady’s hobby of slippermaking. They made Dinah’s feet hurt. She hated the way the tiny stones cut into her toes and heels. She had wide feet, and the shoes pinched her soles.

Dinah looked back at Harris and Emily. He walked quickly behind her, looking a bit like a walrus. He was a cuddly and generous man, kind and fiercely intelligent. He had once been a dashing Card, or so Dinah had heard, but now he was her tutor and guardian, a portly man with white hair and a dozen varieties of checkered outfits. Without a doubt, he loved Dinah deeply—something she lacked in other areas of her life.

A little bird ran across her path and Dinah kicked it, sending it shrieking into the air.

“My child!” thundered Harris. “Do NOT let your father see that behavior, otherwise you will be sleeping in the Black Towers.”

“I doubt it,” snipped Dinah glumly. “I wish that would happen because then I would get to see inside of them.”

Harris gave Dinah a disappointed look. “Never wish yourself inside the Black Towers,” he said seriously. “You have no idea the evil that lurks there.”

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