The Crown of Stones Book 1
by C.L. Schneider
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Ian Troy is one of the Shinree, a fallen people with an inherent addiction to magic. Scorned and reviled for the deadly side of their spells, the Shinree are bred as slaves. Their magic is suppressed by drugs and used only as it serves the purposes of the other races.
Descended from a long line of soldiers, Ian is conscripted into the Rellan army and made to fight in their longstanding conflict against the ruthless Langorian invaders. The downfall of Rella imminent, Ian goes against orders and turns to the Crown of Stones, an ancient Shinree relic of untold power. Ignorant of its true purpose, Ian uses the crown to end the war, and pays a terrible price.
A decade later, still tortured by the aftermath of that day, Ian lives as a bounty hunter in self-imposed exile. Having renounced his magical heritage, he curbs his obsession with a steady stream of wine and regret. He struggles to put it all behind him, until a fateful encounter with a pretty assassin brings Ian’s past crashing into the present.
Targeted by a rogue Shinree, and a ruthless old enemy, Ian is forced to use magic again. His deadly addiction is rekindled and his life of isolation is brought to a swift end. With the land he gave up everything to protect once more in jeopardy, and his people’s future at stake, Ian becomes embroiled in a violent race for control of the Crown of Stones. To save the realms and those he cares for, Ian must embrace the thing he fears most: his own power.
Turning to the stones at my wrist and gathering the obsidian inside me, in one breath I wished for strength in my blade, the stamina to wield it, and the speed to avoid my enemy’s attacks. In the next, I cast.
Magic flew swiftly out of me. Pleasure swept in just as fast. As men started dying in a wide circle around me, power rippled across the sword in my hand. It sped down through the muscles in my arms and legs, and my sight came back in time to see the soldiers at the outer reach of my spell go down. Mounted, as their life drained away, their massive warhorses succumbed as well. The foam of exhaustion already bubbling from their mouths, the frantic animals let out terrible, desolate wails as their tall, muscular bodies went limp and slammed hard to the ground.
One after the other—five, ten, fifteen of the great beasts fell, trapping the dead and the living beneath them and sending a heavy spray of dust into the already murky air.
It was a dramatic sight that brought an instant hush over the battle. Soldiers on both sides disengaged and turned to stare through the haze at the staggeringly wide circle of Langorian bodies surrounding me. Silent but for their heavy breaths, what was left of the enemy held position, but they didn’t advance. They knew me. They had just watched the hunger of my spell drastically reduce their numbers in mere moments, and they were afraid of what might come next.
The Rellans knew me, too. I watched their faces carefully, waiting for them to cower. And it moved me greatly to see that they were far from afraid. To the contrary, it was clear; in me they saw a chance for something other than defeat. They saw hope.
A rousing cheer rang through the Rellan ranks and they rushed forward.
The Langorians met their charge. The two sides ran straight into each other and once more, screams and the sounds of metal filled the night.
The Crown of Stones Book 2
Magic doesn’t wound the same as a sword.
The story of Ian Troy continues in Magic-Scars, the second installment in C. L. Schneider’s riveting epic fantasy trilogy, The Crown of Stones.
Captured by his old enemy, King Draken of Langor, Shinree magic user Ian Troy was sentenced to prison. Tortured and drugged, robbed of his will, his memories, and his magic, Ian was made to do unspeakable things. Rescued, as his body slowly rids itself of the drug, Ian realizes he has returned to an unfamiliar world gripped with fear. In the wake of his fall, those he cared for were left to their own grim fates. Draken has seized control of the realms and named himself High King. His brutal rein has sparked a desperate rebellion that Ian now finds himself a part of. His one task: recover and repair the Crown of Stones, in hopes it will tip the balance in the revolution that is brewing. In pursuit of the reason behind the artifact’s strange loss of magic, Ian is driven to release an explosion of retribution and power that leaves him irrevocably scarred.
Struggling to reconcile the man he has become with the man he once was, Ian strives to understand the growing number of magic-scars adorning his body. He searches for the truth behind his link to the Crown of Stones and uncovers shocking secrets buried for generations beneath the sand. To become the weapon the resistance needs, he must assume responsibility for his magical inheritance. But can he curb the destructive appetite that comes with it?
The price of Ian’s magic and his addiction have never been higher.
Calling to the various Shinree stones scattered among the debris, as I took in their auras, I woke the obsidian once more; what was in me and what remained from my use of the pillars. Then I threw off the wreckage on top of me. I channeled what was needed to straighten bones, mend veins, and patch punctured organs. There was no finesse involved. No skill that I could recognize. As I put my broken body back together, I had a notion of other, less-fatal wounds, but my focus was simply to not die. It was a lofty, yet basic goal. When I was confident I’d achieved it, I picked myself up and started walking.
The wreckage seemed to go on forever. Dense bands of smoke swirled in and around the chipped, jagged blocks of stone. There was no clear path. Splintered wood and broken glass cluttered the majority of the ground. Smoldering fires covered the rest. Occasional moans and whimpering cries trickled out from beneath the fallen slabs. Bloody hands reached for me. Weak fingers grabbed my legs. I shook them all off. Someone else would tend their wounds. Or they would die. Either way, their lives didn’t concern me. The one that did was in Langor, sitting on his throne.
Finally reaching the edge of the rubble, I came out in an empty field. Behind me, the fires were spreading. Screams blew with the dust and smoke on the wind. Tall, smoldering orange-black plumes loomed high, choking out the light. Lower, a darkening haze had rolled in to hinder my vision and clog my throat. I could scarcely see ahead of me.
I stumbled on. A small building came into view, outlined against the murk. About the shape and size of a guard post, I thought I might find a horse there. Maybe some water to wash the dusty layer of gore from my skin and the sting from my eyes.
Hopeful, I headed toward the structure. Men ran past me through the cloud. They were dressed in uniforms, so my theory of a guard post was looking sound.
I was almost there. I could see the road. But my footprints were made of blood, and my lungs were burning with the hot, acrid air. My head throbbed like it would split. I was suddenly so tired.
I only meant to slow down, but my legs gave out. And in that brief instant, in the time it took for me to fall to the ground, it happened. All that I was, all that I had ever done, seen, felt, thought, or heard—all the moments and the nuances of my life that two years on Kayn’l had taken away—every single bit of me came rushing back at the same time.
I’d struggled to remember for weeks. The missing pieces had eaten at me day and night since those first moments when I opened my eyes on the ship. Then, all I’d wanted was to get my life back. Now, it was crashing into me with such perfect, brutal clarity, I would have given anything to make it stop.
The Crown of Stones Book 3
No other Shinree has borne as much of magic’s weight, its pleasure, or its guilt.
The fate of Ian Troy is revealed in the final installment of C. L. Schneider’s epic fantasy trilogy, The Crown of Stones.
In one fell swoop, the resistance was shattered. Lives were taken. Hope was lost. Peace slipped like grains of sand through his fingers. So did the Crown of Stones. Now, forced into hiding, Ian Troy grapples for a way to save the realm—and free its people—from the sadistic clutches of Jem Reth; Mirra’kelan’s new self-appointed emperor. Plagued with the knowledge of a tragic future, he strives to influence events and save those he cares for. But his magic has betrayed him, and Fate has other plans.
Marked by the crown, hindered by the transformation spell contained within, each cast brings Ian one step closer to becoming more beast than man. Each move brings the death and destruction foretold in his vision inexplicably nearer. With Langor on the brink of war, and King Malaq’s plan for peace hanging in the balance, Ian returns to the ancient past; seeking an end to the eldring spell and a means to thwart Jem’s growing domination. What he finds there sets off a chain of revelations that leads Ian places he never thought to go.
Entrusted with the future of his race, Ian becomes the linchpin for lasting change. But how much weight can one man carry? And how much is he willing to sacrifice in the name of peace?
The front of the herd hit the base of the mountain. The mass of bodies ascended incredibly fast, crawling up the rocks, crawling over each other. Making out individual forms became impossible. The eldring were an enormous rolling, dark wave ascending the slope. Those who lost footing bounced off, hit the ground, and didn’t get back up. The rest didn’t hesitate. They gave no thought to the dead or their potential for joining them.
As the edge of the wave poured into the cave mouth, I shut my link to Jarryd, and pulled in all I had. My sense of the eldring vanished. There was merely the frigid fire in my veins and the pain of too much pleasure nipping at my nerves. Color swirled in my eyes and bled up through my skin. Auras fused and whipped, rotating and blossoming like a building storm. They begged for dominion and I gave it. I released my grip on the reins for the first time since the raid on our camp, and I did so eagerly. Bowing to magic’s might, forfeiting my discipline and control. Surrendering to the swirling upsurge of vibrant energy; I languished in its embrace, trying to recall when I’d last channeled freely. When I’d last permitted myself such relief, letting the pangs of hunger and restraint drown beneath the hot, wet kiss of magic snaking over my skin.
The sensation flicked at my thoughts, brushing them away, making it hard to remember anything, let alone how long I’d been living in my prison of deprivation.
It felt like forever.
The notion of my reward, of my impending satisfaction, quickened my breath as I stared up at the ridge. Eldring had already made it inside. I had no idea how many.
With a prayer that I wasn’t too late, I made my wishes clear as I expelled the crown’s magic. It left me in a long, sensual rush. Color burst from my skin and claimed my eyes. Rapture seized my body. Gratification drove me to my knees. A swell of auras remained behind, rippling over me, healing the damage my body had sustained in the fight. My existing scars prickled with heat as a fresh set scored into the flesh of my back and left leg. I cried out as they curled and burned, snaking their way across my skin.
My sight resumed. Weakness kept me down, winded and kneeling on the sand, watching the auras I’d released spin over the eldring in a tempest of throbbing, misty hues. As the magical whirlwind dissipated, like smoke thinned by a stiff breeze, it took fur and hide with it, stripping the eldring down to meat. Muscles, veins, and organs wilted. Bones weakened, separated, and dissolved into ash. One by one, those dead on the beach, those scaling the mountainside—all the invading eldring on Kabri, living and dead—returned to the land, reverting to the forms from which they’d been so selfishly resurrected.
Their dust blew serenely around me in the breeze. It was likely the closest thing to peace many of them had ever known.
Born in a small Kansas town on the Missouri river, C.L. Schneider grew up in a house of avid readers and overflowing bookshelves. Her first full-length novel took shape while she was still in high school, on a typewriter in her parent’s living room. While her main focus is adult epic and urban fantasy, she also pens the occasional science fiction or post-apocalyptic story.
Though she has been writing all of her life, Magic-Price (the first installment in The Crown of Stones Trilogy) was Schneider’s first published novel. With the trilogy complete, she is excited to be embarking on a new path with her urban fantasy series, Nite Fire.
Learn more about C.L. Schneider and her work at clschneiderauthor.com, where you can read reviews, excerpts, sneak peeks and teasers, subscribe to her newsletter, and join her Street Team. Look for book reviews and guest posts, and follow her journey as an indie author, on her blog, “Heading Down The Yellow Brick Road”. An active part of the online indie author community, you can connect with C.L. Schneider on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Google+, where she chats about books, zombies, coffee, and the wonderful roller coaster of a writer’s life.
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