Read an Excerpt From Seasparrow

Hava has a few more mysteries to solve—and a decision to make about who she wants to be in the new world Bitterblue will build.

We’re thrilled to share an excerpt from Seasparrow, the fifth novel in Kristin Cashore’s Graceling Realm series, out from Dutton Books for Young Readers on November 1.

Hava sails across the sea toward Monsea with her sister, the royal entourage, and the world’s only copies of the formulas for the zilfium weapon she saved at the end of Winterkeep. During the crossing, Hava makes an unexpected discovery about one of the ship’s crew, but before she can unravel the mystery, storms drive their ship off course, wrecking them in the ice far north of the Royal Continent. The survivors must endure a harrowing trek across the ice to make it back to Monsea. And while Queen Bitterblue grapples with how to carry the responsibility of a weapon that will change the world, Hava has a few more mysteries to solve—and a decision to make about who she wants to be in the new world Bitterblue will build.




If you could eavesdrop without anyone knowing—if you could turn yourself into a barrel, or a coil of lines, or a clump of canvas on deck where two people are standing together, whispering secrets to each other—are you sure you wouldn’t?


Eavesdrop. I wonder where that word comes from. Did people used to climb into the eaves of a house and snoop on conversations? Then drop? Then what? Yell “Surprise!” and watch people jump and throw their papers around?

That would be funny. I’ve never done that.

I asked Giddon his opinion, but he had no ideas about eavesdrop. He said he’s fond of the word snowdrop, and he’s right; it’s a good word. It snows almost every day now here at sea, so it’s nice to imagine white petals drifting down onto my face. But it doesn’t help me with eavesdrop.

He said it aloud, “Snowdrop,” as we stood on the foredeck of the Monsea, where the plunge of the prow into each wave is more extreme than anywhere else on the ship. I like it there on the foredeck. It feels like exciting things are going to happen.

Then he said, “Foxglove, that’s a nice word too. Moonflower,” he added, staring across the gray water like he was having a revelation. Giddon is big and tall and handsome in a noble sort of way, with a neat dark beard and pale skin like mine, and he has a fire inside him that he reserves for Bitterblue. I could see him mentally picking a bouquet for her. “Larkspur,” he said, so I said, “Skunk cabbage,” because I was getting tired of Giddon.

“Skunk cabbage?” he said, turning a look of indignation upon me. “Of course not.”

“Impatiens,” I said significantly, but he wandered down to the main deck with a dreamy expression on his face, and I wished, as I’ve wished many times, that Giddon and Bitterblue, who’s the Queen of Monsea and secretly my half sister, would confess their newfound romantic relationship to me. I’m not stupid. I’m a spy. It’s my job to figure things out. And she’s my family, even if hardly anyone knows that. They should tell me.

I’ll ask Teddy about eavesdrop when we get home. Teddy’s part of Bitterblue’s Ministry of Education. He’s clever with words, cleverer than Giddon. My mother once told me, in a moment of lucidity, to keep a list of cherished qualities I would like in a friend. I never have. It’s not like people line up for me to choose from, with their qualities listed on their chests. But if I did keep a list, maybe “Clever with Words” would be on it.

Not that Giddon lacks good qualities. He would tear off the head of anyone who hurt my sister.

I used to jump out and surprise my mother, actually, now that I consider it. I would hide myself from her, then make myself visible suddenly. Reach for her, arms outstretched, laughing. One time, when I did that, she screamed in such terror that the king, my father, came running. So I hid quickly, and never did that again. It wasn’t safe to startle my mother. Too often, she wasn’t in her strong mind.


Anyway, my point is, I don’t have to climb into the eaves to eavesdrop.

I can stand right in front of you, plain as plain, do a trick on your brain, and you see something else. It’s my Grace. Are you in a room now? Look around. I could be right there and your eyes slide over me and see a coat on a hook instead, or a potted tree that you would realize is vaguely person-shaped if you only looked harder, but you won’t. Is there some part of the room that’s especially boring to you, some corner you don’t seem to want to focus on? That could be me. It’s not your fault. I’m discouraging your attention, and changing what you think you see.

Anyway, it was just an example. I wouldn’t do it as a trick. In fact, I’m not supposed to do it at all, not without Bitterblue’s permission, and only on official queen’s business. Of course, seeing as I’m a spy, one could argue that I’m always on official queen’s business. It’s my job to keep her safe. I do that by hiding and snooping. By not trusting people. And by having adventures; I’ve sailed to the other side of the world and crossed the sky in a flying machine. I’ve talked to silbercows in the sea and pulled a pin that made a bomb explode. I’ve stolen formulas for weapons that will make my sister powerful. I’ve been to Winterkeep, and now we’re going home again.



Living on a ship is like nothing else.

Every morning I’m rocked awake by the same crashes and creaks that soothed me to sleep the night before. I run upstairs as quickly as I can, eager to see what kind of day it is—the kind with snow dropping from a low, gray sky or the kind with a sunrise blasting beams of gold through cracks in the clouds.

If I stand in the bow, the wind drives through me. The plunge into every wave is a promise of a day ahead more thrilling than any day on land. When I turn back around and see the ship, I want to whoop, because I don’t understand everything about how this ship works yet, but I will. There are things in our world we can’t understand, like why I was born with a Grace and Giddon and Bitterblue weren’t. Then there are riddles with answers. A ship crosses water because of the principles of physics. I will master them.

Today when I turned back around, Kera, the first mate, was standing right behind me, poking at a big metal something-or-other that sits on the foredeck, cylindrical, wrapped in chains. I jumped in surprise, which was embarrassing, but she didn’t seem to notice. Kera is always sunk inside herself. Her skin is clear and pale and she has a mass of auburn hair she shoves up under a black knit hat. This morning, a little cone of snow sat atop her hat, like a mountaintop.

“Kera?” I said. “Good morning. What is that thing?”

“Anchor capstan,” she said, half-distracted.


“Sorry,” she said, seeming to wake up, looking into my eyes. “Hava. Good morning. The anchor capstan is a wheel that holds the anchor chain. See this chain here? And these are the handles. We turn the capstan to drop or raise the anchor. Here, come look,” she said, leading me to the rail with a steady hand and pointing to a massive anchor that was tied to the side of the ship. A fat chain from that anchor stretched over the rail to the capstan. “Careful,” she said, her grip tightening as I leaned out. I guess I appreciated the gesture. Bitterblue fell overboard during our journey to Winterkeep. We didn’t know she’d fallen in. I was sleeping; Giddon thought she was sleeping too. We left her behind. Then the people who plucked her out of the water kidnapped her. Opportunists will always try to hurt a queen. That’s why she needs me.

But I’m not going to fall in.

“I didn’t realize that anchor was there,” I said.

“There’s an anchor in the stern too.”

“Why are you poking at the capstan? Is something wrong?”

“There’s a pin that keeps it locked, so it doesn’t spontaneously drop the anchor. See this pin here?” she said, leading me back to the capstan. “Annet says it’s slipping. Water gets trapped under it and freezes.”

“Oh,” I said, happily breathing this in. Would she have to fix it, I asked next. Do Keepish and Dellian ships have the same mechanism? Why does it matter if the anchor drops? If the anchors are so heavy, do they unbalance the ship?

“Good questions,” she said. “Has anyone told you about the ballast in the hold?”

No one had told me about the ballast in the hold, but I know all about it now. It’s made of sacks of sand and stone that the sailors shift wherever they’re needed, to balance the weight of the ship and make her just the right level of buoyant.

I now think that buoyant is one of my favorite words. It sounds like bubbles of air traveling from the depths of the sea to the surface. I like that we hauled a lot of useless, heavy stuff aboard, just to give the Monsea the right sorts of foundations for a house on the water.

“Coming to breakfast?” said Kera.


Excerpted from Seasparrow, copyright © 2022 by Kristin Cashore.


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