Alwyn Hamilton’s latest novel pits a media darling and a surprise heiress against one another in a thrilling magical competition. Titled The Notorious Virtues, the story picks up after a shocking death leaves a family competing for control of a vast fortune.
Even though Hamilton’s traded the desert setting of her Rebel of the Sands trilogy for a glittering urban world in her new novel, readers can still expect the gripping action sequences and magical high stakes she’s known for writing. The book description alone is already captivating:
At 16, Honora “Nora” Holtzfall is the daughter of the most powerful heiress in all of Walstad. Her family controls all the money—and all the magic—in the entire country. But despite being the center of attention, Nora has always felt like an outsider. When her mother is found dead in an alley, the family throne and fortune are suddenly up for grabs, and Nora will be pitted against her cousins in the Veritaz, the ultimate magical competition for power that determines the one family heir.
But there’s a surprise contestant this time: Lotte, the illegitimate daughter of Nora’s aunt. When Lotte’s absent mother retrieves her from the rural convent she’d abandoned her to, Lotte goes from being an orphan to surrounded by family. Unfortunately, most of them want her dead.
And soon, Nora discovers that her mother’s death wasn’t random—it was murder. And the only person she can trust to uncover the truth of what happened is a rakish young reporter who despises everything Nora and her family stand for.
With everyone against her, Lotte’s last hope is hunting for the identity of her father. But the dangerous competition—and her feelings for Theo, one of the Holtzfalls’ sworn protectors—turns her world upside down.
Incredible tests, impossible choices and deadly odds await both girls. But there can only be one winner.
Viking Books for Young Readers will publish the U.S. edition, and Faber will publish the U.K. edition. You’ll have to wait until Summer 2020 to read it, but we’re excited to reveal the covers for both editions today alongside an exclusive excerpt!
U.S. cover (in gold) designed by Samira Iravani with art by Katt Phatt, © Penguin Young Readers
U.K. cover (in silver) designed by Emma Eldridge with art by Katt Phatt, © Faber Children’s
“The Notorious Virtues is a book about glamour and decadence and wealth, but also about the dark things that linger at the edges of the bright lights,” Hamilton tells Paste. “[These covers have] fulfilled an incredible challenge of reflecting both these aspects in one, and it was everything I could do not to scream and show everyone as soon as I first saw [them]! I can’t wait for readers to discover the bright ballrooms and shady back alleys that lurk behind [these covers] in 2020!”
You can read an exclusive excerpt of the first chapter below, and you can pre-order the U.S. edition here.
Chapter 1: Honora Holtzfall
Honora was never late.
Everyone who arrived before the Holtzfall Heiress was unfashionably early. Everyone who arrived after her was embarrassingly tardy.
But this morning was a notable exception. There wasn’t a person in the city who could afford to be late when Mercy Holtzall called. Especially Nora. Especially not on the first day of the Veritaz trials.
This morning Mercy Holtzfall, matriarch of the Holtzfall family for the last half of a century, would begin the process of determining which of her grandchildren was meant to be her one true heir. And, honestly, Nora wouldn’t put it past her grandmother to disqualify her outright if she was even a minute late to breakfast.
Punctuality after all, was after all a virtue. And wasn’t that the whole point of the Veritaz trials? For each of them to prove they were more virtuous than their competitors?
And so Nora was sacrificing her planned detour home to the change of clothes that awaited her there in favor of making it to the mansion before the sun finished rising. Obviously, in an ideal world she would have arrived both on time and wearing shoes. But even Nora couldn’t have everything, no matter what the papers liked to say.
As Nora turned into Konig Street the metal grating on the front of a corner kiosk slid upwards with a startling clatter, revealing the owner inside, surrounded by thick bundles of freshly printed newspapers. He moved with practiced speed, arranging the morning editions so their sensationalized headlines faced out to entice passers-by.
The front page of the Herald caught Nora’s eye as the kiosk owner slid it into place. It was a large picture of her sitting at one of the small tables at Rik’s, taken just a few hours ago. Her head was thrown back in laughter, one hand resting on Friederich Lotze’s shoulder as if to say, “Oh, Freddie dear, you’re too much,” a flute of champagne loosely dangling from her other hand. A diamond the size of a cherry glinted on her finger and the thin strap of her effervescent dress slid off one shoulder, carelessly displaying her skin. Nora pulled up the same strap absently now. She looked carefree in the photograph only because she had taken a lot of care to appear that way when she had seen the camera pointed her way. The headline was printed in fresh ink above it:
Cheers to Better Days ahead for the Holtzfall Heiress.
Nora waited for it: the rush of satisfaction that usually came when she saw herself on the cover of the papers. The intoxication that came with control and attention. It didn’t come. She still felt as sober as ever in the cool morning light.
Grief-Stricken Holtzfall Heiress Drowns Her Sorrows.
Well, Nora plucked The Gazette out of the rack next to the Herald, that was definitely another take on things. There was a photo of her sipping from a frothy coupe with the blur of the brass band at Café Bliss behind her. She was still wearing her Lussier heels in that picture, kicked up brazenly amidst the chaos. She must have left them at Aschen’s Lounge then.
Her fingers flicked through the rest of the city’s illustrious publications rapidly as the kiosk owner set them out. She was on the cover of most of them, naturally. A Holtzfall on the front page always had papers flying off the newsstands before the ink was even done drying.
Especially since the murder.
For a week, everything else had dropped off the front page and the same picture had graced every newspaper in the city under a series of revolving headlines.
Nora’s mother’s lifeless body…
Shock in the City as Verity Holtzfall Found Dead!
Lit by police headlights….
New Suspect in Heiress’s Mugging gone Wrong!
And the flash of journalists’ greedy cameras.
Mugger confesses when jewels found in his possession! Oskar Schuld admits to stabbing of Verity Holtzfall!
It had moved papers a mile a minute. And when they ran out of things to print about Verity Holtzfall, they turned their lenses on Nora.
A New Heiress to be chosen! Who is the worthiest of them all?
Grieving Holtzfall Heiress Not Seen Since Mother’s Funeral!
Driven Mad by Grief: Honora Holtzfall Unfit to Compete in the Veritaz?
They had nagged at her, those headlines, as she sat a hundred floors up from where the photographers were camped on the street, waiting for the grieving daughter to make a scene of herself.
Fine. If they wanted a scene, Nora would give them the whole show.
She had chosen a dress made of bright rippling streams of gold fabric all sewn into waves that hugged her body outrageously. It was scandalously sheer with a tendency to slip dangerously around her shoulders, hinting at a mishap that would never happen thanks to the charms sewn into the lining. The shoes were Charles Lussier one of a kind, made from enchanted stained glass, designed so everyone would stare as she danced, waiting to see if they would shatter. Her makeup exaggerated the desert born features, inherited from her father’s foreign side of the family. And the brightest red lipstick in her arsenal made her look like she couldn’t possibly be in trouble, she was trouble personified. And then she had stepped out to show them that she was not beaten.
She saw now it was a fruitless effort. There was only one thing that would show them she wasn’t beaten. And that was winning the Veritaz.
Spoiled Honora Holtzfall Gloats as Heirship Comes within Reach.
That headline was the Bullhorn’s. Obviously. They always either had a jab or a lie about a Holtzfall that they were eager to print. This time it was both.
They had a picture of Nora wrapped in a white mink stole which she had also abandoned somewhere in the course of the night, smirking knowingly into a camera. It was printed next to the same old photograph every paper had run to death now. Her mother sprawled in an alley, her own white coat stained with blood. Pictures were worth a thousand column inches when paired like that. Nora seeming to be celebrating only days after her mother’s body went into the ground.
Well to the Bullhorn’s disreputable credit at least they stuck to their Holtzfall bashing agenda even in the face of tragedy.
“Does this look like a library to you?” The kiosk owner had finished laying out the papers and magazines for the day, and he was eyeing up the steadily increasing stack of newspapers in Nora’s hands with the sort of suspicion that suggested that he didn’t recognize her from the front of those same papers. “Choose one and move along.” He snapped his fingers at her impatiently.
Nora realized her fingers were already smudging the ink of the pile of papers she was holding. She couldn’t exactly put them back, but equally she wasn’t tacky enough to have money on her. She sighed, working the small ruby ring off her finger. The papers were all 1 zaub a piece, the ring had cost her just over 10,000 zaub. “Here,” she said, “This should cover it.”
She tucked the newspapers under her arm and continued down the wide avenue to her Grandmother’s house. Before she was out of earshot she heard him call after her, “If this is tin and glass then I’d better not see your face around here again.” For the first time since her mother died Nora felt a real laugh bubble up on her lips. She gestured with one of the papers over her shoulder, flashing her face on the front page at him.
“Well then there’d be a lot of papers you’d have to stop selling.” She called back before rounding the corner.