TITLE: Crown of Stars
After a renegade sorcerer curses the last ruler of Aida, Amelia has to give up her soldier's life to guard the sickly prince. But the curse puts more at stake than one man's life, and if Amelia doesn't find a cure--and soon--the country she fought so long to defend will be lost.
On a dreary autumn day, Amelia's mother began to cough: and then she began to sigh, and her skin grew wan and translucent, and the tip of her handkerchief came away from her mouth wet and pink with blood. At night Amelia would watch the stars, waiting for one of them to flicker; she knew that soon they would spin the right way, and with their magic her mother would be well forever and her father would never need to use his sword again. Stars had told Amelia's father that he would marry Amelia's mother, and they had told Amelia's mother that she would have a brown-haired daughter, and Amelia believed in them, because in Aida stars could never lie.
In that kingdom magic flourished under the watchful, silent stars; magic, long ago, had chosen the first good and righteous king of Aida, and grown his castle up around him, high on a hill: and there after a thousand years the Hawthorne line still flourished under the heavy-handed reign of the Winter Queen.
Amelia's family lived in a cottage far south of the Aidan palace, in the tiny village of Dulayne. There were roses climbing atop the cottage and blooming down the house's sprawling lane, and hazelnut orchards and huckleberries all along the farm, soft white chickens and fat cows.
Amelia's father assured her that the stars had said her mother would be well again, and he told her the stories the stars wove, if you knew how to look.