TITLE: Decoy Royale
AGE CATEGORY: Young Adult
WORD COUNT: 85,000
Three orphans compete to become the Princess’ double – or die trying. As 16-year-old thief Cat outwits and out-curtsies her rivals, she uncovers treachery, deceit and a truth that transforms her fairy tale into a nightmare.
Dying isn’t supposed to be this much fun.
The market drowns in bodies, pulsing around me like schools of fish. I move along with the current, invisible among the masses. The world blurs gray and black and white, a city of shadows and ghosts, nothing but salt and stone and—
Blood. A royal guard appears on the bridge, a crimson stain against the gray sky. He’s not the same guard who was prowling the docks earlier, or the one that followed me on Salt Row. When his eyes sweep over the market, instead of moving along, indistinguishable from the crowd, I freeze. And in that moment, I become visible.
And for a branded thief, visible means vulnerable.
A wheelbarrow crashes into me, causing me to knock over some vegetables. “Stupid boy!” the farmer hollers, turning as purple as his turnips. “Watch where you’re going!”
“Apologies,” I mutter, kneeling to pick up a turnip, then another. The third time, I don’t get back up.
I run low to the ground, hidden among the endless river of bodies and carts and wheelbarrows. I hear footsteps splash behind me. I skid into the main square and cup my hands around my mouth.
The magic word. From every crack and crevice, grimy boys crawl into the open and scatter like roaches. The lame puppeteer jumps to her feet and scuttles away sideways like a crab. The one-eyed oracle rubs the crust from his lashes and behold, the man can see.
Welcome to Dalea, the City of Miracles.