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Knight's Curse (Luna Books) Paperback – August 23, 2011


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Product Details

  • Series: Luna Books
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Luna; Original edition (August 23, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0373803400
  • ISBN-13: 978-0373803408
  • Product Dimensions: 0.7 x 5.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,240,322 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but I'd see them coming long before they hurt me. I would hear them, too. Maybe even smell them. My abilities came in handy at times.

But today they were more like a curse.

Through a cracked and filthy window, I watched two jeeps filled with soldiers carrying machine guns park on a hill above the monastery. They wore military camouflage that hardly camouflaged them at all. From the way they slouched off into the olive trees, I knew they believed themselves unseen, except that I had seen them quite well. I noted each stitch on their clothing, every whisker on their unshaven faces, even the color of their bootlaces.

I blinked behind thick sunglasses that shielded my sensitive eyes from the harsh midsummer sun. It was nearing dusk so my eyes didn't hurt as much. I had just turned thirteen and was now able to see better in the dark than in daylight. I preferred the night anyway. It was quieter after the sun went down.

My family of Maronite monks kept me away from the Lebanese villagers who stared and gossiped about the way I looked. The local kids who should have been my friends threw rocks at me, and even when they whispered behind my back, I could still hear them. I could hear a bee leave its hive from a mile away.

I should have told Brother Thomas about the soldiers, but I had trouble pulling myself away from the window. I felt like a hooked fish, the bait of my own insatiable curiosity. Just a few more minutes. What harm could there be in that?

Two civilian-looking men stayed behind with the jeeps. My keen eyes zeroed in on the taller one, blond and blue-eyed, who stood beside a ruined pillar of an ancient structure that had once been part of a heathen temple. I saw the man's anger as he swatted at biting flies that buzzed too close to his face, his mouth moving with words I couldn't hear while wearing my earplugs. So I took them out.

"Damn vile country," he spat, his English carrying the cadence of a Brit like the monk who had taught me this language. Addressing the pudgy man beside him, he added, "The bitch will pay, I promise you that."

I winced at the words, but not because of their meaning, which made no sense to me. It was his loud voice that bit through my skull and vibrated painfully between my ears. I struggled to separate his voice from other noises nearby, like the buzzing flies, the rustling olive trees, the bleating goats in the courtyard. Head aching, I concentrated, focusing only on the words that took shape inside my mind.

"Faisal, radio the men. Make sure they're in position."

The man he had called Faisal wore a striped hijab and, when he nodded, the turban of fabric wobbled on his head like one of Cook's moghlie puddings.

Something wasn't right. A warning bell chimed inside my head, but I ignored it. I was too mesmerized by the Englishman walking down the rocky path toward our chapel. He held himself with confidence, not crouched in wariness like the men dressed as soldiers. This one didn't try to hide. Brother Thomas must be expecting him.

I replaced my earplugs and inhaled deeply through pinched nostrils, hoping to catch a muted whiff of the foreigner, but he was too far away. If I removed the swimmer's noseclips I always wore, I'd be assaulted by the myriad smells outside. I'd wait for him to come closer so I could identify the scents on his clothes and body. That would tell me what I needed to know.

He stepped through groping fingers of long shadows and skirted the scaffolds that leaned against decaying chapel walls. He scowled up at a tent of heavy canvas that replaced large portions of the missing roof. A small goat trotted in front of him, and he kicked at it, brushing at his crisply ironed slacks as if they'd become soiled.

I scrambled down off the crate I'd used to reach the window, and crept barefoot along the uneven floor of a hallway leading to the chapel. A thick wooden door stood slightly ajar, and I knelt beside it, peering through a two-inch gap to watch.

On the opposite side of the room, the Englishman stuck his head inside and called, "Anyone here?"

Brother Thomas, a short middle-aged man in a tan robe that fluttered around his ankles, hobbled toward the voice. He stooped as he walked, as if to avoid hitting his head on a low ceiling, though he cleared it by a good six feet or more. "May I help you?"

The stranger stepped inside and folded his arms across his chest. "I believe you have something that belongs to me."

The monk frowned, then his leathery face broke into a smile. "Ah! Gavin Heinrich! You have arrived sooner than I expected. So pleased to finally meet you." He bowed, his expression anxious while saying in heavily accented English, "You have come for our Chalice?"

I swallowed the lump of ice that suddenly formed in my throat.

The man called Heinrich cocked a brow and leaned back on his heels. "I've come for the girl—"

"Yes, yes," Brother Thomas said, bobbing his head and stepping closer. "The girl, Chalice. That is her name."

No. This wasn't possible. My home was here, at the monastery. No way would I go anywhere with this man.

"And the other item?" Heinrich asked.

Thomas looked confused. "Other item?"

Heinrich made a huffing sound as if annoyed, then relaxed his jaw as if it would hide how tense he was. But I could see it in his eyes. His lips curved in a half smile when he said, "The letter. My wife gave you a letter before she died."

"Of course, of course. Forgive me. I am old and my memory is not so good anymore." Thomas chuckled, but quickly sobered while clearing his throat. "Your wife said we should give it to the girl when she comes of age."

When Heinrich stared down at his feet, the monk's bright eyes softened. "Forgive me, sir, for my late condolences on your loss."

I noted how the man's expression of anguish appeared forced. I'd seen that look before, on the faces of actors in the village during performances of summertime plays. His soft words of thanks sounded unnatural coming from his hard, thin-lipped mouth. I realized then that he wasn't a good man.

"How awful to learn of your wife's tragic death from an old Lebanese newspaper. If we had known how to contact you when it happened…"

Head still down, the Englishman held up his hand in a halting gesture. "I understand."

"I assure you we did all we could to save her, but she had lost so much blood. Did you ever find the man who shot her?"

Heinrich neither spoke nor looked up.

Thomas cleared his throat. "Well, I suppose she was lucky her little plane crashed so close to the monastery. If it hadn't, we might not have been in time to save the baby."

Baby? They couldn't possibly be talking about me. I knew my mother had bled to death after giving birth to me, but not from a gunshot wound. I'd always assumed I'd been the cause.

Heinrich's audible swallow sounded authentic. Maybe he was nervous about his lies. "I'm in your debt, Brother Thomas. Your kindness won't go unrewarded."

"Would you like to see your daughter now?"

"Chalice, is it?" Heinrich asked. "Yes, very much."

Thomas turned away.

"Excuse me, Brother Thomas, but is Chalice aware of what her mother left her?"

The monk halted midstep and swung back around to face him. "Her mother asked us to keep it a secret until she was old enough to take responsibility for herself. We have done so. Chalice knows nothing about it."

Heinrich smiled, as if relieved. "I'm happy to abide by my late wife's wishes. Just bring me the letter, and I'll keep it safe."

The monk's eyes squinted with uncertainty, but he nodded and motioned toward another monk standing in the shadows. He spoke to him in Arabic, then said to Heinrich, "Brother Francis will get it for you while I fetch the girl."

When I saw the smug look on Heinrich's face, I felt sick to my stomach.

Brother Thomas headed my way. I stood, rage at his betrayal making my body shake. My first impulse was to run away, flee to the village and hide. But then what? I'd read about the outside world in the newspaper and understood how dangerous it could be for a thirteen-year-old girl alone. Those in the village who knew me would just bring me back here. I had no friends but the monks who had raised me.

As ideas for escape eluded me, Brother Thomas pushed open the chapel door. A thin smile twitched on his lips. "Chalice, my child. I was just coming to get you." His eyebrows tangled together in a concerned frown. "Is something wrong?"

He spoke to me in Arabic, and I replied in his language. "How could you?" I asked, my voice breaking.

Understanding shone in his eyes. "You heard us talking."

"I'm not going away with that man."

"That man is your father." He huffed a blast of breath out his nose. "I'm only thinking of what's best for you. We're monks, Chalice. We love you, but we've done all we can. You've grown into a young woman and deserve more than this." He gestured at the crumbling walls, the hay-strewn hallway with the tilted floor, the cracked windows. "Mr. Heinrich is a rich man who can give you everything you need and want… "

I glared at him, unable to stop the stinging tears that slipped free. I swiped them furiously from my cheeks and whispered harshly, "Now I understand. You sold me to him."

"It's not like that," Thomas said, though guilt etched the seams of his weathered face. I knew that look because it was the same one I'd seen after catching him in a drunken stupor. ...

More About the Author

Karen Duvall is a native Californian who grew up in Hawaii, lived in Colorado most of her adult life, and now lives in Bend, Oregon with her husband and four incredibly spoiled pets. She has three grown children and six grandchildren.

Karen is an award winning author of urban fantasy, romantic suspense and fantasy romance. Her urban fantasy series with Harlequin Luna features a modern day female knight in The Order of the Hatchet.

Follow Karen on Twitter @KarenDuvall and check out her Facebook fan page at https://www.facebook.com/Karen.Duvall.Author

Visit her website at http://www.karenduvallauthor.com

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Karen on October 1, 2011
Format: Paperback
I've been looking forward to this book coming out! Karen Duvall has three novels published now, and she's really hit her stride with Knight's Curse. She builds a world that is like ours only with elves and ghosts and otherworldly powers. Her main character, Chalice, is a strong but enslaved heroine seeking knowledge about her murky past. And she's in love with Ayden, a complex character who's played out regret over the millennia.

Chalice has lived a life of caution. She's edgy and smart and drawn with such care that I, too, felt the burden of her too-acute senses. Her stated goal is to find someone she can count on, who would care about her and protect her - the stuff of great romances. In her quest, she faces fallen angels and she fools the Vyantara, a clandestine and mysteriously powerful group who do their dirty deeds in secret, reminiscent of the antagonist cult featured in Ms. Duvall's Desert Guardian.

I could go on and on about the universal themes this book explores through interactions between thief Chalice and Gaven (her slave master), Shui (the gargoyle she's bonded to), elves, Ayden, etc. But my favorite aspect of Knight's Curse was the writing itself.

Karen's book is filled with accessible, clever and colorful images.

Pithy descriptions punctuate her accessible prose, from mummified hands to "bitter beer faced" elves with eyebrows bunching like cotton, dredged memories from the womb, throbbing tattoos, enchanted rooms, and the creepiest: body parts that don't die.

This book offered up enough ghouls for those who love fantasy, lust for those who love romances, and a generous sprinkling of wonderful turns of phrase and images to keep those of us who prefer to simply luxuriate in good writing happy. Happy.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jessica McKelden Cave VINE VOICE on October 8, 2011
Format: Paperback
I'm not generally a paranormal reader. I've read my fair share of them, sure, but they don't tend to be my favorites. I like a smattering of them, but I usually do not read them. When I saw this one, I was very much intrigued and I'm very glad that picked it up.

This world is very interesting and it immediately pulled me in. I like the combination of elves, fae, angels, ghosts, witches and warlocks, and gargoyles. With my somewhat limited experience with paranormals, it seems a strange combination, but it is beautifully done.

The characters are interesting and probably the best part. The main character, Chalice, is completely believable. I feel like I would have made most of the same decisions in her position and that's an important type of connection for a reader.

Ayden, Chalice's hero, is sexy, interesting, and has just enough of the bad boy personality type to keep me interested. He's sweet and funny, which is a dangerous combination.

The bad guys, the Vyantara, are interesting and just scary enough to make the situation realistic. The blend well into the setting. The danger is highly believable and I often found myself wondering how Ayden and Chalice were going to get out of their current predicament. The gargoyle situation in which they've placed Chalice was a little alarming and quite original, to my knowledge.

In this particular novel, it seemed to have less romance than lust. I really liked them as a couple, but there really wasn't a chance for them to develop as a couple, which was a little disappointed. I'm definitely rooting for them, however, and hope that in future novels, they will finally get their day. They deserve it.

All in all, I was very happy with this particular return to paranormal novels. I look forward to future books set in this world.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Wendy L. Hines VINE VOICE on June 15, 2012
Format: Paperback
With superb world-building, diverse characters and clever writing, KNIGHT'S CURSE is a thrilling urban fantasy that will enthrall readers. Chalice is a sharp and intelligent heroine who wants to do the right thing, even though she's been put into some bad situations and does what she has to do to survive. Aydin wants to keep Chalice safe, help her steal the artifact and out-wit the Vyantra, but will he lose her if she succeeds? Fans of urban fantasy fiction won't want to miss this one!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Bonnie Ramthun on September 20, 2011
Format: Paperback
This is a spectacular story. Chalice, the heroine of Knight's Curse, is compelling and the pace is fast and intriguing. The urban fantasy world that Karen Duvall has created feels genuine and fully realized and best of all, the places and characters in this book are just flat out fun to read about. Although Chalice is a girl in a situation just about as bad as any you've read, her spirit and her hope keep the story from becoming buried in darkness. Chalice shines. Her love interest, Aydin, is a complex and very endearing young man -- well, he looks very much like a young man. His story is as compelling as Chalice's and the way the threads of the plot come together in the climactic scenes is both breathtaking and a pleasure to read. This is a world of gargoyles, curses, angels and demons and very endearing human beings struggling to keep light going in the darkness, and I can't wait to see where this series goes next. I highly recommend this novel.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jen TOP 500 REVIEWER on September 16, 2011
Format: Paperback
Let me start out with a warning that this is not a romance. I thought it might be from the blurb... but it's really an Urban Fantasy with a hint of a vague promise of a wispy tendril of a romance.

Chalice is something more than human. She has extremely sharp senses and she knows that whatever she is, her mother was the same. Unfortunately, the woman died moments after Chalice was born, so she never really understood her heritage. She was raised by monks in her early childhood, but then kidnapped and forced into slavery by a nefarious group of magic manipulators, called the Vyantara. Her handler is Gavin, a cruel and powerful man who has tied her life to a gargoyle... and through that tie, he forces her to steal magical artifacts. If she refuses or runs away, she'll turn into a gargoyle herself.

Her latest assignment puts her in the path of Aydin, another supernaturally enhanced being forced into servitude by the Vyantara. But he knows so much more about magic... even about Chalice herself. He helps her break through some of barriers she has built and the prejudices indoctrinated in her by Gavin and his cohorts. With his help, she learns about her heritage and her destiny and allows herself to finally hope for a better future.

The world-building was interesting here. It definitely felt fresh and unique. But I found myself always waiting for more. More resolution. More satisfaction. More between Chalice and Aydin. And I didn't get it. By the time I got to the end of the book, I felt more like I had just read a long a set-up than a complete novel. Don't get me wrong, it was entertaining, but it was equally frustrating. All the build, build, build and then it's over. It didn't even feel like a cliffhanger so much as that it just stopped midway through the story.
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