Aladdin, but not as you remember it….

After writing three books in my Cursed Fairy Tales series (The Nutcracker Curse, The Bluebeard Curse, The Hansel and Gretel Curse), I’ve teamed up with eight wonderful authors to create the ultimate Aladdin retellings boxset: Kingdom of Sand and Wishes.

Aladdin, but not as you remember it….

On the dusty streets, around the bustling bazaars, being overlooked by a Sultan’s Palace was a land. A land of magic, secrets and treasures buried deep beneath the desert.

Through Arabian nights, dark forces are at work. Dark forces that can threaten the peace of everyone in the Kingdom. Watch our authors as they answer the question, can three wishes save the day?

Join our award winning and USA Today best selling authors for nine action packed fantasy and contemporary retellings with sultans, sorcerers, romance and more magic than a genie’s lamp can hold.

Today I would like to share with you the blurb and first chapter of my novel in this anthology titled,  The Djinn Curse. First chapters of the other books in the boxset, can be found here.

The Djinn Curse

How far will you go to reclaim your freedom?

My name is Roxelana, and my human life was stolen from me.

Turned by force into a djinn, I’ve waited for 100 years for a shot at freedom.

My current assignment in Istanbul presents an opportunity to break the connection to my lamp and escape my eternal slavery. There’s just one problem. Doing so means sacrificing the sultan prince to the king of djinns. I shouldn’t care about the prince, but I can’t stop myself. He has a pull on me I can’t explain. Coupled with his kindness and the care he shows his people, I’m in deep trouble.

When push comes to shove, who will I choose? Him or myself?

Filled with adventure, love, magic, and a strong heroine, this clean YA Fairy Tale is the perfect read!

If you like K.M Shea, Melanie Cellier, and Kiera Cass, you’ll love this!

Join Roxelana now on her journey to reclaim her freedom!

Chapter 1

Nadir

I ran as fast as I could. Sharp right, sharp left, then sharp right again. Yet, despite my speed and switching directions quickly, I couldn’t escape the stone slingers. Why were they pursuing me? What did they want?

“Nadir!”

Wait, how did they know my name?

“Wake up!”

And why were they telling me to wake up? Somebody pulled my hair while rocks rained against my cheek. The ensuing pain wasn’t nearly as strong as it should have been. In fact, it was more annoying than painful. The dream disintegrated, and I breathed in the scent of rich coffee beans and something sweet.

I opened my eyes to find Alla perched on the aubergine divan next to the window and across from my bed, a grape between her fingers, her eyes narrowed as she aimed. I caught the grape and put it on my bedside table. “What are you doing, Alla?” I asked, gently easing the grip of her pet monkey, Kafi, who was pulling on my hair.

“Why, trying to wake up my Prince Sultan and future ruler of the Ottoman Empire.”

I groaned, and Kafi made a sound that sounded like a laugh. “What is so urgent that it couldn’t wait until after ten?” I rose from my silk sheets and wandered over to the basin where I splashed my face with cold water, not bothering to ring the bell and request fresh, lukewarm water. “Please don’t tell me you woke me up over court gossip.” Kafi jumped into the water, soaking my pajamas. I gave him a stern look but couldn’t stay mad at the little guy, not when he tilted his head and made big eyes at me.

“Oh no, no court gossip, I assure you, my dear friend.”

I faced Alla, sensing she wouldn’t tell me what was going on until I gave her my full attention.

“It’s something I overheard at the Istanbul Tea Room.”

I stepped closer, my eyes narrowing. The bazaar swarmed with gossip and tales. If anybody else would have told me they had overheard something there, I wouldn’t pay it any heed. But Alla wasn’t just anyone. She was one of the most talented thieves in the Ottoman Empire, a girl who had evaded death several times, a girl gifted with smarts and wits, and my best friend. I trusted her implicitly. “What did you hear?”

Her impish grin morphed into a serious straight line. “A merchant arrived from Varna. He claims the mosque on Snake Island has been broken into and that a dozen urns containing djinns were stolen.”

I didn’t reply immediately, taking a moment to process her words. How did the merchant know the djinns were on the island in the first place? “Does he have anything to gain from pretending they were stolen?”

Alla shook her head, sending her chin-length, pitch black hair flying. “No, he was hesitant to share this information. He only admitted to knowing this, after he tried to sell golden jewelry to another patron, who became suspicious at the cheap price.”

“Why was he selling it under market value?”

“He claimed the styles he had weren’t popular in Baghdad where he was heading next and where he planned to stay for a while. The merchant said he believed the djinns from Snake Island would come here.”

“They can’t. We have wards around the city wall to prevent them from entering Istanbul.”

Alla didn’t reply. Instead, she wrapped a piece of salami around a grape. She was about to pop it into her mouth when Kafi jumped on her lap and took a big bite out of her snack. This time, not even the antics of her cute pet could ease the tension in the room.

“Do you think whoever released the djinns plans to overthrow the empire?”

She considered this for a minute, then said, “I don’t think you need to worry about the human who freed them.”

Understanding dawned at the back of my mind. “You think a djinn leader paid a human to release these other djinns?”

“Yes. A human wouldn’t gain anything by releasing a djinn bottled in an urn or glass jar. Djinns that are trapped in those are savage creatures that cannot be controlled, unlike their lamp-enslaved, wish-granting brethren.”

I paced, trying to piece everything together and make sense of it. “Fine, let’s say an ancient djinn hired someone to release his friends. Why would the djinns come to Istanbul? They have finally gained their freedom after a long imprisonment. Would they really gamble that away by attacking us?”

Alla crossed her legs into the lotus position. “We’ve become weak, relying on the wards on the city wall. We have no djinn charmers in Istanbul. And djinns are very vengeful creatures. They also didn’t take lightly to being banished from Istanbul.”

I shook my head. “I think you’re wrong.” She had to be. “Djinns were a problem of the past.” That’s why my grandparents put wards on the city wall. “They won’t return. If they were planning to, there would’ve been clues, but there aren’t. In my nineteen years, I haven’t seen a single djinn or any signs of one.”

“Just because you haven’t seen one doesn’t mean they don’t exist. You should ask your mother about the palace’s wards.”

I sighed. “She doesn’t like to talk about that.” My mother had the irrational belief that the wards commissioned by my grandparents had cost their lives. Unlike I, she was very much afraid of the djinn and ordered the guards to put out offerings of food, drink, and trinkets around the outskirts of the city if any powerful spirits happened to pass through the area.

Alla grimaced. “As the future sultan, you won’t be able to avoid conflict, Nadir. You better get used to asking difficult questions and making difficult decisions to prepare yourself to rule one day.”

I waved her comment away. “Mother will be sultana for a while. Even when she abdicates, I’ll never rule alone. I’ll always have my viziers.”

“It’s good to be prepared. I’m afraid certain things will happen much earlier than you expect them to.”

Done with this topic, I went behind the wooden shutter divider and changed out of my pajamas into beige-colored linen pants and a long-sleeved shirt. How dare Alla imply that my mother would be gone soon? Just because Alla had never known her father and her mother had abandoned her when she was ten didn’t mean she needed to treat everyone as if they were in danger of becoming an orphan. My mother wasn’t young anymore, but she was nowhere near old. We had at least two decades left together. Hopefully more if the heavens were merciful, which they should be. They owed me that much after taking my father from me when I had only been fifteen.

I emerged from the room divider, and Alla rose from the divan, Kafi perched on her shoulder like a parrot. “What do you want me to do?” she asked. “Do you want me to report if there are any further rumors? Or do you only want me to inform you if the situation worsens?”

“The rumors need to be squashed immediately. Take me to the tea room. I want you to point out this merchant so I can stop him from spreading such disturbing lies.”

“But we don’t know that they’re lies. They might be—”

“Regardless of whether the rumors are true,” I cut Alla off, “the ordinary folk don’t need to concern themselves with this. I, my mother, and my viziers will handle it.”

“Don’t you think your subordinates have the right to know if danger is heading their way?”

“I can’t afford for my subordinates to think the royal family doesn’t have the situation under control. If they think that, Istanbul will become fertile soil for a revolution.”

Alla smiled. “So you do listen to your tutors sometimes.”

I sighed. “I don’t want to rule by myself. I’m not ready, but that doesn’t mean I don’t care about my kingdom. I want what’s best for it.”

She hesitated, then said, “I know this is scary, but you must acknowledge that your mother is aging.”

“We all age.” I stared out of the window at the tall towers of the byzantine basilica. After a few beats of silence when it became clear that Alla wouldn’t probe any further, I released a breath of relief.

“I’ll meet you outside in a few.” With that, Alla pushed open the window, slipped off the windowsill, and climbed down the walls with a feline grace while Kafi clung to her arm, too lazy to climb down himself. I didn’t chastise her for using this unconventional exit so openly during daytime since she knew the patrol schedule by heart.

I took the regular exit out of the castle, slipping past my guards with half-hearted excuses. They were used to me leaving the palace and didn’t have a problem with it as long as I didn’t get into trouble or stay out too late for Mother to notice. The additional lire I paid them weekly for their silence kept them happy to cooperate.

As I crossed the garden, the sweet scent of jasmine and lilies invaded my senses. Several maidens glanced into my direction and made eyes at me, some crossing their legs, exposing their ankles.

I acknowledged each of them with a curt nod, knowing better than to return their smile or show them any other sign of attention that would be mistaken for an invitation to come over. I wasn’t ready to take a wife, and I wasn’t interested in starting a harem, even if it was legal. I believed in fidelity and in soulmates. Love couldn’t be forced. When I met the one for me, I would know, just as my parents had.

I pushed the thought away. The day of finding the one was far away. I didn’t need to worry about such matters. Right now, I needed to squash the crazy merchant’s rumors about vicious djinns coming to Istanbul.

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