Title: Northern Lights, Southern Stars
Author: C.S. Johnson
Genre: Fiction/ Fantasy/ YA/ Fairytale
Favourite Quote: ‘I see the starlight in his eyes, and I wonder if he sees the Northern Lights in mine’
*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley.*
Ebony, the dark-skinned princess from the kingdom of Marula, has been living in her stepmother’s kingdom of Pommier for half her life, but it was only when her father died four years ago that she was gradually forced into royal servitude by the queen in the only place she could call home. Determined to keep her head held high with close friends by her side, Ebony can’t help but feel relief when her childhood friend prince Rion returns home once again. Even with the amount of time that has passed, she cannot deny the feelings she has for him were just as strong since they last saw each other.
Rion has been living in the kingdom of Marula for the past four years as regent, helping to cleanse the war with the surrounding countries whilst becoming accustom to the kingdom that will one day be his. He is determined to travel back home to Pommier where he plans to ask princess Ebony to marry him, knowing his feelings for her have only become all the more clear over the years. When he finds that his own mother has taken it upon herself to make Ebony a lowly maid, as well as reduce the Maruli people of their status, he is determined to bring peace back to the kingdom with his future bride by his side, even if it means going against the queen herself.
If you haven’t already figured out from a majority of my reviews, I have a guilty pleasure for fairytale retellings. This is the first one I picked up for Snow White, but also I saw much of Cinderella in this one to make it an interesting blend. I also fell in love with the title for this one, based on small aspects of the story.
The story was great, you had all the elements to bring a fairytale to life; a princess who has been pushed into a maid’s position within her royal home after her father died, an evil stepmother who dabbles in dark magic and a desire to rule her kingdom with lies and deceit, a prince who is desperate to help our princess become who she is supposed to be as well as some wonderful friends to support her along the way. A typical Disney story.
There was a lot of interesting factors to the story that draw me in, you get to see ‘Snow White’s’ backstory and how Ebony was brought to her stepmother’s kingdom of Pommier from her home in Marula through an alliance to bring the north and south together. She grew up with the queen’s son, prince Rion who knew her better than anyone, their close connection allowing them to fall in love. That was one thing that I found slightly disturbing in the story – how Ebony’s prince was in fact her step-brother. But whatever. It was nice to see their love was strong and with a long history from the start to focus more on the story.
There was a lot of racial elements within the book that were sometimes uncomfortable, the people of Marula were dark-skinned, weren’t welcome within the kingdom after the death of the king and the majority were sold as slaves or sent back to Malura where the kingdom was at war with it’s neighbouring countries. Pommier’s people were white and were often reminded of being the stronger, more powerful country. They made sure the Maruli were separated in society as well as status within Pommier, which made it all the more inspiring when the prince chose Ebony as his princess against the queen’s wishes.
The characters were well told throughout the story, even with little build up. After her father died, the queen pushed at Ebony’s princess status little by little until she was reduced to a maid’s role within the castle out of spite and cruelty. Her spirit was crushed along with any hope to see her home kingdom again, the queen being a constant reminder that her princess status was simply a titled name and nothing more. Her temperament didn’t change much throughout the story but I quite liked that, she didn’t need to change too much for the story to work. She was strong in her own way, taking the insults from the queen and still able to sing her way through life. Ebony knew her feelings for Rion were real but she also wasn’t blind to her new position and reality of what could be between them.
‘I’ve never known what it was like to have true power.
To me, the idea of power was as elusive as catching starlight.
I can hold my hand up to the night sky, watching as the darkness turns my skin into its full shadow. My fingers curl around the bright burning lights high in the sky, but as I try to pull it toward me, the warmth in my palm diminishes, and the last of my self-indulgent mirage disappears.’
Rion was a lovely addition, especially since we had his point of view throughout the story alongside of Ebonys. You get to see his strength in running the kingdom of Malura as regent, his desire to help the kingdom and stop the war with the neighbouring countries is pleasing. His love for Ebony is apparent instantly which is sweet and endearing when you can see when he gets nervous and excited to see her. His inability to see through his mother’s schemes was disappointing at times but it put further truth to his character that he was able to see kindness in everyone.
The additional characters are great and all individually unique from Viola, Ebony’s speciavo magically trapped in a mirror, Damaris another maid within the castle that Ebony befriends, the Bonpette family who take her in when she needs a place to hide from the queen, not to mention the queen herself with her dark insecurities. You almost feel sorry for her knowing how lonely and isolated she is in her position. Even her own husband didn’t want her. It’s no question as to why she became the person she did with the little things she had left to make her happy. It was interesting to see her own point of view throughout the story too.
Known as the dark-skinned princess from the Southern Colonies—formerly the kingdom of Marula—Ebony is no stranger to hardship and loneliness.
Forced into royal servitude after the death of her father, Ebony resolved to keep her head held high despite her sorrow—no matter how much vitriol she endured from her stepmother, Varyes, Queen of Pommier.
As the Queen’s son, Prince Rion, helps to piece her broken heart back together with his love and kindness, Ebony begins to hope she will one day find a new home for herself. But when Queen Varyes loses the Southern Colonies to its warring neighbors, she strikes out for vengeance—and Ebony is her first target.
Can Ebony escape the savage wrath of her stepmother—even if her freedom means losing Prince Rion forever?