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!
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?
Wait, how did they know my name?
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.
Click here to continue reading.
As I strode down the plush, ruby carpet, I was certain somebody was spying on me, but when I whipped around, I only found crystal chandeliers and gilded walls behind me. I sighed. For a year now, I’d had the feeling that someone was watching me, intending ill will. The sensation would come and go, lasting only for a few minutes. Each time, no one was there. Was I going insane? I shook my head vehemently, banishing the scary possibility and telling myself I was just overly cautious. And how couldn’t I be when my governess, Bernadette, constantly reminded me to sit straight, not to fidget, and never ever yawn in public, assuring me in her low alto voice that even when I was certain I was alone, somebody was always watching me, the heir of the Austrian Empire.
Thinking of Bernadette reminded me I needed to go to my dance class. I glanced at my pocket watch and cringed. It was ten past twelve, and I was once again late for my lesson. Worse, I wasn’t wearing my dancing slippers, but my favorite ankle boots with a sturdy one-inch heel that allowed me to walk fast and even run, two activities Bernadette didn’t approve of.
Cursing the current fashion, which dictated multiple layers of petticoats, I picked up my skirts and dashed down the marble corridors toward the mirrored ballroom.
Out of breath, I reached the big wooden double doors to realize the guard on duty was my dear friend Philip.
“You’re late.” With a grin, Philip opened the doors for me. His forest-green eyes roamed over my disheveled appearance without judgment, while I noticed with envy that his skin had turned a golden shade from the spring sunshine. Unlike me, Philip could do in his free time as he pleased, not having to worry about getting color that was unbecoming for a princess.
“I lost track of time,” I confessed as I slipped past him into the vast ballroom. The parquet floor shined, the chandeliers sparkled, and Bernadette glared at me.
“I’m glad you deigned to show up to your lesson, Your Highness,” she said in a dry tone. Even though she was plump and, in her fifties, her spine was straight, her shoulders were pulled back and down, and her stomach was sucked in. Compared to her, I was a sloven.
Immediately, I stood straighter and put the sweetest smile on my face. “I apologize, but I’m here now, and I’m very excited to learn the….” I tried to remember what I was supposed to be learning today, but for the life of me couldn’t.
“The loure, a danses à deux, a partner dance you will be performing at your coming-of-age ball. As you might recall, last time we learned the basic steps.” Bernadette shot me a sharp look, daring me to admit that I had already forgotten the sequence of the dance steps. “Today, we’ll dive into the more complex patterns.”
“Why can’t we do the polka?” The fast and upbeat dance always brought a smile to my face and never made me yawn.
“Because we’re learning a traditional, classical dance, not some fad.”
“It’s been popular since at least 1840. Is ten years a fad?”
Bernadette ignored my comment and nodded at the white-haired piano player, who fell into a serene, slow melody.
For the next hour, I tried to memorize as many steps as possible, stay with the rhythm of the music, and not trample all over the feet of my partner, a middle-aged man with a permanently serious expression.
When the tower clock chimed one, I glanced at Bernadette expectantly. “Are we done?”
Bernadette crossed her arms. “We’re staying here until you get the steps right.”
“But what about lunch?” I asked, my stomach choosing this moment to growl.
Bernadette shook her head disapprovingly, as if I could control the noises my stomach made and simply chose not to, then said, “We’re not leaving until you learn the loure. Your coming-of-age ball is tomorrow night, and it must be perfect. Otherwise, how do you expect any of the visiting princes to propose to you?”
I don’t. I’m not ready to marry. I didn’t voice my thoughts, knowing that doing so would get me nowhere with Bernadette and that if she relayed my inappropriate words to Father, he would be deeply disappointed. I couldn’t do that to him. I was all he had left.
In a chipper voice, Bernadette continued, “You’re of the right age to get married. Many girls in other kingdoms marry as early as fifteen. Your father agreed to postpone your coming-of-age ball until you turned seventeen due to my recommendation that you needed more time to learn everything a princess needs to know given your… restless nature.”
I pressed my lips together to stop myself from saying that it wasn’t my fault I was the only available heir. I wasn’t being difficult on purpose or to disappoint Father. My personality was simply not suited for the role I was supposed to fill. And I was nowhere ready to marry and rule Austria. I needed more time.
“Now, now, don’t look so glum.” Bernadette handed me a glass of water and rang the bell for the maid. “Please bring us some sandwiches and cookies.”
Even chocolate chip cookies didn’t cheer me up, but I was grateful Bernadette had sent for them, instead of making me feel guilty for not being excited about marriage.
Busy trying to process how much my life might change in the next few days and how I could avoid an engagement, I didn’t complain during the next few hours as Bernadette made me repeat the steps over and over again until everything was perfect and the dance sequence was burned into my mind. By the time we were done, the sun was low in the sky. I considered going to Father’s study but decided I needed some time alone to clear my mind and figure out how to talk him into giving me an extension, or at least a long engagement of two or three years.
Since I always did my best thinking outdoors, I exited the castle and went to the stables. I bypassed the horses, which neighed in protest as they were used to me bringing them carrots and spending a few minutes petting them and brushing their hair. But today, I didn’t have time to say hello to everyone; I needed the comfort of Biscuit.
Biscuit had the biggest stall at the end of the stable. Her big, brown eyes met mine. There was so much depth in them, I felt as if she understood me. As always, she was an immaculate shade of white, like fresh snow. Her horn glinted as rays of sunlight touched it, giving it a translucent, ice-like quality. Biscuit used to be my mother’s unicorn. The magic in her blood meant she had a much longer life expectancy than a regular horse and might even be immortal. Nobody knew, since unicorns weren’t native to Austria, and my mother had brought Biscuit from Ireland.
“Hey, girl.” I petted Biscuit’s thick mane, which was the color of liquid, white gold. “Are you up for a ride? I could really use one.” I saddled her and was walking her out of the stable when Philip came rushing toward me. A guard had replaced him at the entry to the ballroom earlier, so I hadn’t talked to him since Bernadette’s lesson. Even without me saying anything, he must have sensed something was wrong from my posture, because he said, “I’ll come with you.” Not waiting for my reply, he grabbed his inky stallion, Ace, and saddled him.
For a few minutes, we rode in silence. How I wished I always felt the way I did in the saddle—free, without responsibilities I wasn’t equipped to fulfill weighing heavily on me.
Philip tore me back to the present. “You should have asked for an escort. You shouldn’t be out riding alone, especially this close to sunset.”
I shrugged. “There’s a lot of things I’m not supposed to do.”
“Was Bernadette hard on you for being tardy?”
A mirthless laugh spilled from my lips. “Bernadette is the least of my worries.”
“Then what is it? Talk to me.”
“The coming-of-age ball. I’m not ready to meet my future spouse.” The words tasted like steel, hard and disgusting. If it weren’t for Father, I would run away, but I couldn’t do that to him and completely shatter his already fractured heart.
Next to me, Philip stiffened. For a while, we rode in silence until I couldn’t take it any longer. “I’ll talk to Father, ask for an extension.”
“You must marry eventually.” Philip’s voice broke, and I studied him. His chin was as strong as always, his cheekbones sharp, and his eyelashes sooty, but there was so much pain on his face. I reached out to touch his forearm, but he moved his horse away from me.
“A marriage won’t separate us,” I said. “We’ll still be friends. As the heir, I won’t leave. Whoever will become my spouse will move to Vienna.”
I tried imagining myself in a white wedding dress, smiling at my future spouse, but couldn’t. Instead, an image of another wedding popped into my mind. I was four years old and holding my new stepsister’s hand, as a heavy, golden crown was placed on her mother’s head. An overpowering floral musky scent hung in the air. The fabric of my dress itched. And my throat was parched. Even back then, I hadn’t been comfortable with my stepmother. I knew something was off about Jacqueline, and when I had been seven, she had proved me right.
I rolled my shoulders, willing the past to leave me alone. My gaze landed on Philip, who no longer looked dejected but fierce as a muscle in his jaw ticked.
“What is it?” I asked.
He gave a sharp shake of his head. “Nothing.”
I rolled my eyes. “Please, we’ve known each other since we were kids.” Our bond was special, forged by our common loss. My mother had passed away giving birth to me, and Philip’s mother, one of our royal seamstresses, had succumbed to a respiratory disease when he had been twelve.
“Fine. You want me to spell it out, then I will.” Philip’s green eyes turned on me, drilling past my title and my manners, or lack of them, to the person I was underneath.
The intensity in his gaze made me want to break eye contact and run. The tingling sensation roiling through me was too much, too strange, and I didn’t know what to do with it or what it meant.
“I want what’s best for you, and I don’t want any of those foreign princes to take advantage of you or Austria.”
My heart softened, and I put my palm on his hand. This time, he didn’t pull away; instead, he studied my skin, as if memorizing the mole above my little finger and the fine lines on my hand.
“I won’t let anyone take advantage of me. I promise. I won’t allow anyone to sweet talk me into anything or sway me with good looks and charm.”
Philip nodded, but the doubt remained on his face.
I paused, trying to come up with a way to put him at ease. An idea popped into my head, and I snapped my fingers. “I’ll invent a test for the princes. Only those who pass can court me, and I’ll insist to Father that I want to be courted for an extended period before getting engaged.” That way I would get the time I needed without disappointing Father.
Philip mustered a weak smile that didn’t reach his eyes, and I glanced away. Neither of us wanted me to get betrothed and have a husband stand between us. I couldn’t bear the idea that once I became a wife, my friendship with Philip would have to take a back seat and that the freedom I had so carefully carved out for myself would be ripped from me.
Click here to continue reading.
After writing five books in the YA Paranormal genre, I’m branching out into the YA Fairy Tales category. This winter I would like to share with you three retellings in my Cursed Fairy Tale series.
Titles and release dates:
- The Nutcracker Curse, December 1st, 2018
- The Bluebeard Curse, December 15th, 2018
- The Hansel and Gretel Curse, January 14th, 2019
I’ve chosen these three fairy tales because I loved reading them as a child and because I haven’t found many retellings on them compared to tales, such as Beauty and the Beast and Cinderella.
The Nutcracker Curse
The Nutcracker Curse is loosely based on ETA Hoffman’s story and the ballet. It does, however, feature all the main characters—the nutcracker, Clara, Mr. Drosselmeyer, and the Mouse King. I’ve also added some new characters—a unicorn and griffins. I hope you’ll enjoy reading this novel about magic, love, and friendship as much as I enjoyed writing it!
To find out more about The Nutcracker Curse, please follow this link.
The Bluebeard Curse
I first read the original Bluebeard fairy tale as a child and immediately was fascinated with it. The tale was very dark with Bluebeard executing his wives for their curiosity, which I guess back then wasn’t considered a virtue. As you’ll see, I put a very different spin on the original fairy tale while still keeping some of the dark elements. Join Jolie and Nolan as they move from hopelessness and darkness into the light and toward joy.
To find out more about The Bluebeard Curse, please follow this link.
The Hansel and Gretel Curse
The Hansel and Gretel Curse is the third book in the Curse Fairy Tale series. You won’t find an evil stepmother that sends her children hungry into the forest, however, you’ll meet dragons! I hope you’ll enjoy this new adaptation of this classical tale. As a child, I never liked it that a lot of the fairy tales were driven by the antagonist, thus, I gave Gretel a lot of agency. She’s a fearless protagonist that chooses to venture into the witch’s lair to free her brother.
To find out more about The Hansel and Gretel Curse, please follow this link.
Phoenix Call, book 4 in the Dark Legacy Series is now available on Amazon.
Sierra has decimated her uncle’s generals but not his will. He returns more vicious than ever and is prepared to go to any lengths to obtain power, even if it means the annihilation of the planet.
Three hundred years ago, when the dark lord was defeated, the Phoenix emblem broke into two pieces.
Now, one half of the emblem has surfaced, and Sierra must find a way to destroy it before her uncle steals it.
If she fails and the two emblem parts are united, a great evil will be unleashed and everything she holds dear will be obliterated.
Phoenix Call is the fourth book in the Dark Legacy series. Filled with magic, heartache, and backstabbing, it is a YA Fantasy read that can’t be missed!
If you liked The Mortal Instruments, Vampire Academy, and Vampire Diaries, you’ll love the Ardere series.
Will Sierra stop her uncle in time or fail and pay the ultimate price?
The fifth and final book, Phoenix Unleashed, has now been released. The whole series is available on Amazon.