The King’s Questioner
by Nikki Katz
Published by: Swoon Reads
Publication date: January 14th 2020
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
From Nikki Katz, the author of The Midnight Dance , comes The King’s Questioner, an epic YA fantasy featuring royal drama, dark magic, and a secret that could topple a kingdom.
Kalen is a mental picklock, able to access a person’s memories and secrets by touch. His skills make him the perfect questioner to the king, and he spends his days interrogating prisoners of the crown.
But when Kalen’s estranged childhood friend, Prince Cirrus, falls into a sudden coma, the king begs Kalen to intervene. By accessing Cirrus’s mind, Kalen saves his life—and uncovers a terrifying secret. The prince has a sister, banished long ago, and she is the key to the destruction or survival of the kingdom.
With the help of Cirrus and a silver-haired thief named Luna, Kalen must find the princess and bring her home. Or risk death at the hands of his king.
Excerpt from The King’s Questioner
Kalen laid his palm flat on Gabriel’s bare forearm. He closed his eyes and entered the mind of the ex-monk. A wave slapped the dock, and he registered the disorientation of his body as it swayed, but his mind was locked elsewhere.
He found himself in a library. Each book resting on the shelf held a different memory, but only a few were locked within chains and padlocks. Either Gabriel hadn’t done much in his life that warranted secrets, or he didn’t care to lock them away.
The shelves were labeled in looping script. Kalen found one categorized as The Catacombs and selected a book. He opened the cover, and the pages fanned to envelop him in memories, pulling him into a dark hall that ended in an open doorway. The utter darkness of the room pulsed, and shadows slipped down the wall and into the hallway to pool at his feet. They writhed up the other side and filled the length of the space. Gabriel stood, frozen. Listening. A song poured through the open doorway, wrapped in colors Kalen had never seen. Yellows with hints of purple and gray. Green with a touch of red and orange. Melancholy laced with poi- son. A child’s lullaby sung by an ageless, soft soprano. The voice was off-key, but the words were clear, the melody discernible.
Darling girl, I love you still.
Rain will fall and Reign you will.
Darling girl, don’t be afraid.
Reign you will and rain will fade.
She was sadness, this angel of the catacombs.
Kalen closed that book and opened another. The same room, only this time Gabriel had stepped farther into its depths. In the center of the cavern, light streamed in from above, a narrow, dust-swirled beam of sun. It seemed to come from miles away, its heat long since having dissipated by the time it reached the cold damp of the catacombs.
The singing began again, the colors the same, only darker, more tangible, and more sinister. The tune haunted Gabriel as the words echoed loosely off columns and coffins and the ridges in the dark outskirts of the room.
Ribbons of emotion wrapped around Gabriel, winding up his arms and legs to bind his chest. He wanted to run away and flee this insanity, but his curiosity dragged him forward. His toe caught an uneven lip in the floor, and he stumbled. He caught himself against the wall, wincing in pain.
The singing stopped.
Whisper-soft movements. Gabriel stayed perfectly still. A swirl of dust off to his left. The faint outline of a person, draped in pale panels of fabric. Even paler skin, a face dot- ted with freckles. Light eyes, blue gray in color, framed by long lashes. Auburn hair, some of it knotted and much of it tangled, fell to her waist. She gripped a desiccated flower in the hand hanging loose at her side. The dried petals dusted a trail of pale pink to line the floor, a narrow path that traced her route through the room.
She almost walked right past Gabriel but then stopped, her bare feet close enough to touch his boots. She turned toward him, and her eyes scanned his face. Her free hand reached up slowly as if lifted by a delicate string, and her index finger traced the skin from his temple down past his cheekbone to his chin.
“Hello.” Her speaking voice was liquid over sand, gravelly yet feminine, and lower than when she’d been singing. Her hand fell to her side and was quickly lost in the fabrics draping over her waist and legs. “My name is Reign. Can you please help me?”
Gabriel swallowed. He wanted to help her, but the binds tightened. His lungs felt ready to collapse, and each breath was a struggle. Even as she reached out for him, her expression full of longing and despair, he pushed against the bindings, turned, and ran.
“No . . .” The wail chased him through the darkened tunnels.
Nikki Katz is an author and editor living in sunny San Diego with her three children. With a BS in aerospace engineering, Nikki first put her writing skills to use publishing four nonfiction books. She moved on to writing young adult fiction, her favorite genre to read as well. The Midnight Dance is her debut novel.