“We find things, just as we lose things. If you’ve lost your honor, you’ll find it again.”
– Adrienne Young
Raised to be a warrior, seventeen-year-old Eelyn fights alongside her Aska clansmen in an ancient rivalry against the Riki clan. Her life is brutal but simple: fight and survive. Until the day she sees the impossible on the battlefield—her brother, fighting with the enemy—the brother she watched die five years ago.
Faced with her brother’s betrayal, she must survive the winter in the mountains with the Riki, in a village where every neighbor is an enemy, every battle scar possibly one she delivered. But when the Riki village is raided by a ruthless clan thought to be a legend, Eelyn is even more desperate to get back to her beloved family.
She is given no choice but to trust Fiske, her brother’s friend, who sees her as a threat. They must do the impossible: unite the clans to fight together, or risk being slaughtered one by one. Driven by a love for her clan and her growing love for Fiske, Eelyn must confront her own definition of loyalty and family while daring to put her faith in the people she’s spent her life hating.
Viking fantasy isn’t something you see a lot of, so when I learned of Sky in the Deep I was intrigued. I immediately went to Goodreads and looked up reviews on the book to see if it was worth adding to my mile long TBR list. This was my first mistake. People either loved this book or absolutely hated it. The most popular review was one that was actually quite mean, but sounded like it had some good points. Although I had received an eARC of the companion novel, The Girl the Sea Gave Back, I decided I’d read that one first and then see if maybe I wanted to circle back to Sky in the Deep. This was mistake number two. I disliked this book to the point of it being a two star review. I decided Young just wasn’t the author for me.
Fast forward a few months and I actually got to meet Adrienne Young at a Stephanie Garber book signing in Roseville. It turns out that Young is a local author and part of a group of authors in the area that are good friends and support one another, which I thought was just so cool. Why does this matter? Because after meeting her and seeing for myself how nice, supportive and down right kick-a** she was, I decided I needed to give Sky in the Deep the chance it deserved. No regrets. This book easily slid into my Top 5 Favorite books right behind The Night Circus but before Six of Crows for reference. Sky in the Deep is such a fresh and unique story, comparable to no other YA book that I’ve read. It made me go back and reread The Girl The Sea Gave Back and let me tell you, while a companion novel, I feel like Sky in the Deep was needed to appreciate The Girl The Sea Gave Back. I still ended up only giving it 3 stars (find out why in my review), but I appreciated aspects of it more the second time around with a bit more background.
In Sky in the Deep we’re immediately thrust into a war of the Aska versus the Riki. These two clans have been warring for years at the behest of their gods who supposedly started this blind hatred. Every 5 years they meet on the battlefield to fight to the death in order to show respect to their respective gods.
➽ Aska – Worship the god Sigr, water and the sea
➽ Riki – Worship the god Thora, mountains and fire
Eelyn is part of the Aska clan where her father is chief. She lost her mother at a young age to the Herja and it was at the last battle five years ago that she saw her brother, Iri, fall off a cliff to his death while fighting the Riki. Or so she thought. When in the midst of battle she sees Iri. When she tries to explain to her father and others though they don’t believe her. The next time she sees him on the field she hesitates and it costs her. Eelyn is taken hostage by the Riki, made a slave to the family that Iri now calls his own. Not only does she have to face Iri’s betrayal, she now has to survive the winter with his new family and live in a village full of people who she and her clan have fought to kill. It makes for some awkward and downright viscous interactions.
There was so much action in this book. While the plot is character-driven versus action-driven there is always something happening. Eelyn is no doubt a strong warrior who is very much a product of her environment, but when taken captive as a slave by her own brother her physical strength doesn’t do her any good. We instead get to see this inner struggle and how she grows mentally and emotionally. She’s had this “honour above your own life” mindset of the Aska and has thought of the Riki as her enemy for her entire life. Those beliefs are tightly held and because of this betrayal by her brother end up being questioned. Eelyn gets to see how the Riki live and begins to realize that there may not be such a difference between the Riki and Asia clans as each were raised to believe. There just might be a common enemy between the two clans though.
With all the amazing writing and beautiful world-building, we also get quite the gang of characters. There were so many and I felt like we really got to know each and every one of them. Family was so important in this book, whether it was Eelyn and Iri’s Aska family or Iri’s Riki family. Blood is thicker than water, blood and honor above all. no matter how you phrase it people often believe that your blood related family should be held in the highest esteem. That’s what the Aska clans believes and thus what Eelyn initially believes as well. But then we get to see this belief challenged by Iri. He loves his Riki mother and brothers, they truly care for one another and act as a real family would. It’s a bit of a mash-up of other Riki can members who have known loss and come to Fiske and Iri’s family for care and assistance. Eelyn is shown how you can pick who your family is as long as there is no lack of love, trust and acceptance. I think that’s something important to take away from this book.
Other relationships play an important part to the plot as well (yes I’m talking about some slow-burn steamy romance). There was no insta-love to be found but instead my favorite hate to love troupe. Fiske and Eelyn instantly get on each others nerves with no love lost. They don’t trust one another and each can’t wait to be rid of the presence of the other. Sounds like the making of true love right? I loved their verbal sparring and watching them slowly start to develop that trust between each other. I’d like to think it was Halvard that brought out the best in each of them for the other to see. It’s easy to love and trust a child, so that mutual love that had for him made it easier to start to see that maybe they could find trust and more in each other. It was slow-burning and definitely a learning process between the two, but that just made it even better.
The ending was perfect and I don’t want to spoil it for anyone that hasn’t read it, but don’t be like me and put off reading Sky in the Deep. It a fun and fast-paced read that I never wanted to end. I’m glad we got to revisit this world in The Girl The Sea Gave Back and get some lingering questions I had answered. I definitely recommend reading SitD before TGTSGB so you get all the initial world-building and can appreciated Halvard and the mention of other characters a bit more. If there’s one thing I took away from this book it’s always read a book you’re interested in, don’t let others reviews dictate your TBR.