Spindle Fire (Spindle Fire #1)

Spindle Fire (Spindle Fire #1)

Lexa Hillyer


For Minna Freya Grantham,

the beauty asleep within me

when this book began






Winter seemed to come early in 1313, the year Aurora was born. For days that July, a mass of damp white flakes clung to treetops and roofs like snow.

Some thought perhaps it was the North Faerie’s doing. They were wrong.

In her day—which was a very long time ago indeed—the North Faerie had been known for wreaking havoc on the skies whenever she lost one of her infamous chess games. But she had died many decades before our story begins, mysteriously murdered in her own home. That’s why the White Throne, carved entirely from the tusks of narwhals, is now called the Red Throne; it’s covered in her blood.

Aurora knows the stories well—she’s read the entire 313-book collection of faerie histories in her grand library. Princesses have a great deal of time on their hands, after all. Especially princesses like Aurora, who have no sense of touch and no voice. These were tithed from her just months after her birth.

But it wasn’t snow that came down that summer, for it didn’t melt. And it wasn’t any faerie’s doing either. As everyone who was alive then and remains alive today remembers vividly, the ashes that rained over heads and homes and whole towns across the kingdom of Deluce had one very distinct quality: the acrid scent of spindle fire.

Wet wool.

Wood smoke.

Burning hair.



Mud. Murk. Dankness and blackness and bog land and fog so thick it entered the folds of the mind. This was Isabelle’s world as a child.

Gradually, though, she discovered darkness was not an absence of light but a living thing, an infinitely tangible substance to roll around in and dig into. She began to fall in love with that darkness, exploring its wells of sounds and stirs.

The palace was full of dim corners where the king’s unwanted daughter could play. The whole estate sits right on a cliff above the mouth of the Strait of Sorrow, whose tide pulls clouds to shore and traps them there, churning and unquenchable. This makes the air briny; it has the vague taste of sardines, and the softness of moss. The floors are always slick with moisture, the walls bright dusted with salt. Over time, Isbe learned the feel of every dent in these walls. Every variety of squeak and cry from the floor formed a language—don’t enter, turn right, someone was just in here, or you are alone.

You see, she was blinded at the age of two; the very day of her half sister Aurora’s christening.

Some people consider it a problem—or even a curse—to be forever trapped in darkness. But Isabelle no longer minds the dark.

Light too can be a curse.

It can illuminate things no one should ever have to witness.



The double doors to the library fly open. Aurora quickly closes The Song of Rowan and tucks it beneath her chair cushion as Isbe tramples in, shaking snow off her boots. Her knotty chestnut hair is in its usual disarray, her plain blue-and-white dress torn in at least two places.

Aurora, on the other hand, believes that a princess is meant to look the part at all times, even if she is merely hiding out alone in her library reading romances. Today, for instance, she is wearing a burgundy underdress with an overdress featuring a complex pattern of golden birds and deep-green vines. She even wears a small hennin atop her head, with a long veil trailing behind it.

“Did Rowan take full advantage of his stony love yet?” Isbe asks with a smirk, her eyes fixed on an invisible spot in the distance. She doesn’t have to be able to see to guess: this isn’t the first time Aurora has been caught in private, agonized rapture over the tale of Rowan and his true love, Ombeline, who was turned to stone until a thousand crows came down and pecked her free.

Aurora herself is still waiting to be released, in a way. Not from stone, of course, but from the long, silent hours of wondering, trapped in a world where she cannot speak and cannot feel. Will she find true love with Prince Philip of Aubin? Even now he and his brother are galloping toward the palace. . . .

“Ah, good. Some air. That’s what this room needs.” Isbe has popped open the secret pane in a stained-glass window, allowing delicate flurries to flutter in. Beyond the glass, the famous Delucian cliffs plummet down to the Strait of Sorrow, where Aurora can imagine the snow dissolving like sugar into tea.

Isbe throws herself onto the floor by Aurora’s feet, as she is wont to do. Aurora’s half sister is as extreme, with her very pale skin and very dark hair, as Aurora is soft, with her warm complexion and blond waves. They are like night and day, or winter and summer. And like both examples, one could simply not exist without the other.

The princess bends down and takes her sister’s hand, tapping into her palm, using the secret language they’ve been evolving and deepening since early childhood. Soon it will be Philip, and not Rowan, who occupies my time—and your filthy imagination.

Occasionally Isbe misses a word here or there, but it’s rare. Princesses—and their bastard half siblings—have plenty of time to perfect such things. The girls even have a symbol for the name Rowan—the tap for an R and then the pressure sequence that means handsome. This is how Aurora connotes all the heroes in her stories: the letter of his name, followed by an adjective: handsome, charming, loyal, strong.

Lexa Hillyer's Books