A decade later, scarred and guilt-ridden, Ian has rejected his heritage and his magic. Old enemies have resurfaced and new ones have risen to seize the Crown of Stones. Unwittingly drawn into the conflict, Ian’s addiction reawakened.
Caught in a web of obsession and lies, Ian returns to the past to save the future in a time-spanning journey fraught with loss, betrayal, torture, friendship and love. His beliefs and convictions, his knowledge of magic and history are challenged as Ian unlocks the mysteries of The Crown of Stones. Despite devastating personal consequences, he clings to a hope for peace. But how much is he willing to sacrifice? How much burden can he carry? And how far can a man fall before he can’t rise again?
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The Crown of Stones Series - Book 1
By C.L. Schneider
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Descended from a long line of soldiers, Ian is conscripted into the Rellan army and made to fight in their longstanding conflict against the ruthless Langorian invaders. The downfall of Rella imminent, Ian goes against orders and turns to the Crown of Stones, an ancient Shinree relic of untold power. Ignorant of its true purpose, Ian uses the crown to end the war, and pays a terrible price.
A decade later, still tortured by the aftermath of that day, Ian lives as a bounty hunter in self-imposed exile. Having renounced his magical heritage, he curbs his obsession with a steady stream of wine and regret. He struggles to put it all behind him, until a fateful encounter with a pretty assassin brings Ian’s past crashing into the present.
Targeted by a rogue Shinree, and a ruthless old enemy, Ian is forced to use magic again. His deadly addiction is rekindled and his life of isolation is brought to a swift end. With the land he gave up everything to protect once more in jeopardy, and his people’s future at stake, Ian becomes embroiled in a violent race for control of the Crown of Stones. To save the realms and those he cares for, Ian must embrace the thing he fears most: his own power.
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There was always a next. The Langorians were a swarm…an inexhaustible, savage, mindless swarm. And we had no choice but to become like them to survive. To become animals, going at each other, mechanically pushing against the tide, battering whatever stood in our way with whatever we had; clubs, axes, swords, knives—our bruised, bleeding bare hands. Fighting for days, months, years, striving to hold out against an enemy that knew nothing of mercy, an enemy stronger, and far more brutal than us, we’d become something less than we were.
And we were still losing.
I grabbed the Queen’s arm and steered her out of the fray. “We can’t take much more of this.” Needing to be heard, I drew her close. “We should pull back.”
“Pull back?” Queen Aylagar Arcana yanked herself free. She gave me a wild, defiant look. Full of passion and reckless resolve, it made her exotic features come alive. “My order stands. We press on, Troy. As always.”
I shook my head. “Our numbers are dwindling too fast. We can’t win this.”
“We can and we will.” Aylagar raised a hand. She touched my face, and the sound of metal clashing and men screaming seemed to fade away. Brushing back the blood-splattered white strands that had come loose from my braid, she ran a finger down the strong line of my jaw. “Trust me, Love. The Langorians will not have Rella.”
“How can you still believe that?”
“Because I must. Because I have faith.”
“Ayla…” I hesitated. But it had to be said. “I saw the messenger arrive from Kabri. I know he carried orders from the King. You can’t keep ignoring them.”
She dropped her hand and backed up. “My husband is a fool. I don’t care how many messengers he dispatches from his throne, he is not out here. The blood of these men bathes my skin, not his. This is my war, Troy. Mine!” she cried. “We fight. We die. We go on until we prevail—by my command. I will not surrender. That is the way of it. That is the only way.”
My throat went dry at the fire in her. The way she stood, outlined by the backdrop of chaos, flanked by the crackling flames that consumed our camp, with sweat beading on her dark skin and battle-lust glazing her stare, I wanted to pull her into my arms. I wanted to go back to this morning, on the furs of her tent, when Aylagar’s flawless ebony skin was on me. Where status and race didn’t matter and death felt far away. Mostly, I wanted to believe her as I had so many times, that every battle brought us closer to victory. That persistence was our greatest strength, and it would carry us through.
But this was it. King Draken of Langor was throwing everything he had at us, making one final push to wipe us all out. To once and for all lay claim to the land his forefathers had sought, and failed, to conquer. Surrendering was unacceptable; she was right in that. Yet, Aylagar had lost her way. Somewhere along the line, the outcome had stopped mattering to her as much as the fight, and my affection, my awe of her, had blinded me for far too long.
“Give me the order,” I demanded. “Let me shift the odds.”
Her dismissal was quick. “No.”
“We can’t keep going like this, sword for sword, day after day, until there’s none of us left. Let me cast hell down on these black-hearted bastards.”
“I have given you my answer. And it is no different than the last hundred times.”
I moved closer. “You know what I can do. My magic can give us an advantage the Langorians can’t match. We can stop this fucking, never-ending war, Ayla. We can stop it together, with steel and magic. If you’ll just—”
“You are Shinree,” she hissed. “Your kind are meant to do as they are told. Yet, after six years in the ranks you still push for something that I will never bend to.”
“Then you’re as big a fool as the King.”
Her hand, that only a moment ago had caressed me, struck my face. “My husband forced your service in this army upon us both. And from day one, when you stood in my tent, a young man, eager to please, drooling with the urge to cast, I made it plain that this conflict would not be solved with magic. It’s dishonorable. I don’t trust it. I forbid it. You are my best soldier, Troy. I have given you free reign in my bed, but not out here. Not in battle. Ever. Is that clear?”
Staring at her, my heart went cold. “I don’t think I can do this anymore. Fighting as half a man. Ashamed of what I am because you don’t approve. I’m not just a soldier.” I held up the sword in my hand. I called to the stones embedded in the leather-wrapped handle and they began to glow. Their vibrations pressed in through my skin, down into my veins, and the uncertainty washed away. “I’m a Shinree soldier.”
“Put that magic away,” she scolded. “Do you want to kill us all?”
“I can control it.”
“Can you?” Her eyes were harsh. “Can you promise that when your spell steals the strength it needs to be born, that it won’t steal from my men? That it won’t steal from me? Your magic is a disease, Ian. Your need for it, your addiction, clouds your judgment. It threatens us all and undermines my orders.”
“Your orders contradict my duty to keep Rella safe. I’ve tried to pretend they didn’t. I’ve tried to be what you wanted. But I can’t. I’m Shinree, Ayla. I am magic. And if you don’t untie my hands, we will all die here today.”
The Crown of Stones Series - Book 2
The story of Ian Troy continues in Magic-Scars, the second installment in C. L. Schneider’s riveting epic fantasy trilogy, The Crown of Stones.
Captured by his old enemy, King Draken of Langor, Shinree magic user Ian Troy was sentenced to prison. Tortured and drugged, robbed of his will, his memories, and his magic, Ian was made to do unspeakable things. Rescued, as his body slowly rids itself of the drug, Ian realizes he has returned to an unfamiliar world gripped with fear. In the wake of his fall, those he cared for were left to their own grim fates. Draken has seized control of the realms and named himself High King. His brutal rein has sparked a desperate rebellion that Ian now finds himself a part of. His one task: recover and repair the Crown of Stones, in hopes it will tip the balance in the revolution that is brewing. In pursuit of the reason behind the artifact’s strange loss of magic, Ian is driven to release an explosion of retribution and power that leaves him irrevocably scarred.
Struggling to reconcile the man he has become with the man he once was, Ian strives to understand the growing number of magic-scars adorning his body. He searches for the truth behind his link to the Crown of Stones and uncovers shocking secrets buried for generations beneath the sand. To become the weapon the resistance needs, he must assume responsibility for his magical inheritance. But can he curb the destructive appetite that comes with it?
The price of Ian’s magic and his addiction have never been higher.
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At the last second, the crown stirred. I couldn’t stop. The spell was already taking its due. The man was jerking and shuddering. A massive gust of wind was building inside me. It fled my hand, traveled down the length of my sword, and burst blue from the tip of the blade. My conjured wind crackled and surged across the camp; smacking into the flames and suffocating them with a whoosh so loud and strong it nearly knocked me over as it rushed past.
Blanched, drained, and desiccated, the soldier fell dead at my feet. The sight of him wasn’t even close to dousing the pleasure. The weakness that followed was far less enjoyable. Even less; the stinging pain on the top of my left hand as a new design formed. Black, curving streaks swept up my wrist beneath the brace to bleed into the scars on my arm.
The Crown of Stones Series - Book 3
The fate of Ian Troy is revealed in the final installment of C. L. Schneider's epic fantasy trilogy, The Crown of Stones.
In one fell swoop, the resistance was shattered. Lives were taken. Hope was lost. Peace slipped like grains of sand through his fingers. So did the Crown of Stones. Now, forced into hiding, Ian Troy grapples for a way to save the realm—and free its people—from the sadistic clutches of Jem Reth; Mirra’kelan’s new self-appointed emperor. Plagued with the knowledge of a tragic future, he strives to influence events and save those he cares for. But his magic has betrayed him, and Fate has other plans.
Marked by the crown, hindered by the transformation spell contained within, each cast brings Ian one step closer to becoming more beast than man. Each move brings the death and destruction foretold in his vision inexplicably nearer. With Langor on the brink of war, and King Malaq’s plan for peace hanging in the balance, Ian returns to the ancient past; seeking an end to the eldring spell and a means to thwart Jem’s growing domination. What he finds there sets off a chain of revelations that leads Ian places he never thought to go.
Entrusted with the future of his race, Ian becomes the linchpin for lasting change. But how much weight can one man carry? And how much is he willing to sacrifice in the name of peace?
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Though I have been writing all my life, The Crown of Stones: Magic-Price was my first published novel. Completing the trilogy has been an amazing experience. While I am sad to see Ian and his friends go, I'm also looking forward to breaking new ground.
You can learn more about me and my work at clschneiderauthor.com where you can read reviews, excerpts, sneak peeks and teasers, subscribe to my newsletter, and follow my journey as an indie author on my blog, "Heading Down The Yellow Brick Road". I love to chat with fellow authors and readers, so please connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Google+, where I spend most of my time talking about books, zombies, coffee, and the wonderful roller coaster of a writer's life.
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