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Read the first chapter from Richelle Mead's Midnight Jewel

The second novel in the ‘Glittering Court’ duology hits shelves on Tuesday

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It’s almost time to return to the Glittering Court, thanks to Richelle Mead’s Midnight Jewel, the second book in the highly acclaimed trilogy.

But now fans can return to Mead’s world a little sooner than expected, as EW is dropping an exclusive excerpt of the first chapter, below.

The second book tells the story of Mira, who fans will remember is a war refugee and a citizen of another country who seized the opportunity to join the Glittering Court (and its promise of luxury, glamour, and leisure) so she can earn off her marriage contract and finally free herself.

In order to do this, Mira uses her knowledge that Grant Elliot (a passenger on the ship) is a spy for the McGraw Agency to convince him to take her on. But as she spends her days learning the required etiquette and customs and her nights fighting injustice and corruption, Mira also finds herself fighting her growing love for (and attraction to) Grant — all while navigating a brewing rebellion together.

Midnight Jewel arrives in bookstores on Tuesday, June 27. If you haven’t already ordered your copy of the novel, you can do so here.

Read an excerpt from ‘Midnight Jewel’ by Richelle Mead

Chapter 1

“You! Girl! Don’t take another step, or I’ll run you through!”

I froze where I was, halfway up the great stone stairs that led to the cathedral of Kyriel.

The thump-thump of boots sounded behind me, and moments later, a young watchman rushed over to block my way. He stood almost a foot taller than me, his dark hair shaved close to the scalp as so many of the watch did. What many of the watch did not do, however, was wield a dagger with such confidence. Most kept the city’s peace with heavy clubs.

I met his eyes calmly. “I beg your pardon, sir, but I’m on my way to prayer.”

“Don’t give me that.” His face twisted into a scowl. “Everyone knows you Sims are Alanzan heathens. And I know who you are. I remember you and your murderous brother.”

A spark of anger kindled inside me, but I kept it hidden. I had a lot of practice ignoring comments like his. “I was actually going to pray for his soul. I’m a faithful devotee of Uros. Do you think the angels would let a heretic step on this holy ground?”

I gestured up to the imposing double doors above us. A great arch, carved into the cathedral’s stone, surrounded them and made the entry look even more majestic. A monk of Vaiel, hooded in deep green robes, stepped outside just then, reaffirming the sanctity of where we stood.

The watchman hesitated a moment and then grew stern again. He kept the dagger pointed at me. “Maybe you aren’t one of the Alanzans, but I know you’re as much of a criminal as everyone else in your family. You just haven’t been caught yet. Now tell me where your brother is.”

I spread my hands out in helpless confusion, ignoring the impulse to reach for my own knife, which was hidden in a skirt pocket. “I wish I knew. I haven’t seen him in over a year.”

He pressed the dagger’s point to my breastbone. “You’re lying.”

The heartbreaking part was that I’d actually spoken the truth. Lonzo had sent me one letter when he’d arrived in that land across the sea. And then there’d been silence.

“What’s all this?” a new voice asked. A familiar voice.

Another watchman joined us, moving much more casually than his colleague. This man was older, portly, and red-faced. He’d left his thinning hair as it was, probably because there was too little to shave. I kept my eyes fixed serenely ahead, giving no indication that I knew him.

The younger watchman lowered the blade. “Carey, this is the Viana girl. The one whose brother killed Sir Wilhelm last year. That bastard was never brought to justice!”

Watchman Carey stifled a yawn. “Well, I don’t see him here. I only see his sister. And no one ever actually proved he did it.”

“But you know he did!” spat the other watchman. “We all know it. And she knows where he is! We should be tracking her every move!”

“Into a church? You think her brother is hiding here? Should I go ask that monk if we can conduct a search?”

“Sir—”

“There’s nothing here.” Watchman Carey managed to sound both bored and irritated. “Only a girl on her way to pray and better her soul—a girl who’s done nothing wrong.”

The other man’s eyes narrowed at me. “She’s a Sirminican. They’ve all done something.”

Watchman Carey gestured him away. “Go make yourself useful. Stop a real crime, not one that went cold long ago. And damn it, put that dagger away. You’re embarrassing us all.”

The young watchman sheathed the blade but held a finger up to my face. I didn’t flinch. “Don’t think I’ll forget this, girl. I’ll find your bloody brother, wherever he’s hiding.”

Once the man had stormed away, Watchman Carey’s features sharpened. “Tell me he’s not still in the city.”

“No,” I said, exhaling in relief. “But I really don’t know where he is. Just that he’s far away.”

“You should join him.”

A dull ache filled my chest. “I’m trying, sir.”

“Try harder. Things like this are going to keep happening. Sir Wilhelm had a lot of friends, and they haven’t forgotten.” Watchman Carey suddenly looked very weary. “Look, I like you. I really do. You’re smart. You know our language. But I’m not a fool. I hear about the girl who stops thieves in the Sirminican district. And that’s not a bad thing—but it is something that could get out of hand one day. Just like with your brother.”

“Lonzo—”

“Not another word. Sir Wilhelm was as vile as they come, gentry or not. And maybe he deserved what he got, but the less I know, the better.”

Watchman Carey’s forehead wrinkled up with a frown as a memory held him. He’d been the one to find Isabel, the Sirminican girl Sir Wilhelm had used for his own sick pleasures and then discarded in a river. True, Lonzo had intended to beat him to a pulp, but actually killing Sir Wilhelm? That had been accidental. Most of the watch hadn’t cared about that detail—not with a Sirminican involved. Watchman Carey had cared and had looked away a number of times as the evidence against Lonzo mounted.

“Get out of here. You can do better.” He gave me a wry smile. He was the only member of the watch who’d ever treated me as an equal. The only one who even attempted my language. “And don’t take it amiss when I say I hope we never cross paths again.”

He lumbered down the steps without another word, soon disap­pearing into the crowd on the street. I took a moment to collect my­self and continued my journey to the cathedral. The monk remained standing near the door, having observed the whole exchange. He said nothing. The great hood hid his face, but he turned his head and tracked me as I walked inside.

My father had liked conducting clandestine business in churches. No one ever expected it. Only a handful of other people had come inside to pray during the middle of the day in this grand cathedral, one of the biggest in Osfro. They sat solemnly on the glossy wooden pews, heads bowed or eyes fixed on the sculpture of the glorious angel Kyriel that hung before us on the sanctuary wall. A priest in gold and pale green robes quietly lit candles on the altar beneath the angel, and the scent of beeswax and resin filled the air.

I scanned the nave and found the person I sought. I casually made my way over, sitting near him without making eye contact, as though my choice of pew was a coincidence. The wood creaked beneath me, and I nearly sneezed at the man’s pretentious herbal cologne.

Bowing my head, I touched my brow first and then my heart. “All praise to Uros, creator of spirit and flesh,” I murmured. “All praise to his six glorious angels, defenders of the faithful.”

“All praise,” the man beside me echoed.

I lifted my head, fixing my eyes on the glorious Kyriel. The angel held a gilded sword and shield, ready to defend mankind from the six wayward angels. My real interest was in the priest as he continued lighting candles in my periphery. When he’d finished with the last one, he retreated to a small alcove and knelt to pray.

Certain he was preoccupied, I reached into my skirt pocket and took out a small, folded piece of paper. I carefully set it on the pew between my companion and me. After several seconds, he took it and slipped it into his own coat pocket.

“Those are the names of ten Alanzans living in Cape Triumph—at least as of last spring,” I said softly. “I’m sure there are more. But that’s enough to get you connected. You need to memorize them and burn it right away.”

He raised his head. “I know that. Give me some credit.”

Around the nave, stained-glass windows depicted the other angels in rainbow colors. None of them seemed to care that a heretic was sitting beside me. Kyriel didn’t leap forward with his sword. The ca­thedral’s vaulted ceiling didn’t come crashing down. Uros didn’t hurl lightning from the heavens. Maybe the Alanzans aren’t the heretics, I mused. Maybe their way is the right way, and the orthodox who built this church are actually the heretics. Or maybe they’re both wrong.

I finally turned and met my companion’s eyes. The dim lighting made them appear more gray than blue, but it couldn’t hide their eager sparkle. Cedric Thorn was an extremely handsome man. Not my type—but still nice to look at. I preferred men who were a little rougher around the edges. Men who didn’t so obviously deliberate on their clothing each morning.

“I give you a lot of credit. But people’s lives are on the line.”

His face sobered. “Believe me, I know. Thank you. And here’s some­thing for you.”

My heart sped up as he reached into his coat, cast a quick glance around, and then produced a rolled sheaf of papers. He set it discreetly between us. “Your contract. Admission to the Glittering Court. A ticket to Adoria.”

“Adoria,” I repeated, clenching the papers. The Alanzans I knew had sworn he was a man of integrity, but until this moment, I’d had my doubts that he’d uphold his half of the bargain. Plenty of Osfridians had experimented with the Alanzan faith. Plenty had lost interest and happily turned in the real devotees.

“I made a few inquiries,” he said, still serious, “but I don’t think there’s anything I can do to help find your brother once we’re over there. They don’t always record the names of bond servants. Even when they do, getting those records would require a connection to a customs officer—or enough money to bribe one. I don’t have either.”

“Maybe my husband will.” Husband. The word felt strange on my tongue.

“Are you sure that’s what you want? A husband?”

I could feel Cedric’s gaze on me as I looked down at my hands, still gripping the papers. His polished manners and stylish clothes were deceptive. He might be pretty, but he wasn’t stupid.

What did I want? I wanted Adoria. I wanted to find Lonzo. I wanted a life far away from the war and corruption that had en­gulfed the country of my birth. Could a rich husband and a new land guarantee all those things? No, but I’d have better odds there than I would here, where I was just another hungry refugee packed into a city that hated us.

“I want a husband,” I reiterated. It was a small price to pay for all those other benefits. I would honor the contract and accept being a wife. If nothing else, I’d have some sort of choice in who I went to bed with, rather than having it dictated by my father.

As though reading my mind, Cedric remarked, “Your father was a great man. I mean, at least from what I’ve heard. He saved so many from persecution. He gave his life for it. You must be so proud.”

“Yes,” I said automatically.

“And I know you want to carry out that legacy. I know you’ve been protecting people here. It’s noble. It’s wonderful. But . . . how should I put this . . . well. You need to settle down. Not just with a husband, but in general.”

“I know.”

“No more sneaking around.”

“I know.”

“No more alley fights.”

“I know.”

“No more daggers to throats.”

“Cedric, give me some credit.” If we hadn’t been in the cathedral, I would’ve shouted it. “I’ll be the picture of decorum at this finishing school of yours. I’ll get cultured and refined. I’ll let you show me off at all those parties and wear those beautiful clothes you’re always go­ing on about.” I glanced down at my worn, stained dress. “Actually, I won’t mind that part. Or even the studies.” The war back in Sirminica had ended my education there.

Cedric’s enthusiasm returned. He really needed to work on discre­tion. “I know Adoria’s your end goal, but try to enjoy the journey too. It won’t be that bad.”

“Even for a Sirminican?” I asked archly.

The bright smile faltered. I took it as a bad sign that he didn’t spout off the pretty assurances and sales pitches that came so naturally to him. “Your first year’s still in Osfrid. Even though you’ll be at one of our country manors . . . well, you’ll face the same bias you see here in the city. Adoria will be a little laxer. Sometimes. But you’ll win them over. They’ll see who you really are.”

After almost two years in Osfrid’s capital, I was skeptical, but I didn’t let that show as I stood up. The priest had finished and was strolling near our side. “Thank you,” I whispered. “This means everything to me.”

Cedric tapped his pocket. “So does this.”

“Don’t come out right after me,” I warned. “Wait a while.”

“I know, I know. You’re not giving me credit again.”

I walked out of the cathedral, squinting at the bright afternoon light. The noise of midday Osfro was crushing after the sanctuary’s stillness. Before me, the city whirled with life. Wagons and horses clat­tered down the cobblestone street, and vendors pitched their wares. Pedestrians packed the spaces in between, some headed toward a spe­cific destination while others begged for food and work. Blocky stone buildings loomed over everything, their gloomy solidity a testament to Osfro’s history.

Osfro is an old city, I thought. A city set in its ways. There’s no opportunity for me here. Lonzo knew that when he sailed to Adoria. When he left me behind.

The cathedral doors creaked open, and I stared in surprise as Cedric emerged. “You were supposed to wait,” I chastised.

“I forgot to tell you when we’re leaving for the manor.” He placed a jaunty brown hat atop his auburn hair and tried to block out the sun with his hand. “In four days. Wait at the border of the Sirminican and Bridge districts—by the market. My father and I’ll pick you up around the first bell.”

“Are you sure your father won’t mind me?”

“Not his choice. He let me recruit two girls. I’ve picked them—sort of. I have to finish the other’s paperwork.” Cedric sounded unconcerned. Seeing as he’d adopted a religion that often led to death and imprisonment, a father’s anger was probably minor by comparison.

“Recruit? Are you leading this girl into a sinful life?”

Cedric and I both spun around at the crotchety voice. The monk of Vaiel was still there, leaning against the arch and clutching a leather-bound copy of A Testament of Angels. The shadows had obscured him. Panic shot through me, and then I relaxed as I replayed our brief conversation. We’d said nothing about an outlawed heresy. Cedric and I faced no danger in discussing the Glittering Court.

“No, Brother,” said Cedric politely. The monks weren’t church leaders like the priests of Uros, but they were treated with the same respect, venerated for their complete immersion into study of the faith. “Quite the opposite, actually. She’s joining the Glittering Court.”

Even though I couldn’t see the monk’s face, instinct told me he was staring at me—and scowling. “The Glittering Court? Is that what you call your sordid operation? I may be removed from the world, but I know its ways. Men ‘recruit’ Sirminican girls all the time, taking ad­vantage of their downtrodden situation and forcing them into despi­cable deeds. I saw you earlier, girl. I saw the watch interrogating you.”

“We were only chatting. I haven’t done anything wrong. And the Glittering Court is very respectable.” I tried for calmness and humility. The last thing we needed was for him to draw the city watch’s atten­tion back to me. “I’m going to take etiquette classes and then find a husband in Adoria next year.”

“And not just any husband,” Cedric boasted. “She’ll meet only the richest, most elite bachelors of the city. Men who’ve made their for­tunes in the New World want equally elevated wives—and my family’s business supplies them.” He’d used those exact same words when we met. I wondered if the salesman in him couldn’t help it.

A beat of silence followed as the monk contemplated this. Then: “Which city?”

“Cape Triumph. In Denham Colony.” Cedric kept smiling, but the shift in his posture betrayed his nervousness. I didn’t blame him, with that list in his pocket. Church officials wanted to make an example of native Osfridian converts. Hangings had become common.

When the monk still didn’t respond, I crossed my arms and fixed my gaze on his shadowed face. I hoped I was meeting his eyes. “Good Brother, I appreciate your concern. And you’re right—desperate girls with no other options do turn to desperate means. But I’m not one of those girls.”

“Not desperate?” he asked, voice unexpectedly wry for a holy man.

“Not without options. If I don’t see any, then I make my own. And no one forces me into anything.” My words came out with a bit more fire than I’d intended.

“I can believe that. I’d pity anyone who tried.” I could’ve sworn he was smiling in the depths of that hood. “Good luck to you, miss.” He opened the cathedral door and disappeared inside.

Cedric exhaled. “That could have gone a lot worse. I think he must’ve liked you.”

“They don’t like anything except their studies.”

“He couldn’t take his eyes off you,” he teased.

“You couldn’t even see his eyes! Now go memorize what I gave you. Don’t forget to burn it.”

Cedric answered with a nod and began descending the great stone steps. “See you in four days.”

I stayed where I was and looked down upon the city I’d be leaving behind. I’d come here to escape war, but I felt no loyalty. Learning to be a polished lady in some country manor was a delay in getting to Lonzo, but I was human. I wanted to sleep in a clean bed, instead of on a floor crowded with other refugees. I wanted three meals a day again. I wanted to be around books again.

“Four days.” I felt my lips creep into a smile. “Four days, and my new life begins.”