Welcome to my stop on the Soul of Cinder Tour hosted by Favorite Pages Book Club! I’m so excited to share a deleted scene from the book with you guys, it’s such a cool outtake. I also have a giveaway going on my Instagram if you’re interested in winning signed copies of all three books. If not read on!
The Twisted Sisters are coming home.
Prince Quin has returned to the river kingdom, ready to spearhead a rebellion and reclaim the throne. He vows to destroy Mia, Pilar, and Angelyne if they oppose him—even if he must use his newfound magic to set the world aflame.
Across the four kingdoms, the elements have been tipped askew. Volcanoes erupt, glaciers collapse, and cities sink into the western sands. After losing Angie, Mia and Pilar journey to the glass kingdom to seek help, though soon their fragile bonds of sisterhood begin to fray. Mia’s sensations are creeping back, and with them, a deep and searing grief. Pilar, terrified of being broken, once again seeks comfort in her fists. But when they hear rumors of a misty island that promises to erase all pain, they suddenly find themselves with an answer—if they are willing to pay the cost.
As tensions mount, the sisters are drawn back to the river kingdom for a final reckoning with the boy they each loved. The shattering conclusion to Bree Barton’s Heart of Thorns trilogy challenges why we grieve, whom we love—and how to mend a broken heart.
What a terrific prompt. I actually had to cut one of my all-time favorite scenes in SOUL OF CINDER, starring three of my favorite things to write about: Mia Rose, dancing, and periods. But there just wasn’t space for it, and I needed the scene to do more, narratively speaking.
And so, alas: my fave scene fell trembling to the cutting room floor. I wrote a new one, this time with Mia in the Curatorium, which now appears in Chapter 17.
For this prompt, I thought it would be fun to give you the scene in full. This won’t appear anywhere else—it exists solely on my laptop, and the only person besides me to have read it is my editor. Well, except for a few of the food descriptions, which I lifted out and folded into other parts of the book. You get the exclusive! ☺
I give you: the Moon Circle.
“Great sands,” Nell exclaimed. “It’s exactly where I remembered, what a sight for sore eyes. Nothing ever changes, does it? Not really, not in any way that matters.”
She pointed, and Mia’s eyes followed.
Between the sand dunes was an encampment. The setting sun illuminated vivid purple tents fashioned from canvases stretched between bamboo poles. Long white cloths were laid on the sand and lined with platters of meats, baskets of flatbread, cups of sugared fruit, and goblets of wine. In the center, framed by the tents, a circle of bronze lamps nested in the sand, vinaceous flames dancing on their surface.
There were women everywhere. Reclining in the sand, braiding each other’s hair. Clustered around the food table, eating, drinking, telling stories. Outside the circle of red flames, two women sang and strummed a lyre, while inside, a woman danced. Her eyes were closed, hands painting pictures in the air, hips swaying softly from side to side.
Mia was transfixed. “What is this place?”
“It’s a moon circle.”
“Where women come together and celebrate their moon cycles,” Mia murmured.
“Very good! You remembered. It’s a circle for women who are bleeding, or soon to bleed, though all are welcome, no one is turned away, it’s not like you have to show your bloodmoss to be admitted!” She laughed her husky laugh. “Are you hungry? Riding a kama all day is not an act of leisure, as you can now attest, it’s easy to work up an appetite.”
Grinning, Nell unwrapped Mia’s red scarf.
“That’s exactly what I wanted to hear.”
What followed was unequivocally the best meal of Mia’s life.
She devoured spoonfuls of thick fava bean soup sprinkled with cumin and dolloped with joguhr cream. She bit into ovals of fried cheese—haloom, Nell told her—melted over grilled tomatoes, salty and decadent. She gorged herself on flaky triangles of baked dough stuffed with spinach; eggs with just the right consistency of yolk resting on a bed of roasted onions; braised piglum banked on soft yellow grains; grilled fish that crumbled into flawless white flakes in her mouth. She quaffed vibrant juices of papaya, mango, mint, and ginger.
“What do you think?” Nell asked. “Do you like it?”
It took every ounce of Mia’s strength not to cry.
“I can taste everything.” She garbled the words, mouth full of haloom. “Every single flavor.”
“Yes, the savory isn’t bad.” Nell gave a playful shrug. “But wait till you try the sweet.”
Mia swallowed the cheese. “What makes you think I intend on waiting?”
She wolfed down a cavalcade of cakes: cakes soaked in sweet orange liqueur, cakes spread thick with chocolate pistachio butter, cakes oozing with cinnamon honey. She swallowed little balls of sweet red beans, fried and freckled with sesame seeds, and thumb-sized cookies stuffed with almonds and dates. When she truly thought she could eat no more, Nell nudged another plate toward her: figs steeped in their own sweet syrup.
“Stop,” Mia moaned. “You’re killing me.”
“I think actually I’m bringing you back to life.”
Mia lifted a sticky fig from the plate and sank her teeth into its soft, fecund flesh. It was perfect. She looked at Nell’s face and found it perfect, too. The moon had risen above the dunes, casting a cool, sapphire hue over Nelladine’s dark skin. She’d let her braids loose; they tumbled down her bare shoulders, shivering every time she laughed. Her happiness flowed over her so freely.
Something frozen in Mia’s belly began to thaw.
“Why are you looking at me like that, do I have something on my face?” Nell bared her teeth playfully. “In my teeth?”
Mia shook her head. How did you tell someone they were beautiful? Quin had said those words to her once—but with a provision. You’re beautiful when you lie.
Nelladine took her by the hand. Mia could have stayed like that for hours, feeling her belly pleasantly full and her friend’s soft skin against her own. But Nell was pulling her to her feet, toward the circle, where other women had joined the solitary dancer. A drum magically materialized, and soon a steady beat rumbled over the quiet sands.
“I’m not a very good dancer,” Mia whispered.
“Don’t think about whether you’re good or not. Don’t think at all. Just dance.”
When Nell peeled off her boots, Mia liberated her own feet from their confines. She rolled her shoulders and loosened her limbs. Her feet caught the rhythm, then her fingers, then her hips. A chant rose from the women, and Mia raised her arms and began to chant along with them, first the sacred sound, then new words that hummed and lilted between their lips.
There was space between Mia and Nell, and then there wasn’t. Their bodies pressed close, two echoes skin to skin. Nell stripped off her shirt, tossed it onto the sand until there was only a strip of white cloth holding her curves together. Mia’s own collarbone was slick with sweat, her heart thrumming beneath it.
Their bodies pulled apart, then came together, then apart, then together, until Nelladine moved away to dance with someone else.
What does it mean, Mia thought, that she moved away?
But after a moment, it didn’t matter. Mia lost herself to the circle, or gave herself to it. Was there really a difference? The cries and wails and chants intertwined, a chorus of women howling at the moon. Mia stopped thinking. She stopped analyzing, stopped worrying, stopped trying to make sense of every little thing.
Meet the Author
Bree Barton is a writer in Los Angeles. When she’s not lost in whimsy, she works as a ghostwriter and dance teacher to teen girls. She is on Instagram and YouTube as Speak Breely, where she posts funny videos of her melancholy dog.
Bree is not a fan of corsets.