Home > Garden of Serpents (The Demon Queen Trials #3)

Garden of Serpents (The Demon Queen Trials #3)
Author: C.N. Crawford






In September, Rowan was a mortal college student, struggling with student loans. All very ordinary—until a gorgeous demon known as the Lord of Chaos crashed her birthday. Orion had silver hair, blue eyes, and a bizarre certainty that she ruined his life. Apparently, Rowan looked exactly like an an ancient succubus named Mortana, who was an absolute nightmare.

Orion—as always, certain he was right—kidnapped Rowan and threw her in a dungeon in the Demon City. There, she spilled her most embarrassing secrets to him, and she also found a mysterious carving: Lucifer urbem spinarum libarabit—the Lightbringer will set the City of Thorns free.

Only when Orion bit her and tasted her blood did he finally accept that she was mortal, and they teamed up to kill the demon king, Cambriel.

Cambriel had murdered Rowan’s mother by lighting her on fire, giving Rowan a lifelong terror of fire. He’d stolen the throne from the rightful heir, Orion. Incubi and succubi were a particular type of demon known as Lilu, hunted out of existence by mortals and the previous demon king.

Orion, however, was secretly an incubus, a creature who fed off lust. After the rest of the Lilu were murdered, he had lived for centuries in a dungeon, completely forgotten. He watched his whole family die before his eyes, and he blamed Mortana for their death. She was the last living succubus—or so he thought.

When Rowan’s demon mark showed up—a glowing sign on her forehead showing that she was a demon all along—things go sour for the pair. Her parents had used magic to hide her true nature, because succubi like her were hunted and outlawed. Now that it was clear she had the same demon mark as Mortana, Orion became convinced this was all another trick played by his worst enemy. Just like Orion—and Mortana—Rowan had the rare skill of fire magic.

Making things more complicated—Rowan’s demon mark proved she was also an heir to the throne. Rowan was now Orion’s rival.

And yet he could not bring himself to kill her; he had started to fall in love with her.

The pair travelled to the underworld to break a blood oath Orion had made to murder Mortana’s entire family, which would have compelled him to kill Rowan. While there, Rowan learned that Orion had also made an oath to another incubus in the dungeon—a man named Ashur. Orion had promised Ashur that he would get revenge on mortals for their role in the slaughter of the Lilu.

This made Rowan determined to stop Orion, to prevent the slaughter.

When Orion left the underworld, Rowan stayed behind to train with a chaos god named Tammuz—secretly, Orion’s father. Tammuz was the one who marked them both with the sign of the Lightbringer, because he thrived on chaos.

Time passed differently with Tammuz, and Rowan learned to fight and hunt like a demon, until she was ready to take the throne.

But when she returned to the City of Thorns, Orion managed to take control of the city, and he banished her to the mortal world.

Devastated, Rowan retreated to Osborne. In her home town, she was forced to hide from the demon hunters.

While in hiding, an elderly family friend name Mr. Esposito dropped off a book for her. The book was about the Demon Trials, and detailed exactly how she could win the throne for herself.









Sunlight streamed through autumn leaves, lighting them like tongues of flames against the sky. I stared out a third-story window, watching a little boy stuff his mouth with cotton candy on the brick sidewalk across the street. Just next to him, his mom chatted with a friend, her hair the same bright red as the autumn leaves above her.

The little boy reached out to grab his mom’s pinkie finger—one hand on mom, the other on his treat. Crystalized pink sugar smeared across his cheek, striking against his pale skin. From the oak tree above him, a bright orange leaf drifted onto his tufted auburn hair, then slid off to the bricks. His green eyes followed the leaf’s motion.

My chest felt tight.

Any day now, Orion could be ripping through this town to murder everyone. This sugar-covered toddler with Band-Aids on both knees wasn’t responsible for anything that happened four hundred years ago. He just wanted his mom and dessert.

I watched the peaceful scene, my breath fogging the glass.

This could be the last moment of peace in a while.

By midnight tonight, my head would either be resting on a silken pillow or hanging from the gates before the Tower of Baal. After the first night of the trial, those two paths lay before me. Nothing else.

But if Tammuz—the dying god—thought I had a chance at winning the crown, who was I to argue?

When I took a step back from the window, a ray of light caught on the word love, etched in the glass with a diamond long ago. I could almost see a version of this world where an unbroken Orion would welcome me into the city. A world where we could rule together. But that wasn’t this reality, was it? Because he’d thrown me out on my ass to fend for myself against demon hunters as my magic faded.

In reality, Orion’s soul had never left the dungeon. Even if his body made it out, he was trapped there still.

With a tight throat, I turned, taking in the eighteenth-century mansion. Shai’s aunt’s house was one of the most beautiful places I’d ever seen, the floors delightfully crooked and creaking with age, the walls carved mahogany. One half of the living room opened into a kitchen with marble countertops. On the other side of the room, diamond-pane windows looked out over the churning, sun-kissed Atlantic.

Amber sunlight streamed through the old glass, falling on the portrait of one of Shai’s relatives, a New England merchant sea captain with brown skin, a white cravat, and a brass-button navy coat. Impossible to tell if he was part demon, like Shai.

I absolutely adored this place, and it had become my hiding spot while Shai’s aunt was away in Paris. I had the whole house to myself.

Breathing in deeply, I closed my eyes for a moment, relishing the calm before the storm. I’d been awake all night, my mind whirling. The mortal police were still after me for killing a congressman, and I knew what horrors Orion had planned.

I crossed to the antique sofa, and I pulled out my phone to check the time. Nearly noon. Shai should be here any minute with something I desperately needed.

When I looked up again, a chill rippled over my skin. Shadows had spread through the room, and an electric crackle of magic skimmed up my spine.

I jumped up again and crossed to the window. Unnatural iron-gray storm clouds had claimed the sky.

The little boy still held his mom’s hand, but now worry creased his brow. He stared up at the darkening clouds, wiping his sticky hand on his shirt, leaving behind smears of pink.

A gust of wind swept through the trees, tearing leaves off the oak’s boughs. All at once, clouds opened above, unleashing a wild rain storm that hammered against the window.

My heart started to race as I craned my neck to peer down the hill through the old glass.

It’s starting. I couldn’t breathe. Already, they were coming—the demon horde, their silver claws extended, eyes black as pitch. The earth seemed to rumble with their approach. This was it—the vengeance that obsessed Orion, his lust for mortal blood.

I banged on the glass, screaming to get the mom’s attention. Why wasn’t she running? She needed to get that little boy the fuck out of here. My voice seemed trapped in the room, and I bitterly regretted that I’d let my magic run out.

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