Book: “Sky in the Deep” by Adrienne Young
Publishing Info: Wednesday Books, April 2018
Where Did I Get this Book: NetGalley
Book Description: 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.
Review: I immediately requested this book when I strayed upon it on NetGalley. For one, I live in Minnesota, so it’s almost obligatory that I read any YA novel about Vikings. But that aside, the Viking things alone would be enough regardless of geography simply because it sounded like a breath of fresh air. I mean, I love fairytales and royalty fantasy fiction as much as the next person, but there’s been A LOT of those published recently. But a young woman Viking? Sign me up!
Eelyn is a warrior. Her father is a warrior, her brother was a warrior, before dying tragically several years ago, and her entire society is built around a strict rotation of warring and preparing to war with their rival clan, the Riki. But, as the book description above states, things go very wrong when she catches sight of her should-be dead brother battling against her clan alongside a fellow Riki warrior. Now, captured, alone, and surrounded by the enemy, Eelyn struggles to understand a brother she no longer knows and a people who seemingly frighteningly similar to her own.
The first thing I loved about this book was the author’s willingness to live in the world she built. Unlike other books, *cough*”The Cruel Prince”*cough*, Eelyn is a warrior and we SEE her fight. She kills people, and she doesn’t make apologies for it. This is her world, so why would she question these ways? Again and again, even as the battle lines move and the enemies change, we see Eelyn’s skills and why she is respected as a fighter. Further, there is never any mention of her gender playing any role in things. For one thing, she’s by no means unique for being a female warrior. Her best friend fights alongside her, and they have a practiced, methodical way of moving across a battlefield that only comes through much repetition and trust. So, too, in the Riki camp, women are just as likely to take up an axe or sword as the men. It was refreshing how free of comment this book was on this premise.
The action scenes in particular stood out. They are sprinkled throughout the story, successfully picking back up the pace just when things were on the verge of becoming a bit slow. The battles were also given a good amount of page time, with many details about the use of the land in strategy and the actual fights taking place. I was all over this, but it does mean you have to be a fan of battle scenes and sword/axe fighting to enjoy this book.
The storyline itself was fairly predictable. We all know going in that it’s going to be a pretty tried and true version of a main character learning that those she’s always hated might not be all that bad and oh look, here’s a convenient OTHER that they can both band up with against and she will be the point of connection between them. However, for all of that, I feel like the story was managed well and saved from too much predictability by the honest and challenging inner struggles that Eelyn goes through, particularly with her feelings towards a brother who she mourned but now finds alive and well, living with her enemy.
Eelyn is not a perfect person, and it is her imperfections that save what could have been a pretty typical story. Her anger, resentment, and prejudices do not go quickly or easily away. Even by the end of the book, it is still clear that she struggles to accept what her brother chose, and she is quick to understand and sympathize with her people’s distrust when she proposes banding together.
I did enjoy the romance as well, though it did progress a bit quickly for my taste. The book is fairly short, however, so this was maybe a bit unavoidable. What really made it was how free this plotline was from any grand romantic gestures or flowery, angsty prose. Fiske was an example of one of my more favorite romantic heroes: silent and steady. Between his solid presence, and the fact that most of the emotional stakes of the book were still tied up between Eelyn and her feelings towards her brother, the romantic plotline served as an understated but sweet portion of the book.
Again, given the shortness of the book, things did progress quite quickly throughout the entire story. I could have done with several more chapters of Eelyn’s time in the Riki village and a slower arc for her coming to understand these people. However, the writing was beautiful, particularly the descriptions of winter in the deep forest. And the action is appropriately violent and exciting. If you’re a fan of historical fiction and are looking for a quick, standalone read, I definitely recommend checking out “Sky in the Deep!”
Rating 7: A breath of fresh air in YA fiction, where the female warrior is appropriately badass and the action carries readers through what could be a slightly predictable story.
“Sky in the Deep” is a new title, so it isn’t on many relevant Goodreads list, but it is on “2018 YA Historical Fiction.”
Find “Sky in the Deep” at your library using WorldCat!