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An Excerpt from the Final Installment of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel

The final excerpt from Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel is here, and the last stand against all that seeks to destroy wonder is about to take place.

Are you ready for one last adventure?

Then read on.

*

The next two days passed by in a haze of preparation for others and confusion for Penelope Grace. Please do not misunderstand me, reader; Penelope helped where she could, refusing to sit idle because of her fear of the coming confrontation, but fear it she did.

All others in the camp seemed so assured to her eyes, so confident that they would meet their foes head-on, no matter the cost to themselves. And Penelope fully intended to join them in their efforts.

She thought not at all of turning back, only of failing.

As the hours passed, she became more and more convinced of her own inability to face Denagon and emerge victoriously. She was too weak, too inexperienced, too young. How could they ask this of her and expect any other outcome but defeat?

Denagon’s power was too immense in comparison to her little strength, and whatever Apricity she carried, Penelope dared not believe that it was enough.

Even as she served alongside others, her thoughts swirled around this doubtful center, and her fear grew, and her faith dwindled.

Aira noticed the change in her but chose to wait still, knowing that it was something Penelope would have to understand in her own time. Tilly, likewise, noticed the girl’s darkening mood and decided that enough was enough.

She plopped down next to Penelope Grace on the darkening evening of the second day and looked her squarely in the face. “Don’t ye think it’s high time to stop feelin’ sorry for yerself?”

Penelope flinched at the reminder of the fox’s harsh words in the tower room of Svarthol and had no answer for the bold fox.

Tilly pressed on, undeterred. “Well? What’s troublin’ ye so?”

She stared at Tilly for a moment more before the words flooded out, her words only whispered. “You said it yourself, Tilly. ‘Fool of a girl.’ And you were right. It was foolish to barricade us in the tower, thinking we were safe, that I had somehow outsmarted him.

“It was foolish to believe that I could best him.” She paused. “You should have seen it, Tilly, the way the darkness swept over the land.”

For a moment, Penelope Grace stared into the fire before them, and Tilly waited, knowing they’d yet to reach the heart of the matter. “I was so relieved when we made it here, Tilly. But over the last two days, I find myself wondering. Our camp seems so large, and there are so many here who are willing to fight for Ellura. But having seen the darkness, having seen Denagon face-to-face, I can’t help but wonder, is it enough? Am I?”

*

Are you wondering along with Penelope Grace?

You can read the story by subscribing below for digital installments OR by clicking here to receive a special manuscript edition of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel, printed on beautiful paper from The French Paper Co. and bound with waxed thread imported from Ireland.

GIVEAWAY: Through this Friday, Feb. 26th, everyone who purchases a copy will be entered to win an art print of one illustration from the book! You can see the artwork on Instagram.

U.S. only. Void where prohibited. This giveaway is not affiliated with WordPress or Instagram.

Until this Friday, when the fight for wonder comes to a close,

Alexandria

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Installment Ten of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel

Welcome to Installment Ten of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel, in which the fight for wonder is nearing its end…

To read on, click below or head to our contact page to get in touch if you would like to receive a unique manuscript edition of this winter tale.

Join the Fight for Wonder

What do you get when you subscribe?

  • Weekly installments (through February 26th) of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel
  • Illustrations to accompany the story
  • A chance to win an art print of your favorite illustration (details here)
  • Unlimited access to the story, as long as you remain a subscriber
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An Excerpt from Installment Ten of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel

I’m so excited to share with you an excerpt from Installment Ten of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel! I’ve loved sharing this story and my heart for wonder to be reignited in people’s hearts.

I hope you enjoy it, and be sure to read the news below about a manuscript edition of the story!

*

As Penelope Grace stepped beneath the arch and pushed the gate open, a creak from rusting hinges filled the air, nearly disguising the soft growl coming from behind her. She turned, dreading whatever new danger awaited, and found two wolves with hackles raised.

Penelope gasped when she saw them, not for fear of what they might do, but for the shock of seeing that their bodies were formed entirely from rough stone.

She knew they must be Denagon’s servants, though she wondered if that were by choice or force. Every inch of their carved frames made their ability to harm her clear, but Penelope’s attention was drawn to their eyes. Even as these creatures bared their fangs and began to advance, their eyes held something more than the hatred she had encountered in Denagon’s other slaves: a plea and real despair. The longer she looked, the less convinced she was that the wolves truly desired to harm her.

Knowing this was possibly her most foolhardy choice since arriving in Ellura, Penelope Grace reached out a hand to the nearest wolf, hoping against hope that she might cool his anger with a friendly touch.

Her fingers were nearly brushing against his muzzle when he lunged at her, jaws snapping. She jumped back with a yelp, while both wolves came closer, knowing she was trapped.

“This way, lass!” she heard a familiar voice shout.

There was no time to question the little fox’s appearance or how she had snuck past the wolves. She was here and had found a way for Penelope to escape the jaws of Denagon’s sentinels.

Just as both wolves lunged forward, Penelope Grace darted out of reach, and together, she and Tilly ran for the twisting pathways of a wilted, frozen garden, praying they might lose the wolves there.

Bare, rigid hedges lined the nearest pathway that Tilly led them down. Penelope did her best to keep up with the nimble fox, but she was already worn from her ordeal in the maze, and she could hear the scrabble of the wolves’ claws against the paving stones as they closed in. She risked a glance back; one wolf was directly behind, while the other sought to head them off to the right.

With a frustrated growl, Tilly took a sharp turn onto a curving path that, she hoped, would help them lose their pursuers.

But the wolves never missed a step and Penelope was left with the uncomfortable feeling that their pursuers were herding them. The feeling only hardened into belief when they reached an enclosed grotto that offered no escape. Penelope and Tilly whirled round to face the wolves…

*

Only a few more weeks remain before this wintry tale comes to a close…

But it’s not too late to join the adventure. If you’re longing for your sense of wonder to be renewed, please follow Penelope Grace on her journey through the land of Ellura, where wonder may yet prove victorious…

To subscribe and receive weekly digital installments (along with illustrations and the chance to win an art print!), click below.

Or, if you would prefer a print copy, I’m releasing a manuscript edition of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel and would love to share this unique copy with you! This edition of the story is done in beautiful manuscript form, printed on paper from The French Paper Co. and bound with waxed thread imported from Northern Ireland, giving readers a unique, collector’s first edition.

Please contact us at 2125bks@gmail.com if you would like to receive the manuscript edition!

Until this Friday,

Alexandria

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Installment Eight of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel

Welcome to Installment Eight, reader, in which a maze is entered and the way is lost.

Choose your next step carefully, and read on…

Join the Fight for Wonder

Here is everything you’ll receive when you subscribe:

  • Weekly installments of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel
  • Illustrations to accompany the story
  • A chance to win an art print of your favorite illustration (details here)
  • Access to all past and future book releases, as long as you remain a subscriber!
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An Excerpt from Installment Eight of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel

Dangers abound for Penelope Grace and her friends.

Only one question remains.

Will you brave the dangers with them, reader?

*

Below them stretched a dark, endless valley that no sunlight seemed to reach. 

Nothing grew there. The valley was stunted and barren, its flat expanse only broken by the twisted stronghold that rose up in its center like a scar on the land. Its towers, made of black, implacable rock, rose up. Ice smothered every surface, and in this view, Penelope Grace could see what people feared in her favorite season.

Svarthol was the long, dreaded march of endless winter, without the promise of new life to come.

Tilly interrupted her thoughts. “Are ye ready, Penelope Grace?”

“Yes,” she whispered, taking a deep breath as she continued to gaze down into the valley. “I don’t suppose daylight will be too helpful to us in there.”

“Aye. But ye have Light of an altogether differen’ sort to guide ye. Let’s be off,” Tilly concluded, not explaining her words as she trotted down the only rutted path to Svarthol.

Once they entered the valley, Penelope Grace was horribly on edge, though there were none of the dangers she had anticipated. None of Denagon’s creatures lurked behind the dry husks of once tall trees. Nothing stalked them or sought to prevent their progress on the long stretch to Svarthol’s entrance.

The valley was desolate and still, and Penelope was all the more terrified because of it.

Something was not right. 

A vast expanse of land still separated them from Svarthol’s gates when Penelope Grace stopped short and whirled around, knowing that she had heard the whisper of something behind her.

“Tilly…”

The fox saw it and barked a warning that was drowned out by the roar of bursting earth and the dull murmur of creeping vines.

They were separated before a thing could be done. 

Nearly choking on the dusty earth clouding the air, Penelope cried out, “Tilly!”

No answer. 

Tilly!

She spun about, peering through the dust-choked air for some sign of her friend. Reaching forward to keep herself steady, Penelope’s finger scraped against something sharp, and she jerked back in pain. 

She stood still, breathing hard, listening, and waiting. 

But when the dust at last cleared, Penelope Grace was alone, just as she had feared, shut in by a twisting maze of bracken and thorns.

*

What awaits Penelope Grace in the maze will be uncovered this Friday in Installment Eight of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel. You can subscribe below to receive installments of the story!

What will you receive when you subscribe? I’m so glad you asked! 🙂

  • Four weekly installments of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel
  • Illustrations to accompany the story
  • A chance to win an art print of your favorite illustration (read all the details here)
  • Unlimited access to all past and future book releases, as long as you remain a subscriber!

So, what do you say?

Until this Friday,

Alexandria

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An Excerpt from Installment Seven of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel

Welcome to an excerpt from Installment the Seventh of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel, in which a reminder is given of the meaning of wonder.

*

It would take them near a week to reach Svarthol, and Penelope felt her nerves grating against each other when she thought of all that time. She wondered how many of their neighbors and friends had also fallen prey to the wasting freeze, and she burned with anger at the way Denagon had perverted the beauty of winter into something that could only be understood as unforgiving and brutal.

There is a harshness to winter, it is true, but there is also a stillness that prepares the way for new life. To acknowledge one and reject the other is to rob winter of all its fullness and remarkable grace.

Yet, hearts often grow dismayed during the long stretches of winter nights; Penelope Grace watched it happen to those she loved and had fought against the sharpness of despair herself. She felt a growing desire to defend, not only the beauty of winter itself but also the hearts of all who struggled to find joy during this time of year. She wanted to fight against Denagon’s attacks and keep him from succeeding in his destructive work.

Uncle Alex had said she was created to weave joy and delight – wonder – into people’s lives, and now, when so many lives were at risk of freezing straight through, could she do any less than what he said? No matter how impossible, she must try, and with this thought fueling her, Penelope Grace walked purposefully through Ellura, hardly seeing the beauty of the world around her through the first day of travel. 

Aira watched her closely. She feared what determination might do to the girl, for she had seen for herself the way that a desire to save could undo a human. But she held her tongue for the moment, watching still, but patiently. 

On the second day of their journey, she separated from the company, believing that a particular grove was nearby and that such a place might spark something different in Penelope’s heart. By evening the wolf returned, her supposition proven right. As the sky darkened and countless stars winked into sight, Aira and Penelope left the campsite and wound their way through the forest.

“Aira, where are we going?” Penelope asked, wanting only to rest after two days of unfamiliar exertion.

“Hush, child,” the wolf replied, her tone kind but firm. “You’ll scare them off.”

Penelope Grace tried her best to remain silent from that point on, but the snowy ground had turned to hoar frost beneath her feet, and each footfall betrayed her with a loud crunch. Despite her own difficulties, Aira somehow had no trouble walking silently through the snow, and Penelope thought to herself how grateful she was that the wolf was not her enemy. 

After some time, they came to the edge of a small grove, one that Penelope would have certainly missed for the trees were quite close together in this part of the forest. Carefully now, she tiptoed to the edge of the grove and peered beyond the branches, hurrying to stifle an awestruck gasp as she did so.

The plants, grass, and trees themselves – every inch of this wintry grove – were all covered in beautifully crisp frost. This sanctuary in the heart of the forest was cloaked in blue light, though Penelope Grace could not find its source; it seemed to emanate softly from everything and everyone present as if they were reflecting the light of a silver-blue sun.

At first, she could not discern details, but soon Penelope noticed beautiful small figures gliding through the air. 

She thought that frost fairies populated the grove, but when she leaned down to quietly ask Aira, the wolf corrected her. “Snow sprites. Similar in nature, but with a beauty quite their own. Now, look.”

Penelope edged as close as she dared to the smallest of gaps in the trees where she might see the snow sprites more closely. To her delight, several were beginning to swirl through the snow as they circled the grove, and they flew quite close.

Each snow sprite wore beautiful, deep blue gowns, etched with frost and shimmering with the clearing’s light. Their hair was silvery-white, and their skin a pale blue. There seemed to be hundreds of them, and as they all flew about the grove, they began to hum the most enchanting tune. 

You can almost hear it, can’t you? Like the melody from a favorite music box that you can’t quite remember, but nevertheless, remains with you.

Penelope listened, not daring to make a sound. 

The snow sprites slowly gathered around a frozen pool in the center of the grove. The sound of their melody stayed soft as each took their turn in gliding across the pool’s frozen surface, leaving behind a precise etching in the ice. As every snow sprite made their simple contribution, they left the grove behind them, and they continued in this way until the frost-covered sanctuary stood empty. 

Penelope looked questioningly at Aira, and the wolf gave her a slight nod, indicating it was safe now to enter the grove. She stepped carefully through the small gap and approached the pool, gasping to see the impossibly intricate snowflake traced into its icy surface.

“Their winter dance is a yearly tradition of the snow sprites. They travel from all across Ellura to make their contribution to the snowflake.”

“It’s beautiful, Aira. But why do they do it?” Penelope asked.

The wolf looked up at her intently before answering. “It is a celebration to honor the One who made them, to rejoice in the delight and wonder of being created.”

Aira fell silent, but then met Penelope’s gaze earnestly. “You see, Penelope Grace, it is not so much that you are living in wonder. It is Who you are living in wonder of.”

At this, the wolf turned, and Penelope Grace followed, feeling once again the conviction that she had just heard words that were worthy of remembering.

*

What are you in living in wonder of, reader?

Join us this Friday for the next installment of Penelope’s adventures.

Wondering what you’ll receive when you subscribe? Here’s all the information you need:

  • Four weekly installments of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel
  • Illustrations to accompany the story
  • Entry to our giveaway to win an art print of your favorite illustration (details here)
  • Access to all past and future book releases from 21:25 Books, as long as you remain a subscriber

I hope you’ll join the adventure!

Until then,

Alexandria

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Installment Six: Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel

We are proud to present Installment Six of a story most wondrous, where swans of blown glass guard a secret, a necklace of silver and blue holds a memory, and Apricity is discovered in a land of ice and snow.

All manner of adventure is coming, reader, and the fight for wonder promises to grow fierce.

Will you take part?

Join the Fight for Wonder

Subscribe below to receive weekly installments of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel, a winter tale of wonder.

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Book Review: Champion of Valdeor

It’s a new week, and I hope it’s full of wonderful books!

I have the pleasure of sharing my review for Champion of Valdeor by Sandralena Hanley, a wonderful story that makes you feel as if you’ve just stepped inside an old Arthurian legend.

You can read my full review below!

*

The people of Valdeor are waiting, breathless with anticipation, as they hope for the promised new beginning to arrive.

They are unaware that their hopes rest on a young shepherd boy, Alloryn, and Lauressa, a princess from another age, hidden from her people for countless years.

One must decide if he is willing to embrace an unexpected identity and purpose, while the other must embark on a quest to learn if she possesses the virtues necessary to be a queen.

Neither is prepared for what comes next.

The people of Valdeor are waiting for a new beginning.

But will it ever come?

In Champion of Valdeor, Sandralena Hanley has crafted a tale reminiscent of Arthurian legends. Readers who are longing for a story full of epic quests, daring champions, and virtuous rulers of legend, will find none of that missing here.

While the tale might have benefitted from being longer, so that some characters could be developed further, Champion of Valdeor remains a deeply enjoyable read, full of what we all long for most: adventures abundant, heroes just and true, and a purpose truly worth pursuing.

*

You can connect with Sandralena on Instagram and her author website!

Champion of Valdeor is available on Bookshop and Amazon. And don’t forget to leave a review on Goodreads once you’ve finished reading!

*

Later this week, there’s a new excerpt for Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel and the next installment! Don’t forget that all subscribers are entered to win an art print of their favorite illustration from the story 🙂

You can find more information on the giveaway here and subscribe below!

What do you get when you subscribe?

  • Four weekly installments of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel
  • Illustrations to accompany the story
  • A chance to win our giveaway
  • Access to all past and future book releases, as long as you remain a subscriber!

That’s all the bookish news I have for today! I hope to see you back here for the next installment of Penelope Grace’s wintry adventures!

Alexandria

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Giveaway: Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel

Happy Thursday, everyone!

It’s finally time to share the giveaway that I’m hosting for our subscribers, and I’m so excited! 🙂

I’ll be giving away an art print of one of the illustrations that accompany Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel! Above is a sneak peek of the illustration that goes with this week’s installment.

The winner may choose their favorite illustration and a physical copy will be sent to them!

Here are all the details:

  1. This giveaway is open to all those who subscribe to receive weekly installments of Penelope Grace! (You can subscribe below for $3.99/month!) What do you get when you subscribe? Four weekly installments, their accompanying illustrations, and access to all past and future book releases, as long as you remain a subscriber!
  2. The giveaway will be open until February 18th and the winner will be announced on February 22nd! Winner will be randomly selected.
  3. The nitty gritty: This giveaway isn’t affiliated with WordPress. You must be 18 or older. US only. Void where prohibited. Winner will be contacted via email. No personal information will be used or shared.

That’s all! I’m really excited to be sharing this story with you all 🙂 The next installment will be available tomorrow!

Until then,

Alexandria

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An Excerpt from Installment Five of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel

This week, Penelope Grace is about to make an altogether wondrous discovery. Read the start of the adventure below, then return here this Friday for the unveiling of the winter carousel…

*

With a deep breath, Penelope Grace ducked beneath the lowest-hanging branches and stepped into the forest.

It was not long before she realized that they were, indeed, still following a path. Though it was worn and covered in thick patches of ice and snow, it was there, and it offered Penelope a measure of comfort. 

The wolf followed faithfully behind, watchful for any danger. 

But they were alone in this winter forest, and Penelope and the wolf continued on quietly, both understanding that the silence of this place was sacred and worth leaving undisturbed.

They walked in this way for some time, until, all of a sudden, the wolf trotted ahead of her.

Penelope could feel the creature’s expectation fill her as well, and her heart began to beat faster as they approached a clearing in the forest. 

Without warning, the wolf ran forward, gracefully maneuvering the small gap in the trees that marked the entrance to the clearing, and Penelope followed suit.

Gently pushing aside the branches of an evergreen, Penelope Grace stepped into the clearing and found that she could not take another step. She was stunned and enchanted.

On the opposite side of the clearing stood an ice-blue carousel, covered in snow.

She could see from this distance that ice had coated the carousel’s gleaming silver poles, while patches of snow disguised the carousel’s animals. Only the moonlight illuminated it, setting countless glittering snowflakes ablaze, and Penelope Grace admired its reflected light.

The carousel looked as if it had been forgotten for a hundred endless winters until the ice and snow had come to cover it and claim the carousel for its own. Almost, it seemed wrong to do anything but leave it untouched.

The wolf thought otherwise.

It came to stand behind Penelope and nudged her forward.

*

But what happens next, you ask?

Only two more days to wait 😉

You can join the fight for wonder below!

You’ll receive four weekly installments of the story, exclusive illustrations, and have the chance to win an exciting giveaway, which will be announced tomorrow on our social media (@2125Books).

You’ll also have unlimited access to all past and future book releases, so you can read past installments at any pace you like, as long as you remain a subscriber!

Sound fun?!

In the meantime, why do you think the wolf led Penelope to the carousel? I’d love to hear your guesses!

Until Friday,

Alexandria