“Epic, musical and tender.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Ideal for those who love Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater.”—Laura Weymouth, The Vanishing Kingdom
Can’t You Hear It, Talia?
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 Ruen-Dahr, that Talia discovers family secrets, a melancholy boy who suffers from troubling visions of her future, and a mysterious jar of starlight. On these shores, the eerie melody of the sea is stronger than ever, unearthing long-buried tales of the Goddess Rahn. The more dark truths that she exposes about the gods’ history—and her own—the more the waves call to her, and it may be her destiny to answer.
Talia’s mother got better after that, in body, at least. Her fever broke. She smiled again. Her wrist even started to heal. But she seemed very far away. Talia thought Captain Oblaine would make her move back belowdecks, but he didn’t. The pity burned even darker in his eyes than before.
Because Talia’s mother wasn’t well. Not at all. She wandered about the ship, speaking nonsense, laughing for no reason, and standing straight as a pillar for hours on end as she stared into the sea. Watching, she said, always watching, or they would die.
The wind blew colder as the ship sailed further north. The sea grew choppy.
Talia spent her days with Hanid and the other men, learning how to work the lines and trim the sails, keeping them at the proper angle to the wind. If the sails were let out too far they flapped uselessly; if taken in too much they were equally ineffective. They required constant adjustment to keep the Lazy Jackal moving steadily on.
Hanid taught her how to understand the captain’s sea charts, and take readings with a compass or sightings of the sun and stars above the horizon with a sextant. She learned how to patch sails and tie knots. Hanid even persuaded Oblaine to let her take the ship’s wheel a few times. She got the feeling Hanid was trying to distract her and she welcomed it, throwing herself headlong into his lessons. She tried to force away her worry for her mother and the continual ache of homesickness by exhausting herself.
But she couldn’t shake her sense of dread. Every day the ship drew them further from Enduena and closer to Ryn. Every day her sense of foreboding intensified. What did Eda have in store for her there?
They had been three months at sea when another storm came, with little warning.
Hanid was teaching Talia how to tie a masthead knot, and an icy wind tore suddenly across the deck, ripping her hair from its braid. A wave crashed over the rail. She jerked her eyes up to see black clouds knotting tight across the sun.
They broke all at once.
“All hands!” came Captain Oblaine’s sudden cry from farther down the deck. “All hands!”
Alarm bells clanged, and sailors shot up the riggings to furl the sails.
Hanid squeezed her arm. “With me.”
A bolt of worry for her mother tore through her, but there wasn’t time to think.
She and Hanid fought together through the raging wind and up the rigging to the fore topmast. They crawled out horizontally onto opposite sides of the topsail, clinging to the lines as they went. The rain nearly blinded her, bits of ice stinging her face and hands. Talia grabbed for the bottom of the sail and nearly lost her grip on the rigging. She gulped for breath and reached again. This time her fingers found the canvas. She pulled it up to the yard and scrambled to tie it in place, her hands so stiff and cold she could barely manage the slipknot. But she did, at last, and scooted backwards to the mast, then down the rigging.
Hanid was already on deck again. “Many thanks!” he shouted to her above the storm. “Best get below now, m’lady.”
“I have to find my mother!”
“It isn’t safe!”
The ship lurched beneath them, the bow slanting nearly vertical into the ocean. Talia lost her footing and slid down the deck, choking on seawater, feet and hands scrambling for purchase.
She skidded toward the rail and barreled straight over as the ship jerked back up in the opposite direction. Somehow, she managed to grab the rail before the waves pulled the ship away. She screamed, forcing her fingers to hang on, struggling and failing to pull herself up. The sea grasped at her heels, yearning to drag her down into the depths. She thought she heard music.
And then: a strong hand was closing around her arm, hauling her over the rail, to safety. Hanid.
“GET BELOW!” he bellowed.
But she couldn’t. Her mother was alone in Captain Oblaine’s cabin or, gods forbid, somewhere on deck.
Lightning split the sky in half, and the answering thunder seemed to crack directly over her head. The wind lashed ice at her face and it was so cold she could barely move. But she bent her head into the wind and doggedly clawed her way toward the great cabin, sickeningly certain she was already too late.
Ten steps. Eight. Another wave crashed over the ship, knocking Talia to her knees. Her hands grasped the deck. She pulled herself forward, crawling across the sea-drenched wood as wave after wave broke over her.
And then suddenly she’d made it, was grasping the handle of the cabin door, pulling herself to her feet. She shoved the door open, and fell into the room.
She wrested it shut again, and turned to see her mother sitting calmly at the table. She was absurdly drinking tea, steam curling up from the spout of a cracked earthenware pot, while the green glass lantern burned bright overhead
Outside, the storm raged and the world wheeled. Here, everything seemed impossibly still.
Her mother raised the cup to her lips and drank, watching Talia with dark eyes. “I told you she was angry. She will never let us go.”
Lightning flashed outside the windows.
“What do you mean?”
Her mother looked at Talia, her face wracked with impossible sadness. “It’s because of what happened in the story I wrote down for you, the story of the youngest Wave. How could you forget?”
“Forgive me, Mama. I’m afraid I lost your paper. Won’t you tell it to me now?”
Her mother rose from her chair and turned to look out over the raging sea. Tears dripped down her cheeks. She unlatched the window, rain lashing her face and her hair.
“Mama, come away from the window!”
But her mother opened it further, and stepped onto the sill. She teetered there precariously, the wind ripping through her purple skirt, waves and rain drenching her. “Listen, Talia, can’t you hear it?”
“Get down from there!” Talia sprang around the table, but another wave slammed into the ship and knocked her to the floor.
“The Waves are singing!”
“Mama, what are you doing?” She scrabbled to get up again, the ship tilting and lurching beneath her.
Her mother looked back, a brilliant, dazzling smile touching her lips. “My darling girl. I’m saving you.”
She turned once more to the sea, which lay roaring and black beyond the ship.
And then she jumped.
“Mama!” Talia screamed, leaping toward the window, lunging to grab her hand.
For an instant, she saw the silhouette of her mother against the storm—the edge of her dress, the tip of her shoe.
Talia reached, screaming, but her fingers grasped emptiness.
Her mother spiraled away into the darkness, the hem of her purple gown just out of reach.
(Excerpted from BENEATH THE HAUNTING SEA © Copyright 2018 by Joanna Ruth Meyer. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.)
JOANNA MEYER lives in Mesa, Arizona with her dear husband and a rascally feline named Bertie. When she’s not writing, she’s trying to convince her piano students that Bach is actually awesome, or plotting her escape from the desert. She loves good music, thick books, loose leaf tea, rainstorms, and staring out of windows. She aspires to own an old Victorian house with creaky wooden floors and a tower (for writing in, of course!). Visit her at gamwyn.blogspot.com and follow her on Twitter @gamwyn.
Visit the other stops on the Tour!
December 21: Fantasy Book Critic
December 22: Brittany’s Book Rambles
December 27: SFFWorld
December 28: Short & Sweet Reviews
December 29: SciFiChick
December 27: SFFWorld
December 28: Short & Sweet Reviews
December 29: SciFiChick