Title: The Queen’s Gift by T.R. Allardice
Publication date: December 15th 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Fifteen-year-old, late-bloomer Jean Elliott dreams of becoming a Genie like her mom. When her family relocates to Tokyo, Jean is forced to use sleight-of-hand tricks to fool everyone at school into believing that she’s a normal Preternatural or risk expulsion. When her power finally appears, it comes in the form of the Queen’s Gift–an unspeakable magic that strips power from all Preternaturals and heralds the arrival of the new queen.
After an absence of two hundred years, not everyone wants the monarchy to return and they’re willing to go to great lengths to keep the status quo. When buried secrets rip Jean’s family apart, she has a choice to make: Walk away and hope for the best or embrace the power that’s known to lead to madness in order to save her family.
Jean’s greatest dream has turned into her biggest nightmare and no matter how hard she tries, there’ll be no wishing the Queen’s Gift away.
(No author photo)
T.R. Allardice writes young adult, new adult, and humorous horror stories. Most of what she writes incorporates several genres. The content won't always be 'safe'. What's the fun in that? She is a member of the Horror Writer's Association, Novelist Inc. and the Author's Guild. She has thirty-one books published under another pen name. To find out more about her upcoming work, go to: www.trallardice.com
Everything I know about Tokyo can be found on page two hundred and fifty-seven of the Preternatural’s Travel Guide to Japan. It consists of three paragraphs—a whopping one hundred and fifty words—and in no way prepares anyone for the crushing size of the city or the cultural whiplash.
Despite the upheaval that a move from Chicago to the other side of the world created, my first day at Tokyo International Preternatural School wasn’t much different from any other school day.
I was late.
To add to my humiliation, Mom personally dropped me off outside the administration office.
“Jean, I know you don’t want to be here.” My mom, Queen of the Understatement, Ruler of the Obvious.
There was no good way to respond, so I kept my mouth shut. When I’d begged my parents to let me attend a Preternatural school, Tokyo wasn’t what I had in mind. I thought we’d stay in Chicago. Near my friends. Near my old school. In case things didn’t work out.
She brushed my long hair back to get it out of my face. “Do you have everything you need?”
Mom didn’t mean lunch money or school supplies. She was referring to my magical contraband. The items I use to trick Preters into believing that I am just like them. I’m not. Not yet anyway. It’s my hope that being around other Preters will jumpstart my powers. Until then, I’d have to fake it.
When pressed, Mom says I’m a late-bloomer. I had my doubts...but I was ready. I’m always ready. It was one of the stipulations for attending this school. To prove it, I patted the hidden compartments sewn into my shirtsleeves. “Good to go.”
“That’s my girl.” She gave me a peck on the cheek, then rushed off to her classroom.
Did I forget to mention that my mom’s a teacher here?
I know. Lucky me.
Mom glanced back, when she reached the elevators, and said, “Make a wish,” then snapped her fingers and disappeared. A plume of glitter-like substance appeared in the air where she’d stood, then quickly dissolved.
Make a wish. Same principle as ‘break a leg’. Three simple words that when combined seemed harmless enough. Most people associated them with birthdays or falling stars. Happy moments. Special moments. Magical moments.
I hate those three little words. All they do is remind me of just how common I am. No offense to humans. They’re born as Commons. They don’t know any differently. I do. And I’m reminded every night when I sit down for dinner with my Preternatural family just how much being common sucks.
My backpack slipped. I shifted it higher onto my shoulder and glared at the heavy wooden doors that stood between the admin office and me, wishing I could snap my fingers and disappear, too.
The red dragon handles on the doors were warm to the touch, as if the dragons recently breathed fire. Maybe they had. Or maybe the school cast a truth charm on the doors. Wouldn’t be the first school office that used one. Wouldn’t be the last. Not that it mattered. The spell wouldn’t work on me. One of the few perks of being powerless.
The doors were intimidating, but not half as much as the administrative office itself. Located on the fiftieth floor of a high-rise, the office had floor-to-ceiling windows that framed Tokyo and made it look as if the city floated amongst the clouds.
“Elliott-san, we’ve been expecting you,” a woman said as I stepped into the room. Small, with delicate features, her dainty bones seemed at odds with the inch-thick glasses perched on her tiny nose. The lenses magnified her eyes until they looked three times their normal size.
“Not Elliott-chan?” Chan was often used to address young girls, or so I’d read.
Her lips curved into a smile. “Are you a child?”
“No,” I said.
“My name is Ieto-san.” She gave me a bow.
Mom told me on the flight that bowing was another way to say hello and show respect, but I didn’t understand how deep or shallow I was supposed to bow. The whole thing made me feel uncomfortable. I gave Ieto a quick nod.
Her nose crinkled and she sneezed.
With a flourish of my hand, I produced a tissue and handed it to her. It looked like it appeared out of thin air, but actually it had come from my shirtsleeve.
“Doumo arigatou,” she said.
“Sorry, but your transcripts have been delayed.” I expected this. “Should be finished with temporary schedule in moment.” Ieto’s imperfect English trumped my knowledge of the Japanese language.
Transcript mix-ups came anytime you magically doctored school records. Mom hadn’t finished working on them yet. Of course this school didn’t know that, and I wasn’t about to volunteer the information. The last thing my family wanted was for anyone to know I’d transferred in from a Common school. Preters didn’t go to Common schools—ever.
It was too dangerous…for the Commons. Preters didn’t have total control of their powers until they reached adulthood. I hadn’t attended a Preter school since the fifth grade, not since the…incident.
That was also the year that Mom and Dad finally acknowledged that the powers—my powers—they’d been insisting were simply slow to develop were in fact totally nonexistent. Coincidence? I think not.
Ieto stared at me, her nose twitching, as she waited to see if I had any questions. I didn't. As the perpetual new kid, I never had any questions. Her nose twitched again and she blinked several times. I wondered if she was a mole Shifter, but that question was impolite to ask in any country.
After an uncomfortable silence, she pointed to an empty chair. “Your Gakusei escort should be here soon.”
Obviously nobody trusted me to get to class on my own today. I parked myself in the chair.
The language may have changed, but despite the fact that this was my first Preter school in five years, it would be like all the others. I'd do my homework. Keep my head down. Kill time until we moved. It wouldn’t be long. Never was. I’d learned a long time ago not to get too comfortable. It only made moving harder.
This was what you wanted, so suck it up.
I opened my backpack and pulled out a notebook. The orange binder had the names of my two best friends from Chicago carved into its battered face. Three other sets of names had already been crossed out, marking the other cities that we’d lived in over the past couple of years. I ran my thumb over the newest names and swallowed the bitter taste of homesickness that welled in my mouth.
Ieto went back to typing, my presence already a footnote in her memory. The rhythmic clack, clack, clack poked holes in the silence.
My phone flashed the time. Least it was good for something here in Japan. I’d missed most of first period, but it hardly mattered. Today was orientation. I wouldn’t be attending any real classes until tomorrow, so I put in my ear-buds and cranked the music.
A girl walked into the office and stopped in front of me. Before I could put my notebook down, she plucked an ear-bud out of my left ear and said, “Cell phones aren’t allowed in school. Neither are mp3 players or headphones of any kind. You must be Jean Elliott.”
Yay, my student escort had arrived.
My gaze locked onto a pair of greenish-purple knees the size of giant doorknobs that poked out from beneath a pleated black uniform skirt. The boney joints undulated beneath her skin as she shifted her weight.
I’d worn my favorite pair of low-rider blue jeans and an over-sized gray Chicago sweatshirt. No one had said anything about having to wear a uniform. Mom conveniently forgot to mention it. This school just kept getting better and better.
The girl cleared her throat. “You are Jean Elliott, the spell-casting, wish-granting Sensei’s daughter, right?”
Sensei was Japanese for teacher. Why couldn’t she just say that?
“That’s me.” My gaze rose and rose until it latched onto a Ghoul’s beaming face.
I shrieked and pushed off with my feet. My shoulders slammed against the back of the chair, knocking it into the wall. It clanged so loud that Ieto jumped. The move didn’t put me out of reach of the Ghoul, but at least I had a chance of escaping if she attacked. I tried not to stare, but I’d never been this close to a Ghoul. Like ever!
You would’ve stared, too.
All Ghouls are big. This girl was no exception. At six feet and counting, her shoulders were wide enough to shame an American football player in full uniform. Her earth brown hair hung in two fat braids next to her ears. Dark blue-framed glasses bisected her flared nose. Her smile revealed a mouth full of razor sharp teeth encased in shiny silver braces.
“You look like her.” She sniffed. “You smell a little like her, too. But I guess all Genies carry that flowery jasmine scent.”
Did I forget to mention that my mom is a Genie? And not just any Genie, she’s one of the best wish-granters and spell-casters in the world.
As I watched, the Ghoul pushed her eyeglass frames up with a thick finger and smiled wider. Visions of being swallowed whole flashed through my mind. I’m not very big. I had no doubt she could unhinge her jaw and polish me off in three or four bites without breaking a sweat.
“My name is Karen Kim. Most people call me Kim-gakusei or Kim-san, but you can call me Karen.” The Ghoul stuck out her hand.
I stared at the meaty catcher’s mitt with fingers and thought about the story of a poor shark that had, had the misfortune of attacking a Ghoul off the coast of Australia. By the time the thrashing finished and the blood cleared, all that was left of the Great White was a lone fin bobbing on the surface of the water.
Was it safe to shake her hand? Ghouls weren’t known to eat other Preters, but they would if they were hungry enough and I wasn’t exactly what you’d call a normal Preternatural.
As if on cue, Karen’s stomach growled...and growled...and growled.
“Please don’t eat me.” Had I just said that aloud? My eyes closed and I groaned.
Not the reaction I expected.
“Relax,” she said. “I’m not going to eat you.” She tapped the fashion magazine under her arm. “I can’t go around eating random Preters. Not if I want to be a supermodel.”
It took me a moment to tear my gaze away from her stomach. Did she say model? I blinked. Was that supposed to be some kind of joke? I gave her a small smile and continued to stare. No way would I comment on Karen’s declaration. Let somebody else break it to her that there weren’t any size eighteen Korean Ghoul supermodels. And if there were, they’d never graced the cover of Magical Vague or any other fashion magazine. Ghouls only came in two sizes, big and gigantic.
Before anyone thinks I’m being harsh, they should know that at five foot two I won’t be a model any time soon either.
Karen's brow furrowed. “Am I your first Ghoul?”
I grunted noncommittally. It was either that or lie. Did Ghouls attack if you insulted them? Didn't know. Didn't want to find out. I looked to Ieto for help, but she steadfastly ignored my silent pleas. What kind of sadistic school was this?
Karen snorted. “You look like you're going to be sick.”
"Sorry." Nice Ghoul. Easy Ghoul. Stay calm. I pulled the other ear-bud out slowly and shoved the phone into my book bag. I’d heard that sudden movements might accidentally trigger an attack response.
She shrugged. “I’m used to it." Karen’s gaze dropped away and her cheeks turned Granny Smith apple green, a Ghoul’s version of a blush. "Most people aren’t so honest about their feelings. I think we’re going to get along just fine.” She glanced over at Ieto, probably to see if she’d noticed, but the woman was immersed in her work. Karen cleared her throat and got back to business. “The school has assigned me to be your student guide for at least a week. I’ll show you where everything is, help you find your classes, and introduce you to some people. If you—”
A bewitched radio roared to life on Ieto’s desk, interrupting Karen’s spiel. The broadcast started out in Japanese, then automatically switched to whatever language the listener spoke.
“The Common news reported another sighting of the white monster. This brings the total number of sightings to seven. It was spotted last night near the electronics’ district of Akihabara. This is the latest in a rash of strange creature sightings from around the world. An emergency meeting of the Assembly has been called. Steps are being taken to detain the creature. A reward has been offered for any information on its current whereabouts. No further details are available at this time.” The broadcast ended abruptly.
I rolled my eyes. “Some Common probably caught sight of a were-lion, were-dragon or were-something in mid-change.” Surprising, sure. Shocking, maybe, but hardly what you’d call news in the Preter world. “Must be a slow news week.”
“No.” Karen shook her head, making her braids flop. “It’s not a Preter. That’s already been confirmed. And it’s not the same creature showing up all over the world. The descriptions vary from location to location.”
Contrary to what she thought, I still believed the creature was a Preter having a good laugh at everyone’s expense. “If it’s not a Preter, then what is it?”
“Nobody knows.” Karen’s dark brown eyes glowed with excitement. “That’s why a bunch of us are going monster hunting tonight. Want to come with?” All that was missing from the question was I dare you.
I’ve been the new kid more times than I could count. I have had several self-appointed “friends”. Some even became real friends. Most resented the job and took pleasure in hazing me every chance they got. The question was, what type was Karen?
“Sure, I’ll go.” I didn’t have a clue what I’d agreed to, since technically we were the monsters. No doubt tonight would turn out to be a pointless snipe hunt and I’d be the one left holding the butterfly net.
“Great!” Karen flashed a frightening smile. “We could really use someone with your powers.”
“Yeah.” I laughed nervously. “My powers are fierce.” They were so fierce they hadn’t bothered to show up yet. Was it too late to bow out? If Karen’s grin was any indication, then I already had my answer. I sighed. Some girls dream of having big boobs. I dream of being a Genie. Until that day happens...
Sucks to be me.
- How did you come up with the idea for The Queen’s Gift?
I actually came up with the idea after a trip to Tokyo, Japan. I felt so out of my depth there, yet utterly fascinated by the culture. I wondered what would happen if you sent a teenager there and she had to deal with school plus the cultural divide. Throw in some magic—or lack thereof, and you have a lot of potential conflict.
- How many books will be in the series?
Right now, I have two more books planned, but honestly, it depends on what it takes to tell the story. I’d always planned for it to be a trilogy, but I knew there could possibly be four books in the series.
- Are you working on any other books?
Yes, I’m currently working on two more young adult books that will be the start of two more series. They have boy lead characters and contain an ensemble cast much like The Queen’s Gift. One is set in Scotland and the other is in New York.
- How do you pick the settings?
I tend to go with places I’ve been to so that I have a real feel for the location. Most of the time, I’m traveling someplace and suddenly a story idea comes to me. That’s what happened when I was in London last year. The story that came to me there is currently stewing in my subconscious.
- Who are your favorite Young Adult authors?
There are so many great young adult authors out there. It’s going to be hard to name them all. Off the top of my head (and I know I’ll be forgetting some), my favorites are: Melissa Marr, J.A. Templeton, Holly Black, Tawny Stokes, Neil Gaiman, Rachel Caine, Richelle Mead, Rick Riordan, J.K. Rowling, Maggie Stiefvater, Rachel Vincent, and Jennifer Armentrout.
- Which Winchester brother would you pick?
Dean, but I do love Sam’s dimples. LOL!
- If you could be any character, who would you be?
Probably Superman, but I am tempted by Iron Man and Spiderman.
- What do you do when you’re not writing?
I try to spend time with real people, though it doesn’t always work. Characters can be very demanding. ;)
- If you weren’t a writer, what would you do?
I’d probably go back to school and finish my degree. Not sure what kind of job I could get with a mythology degree though.
- Last question. If you could have lunch with any writer, who would it be?
That’s easy. J.K. Rowling. Hands down. Thank you for having me.