ARC Review: “Southern Sun, Northern Star” by Joanna Hathaway

A huge thank you to TorTeen for giving me a free digital copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Content warnings: war, death, blood, violence, suicidal ideation, PTSD

If you missed my review of the first two books, you can check them out here:

Seeing as this is the final book in the series, this review will most likely contain spoilers. Please read at your own risk.

All quotes are taken from the digital ARC and may change in the finished, final copy.

Title: Southern Sun, Northern Star (Glass Alliance #3)
Author: Joanna Hathaway
Publisher: TorTeen
Expected release date: April 20, 2021
Genre: Young adult, fantasy, romance
Length: 432 pages (hardcover)
Synopsis: (via Goodreads) “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 old still think this is their war… They think they can hold us back with fear, but this isn’t their war any longer–it’s ours. The world will be what we make it, not them.”

Oh man, what a ride! I know this is a book about war, and I can’t imagine living through it the way Ali and Athan did but gosh, this book was hard to read. It was emotionally heavy, and for our main characters, it’s mentally and physically heavy as well. But boy, does Hathaway know how to spin a tale and to keep our hearts on edge. I absolutely adored how this book was a bit like a magnifying lens in current and past wars from every country and just how devastating it can be for everyone, whether you’re winning or losing or just caught in between. There is no mercy and no difference to some. I found Hathaway did a good job balancing the “heavy” with “light.” Despite all things, we do see hope, however little and fragile it may be. We think there may be no reckoning for Ali or Athan, but ultimately we see everything they’ve done is simply to survive, and that, I think, is the strongest thing to do. In Southern Sun, Northern Star, we’re taken all over this fantasy world, see how everything is suffering, whether they’re involved in the war or not. The war itself is something that had been brewing–unbeknownst to some–for centuries.

While I was shocked by the ending of Storm from the East, I was curious to see how those particular events would come into play in SSNS, especially with the General. Lo and behold when the real reason Sinora and the General are at each other’s throats is revealed. I thought, “How genius and wild for Hathaway to weave that in!” but also how cunning and clever is Sinora for doing what she did. I’ll admit I actually wanted to see more on-page scenes with the General, especially considering all that his children have done throughout this book.

I liked the way this book ended as well, given the circumstances. I’m glad we were able to see some characters stand up for what they believe in and how some admit what they’ve done is wrong. I also think Hathaway does a good job of exploring the whole “I was listening to my commanding officer/higher up/superior” while still showing the trauma, guilt, and internal struggle of this.

Just a note: We see the prologue of Dark of the West come full circle in that book, so if you were like me, wondering if that would happen, the answer is yes. (And if you’re wondering if the prologue in this book will hurt you, the answer is also yes.)

“How rotten to make death and sacrifice out to be noble, and a desire for life and love to be greedy. None of us should be dying. None of us should be killing. How rotten that the ones in power make us accept this reality, to be forced into these rules that should never exist.”

Oh, I knew these characters would suffer but how little did I know the emotional toll it would take. The prologue of the book really had to me worried as well! Right off the bat we see Hathaway use some of the characters as fodder (but that’s to be expected, right?) and dang, I was quite sad about it. It felt a bit like things were finally sinking in, especially for both Ali and Athan. Almost like what they thought they could keep at bay or seemed far away is now true and real and painful.

I will say one of the most surprising things was how I felt about Arrin Dakar. Truthfully I really disliked him in the first two books, and I figured I’d continue in that way. But to be honest… My feelings changed. He is a product of what his father made him, and that’s the truth in a sense with both Kalt and Athan as well, despite how much the latter two wanted to fight that. These three sons, and even Leannya, never truly had the chance to be children. We see the nearly carefree attitude of Athan break down ever so slowly until he becomes a shell. There is still love between these siblings and that’s reflected more in this final book. My favorite person to come out of this book is Leannya and damn, does she deserve all the credit for what she’s done. How clever of her as well.

Ali seems like a completely different person. I don’t mean that in a bad way; she’s simply had no other choice. She is a survivor, and in a war like this, you have to be one, you have to keep moving and reaching. And Ali really has her world turned upside down completely. She is still a royal, but she looks at them with near disdain now, especially her brother, Reni. There’s an excellent quote that really encompasses this when Ali sees Reni after at least a year.

“Claiming to be doing the right thing while feasting with the wicked. While having no idea how close to death the rest of have truly been, fighting to stay strong in a world that doesn’t want to know us.”

Hathaway writes an amazing story. I loved the contrast between Ali and Athan, and how essentially they want the same thing but achieved it in different ways. When you look at Book 1, you may wonder how in the world we got where we are. Hathaway throws punches and does a great job really examining the effects, and ultimately the precious cost, of war. I was really invested in the story despite the fact that I had to read something a little lighter; I think it’s because I mainly feared the worst for everyone, and wondered if Hathaway would really end things…devastatingly sad. Yes, there were times that I cried, especially those last 15 pages or so. When that happens I know this is a story that will stick with me.

“War doesn’t give us right and wrong. It gives us simply war, and on the other side of that, some will be free, and some will be alone. Some of us will work to do better, and some will pay for their crimes, but none of it will ever bring back the lives lost.”

There’s still time to pre-order a signed copy from Red Ballon Bookshop. You can find out more information from Joanna’s IG post and how to submit your receipt for some pre-order goodies (goodies are even available for international readers). Or you can always pre-order from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Book Depository, or Bookshop.org.

Check out these other reviews:

  • Yolanda at Past Midnight also rated this book 4 stars!
  • Michelle at Magical Reads did a gorgeous aesthetic of SSNS and I’m dying!!

One thought on “ARC Review: “Southern Sun, Northern Star” by Joanna Hathaway

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