Exclusive Cover Reveal + Excerpt: Ben Alderson’s Realm of Fey Series Is Getting a New Look

Books Features Ben Alderson
Exclusive Cover Reveal + Excerpt: Ben Alderson’s Realm of Fey Series Is Getting a New Look

If you haven’t heard of fantasy author Ben Alderson before, it’s probably time to fix that. A BookTuber turned popular writer in his own right with a dozen spicy queer fantasy titles under his belt, he was just nominated as a TikTok Breakthrough Author of the Year.  Alderson’s self-published Realm of Fey series, in particular, has been wildly popular and has subsequently found its way to a traditional publisher. Angry Robot Books is rereleasing the first three novels in the series—A Betrayal of Storms, A Kingdom of Lies, and A Deception of Courts— later this year, in the lead-up to the publication of the final installment in 2025. 

The books follow the story of Robin Icethorn, a half-fey boy who grows up in the human land, blissfully unaware that he is the last heir to a major magical dynasty, and mix political intrigue with spicy romance, magic, and adventure, 

We’ve got a closer look at all three new covers for the existing books in Alderson’s series, designed by Sarah O’Flaherty, and an excerpt from the first book, A Betrayal of Storms, to get you started in his world. 

A Betrayal of Storms Realm of Fey cover

Half-fey Robin Vale has grown up amongst humans, but that doesn’t save him from being captured for coin by fey hunters. When he’s rescued by a fey princess, he’s taken to Wychwood, the fey realm – where everyone is focused on preparing for war against the humans who hate, hunt, and kill them for coin.

Robin doesn’t understand how he fits into the fey’s plans… until he’s revealed to be the lost heir to the Icethorn Court. Aided by the unclaimed, destructive power of the Winter Court, which had been thought destroyed with Robin’s mother’s death, the fey ready their numbers for complete domination of the human realm.

But by claiming the throne with the help of his devastatingly handsome personal guard, Erix, Robin’s very presence opposes the long-planned invasion. Along with his allies – including Althea, a stern princess hellbent on stopping the human hunters from killing her kin – Robin is thrust into a world of betrayal, murder, and lies. He must survive long enough to have the choice: listen to fate and claim his family’s power, or let it wreak havoc on a realm that turned its back on him for becoming who he was truly meant to be.

A Betrayal of Storms will be released on October 22, 2024. 

A Kingdom of Lies Realm of Fey cover

Despite the deception of friends and family, Robin Icethorn has become the King he was destined to be. But enemies still surround him, some hidden behind the smiles of those he trusts.

His world is thrown into chaos when the gods become more than just stories. And Robin will do anything to save his father, his last living relative. Even if that means striking up a deal with the father of the person who tried to murder him.

A Kingdom of Lies will be released on November 26, 2024

A Deception of Courts Realm of Fey Book 3

Robin Icethorn, King of the Winter Court, must stop The Hand, who threatens to bring forth a time of monsters. The search for the keys to free Duwar, the demon God, from his unearthly bindings has begun. Finding unlikely allies, Robin is thrust into a war of Gods, becoming no more than a pawn on the game board he never wished to be a part of. Whilst new flames crackle with electrifying power and old flames return, equally changed – Robin is forced to make decisions that would change the course of his, and his kingdom’s, lives forever.

A Deception of Courts will be released on December 3, 2024. 

These releases are all to get us ready for the arrival of the final book in the Realm of Fey series—the title and cover of which are still to be revealed—-which will be published on May 27, 2025. 

In waking hours, I remembered little of my mother. But it seemed her featureless face haunted my dreams more often than not.

Hair so black it gleamed with a subtle blue shine. Thick and wild, even the smallest of breezes seemed to coax the strands into a dance. Her voice was soft, so much so that it would likely lull the loudest child into sleep. 

And her ears, twin peaks on either side of her blurry face. Long and proud, never hidden, always peeking through her hair.

That was it. All I could conjure when I dreamed of her. 

I supposed my mind clung to those details because they were what Father would remind me of. The same features I’d taken from my mother; obsidian hair, eyes as black as a winter’s night, and a gentle-toned voice. And my ears, although not as long as hers, they stood out painfully among the realm of humans.

The dreams of my mother would never last, quickly morphing into nightmares as I longed so desperately to see her eyes. I wished I could remember if her lips parted when she smiled or if her cheeks presented dimples when something amused her. Little details that, to some, would not matter. But to me… well, I would trade the world if I could, just to know.

Just to see her. To remember her eyes or the curve of her mouth. Any other details that were kept from me were secrets I longed for more than I did the very secrets of the world.

But those secrets would never be revealed because she chose to walk away from me. In the shadowed corners of my mind, I often pondered why she didn’t return for me. Gods know my father missed her too. I could see it in the quiet moments when he lost himself to a thought, when his own stare was stuck to an unimportant place, his mind whirling with memories.

I dared not ask him about my mother. It had been years since we shared the last, deathly short, conversation about the whys and hows of her disappearance. So, no matter if it was a dream I saw her in or in the muddled mess of my consciousness, I always found myself reaching for the bracelet of iron around my wrist.

It was last thing she gave me. And that made it my most prized possession. 

I woke to screams. Distant yells and cries that sounded like cats fighting in the streets of Grove. I pried my eyes open a tad, only to snap them shut beneath the glare of daylight. Raising a hand to cover my gaze, I found my wrists had been tied together by rough knots of rope.

That’s when all the events of last night came rushing back to me. Everything that had happened, not a detail spared. James and the black-clothed guard and his strong fist. I lifted a hand to my brow, feeling the tender skin and dried blood. Throwing my eyes open, I blinked away the shock of light to take in my surroundings. 

I was in a cage. One that moved. Wheels squeaked beneath me as I registered the cart-like vehicle that rocked violently across a dirt path. Around me were tall bars of obsidian metal that gleamed in the light. Straining my neck upwards, I took in the covering of equally dark material that was connected from one side of the cage to the other. 

The late-autumn sun kissed its warmth down upon me but did little to keep the cold winds from nipping at my nose and exposed arms. 

Looking down, I gulped as I witnessed the loose trousers and once white tunic that I’d worn to bed. My bare feet were coated in dirt, a handful of cuts left from running over the broken picture frame.

There were mutterings of a conversation coming from the front of the cart. Keeping as quiet as I could, I looked over to find the backs of two guards, each dressed in familiar dark, stained leathers. 

“Excuse me!” I shouted, tugging at my wrists. My jaw ached, and my head panged with the echoing of pain, the leftover memory of the punch that had knocked me out cold. “I think there’s been a mistake. Whatever you think I’ve done, I can guarantee I haven’t. You’ve quite obviously got the wrong person.”

One of the guards turned their head, only slightly, then focused back on the road ahead. “Hand over those ten coins,” he said, nudging the man to his side. “Looks like the bet is mine.”

The second guard responded, clicking his tongue in some signal to the horses before him. “You only won if he didn’t wake until we arrived at camp… and the horses are still moving, are they not? The winnings are mine, and you owe me coin!”

My insides burned as the Hunters discussed me like I wasn’t here. What I’d give to thrust a fist—or two—into unsuspecting noses. But my anger wasn’t a reaction solely for that reason. It was that I’d even gotten myself into this situation. My thoughts were full of ‘should haves’ and ‘could haves’. Should’ve fought harder. Could’ve made more noise, alerting a neighbor or someone. Anyone. Then again, would they’ve come to help?

“James Campbell,” I dragged the prick’s name from the bellows of my mind. “If he… whatever he has done or told you I’ve done, it’s all lies… I promise I am worthless. I wouldn’t even bet ten coins on myself, let alone five.”

“Any more talk, and we’ll gag you,” the guard said, his voice registering through my panic as the one who had punched me in the first place. How much time had passed since I’d been knocked out? Daylight beamed upon us now, it had to have been hours.

“Just tell me what you want from me?” I called out, voice cracking as though my balls hadn’t yet dropped. I tried standing for a moment before the cart rocked like a ship on violent waves, sending me crashing back on my behind. 

“Shut it, lad! Do yourself a favor and keep whatever little plea you have brewing to yourself. Trust me, we’ve heard it all before. And then some.” 

It was clear that these men came from money. Or at least they had money behind them. No one in Grove, or any of the surrounding villages, wore such well-threaded clothing or had carts made of metal or owned horses with such perfect, gleaming coats. 

“I’m innocent…” 

“Your ears suggest otherwise.”

Cautious of my ears, which wasn’t exactly a new feeling, the tips of them heated. 

“Commander Rackley has given word that we will move for the capital by sundown. A few more of our bounty have been captured. Then we cash in and celebrate.” 

One of the men patted the other on the back, causing the cloak around his shoulders to flatten out for a moment. A symbol etched in silver thread spread across his back. It took up most of the material but soon folded beneath creases as he yanked on the reins once again.

For a moment, it looked like the outline of a hand. Curved lines of thread stood out starkly against the deep black material it adorned. 

I opened my mouth again, seeing how far I could get questioning them, when the noise stopped me. It sounded like… crying. Wailing of children and the pleading screams of those much older. 

A murder of crows screeched across the skies ahead of us, frightened by the noise that filled the blue, cloudless void.

I craned my neck, looking beyond the thick bars of the cage as the cart turned. Then the smell hit me. Copper. Rich, intense copper that made me scrunch my nose in disgust. Blood. The source of it was not hard to find.

In an open field, a wall of thick trees crowning at its side, was a camp. At first glance, it reminded me of a group of performers that once passed through Grove, putting on a display of drama and entertainment for three nights. But this was nothing of the sort. 

Other cages, like the one I sat within, lined up throughout the jumbled camp. Countless bodies filled them with arms reaching outwards as though those within begged for aid. The closer we gained, the more I could see. There were so many other guards, each dressed in the same black armor of those who navigated my cart. Cloaks billowed, flashing the same hand symbol I thought I’d seen. 

Some guards prowled the camp, slamming the sharp edges of swords onto the cages, shouting for the silence of those within. Others pushed people ahead of them, chains trailing between their wrists and feet, all linked to a thick band of metal that strangled around their throats. 

And no matter the horror I witnessed, it couldn’t distract me from the pungent, sickening scent of blood.

We pulled into the camp, the horses slowing to a stop. Before the men could dismount, other guards reached for the back of the cage and pulled open a gate. 


I couldn’t speak. Fear thickened my tongue and dried my throat. I scrambled backwards until I was in the corner of the cage furthest from them. I readied my legs to kick out as they inevitably reached for me.

“Feisty one…” one of them said, but it was impossible to focus on who. 

“The half-born always are,” another replied, in the same pompous accent as the others. These were city folk, from Lockinge most likely. The capital the guard had not-long-ago mentioned when he spoke about Commander Rackley’s order.

The name felt important to me, I just couldn’t place why.

“Going to bite, half-born? Or do we need to fill your mouth with something to stop you?” 

Half-born. Hearing it aloud stung. It slapped across my soul as countless eyes glared at me from beyond the cage. 

“You look like the type who’d love that,” I sneered.

“Careful of this one,” the familiar voice of my captor said. “Tricky prick caused some damage on the way to the collection. You should’ve seen the two that sold him off. One will be bruised terribly for days, I am sure.”

“The coin will smother their ailments. It always does.” 

They talked of James and his accomplice. Knowing that I had caused them pain sparked some pride in me. But that was soon doused out completely as gloved hands reached for my ankles and yanked me forward. The back of my head connected with the floor. I saw stars with each blink, too many to count. A throbbing across my skull joined the rest of my current discomforts as the hands pulled me across the cage floor and towards the exit.

“Where are we putting him?” 

“He’s been tested, and he showed no reaction. So, you can put him with the other, useless bunch,” my captor replied.

Someone tsked. “Shame, this batch has not been as fruitful as I hoped. If we come back with little stock, it will not go down well with The Hand.” 

I tried to focus on what others said next, but it was close to impossible as rough hands dragged me away. 

“Get your fucking hands off me.” I registered how pathetic I sounded, but there was no room to care. 

They didn’t listen nor care. They hauled me towards the row of larger cages. Each one was as full of wailing, shouting people as the next. We passed one that was beyond crammed. Bodies stuffed together, hardly an inch of room between them as they screamed and shouted.

I saw children hiding between the legs of women and men. Most cried, but some shook the dark bars of the cage with such vigour that I was surprised the bars didn’t rip free.

“Keep back, the lot of you!” My captor only had to shout the warning, and those within the cage stilled from fear.

Patrolling guards thrust the points of their swords between the bars. It caused those near to move far away from the blades, giving those who held me enough room to unlock and open a gate. And from one cage to another, I was thrust inside. 

One moment I was held in their grip, the next I was on my knees, palms aching as they barely broke my fall. The rope that still bound me rubbed the skin of my wrists raw. 

Metal slammed against metal, and the cage was shut once again. With me inside.

This time it was soft hands which reached me, lifting me from the ground as an echoing of worried questioning rocked over me.

I blinked, unable to still the quaking of my mind. Faces looked upon me, each pinched with concern and equally measured fright. And in every face I took in, I noticed something odd. A detail I’d only seen in my own reflection, or the foggy memory of Mother. 

Pointed ears.

These people were fey. No matter their height, size or age, they each had points at the tips of their ears. 

And besides my reflection and the distant memory of my mother, I hadn’t seen another before. Not half-fey like myself, nor full-blooded. And seeing them all before me didn’t calm me but urged the storm within to rile wilder. 

“Are you alright?” a woman asked. She had close-cropped blonde hair and bright cobalt eyes. Her face and neck were smudged with dirt and grime. Red marks signified a struggle she’d been through. Unlike my nightwear, she wore garments of finery. But hers were just as ripped and dirtied, as though she’d wrestled with a thorn bush and lost miserably. 

“Who… who are they?” I asked, looking around at the overwhelming number of faces. “Those guards, why are they doing this?”

The crowd grumbled, and a small chirp of a cry sounded from below me. Looking down, I saw the round face of a child peeking between the woman’s legs, similar wide blue eyes bursting with the same fear that all those around me held. 

“Hunters.” She took my hands in hers, lips drawn into a frown. “Of our kind.” 

Fey. She meant fey. I parted my mouth, ready to tell her that I was not, in fact, fey. But something in-between. I’d argued it for as long as I could remember. 

Opting to play along, hoping to find the answers I needed to get out of this mess, I asked another question. “And what is it they want from… us?”

“Blood.” The answer was plain and simple. “But you don’t need to worry. We are powerless – useless. Until they find a new need for us, I hope they’ll let us go.”

I hardly doubted that.

I wanted to pull away from her but didn’t. There was something calming about her touch. She looked down to her child and returned her attention back to me with a shake of her head. It was clear that whatever she longed to say was kept quiet due to the listening ears of the child. 

“There is no need for these anymore.” She began tugging at the ropes, flashing broken nails and blood-covered knuckles. “Let me help you out of them.”

No one else here seemed to be tied up. Discarded rope littered the floor of the cage, or what I could see of it.

“Thank you,” I said, wincing as she began tugging with shaking hands. I hissed between clenched teeth as the rope pulled away, revealing the red skin. 

I had so much to ask. But chaos devoured the camp, making even the slightest word impossible without shouting. 

I wanted to question the kind stranger again, but a feral scream lit the sky. We snapped our attention to our left, spotting a handful of the guards pulling another woman through the camp. They dragged her by the hair, mud covering her exposed legs. She batted at their hands and arms, digging nails into the material that covered them. But on they heaved her.

There was a strange drumming in my chest as I watched. As though a bird flapped frantic wings, trying to catch flight but not succeeding. I pressed my free hand to my sternum, trying to still the feeling. 

The guards finally threw the fey to the ground near an aged stump of wood. Even from a distance, I could see scars across the wood, jagged lines that burrowed deep into its surface. 

She struggled like a butterfly beneath pins, throwing everything she had at the guards. They forced her body to bend unnaturally until her head rested upon its side across the stump. It took three of them to hold her down, because she fought as though her life depended on it.

Which, I could see, it did.

Altar, take her pain,” the fey to my side uttered, reaching down for her daughter, who began to cry quietly. I glanced at her, tearing my attention from the scene to watch the woman press a hand over the young girl’s eyes. “Count to ten, my darling girl. Count to ten for mummy.”

It was the same thing my father used to make me do when I was scared. A distraction technique. A way to make the mind focus on something simple, over the root of the anxiety.

“One.” Her small voice broke beneath a cry. 

I looked back to the scene as the entire camp of caged fey fell silent.


A giant, broad-shouldered man sauntered towards the woman on the stump. He was dressed in the black-leathered uniform the rest of the Hunters wore, but unlike the others, there was a stained, torn apron wrapped around his waist. In his thick, gloved hands, he carried an axe, needing both arms to hold it aloft. The handle was wrapped in ivory material, and the blade was stained black with aged blood.


Before he even reached the struggling woman, I understood what was about to happen. Everyone who watched did.


My gaze drifted to a shadow that spread through the grass around the tree stump. But it wasn’t cast by the fey woman or the Hunter standing above her. Her hands pressed into the ground, unable to do anything else.


Blood puddled around the tree stump, soaking trodden grass and mud.


My heart thundered in my chest. My hand shook as I pressed down upon it as though it would stop my heart from simply bursting free of the confines of my ribs and flesh.


The fey woman upon the stump no longer screamed. Eyes wide, she gave up her fight. The Hunters who held her down moved her braid of thin, chestnut hair from her shoulders, exposing the length of her pale neck. 


I felt the need to shout. To do something, anything, as the Hunter took his place above the woman, his belly casting a shadow down upon her. 


Death was imminent. The entire camp silent as they too expected it. 

“Keep going, my girl, keep going.”

I reached for my wrist, needing to feel the solid, grounding loop of my mother’s bracelet. But my fingertips met skin. Breathless, I looked down to see nothing but the new, red bracelets of rope burn.

The bracelet was gone. 

Something the reedy man with James said cut across my mind the second I looked up, back to the scene. 

I’ll look after it for you, promise.

With both hands, the executioner raised the axe, hoisting it above his head with one great swing. A wink of light caught across its sharp edging. It reached the apex then arched downwards through the air. I could hear the wind scream as the curved blade sliced towards her waiting neck.


There was a wet thud. It knocked the breath out of me, but I refused to look away. Not when the axe rested between her head and shoulders, embedded into the stump beneath. It took a moment for the life to leave the woman’s eyes. Then her head swayed off the stump and onto the ground, where it seemed to roll in small circles before finally stopping at the executioner’s booted feet.

That was when the screams began once again. I didn’t join. Not as my blood seemed to freeze entirely, a creeping sensation of familiar cold that exploded from the beating in my chest and spread down my legs and arms in one large web of energy.

I expected to shatter into shards of ice. Melt like snow beneath the beating sun.

But I kept still, staring as the Hunters kicked the rest of her body from the stump, discarded without care upon the ground.

“Look away…” a small voice chirped, followed by the warm, soft hand that fit into mine like a small piece of fruit. “We can count to ten together.” 

It was the young fey child, her face bright with innocence and trust as she held onto my hand. She was the anchor, a stranger, who kept me tethered to reality as the horror replayed itself in my mind.

“One,” she urged softly. “Two…”

I joined in with her soft voice, my own cracking as I fought the urge to turn back and watch the beheaded fey be carted off. The child’s bright eyes entrapped my gaze and blocked out the horror as I focused on her, and she focused on me. The explosion of panic in my chest calmed enough for me to focus, as though her voice leashed the storm and kept it at bay.

“Eight, nine and ten.”

Lacy Baugher Milas is the Books Editor at Paste Magazine, but loves nerding out about all sorts of pop culture. You can find her on Twitter @LacyMB

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