Today we're excited to spotlight Beneath the Haunting Sea by Joanna Ruth Meyer! Read on for more about Joanna and her book, plus an excerpt and a giveaway!
Meet Joanna Ruth Meyer!
Joanna Ruth Meyer is a writer of Young Adult fantasy. She lives with her dear husband and son in Arizona, where it never rains (or at least not often enough for her!). When she's not writing, she can be found teaching piano lessons, drinking copious amounts of tea, reading thick books, and dreaming of winter.
Can't you hear the waves singing?
Sixteen-year-old Talia was born to a life of certainty and luxury, destined to become Empress of half the world. But when an ambitious rival seizes power, she and her mother are banished to a nowhere province on the far edge of the Northern Sea.
It is here, in the drafty halls of the Ruen-Dahr, that Talia discovers family secrets, a melancholy boy with a troubling vision of her future, and a relic that holds the power of an ancient Star. On these shores, the eerie melody of the sea is stronger than ever, revealing long-forgotten tales of the Goddess Rahn. The more dark truths that Talia unravels about the gods' history--and her own--the more the waves call to her, and it may be her destiny to answer.
Talia woke in a cramped bunk to the motion of the ship beneath her, sunlight slanting in through the porthole. The quarters she shared with her mother were hardly bigger than the prison cell back in Eddenahr—nothing but two narrow bunks, opposite each other with a scant bit of floor between, and a chipped porcelain chamber pot shoved up against the wall. There wasn’t room for luggage, even if they’d had any.
She lay quiet for a few minutes, listening to the creak of wood and the grasping waves, hoping her mother would be back to her normal self after a good night’s sleep. She glimpsed sky and sea through the porthole, merging on the horizon into an endless stretch of gray.
There was a knock at the door and she slipped from her bunk to answer it. An older Enduenan sailor with silvering hair smiled at her over the bucket of water and slab of soap he carried.
“Captain thought you and your mother would like a wash, and something clean to change into. This was all we could scrounge up, I fear.” He nodded at the assortment of clothes draped over one arm. “I’m Hanid, first mate.”
His friendliness cheered her. “Thank you, Hanid.”
“Sure thing, Miss.” He set the bucket on the floor, and handed her the soap and the bundle of clothes. “Let me know if there’s anything else I can do for you.”
And then he ducked back out of the cabin.
Her mother stirred and climbed out of her bunk, looking bewildered. “Where are we?” Her voice was rough with sleep.
“On a ship, headed to Ryn, Mama. Don’t you remember?” Her mother gave her a vacant smile. “Of course I remember.”
They washed awkwardly in the tiny space between the bunks, scrubbing away as much dirt as possible and drying off with empty flour sacks. It was a far cry from Talia’s private marble bath back in Eddenahr, with its perfumed hair oils and stone-warmed towels, but it was definitely better than nothing.
When she was finished, Talia cinched a sash around a pair of too-big trousers, and slipped into a shapeless blue shirt that had clearly seen better days—though at least it was clean. She thought about her wardrobe in the palace, filled to the brim with gowns and sashes and elegant shoes. Already, it seemed so far away it might as well have been a dream.
Talia helped her mother button up the back of a garish purple dress that must have come from Ryn, or perhaps Od, with its dropped waist and full, burdensome skirt. No Enduenan courtier would have been caught dead in it, but somehow it seemed to suit her. No matter where she was or what she wore, her mother would always look like a queen.
Hanid had thoughtfully tucked a few combs into the pile of clothes, and the two of them worked the knots from their hair when they’d dressed. Talia braided her hair into a single plait down her back, while her mother wound hers into a shiny black coronet on the top of her head, fastening it with pins that had miraculously made the journey from Eddenahr.
That’s all they had to their name now. A handful of hairpins.
“What happened to you after my party?”
Weariness dragged on her mother’s face. “Guards shoved me into a carriage. I was given water, once or twice, but nothing else. I’ve been on the ship since yesterday morning, not knowing what became of you. The Captain gave me food, but I wasn’t hungry.”
“Mama, you have to eat something! You’re in shock.”
“All my hopes for you—for your future. Gone forever.” Her voice cracked.
For a moment, Talia imagined herself in Eda’s place—Empress of Enduena, a lifetime of luxury, arranging the world to align with her every desire. But that’s not what she really wanted.
She wanted her father to be alive and well again; she wanted to inherit Irsa, like she’d always planned. To visit Od with Ayah one day, and see all the things her friend described in such wistful detail. Maybe marry, maybe not, so long as the choice was hers.
But that future had vanished the moment she sat down for breakfast with the emperor. That future had never truly existed.
Talia clenched her jaw. “We’ll carve out a new life together on Ryn. You’ll see.”
Her mother stared out through the porthole, a crease in her forehead that Talia did not remember seeing before. “We shouldn’t be here. We should never have set foot on this ship. The sea listens. The sea knows.”
“The sea is just the sea, Mama.” Talia took her arm, tugging her gently away from the porthole. “Come on. Let’s find some breakfast.”
They ate belowdecks in the crew’s mess, nothing more than another small cabin crammed with a rough oak table and a pair of sagging benches. There wasn’t even a porthole here, which made Talia unaccountably anxious—she didn’t like being shut away from the sunlight and the sea. The cook, a grumbling Odan with fierce black brows who looked as though he’d never smiled in his life, served them more tea and fish and biscuits. To Talia’s relief, her mother finished her whole plate and seemed to perk up a little.
Talia tugged her mother up from the bench when they were done, fighting off the feeling that the ship was squeezing all the breath from her body. The two of them climbed the narrow steps leading from the hold up to the main deck, Talia shoving open the hatch at the top. Sunlight hit her full in the face, and the sea air assailed her senses: salt and fish and a wild tangy freedom that made her skin prick. She felt like she could breathe again. She tilted her head back, staring up at the main mast, canvas sails billowing full. Sailors scaled the rigging, hauling lines and shouting to each other. They looked like gangly spiders, climbing silk ropes up into the wind god’s domain.
Her mother laughed and rushed over to the port side rail. She had eyes only for the sea.
Talia followed at a slower pace, unconsciously adapting her stride to the continual rolling of the ship. She stood beside her mother, curling her hands around the wooden railing as she stared out into the fathomless waves. They stretched forever into the horizon, all blue and green and gray, glinting gold where the sunlight touched them. A longing she didn’t have a name for rushed up to swallow her. She felt full for the first time in her life, though she’d never known she was empty.
“Have you ever seen the sea before, Mama?”
Her mother was leaning her elbows on the railing, the wind teasing strands of hair loose from her braids. “When I was a little girl, my father took me to the port in Evalla. I wanted to stay forever, but we had to go home again and I thought it would break my heart.”
The ship crested a wave and water splashed up over the rail, sending a thrill down Talia’s spine as it drenched her to the bone.
Seawater dripped from her mother’s chin. “I felt something then, calling out to me. It’s even stronger now.” She peered at Talia, an odd light in her eyes. “The waves are singing. Can’t you hear it?”
Talia looked back out over the water, and for an instant she imagined she could hear something, the haunted thread of an otherworldly music. But then she shook her head and it was gone again. “It’s just the wind, Mama.”
Her mother didn’t seem to be listening, a secret smile on her lips. She shut her eyes and started humming.
Talia glanced uneasily between the sea and her mother. “Why don’t we explore the rest of the ship?”
“Go ahead, dearest. I’ll stay here. I need to understand what the sea is telling me.” “It’s not telling you anything.”
Her mother shrugged, the funny little smile back again. “You could hear it too, if you listen.”
“Mama, there’s nothing to hear!” She was beginning to fear that five days shut in a carriage with no food had addled her mother’s wits.
“Just listen. Just listen.” She started humming again.
Talia turned from the rail and strode away. She refused to think that her mother’s strange melody was the very echo of the music she imagined hearing in her head.
She paced the main deck, watching the sailors hauling lines to adjust the sails, counting the bells that marked out watches every half hour. She scrambled up onto the smaller deck at the rear of the ship that formed the roof of the great cabin—she heard one of the sailors refer to it as the ‘poop deck’.
The ship rolled beneath her, wood creaked, and lines snapped. A few of the sailors started singing, and their rough-sweet voices mingled perfectly with the wind and waves.
Excerpted from BENEATH THE HAUNTING SEA © Copyright 2018 by Joanna Ruth Meyer. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.
Beneath the Haunting Sea
By: Joanna Ruth Meyer
Release Date: January 9, 2018
One winner will receive a copy of Beneath the Haunting Sea (US only).