The Fragile Tower

The Fragile Tower is book one of the Cold Lands series.

Grace Lane is fourteen and an outsider who has been looking for something to make her significant for most of her life. When the midwinter fair arrives at St Matthew's Park only a quarter mile from her house, it seems to be designed to draw her in. But after she wins a gold piece from a circus-performer in a strange test, her brother takes the coin and then vanishes.

Grace's ma admits that she knows where he has been taken - to the Cold Lands where she was born, in order to be bound to the workings of its Queen and her magics. Grace realises that she has to get him back before his twin sister can be taken too. With the help of a book and her mother's grudging confession, Grace steps out of her world and into the Cold Lands.

She enters the extroardinary and beautiful Fragile Tower, a place kept working by the magic of boys linked and kept captive. Grace must face ancient magics and the truth about her family to free Benjamin.

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4. The Vanishing Fair

Grace had never seen Ma look like this, as if she had been rubbed out and then drawn all over again without any colour and with twice as many lines and wrinkles. In contrast, Dad looked almost indecently healthy and cheerful as he raced around phoning people, and then the police, and then flying in and out of the house to check everywhere he could think of. But Grace knew that the frantic running was just his own way of dealing with the terror.

The first time he left, while Grace cuddled a sobbing Maggie on the sofa, Ma turned to her with enormous dark eyes and there was something so accusatory in them that Grace felt herself talking before she’d even thought about it.

“When Benjamin tried to get up on the stage, in the light show, I stepped in instead. The guy doing it asked him if he wanted to be tested, and I thought... that there was something wrong. He had this glass globe, and I took it, and it shone so brightly it hurt my eyes.”

Ma’s face was absolutely still, but Grace waited for her before saying anything more. In the end, her mother croaked, “Did he give you anything?”

“A gold coin, but I didn’t want it.” She remembered Benjamin darting back to grab it, and closed her eyes for a moment. “Benjamin took it.”

She opened her eyes to look at Ma, expecting her to shout at her, but her mother was looking away from her, her eyes still big and round and terrified as she looked at something that Grace couldn’t see.

“What did he look like, the man on the stage?”

“Strange,” Grace told her. “His eyes seemed to change colour, like the lights in his show. I thought it was a trick but I couldn’t see how he was doing it. He had blond hair tied back, and he was tall. Taller than Dad, but... wider. Not fat, just big.”

Ma nodded, lowering her head, and the way she did it was as if Grace was just confirming something she already knew.

“Ma, what is it? Who was he? Do you know him?”

But the doorbell chimed, the police arriving, and Ma got up quickly, never once looking at Grace as she let them in and tried to explain what had happened. Grace had trouble focusing on the two officers, even when they were asking her questions. She was looking at her mother, and wondering how much she had been hiding.

Ma was midway through a detailed description of Benjamin when Dad’s key scrabbled at the lock, and then the door opened clumsily. He erupted through it, his cheeks red from the cold and his hat on wonkily. He didn’t even seem to notice the two officers, one sitting and one standing with us. He only looked at Grace.

“I went back to the fair to ask if he’d gone back there, but it’s gone too.”

Grace heard her mother say quietly into the silence which followed, “Of course it has.”
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