*I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and do not represent the publisher or author.*
I was thrilled when I received the ARC of this book because it was one of my most anticipated young adult reads for April! The cover is GORGEOUS (it was what drew me to the book in the first place) and I love historical fiction, especially ancient historical fiction! My expectations were very high….
Eelyn, a seventeen-year-old warrior fights alongside her Aska clansmen in an ancient rivalry against the Riki clan. Her life is brutal but simple: fight and survive. But when she sees her dead brother alive and fighting one day on the battlefield, on the side of her enemy, she is so hurt with betrayal that she is captured by the Riki and forced to survive the winter in the mountains where every neighbor is an enemy.
But there is another clan, so ruthless they are thought to be legend. They raid the Riki village, and Eelyn is given no choice but to trust Fiske, her brother’s friend, who sees her only as a threat, as they strive to do the impossible: unite the clans to fight together, or risk being slaughtered one by one.
1) The World
From the first page, we are thrown into the world of the vikings… or, at least, a viking-esque world. I am not an expert on vikings, but I know enough to appreciate the author’s research; the detail that went into describing the Riki village and the chores Eelyn and Inge do around the house, as well as their elaborate religious rituals… everything is so grounded in the time of the vikings. However, because the story is so heavily focused on the age-old rivalry between the two clans, we do not see any of the tropes typically found in other viking stories (ie. the sailing and the raiding of the English, etc.), and the fact that the two clans are completely fictional only furthers the feeling that this book lies somewhere on the border between historical fiction and fantasy – which just so happens to be my favourite type of fiction (The Conqueror’s Saga by Kristen White is MY ALL TIME FAVE!). But, I think that the main reason why the detailed descriptions of the everyday worked so well was because of…
2) The Plain, Get-To-The-Point Writing
I know this doesn’t sound like it should be a positive aspect of the book, but if it weren’t for the bluntness and quick flow of the writing style, this book would be very slow to get through. There are large sections of the book where not a lot happens, but the chapters are short and well structured which makes it feel as though you are flying through the book. I also think the overall narrative arc was very tight and nicely structured, and this laid everything out on the table in the opening chapters so that you knew what to expect without it being so predictable that it was unenjoyable.
3) Character Driven
What took me the most by surprise whilst reading the opening chapters, was that it was very obvious that this book would be a character driven story. I loved the just how important family is in this book – and not just biological families, but chosen families. At its heart, it is a story about love trumping hate. Every character, at some stage of the story, is put in a position where they must try to understand or try to forgive someone who is different to them, and this is probably the strongest thread in the entire book because it gave it some really heartwarming moments and quotable lines. Not a single relationship was toxic or abusive – female friendship triumphs in this book – and this was refreshing to see (especially in the YA genre) because they still had their struggles, but were able to understand and overcome them. This was honestly the highlight of the book for me.
1) Where is the spark?
To me, the biggest downfall of this book was that it missed that extra umph. There was nothing about the story that made me truly heartbroken, or extremely happy, or biting my nails with suspense. Instead of being a rollercoaster of emotions, it was more like a slow and steady stream, just trickling along. Yes, it was a beautiful stream, but it was just a stream in a world full of them. Don’t get me wrong, I really did enjoy this book, but the characters felt as though they were all given the same personality. There was nothing really distinguishable about any of them, and it made me feel a little detached from their story because there was nothing I could grab onto or relate to. The romance wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t exactly breathtaking either, and though the characters live in a brutal world, nothing really brutal or traumatic happens to them (and in the one scene where something big does happen, it is an attempted rape scene). The majority of this book was a whole lot of telling instead of showing, and while the writing came in handy with making it a quick read, it just didn’t allow me to be overly invested in any of the characters. That being said, even from my detached, observational position, I could still appreciate the story and the messages.
I gave Sky In The Deep by Adrienne Young…
Three and a half stars feels like the perfect rating for this book. It was well crafted, thoughtful, beautifully captured in a detailed world, and had great representations of the different kinds of love and the importance of understanding those who are different from you. The only thing preventing me from giving it a full four stars was that everything about this story felt very safe – as in it didn’t push the boundaries, or try to ensnare the reader with gripping characters or an intricate plot. I still would definitely recommend this book to all readers of YA, as it reads not just like historical fiction, but fantasy too.
Thanks for reading! Let me know what you thought about this review or this book in the comments! 🙂