The Kingmaker by Nancy Springer



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The daughter of the High King has a regal name, but she is small and plain, so everyone just calls her Wren. As a mere girl, she is not her father’s heir; her cousin Korbye is. But Wren’s infallible sooth-sense tells her that Korbyn would make no good king. Nor is sooth-sense her only fate. Wren is the Kingmaker. When an ancient and dangerous ring of power finds its way to her, how should she use it?

 
EXCERPT:
 
Destiny, I discovered upon a fateful day in my fifteenth year, can manifest in small matters.
 
Tedious matters, even. In this instance, two clansmen arguing about swine.
 
Barefoot, in striped tunics and baggy breeches, glaring at each other as if they wore swords instead, the two of them stood before me where I sat upon my father’s throne. “His accursed hogs rooted up the whole of my barley field,” complained the one, “and there’s much seed and labor gone to waste, and what are my children to eat this winter?”
 
“It could not have been my hogs,” declared the other. “I keep iron rings in my pigs’ snouts.”
 
“Better you should keep your pigs, snouts and all, where they belong. It was your hogs, I’m telling you.”
 
Outdoors, I thought with a sigh, the too-brief summer sun shone, and my father, High King Gwal Wredkyte, rode a-hawking with his great ger-eagle on his arm and his nephew, Korbye, at his side. Meanwhile, in this dark-timbered hall, I held court of justice in my father’s stead. No easy task, as I am neither the High King’s son nor his heir; I am just his daughter.
 
My cousin Korbye is his heir.
 
But I could give judgment and folk would obey me, for I had been guiding my father’s decisions since I was a little girl, sitting upon his knee as I advised him who was telling the truth and who was lying. In this I was never mistaken.
 
This is my uncanny gift, to know sooth. When I lay newly born, I have been told, an owl the color of gold appeared and perched on my cradle. Soundlessly out of nowhere the golden owl flew to me, gave me a great-eyed golden stare, and soundlessly back to nowhere it flew away, all within my mother’s closed and shuttered chamber. “This child will not die like the others,” she had whispered from the bed where she lay weak after childbirth. “This child will live, for the fates have plans for her.”
 
If those plans were only that I should sit indoors, on an overlarge chair draped with the skins of wolf and bear, listening to shaggy-bearded men quarrel, I wished the fates had kept their gift.

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