Heart of the Empire by Carrie Summers
The Empire is heartless, but fate is crueler still.
Tainted magic spills from a crack between worlds. Quakes rattle the Atal Empire, opening rifts that split towns in two. As the land shatters and betrayals cleave the Emperor’s court, ancient power awakens in a flame-haired young woman.
Savra, a miner on a remote coast, lives in relative innocence of her Emperor’s savage rule. When she turns seventeen, she expects to be assigned sluice mining as her official Function. Everyone from her home village is a sluicer–unless they turn renegade and fugitive like Savra’s father. But when she’s suddenly torn from her home, turned pawn in the plots of madmen, a chance meeting with a young man provides the first glimpse of her tangled destiny.
For nineteen years, Kostan has been groomed for one thing: ascension to the throne. One of thirteen imperial Scions, he bears a wound that won’t heal until his twenty-first birthday. On that date, only the shape of the Scions’ scars will determine the next Atal Emperor.
Savra secretly fears she carries her father’s rebel blood. Kostan despises everything the Empire stands for. Neither desires a fight, but as the Empire crumbles around them, they stand on opposite sides of a war. Each could be part of Empire’s salvation, if only they could bridge the chasm dividing them.