Hi everyone! Today I’m thrilled to welcome author Joanna Ruth Meyer to Pop! Goes The Reader as we share the exclusive cover reveal for Joanna’s sophomore novel, Echo North! Coming to a bookstore and library near you January 15th 2019 from Page Street Kids, Echo North tells the story of Echo Alkaev, whose strange and inexplicable bond with an enchanted wolf who scarred her as a child is explored when she agrees to live with said wolf for a year in order to save her father’s life. This intriguing fairytale re-telling has absolutely captured my attention, and I’m sure you’ll be just as excited to read Echo North as I am after you read the excerpt Joanna has generously agreed to share with us below. The cover of Echo North was illustrated by Sara Pollard. Please read on to learn more about Echo North, including a note from the author, an exclusive cover reveal and excerpt from the novel, and an opportunity for one lucky reader to win a signed advance reader copy of Echo North!
About 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.
Her debut novel, Beneath The Haunting Sea, released January 2018 from Page Street YA. Kirkus called it “Epic, musical, and tender.”
Hello, dear readers!
I am so thrilled to be partnering with Jen to share the cover of Echo North with you today!
Echo North is a retelling of the fairytale East of the Sun, West of the Moon, which, for those unfamiliar, is essentially Beauty and the Beast with a quest at the end. I’ve loved re-tellings ever since I stumbled upon Robin McKinley’s Beauty at the library when I was eleven or twelve, but I never really thought I would attempt one. The seed of Echo’s story came from a dream I had of a girl getting chased across a snowy landscape by a pack of wolves. When I sat down to brainstorm the idea, I realized it wanted to be an East of the Sun re-telling, and everything, if you’ll excuse the pun, snowballed from there. 😀 This might be the most Joanna-y novel I’ve ever written. Not only does it contain all the standards of books and music and tea, it has actual on-screen piano lessons and more snow than you would think is really necessary. Plus, a mysterious (swoony!) stranger, and a journey, all set in a world inspired by 19th-century Russia.
I had always imagined Echo’s cover would be some sort of variation of “girl in dress with snow”, so when my editor sent over the actual design, I was absolutely floored. The art is STUNNING, and all the little details are so thoughtful and intricate. I can’t get over how beautiful it is, and I hope you all love it as much as I do!
I was called Echo for my mother, who died when I was born, because when my father took me into his arms he said he felt the echo of her heartbeat within me.
My father didn’t blame me for my mother’s death, but he was often sad. He had me and my older brother Rodya to raise on his own. Two mouths to feed and no dark-haired laughing wife to come home to.
But he bore it all cheerfully. He gave me my freedom, and I loved both him and my brother fiercely. I was allowed to run barefoot in the summer, to tumble with the blacksmith’s hounds, to skip my classes if I wished and go fishing with Rodya in the lake.
Not that my father wanted me to be ignorant. He taught me patiently from his books when we were at home together every evening. He read to me and asked me questions and answered all my questions. I couldn’t have been happier. I’d never known my mother — my father and Rodya were my whole world.
And then my whole world shifted.
It happened the summer I was seven. Our village stood on the edge of a forest, and that year had been a particularly bad one for wolves attacking cattle and sheep in their fields. Old man Tinker had set traps all around the village, and my father told me to watch for them carefully. “Those traps could snap you in two, my darling, and what would I do without you?”
I promised him solemnly to take care.
But as I was coming back from picking wildflowers in the meadows, my embroidered skirts dirty about my knees, my kerchief forgotten somewhere amidst the waving grass, I heard a sharp, yelping scream — the sound of an animal in torment. I dropped my flowers, standing for an instant very still. The sound came again, and I ran toward it as quickly as I could.
Round the corner, caught fast in a steel trap that butted up against a fence post, was a huge white wolf.
I stared, frozen. For an instant, his pain forgotten, he stared back at me.
I could feel him, not just looking, but seeing me, as if he were searching out something deep inside my soul. I should have been terrified but I wasn’t. I felt drawn to him. Connected to him.
Then I glanced down and saw the blood staining his white fur where the trap had caught his back left leg.
I was brave. I was foolish.
I went to help him without another thought.
I knelt beside him in the dirt and touched him, gently, my small hand sinking into his white fur; it was the softest thing I had ever felt, softer even than the velvet cushion on my father’s favorite chair. I knew I was right to want to help the wolf. I was certain it was the most important thing in all the world.
I took a deep breath, grasped the jaws of the steel trap as firmly as I could, and pulled.
I couldn’t shift it. Not even an inch. All I managed to do was jostle the trap against the wolf’s wounded leg. He howled in pain and jerked away, a sudden whirl of claws and fur and snarling teeth. The trap was slippery with his blood and I dropped it back onto the ground. He lunged against the trap, desperate and screeching, but it held him, the metal jaws biting deeper and deeper, down to the bone.
The wolf grew more frantic with each passing second, and I started digging, tearing into the dirt around the stake and chain connected to those ugly metal jaws.
The stake loosened. The wolf gave one last desperate yank and pulled it free. For an instant, joy and triumph filled me up.
He leapt toward me in a blur of white, the trap and chain rattling behind him, and slammed into me with the force of an avalanche. Everything was all at once falling and fear, an impossible weight. Darkness.
And blinding, earth-shattering pain.
The weight lifted, but something wet and awful was smeared across my eyes and the world was distorted and bleared. It frightened me even more than the darkness had. Pain pulsed through me, lines of raging fire in my chest, my shoulders, my face.
Someone was screaming and I realized it was me.
I must have fainted, because when I opened my eyes again my father was kneeling over me, his form warped and strange. The light was fading orange and I could hear birds singing from the wood. I felt dizzy, and my face and chest were strangely numb. One of my eyes was swollen shut. Bits of rock and dirt had ground into my palms and behind my fingernails when I’d dug the stake from the ground — in that moment, it was the only pain I could feel.
“Let’s carry her inside,” I heard someone say. “She’ll be all right, Peter. She’s strong.”
Peter was my father. The other voice belonged to old man Tinker. He must have come to check his traps and found me there instead. I felt my father scoop me into his arms, and I passed out again.
The next time I tried to open my eyes there was only darkness, and something thick and suffocating pressed against my face. “Papa!” I screamed, “Papa!” I jerked upright and fell in a tangle to the floor and then my father was there, coaxing me back into bed, calming me down.
“Just bandages, little bird. We’ll take them off soon. Hush, now. All is well.”
I clung to him and he kissed me quietly on the forehead and sang me to sleep.
Later, I don’t know how much, they removed the bandage from my right eye. It gave me an oddly skewed view of the world, but it was better than no sight at all. We lived in a house back then, and I sat for many weeks in my room on the third floor, watching through my little square window as the world below turned from the green and gold of summer to the red-brown blush of autumn.
A host of doctors visited me, and I didn’t understand why. I crept downstairs and listened shamelessly outside the door to my father’s study while they talked about me. I heard things like “never fully heal” and “the cuts were too deep” and “infection” and “lucky if she isn’t blind.”
And then one day, as the first of the winter snows blew soft across our village, the doctor came to take the bandage off the left side of my face. My father watched intently as the doctor peeled the cloth away, and I held my breath and waited for it to be over. Horror and shock flashed across my father’s features, and for the first time, I realized what had happened to me might not be able to be undone.
“Cover your right eye,” the doctor instructed. “Can you see out of the left one?”
I lifted my hand and obeyed. The light was very bright, but I could see. I nodded.
The doctor let out a breath of relief.
My father shifted where he stood. The horror had left his expression, melding into a distance that unnerved me. “Is there anything you recommend for…” he trailed off, looking helplessly at the physician.
“Not unless God gives her new skin,” said the doctor. I think he meant it as a joke, but my father didn’t even smile.
I pushed past both of them and went out into the hall, padding to the room my mother had once shared with my father. She had a handsome mahogany vanity, with a mirror above. I stepped up to it and looked in.
Four angry, jagged lines ran down the left side of my face, from my forehead all the way to my chin — the marks from the wolf’s claws. My left eyelid was taut and scarred, my lips pulled up on one side.
I stared at my reflection, feeling dull and strange. I covered the right half of my face with one hand, studying the scars for a long while before switching to cover the left half and studying in turn the smooth, untouched skin.
Then I let my hand fall.
I heard my father’s step and turned to see him watching me from the doorway. “It isn’t so bad, little lamb. They will fade over time.” But sadness lingered in his eyes. He swept me into his arms and I clung to his neck, sobbing, while he stroked my hair and wept with me a while.
● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ●
My father owned and ran the bookshop in our tiny village. He was excessively proud of it: it had a green door and a brass knocker and a large shop window with carved wooden shutters. “It’s not a large living,” he always said, “but it’s enough.”
Peter Alkaev, Bookseller, was painted in bold red letters across the window. That was how I first learned to spell my last name.
The summer after the incident with the wolf my father sold our house, and he, my brother Rodya and I moved into the apartment over the shop. I had my own little room with a tiny circle window that looked out over the street, and all the books I could ever want.
My scars whitened as I got older — they didn’t fade. I learned very early that in the old tales of magic the wicked were always ugly and scarred, the good beautiful; I was not beautiful, but I wanted to be good, and after a while I couldn’t bear to read those stories anymore. The villagers avoided me. My fellow students crossed themselves when I walked by, or openly laughed at me. They said the Devil had claimed my face and would someday come back for the rest of me. They said he wouldn’t have marked me if I didn’t already belong to him. Once, I tried to eat lunch with a girl called Sara. She liked to read, same as me — she was always carrying around thick tomes of history or poetry or science, her nose permanently stuck between the pages. I thought that gave me the right to try and befriend her, but she spat in my face and pelted me with stones.
I was the monster in her story. She was the heroine.
I didn’t try again.
Once, I wandered into the apothecary and bought a jar of cream for two silver pennies, because the proprietor swore it would make the scars vanish completely by the end of the month.
It didn’t work, of course. Rodya found me crying in my bedroom and I told him what I’d done. He made jokes at the apothecary’s expense until I finally stopped crying and forced a smile for him, but I still felt like a fool. I buried the empty jar of cream in a little patch of earth behind the bookshop — it had been intended for a garden, but no one had ever planted anything there and it remained barren. I couldn’t bear to confess what I’d done to my father.
By the time I turned fifteen, I had read nearly every book in the shop, and my father hired me as his assistant. “Her face might frighten the Devil who formed her,” I overheard one of my father’s patrons say, “but damned if she doesn’t know every word of the classics and can be counted on to point a fellow to the right book, every time.” This was one of the kindest things they said about me. There were many more less kind.
I withdrew more and more, trying to lose myself in running the shop. I organized the shelves and reorganized them. I wrapped books in paper and string for customers, I wrote letters to the booksellers in the city, sending for rare volumes we didn’t have. I kept my father’s account books in order, and when business was slow, I went to our upstairs apartment and scoured the rooms clean, one by one.
I kept busy, attempted to convince myself I was content. But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t shove away my loneliness, couldn’t bury it in my mind like I’d buried the jar of cream in the dirt where there ought to have been a garden.
Title Echo North
Author Joanna Ruth Meyer
Pages 400 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre and Keywords Fantasy, Fairytale, Retelling
Publication Date January 15th 2019 by Page Street Kids
Find It On Goodreads ● Amazon.com ● Chapters ● The Book Depository
Echo Alkaev’s safe and carefully structured world falls apart when her father leaves for the city and mysteriously disappears. Believing he is lost forever, Echo is shocked to find him half-frozen in the winter forest six months later, guarded by a strange talking wolf — the same creature who attacked and scarred her as a child. To save her father, Echo agrees to live with the wolf for one year. But there’s more to the wolf than she realizes.
In his enchanted house beneath a mountain, something new, dark, and strange lies behind every door. Within these halls, Echo discovers centuries-old secrets, a magical library full of books-turned-mirrors, and a young man named Hal who is trapped inside of them. As the year ticks by, the rooms begin to disappear and Echo must solve the mystery of the wolf’s enchantment before her time is up — otherwise Echo, the wolf, and Hal will be lost forever.
As an extra, exciting bonus, Joanna has been kind enough to offer one lucky reader the opportunity to win a signed advance reader copy of Echo North! One winner will be chosen at random at the conclusion of the giveaway and the prize will be distributed by Joanna when ARCs become available. Please fill out the Rafflecopter form below to enter!