Sky in the Deep: Review
Have you ever thought to yourself, "Man, I wish there was a standalone YA novel about Vikings. With a BAMF female warrior protagonist?" Well, friends and followers, you're in luck! Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young is all that and more. It is an extremely satisfying read that left me emotionally invested in the story and its characters, with the brutality and raw action of the battlefield.
I received an e-galley from St. Martin's Press through Netgalley for an honest review. All opinions are my own. Note: Quotes are taken from an unfinished copy of the book and are subject to change at publication.
OND ELDR. BREATHE FIRE.
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.
The entire book is told through Eelyn's first-person perspective and Sky in the Deep immediately starts off in the midst of a battle. Typically, I hate when books throw me into a large event without any context because confusion is not a great feeling to start off with. However, the confusion quickly gave way into a heady, fast-paced action sequence filled with sword-swinging warriors and bloody bodies. We don't get battle scenes in every chapter of Sky in the Deep but the ones we do get are very rewarding. Young does not shy away from graphic depictions, which is a huge bonus for me- especially in a Young Adult novel- but can be a turnoff for others.
The pacing of this standalone novel is what makes it so successful, I think. While we are thrown headfirst into battle, the first half of the book is actually spent in domesticity and quiet. As the summary describes, Eelyn must learn to live among the Riki and that means going about doing mundane things, like picking herbs and stoking cooking fires. It's almost peaceful and a stark contrast to the battle between the Asha and Riki that we were first introduced to. Or at least, it would be peaceful if Eelyn didn't have murderous thoughts every other page. I don't fault her for her tenacity- it's what I love about her as a protagonist. She is an unabashed warrior, a fighter honed by numerous killings, with strong survival instincts. When the action picks up again and we brought to the story's climax, there is tremendous emotional payoff.
The relationships explored in Sky in the Deep are simple, but potent. A sister and her blood brother. A woman and a man whose clansmen she had sworn to kill. A warrior and her god. A prisoner and her captor. Eelyn, as a character, is explored through her relationships to various characters and given dimensionality in how she forges these bonds. I found myself getting emotional during several scenes in the Riki village and that's usually so difficult to achieve in standalone novels because of how little time there is to develop primary and secondary characters!
I rate Sky in the Deep 5/5 stars.
Sky in the Deep releases on April 24th, 2018 and you can pre-order your copy now!