Battles, revolution, and romance collide in Joanna Hathaway’s stunning finale to the Glass Alliance series, Southern Sun, Northern Star.
About the book:
Reeling from the tragedy that beset her family, Princess Aurelia has joined the resistance in Havenspur, spying on the Northern leaders who were once her allies and determined to stop her uncle’s machinations for war. Meanwhile, her beloved pilot Athan leads his squadron into battle as the Safire wage a losing war abroad and combat growing unrest back home.
When Athan is sent on leave to Havenspur following the death of a comrade, the pair reunite and rekindle their romance until Aurelia uncovers one of Athan’s secrets, a secret that could save countless lives. But exposing it to the right people will cost her Athan’s trust, and this time, their shared memories of love might not be enough to stop the fateful path of destruction that threatens all they’ve fought to defend.
As history unfolds around them, every move they make drives them one step closer to either recreating their parents’ shadowed past or redeeming the alliance that could bring peace.
The breathtaking finale to a legendary series. Part war drama, part romance, Southern Sun, Northern Star is the epic conclusion to the Glass Alliance series.
Here’s an exclusive FIRST LOOK at the cover for Southern Sun, Northern Star, and keep scrolling down to read a special sneak peek!
[dropcap type=”circle”]T[/dropcap]he seaside cafe’s open windows welcome a lazy breeze, the briny aroma mingling with the fresh lavender and bread and disinfectant wafting up from the long wooden counter I sit beside. Someone has plucked the purple flowers and placed them in vases throughout the small room, though the lace-trimmed tables behind my silver stool are still mostly empty. A piano trills on the radio, and outside, Havenspur’s shoreline stretches along the sunny promenade in a shimmer of blue seawater and iron warships.
A few streets over, tough young soldiers wield giant dogs at checkpoints. Long humid lines of men, women, and children who simply want to cross town, visit friends, get home. Guns are slung like casual laughter as uniformed officers inspect each passbook and terrified face. Mocking comments muttered in a language they think we don’t understand, determining who should go forward and who should be detained to sweat a while longer.
But not on this fancy promenade.
Here, money buys a way around the lines.
“Anything for you, miss?” the boy at the counter asks me in polite Landori.
He’s local, perhaps about my age. His dark hair is gelled back, his white apron starched. Smile glossy.
“Still deciding,” I reply in the local tongue with my own polite smile. I’ve become almost fluent after months of diligent practice. It shares a lot with the Resyan I grew up speaking.
That linguistic connection earns a more intimate nod from him, and some respect, since we now have an unspoken understanding blossomed between us. It isn’t earthshaking. But it’s the quiet, wordless bond between two people who know exactly where the other has been without even asking. A shared, silent fury.
Though in our case, that’s not entirely true.
This boy has no clue I was a princess only ten months ago.
On the radio, the pleasant pianist trickles away, replaced, as usual, by a bleak news report. It immediately dampens the bright atmosphere in the cafe as the distant man—perhaps broadcasting from here, perhaps from Norvenne up north, across the sea—announces that the three weeks-long battle for Garizal is finally over. Savient has won, though barely. His words are circumspect, purposefully vague, but the length of the siege speaks for itself and does little to inspire optimism for anyone cheering on the Safire.
Does he sound a tad gloating even?
I study my nails. They’re unhelpfully hiding traces of dirt from digging in Kaziah’s many potted plants. I should have scrubbed them a bit better before coming here. This is the best outfit I have, the only one that would allow me into a promenade establishment without some raised brows. Kaziah and I share the dress, depending on who needs it more. Today was my turn. I also got the string of pearls for around my neck. They belonged to her mother, her sole prize-worthy possession, and as much as she needles me, I have to respect the magnitude of this offering.
A mother’s wide love held in those tiny cream orbs.
And dirty nails.
The waiter brings me a cold water, the glass dripping. “Here, miss. While you decide.”
He smiles again—just for me—and I thank my new friend kindly, studying the menu’s black script. I’d like to tell him he’ll be waiting a while longer, since I’m not trying to decide between chocolate cake or peach sorbet or cherry pie. I’m making my real selection from the four Safire soldiers who currently occupy the round table nearby, close to the open window. Two of them look important. They’re older, maybe thirty, with caps and badges, conversing confidently in Savien while a third one nods along wordlessly, like he knows exactly what they’re saying and wants to appear involved. The fourth is the youngest, and he looks uncertain. He sits back in his seat, on the outside of the animated huddle.
He’s the perfect one.
I stretch a bit, a vain attempt to attract some attention, then adjust my skirt.
“I’d recommend the cherry pie,” the local boy offers from behind the counter, where he’s cleaning wine glasses.
“I do love cherries. But it’s warm today, and I think something chilled is in order…”
“The sorbet, then. It’s made with fresh—”
One of the older Safire officers laughs abruptly. It’s more a bark, reverberating sharply in the delicately-set room, and for a breath, my waiter’s face holds pure hatred. There and gone. Funny how it’s the laugh that does that. Never mind that these foreign soldiers are from across the sea and have no business being here. Never mind that they man checkpoints all around the city and help the Landorians ferret out suspected Nahir revolutionaries and sympathizers alike. It’s that damn laugh. So loud and self-important in this cramped space.
I turn in my seat and raise my brow at them, hoping to garner the attention I’ve been waiting for. The oldest one notices, nodding at me. “Apologies,” he says in Landori, but he’s still grinning, muttering to his decorated friend, and the third one leans nearer like he’s also a part of the joke, even though he isn’t.
It’s absurd how comfortable they are, so far from Savient and Rahmet and whatever the third place is called. At least the Landorians have some sense of what’s beneath their boots. They’re well aware what came before them here, the history breathing hot at their necks. The Safire? They have no memories of this land. They have only now, themselves, and long ago, in some other world, I thought it obnoxious how they wandered our palace like they owned it.
Now they’re doing the exact same thing in someone else’s entire country.
The youngest one, still firmly on the outside, glances my way at last.
I give him a consolatory smile.
Look at us, my smile says. What are we to do with them?
He returns it quickly, grateful.
Finally, things are moving, and I turn back to the menu, pretending to deliberate some more. It doesn’t take long. Boots creak on the polished wood floor, then a shadow who smells of aftershave takes the stool beside mine. I turn as if surprised to find the young soldier there. Brown eyes, brown hair, tanned skin. Nothing very memorable, the picture of any soldier, anywhere. Which is good. Because then I’ll never remember his face distinctly. Not tomorrow, and not in a month, when they’re listing casualty numbers. And certainly not years from now if I don’t make it to my uncle and halt the terrible thing unleashing right beneath my fingertips.
“What do you recommend?” he asks in Landori, nodding at the desserts encased beyond the counter.
Food—the currency of polite conversation here. Round and round in circles, all of us trying to break the ice with the idea that maybe this will overcome the gulf of strangeness between our worlds. Serving boy to wealthy girl. Foreign soldier to local lady. We’ve all taken notes from the same book.
“The cherry pie is recommended,” I reply in Savien.
The Safire boy perks up further, clearly delighted to hear his own tongue. I’ve been practicing hard at this language, too, and the restless soldiers who wander this city are easy tutors, eager for a bit of flirting and distraction. I’m not great, I’m sure I have a terrible accent, but at least I can listen to them and understand. And listening is most important.
“Let’s try it then,” he suggests, a gallantry suddenly appearing as he straightens his shoulders, gesturing at the waiter with fresh authority.
I think he’s about eighteen. Maybe nineteen at most. It always works best with these younger ones on the outside. They want to be accepted, want to look good in front of their older comrades, so my friendliness warms them up quickly. And here he is, convinced of his own remarkable charm already.
The waiter behind the counter throws me a cool glance, judgmental now, since I did say I wanted something chilled, but here we go. You can’t win something without losing another. That’s how the world works. Right now, I’m about to gain useful intelligence from this clueless soldier while losing the connection of the local boy. Pick and choose. Day in, day out.
If I could explain to the waiter what I’m really doing, then he might forgive me.
But I can’t.
The soldier and I nibble at the pie with our forks, plenty of awkward and hopeful energy building quietly between us. I’m fairly good at making it seem genuine now. As if I can’t believe what I’m doing—sharing food with him, sitting like this—and it puts him in the position of feeling he must be the confident one. Now he gets to wield the laughter and the cigarettes, and he does just that, lighting up one of the rotten things like he’s magically a decade older. No enquiry if I mind the smell. My acquiescence is assumed.
While he smokes, I start with simple questions that seem harmless. Where are you from? How long have you been here? How long will you stay? Do you miss your family? They all like to talk about themselves, opening the floodgates of a suffocated homesickness, and I’m such a good listener. I know when to be sympathetic, when to be impressed. When to nod approvingly. And most importantly—I know when to be stupid.
“Oh,” I say with a self-effacing laugh at the appointed time. “Truthfully, I don’t even know what a destroyer is!”
The boy’s eyes widen. “You don’t?”
Then he laughs too, because isn’t that funny? What a girl I am!
It’s a foolproof strategy I’ve developed these months. I pretend I know nothing. My favourite line to use on all of them? “I don’t even know what that is!” I fill in the blank with something obvious they’ve mentioned, something I really should know, and that immediately makes me seem safe and simple and stupid. From there, it only takes a few drinks for them to start bragging and sharing the things they shouldn’t. I aim for different branches, different badges every time. Slowly, I’ve put together a map for Kaziah and Damir, pinning the various divisions where they’ve been or where they’re soon to be, Safire and Landorian movements becoming very clear thanks to the loose lips of some brash, homesick kids who have no idea that I’m the danger.
“A destroyer is a ship,” he explains, serious now, like a teacher, “which is, how should I put it? Like a tank on the sea? Designed for swift interception and protection.”
“Incredible,” I breathe, summoning appropriate awe. “Must you take one to the front in Masrah?”
Again, he laughs brightly. A destroyer to the frontlines? “No, no. That part of the journey is by train. Days and days of it, hoping you don’t get blown to bits by artillery or dive-bombers along the way. So they say, of course. I haven’t gone yet.”
He musters a cocky smile. Unafraid, in theory.
“Will they make you go far?” I ask in a worried voice. “Everything beyond Havenspur sounds awful. And Garizal?” I shake my head. “Dreadful.”
The boy glances back at his superiors, who are—surprise, surprise—still utterly disinterested in him and his activities, puffing cigars now, vain as cats. He leans closer to me. “Not Garizal. There’s a rumour we’re headed somewhere worse.”
I lean closer as well. “Worse?”
“I’m going east. To the Red Salient.”
He lets that sit for a moment, as if expecting me to understand the implications of his reveal, then remembers I’m only a silly girl who doesn’t even know what a destroyer is. “A salient is a place in the line where our forces are surrounded on almost all sides. A hell on earth. A meat grinder.” He straightens again. “But, they say we’ve got four armoured divisions waiting. Always feels good to march with the tanks at your side. Certainly the beginning of a solid countermove.”
The Red Salient.
Four armoured divisions.
This boy is trying to cheer himself up by imagining it a countermove, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned from eavesdropping on operational maneuvers, it’s what a retreat and reorganization looks like on paper. The Safire never admit they’re going backwards. But whatever isn’t officially spoken aloud becomes clear on my map back at our apartment, watching as the little pins move around Masrah, spelling out a war that’s growing worse every week that passes.
But no one’s ever mentioned a special salient before.
I glance at the clock on the wall. “Damn,” I say, frustrated. “Is that the time?”
My soldier smiles. “Time for a dance, yes? The evening is great for—”
“Sorry,” I interrupt, sliding from my stool. “I can’t. My mother will be most upset if I’m late for this evening’s party.”
My mother, meaning Kaziah, who still suspects that my activities around Havenspur are somehow nefarious, despite all the intel I bring them. I only just got Damir removed from his order as my silent shadow a month ago. I’m not going back to that.
The boy puts his palm against my hand. “Not yet, please. I can get you into the Fox’s Den. Free drinks for both of us.”
I hesitate, feeling his warm skin on mine. I don’t need the free drinks, but the Fox’s Den is the elite club for all of the Safire officers in Havenspur—and here’s a direct invite.
“Next time,” I say regretfully with an apologetic shrug.
His gaze saps of its remaining bravery. “I’m moving out tomorrow.”
“Then I’ll see you when you’re back on leave,” I assure him, even though there most likely won’t be a next time. The hand that’s touching mine? It’s bound for a return trip to Savient, either by coffin or by hospital ship with a limb or two gone.
“I’m scared,” he persists. “They say that every division that goes to the Red Salient loses half its strength.”
“You’ll have tanks. That always makes it better, right?”
“But what if it doesn’t?”
He’s genuinely asking me this now, a strange expression on his face, like my uninformed observations might actually make things better for him. Behind the counter, the waiter’s spiteful gaze bores into me. But I can’t care about either of them. I can’t care how some local boy feels about my conversation partner, and I certainly can’t care about this Safire boy’s fear. I can’t even think about it. Not when there’s a worse war to avoid, something so much larger than this one solitary soldier sitting here at this one solitary counter, lonely and trying to prove himself, trying to make me the last nice thing he has in his arms before his youth is dead forever.
“You’ll be fine,” I lie. “It won’t be so bad. I promise.”
I don’t tell him the way he’ll look when he returns. I don’t tell him that he’s going to die either way, in body or in spirit, like the rest of the bitter, burnt-out soldiers roaming this town, and he’s already guilty. For putting on this uniform, for choosing to come here. Like the one I once loved—in that other life, far away—who I believed was too bright and too wonderful in the sky to be touched. A simple necklace still taunting around my neck, a beautiful noose, my anger and my desire forever at war.
I simply hurry out the door, refusing to look back.