Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Publication Date: April 24, 2018
Rating: 5 stars
Source: eARC from NetGalley
Summary (from Goodreads):
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.
What I Liked:
Warning: this book is a new favorite of mine and there will be a lot of fangirling in this review. I can't guarantee everything will make sense or flow coherently but I can guarantee that it will be abundantly clear that I loved this book. So much.
Y'all, I don't even have the words. I don't know how to write this review. All I know is that I've just finished reading the book, after sitting down to start it several hours ago, and I want to shout to the world how much I enjoyed the story. This is one of those books that clicked with me as a reader instantly, and at no point did my enjoyment of and connection to the book let up. I'm sorry if I won't be very articulate in this review. I'm sorry I won't do this book justice. And I'm sorry for those that did not (or will not) enjoy the book. It's a new favorite of mine, and one that I'll be rereading and thinking about for a long time.
The story opens with immediate acting, in which Eelyn and her people (the Aska) are getting ready to face off with the enemies, the Riki. Eelyn and her friend Myra are fight side-by-side when Eelyn is thrown down and about to be killed by a Riki - when someone stops the Riki. Much to Eelyn's surprise, that someone is Eelyn's brother, who she watched die five years ago. It turns out that Iri is not dead, and has been living with the Riki for the last five years. When Eelyn, now badly injured, is taken by the Riki, she must learn to survive in the enemy's village until winter is over. But with the closing of winter comes the emergence of a stronger, common enemy of both the Riki and the Aska - the Herja. Eelyn may be the key to the union of the Aska and the Riki, which could lead to the survival of all against the Herja.
From the opening scene, this story was filled with action, constant nonstop battle and conflict. It isn't all bloodshed and war, though there is some of that and it is brutal. Even with Eelyn badly injured and taken as prisoner among the Riki, the flow of the story never slows down. I thought the pacing was really well-written, except maybe towards the last few chapters (things were a bit fast).
Eelyn is a strong, fierce warrior, though she isn't a heartless killing machine. Yes, she is a Viking warrior, but she is entirely human, with a loyal, noble heart. She loves her family and her people, and holds fast to her traditions and values, but even still, she begins to see how the Riki are just like the Aska. Eelyn's character growth is obvious; she is angry and bitter at first (and rightfully so), but her willingness to forgive creeps up on her. She was dealt a cruel hand and the Riki did badly by her at first, but she came out stronger, and she saw the truth of things.
I so wish this book could have also included Fiske's POV, like alternating third-person POVs or something. Fiske was an enigma a first - he seemed to be cold and driven and lacking in emotion. But all of his actions and decisions started to add up as we learned more about him as a man. He is a good person given difficult choices to make, and I can't fault him for what he did for his family, for Iri, for Eelyn. I adored Fiske. It took some page time for me to start to really like him, but I knew there was more than meets the eye. And hey, it took a lot more page time for Eelyn to like him. (And rightfully so. I'd hate him too at first, if I were her.) His redemption was sound though. He acknowledges his wrongs to Eelyn. This was so important and I'm glad the author made sure to write this into the story.
Eelyn's relationship with her brother is a tricky one. She is so angry with him for leaving the Aska even after he was healed by the Riki, for choosing to stay with the Riki, for never letting the Aska know that he was alright, for leaving her/forgetting about her. She tries so hard to harden herself against him; honestly I didn't really blame her at first, but I also slowly came to forgive Iri, just as Eelyn slowly came to forgive him. The author does such a good job of writing Eelyn's relationship and complicated feelings towards her brother. She is happy he is alive, but she is angry that he is alive (and living among the Riki, like family).
The story comes to a climax when the Aska and the Riki both are attacked by the Herja. A good solution? The Aska and Riki should join forces. The two clans have been rivals for a long time, but Eelyn and Fiske are willing to try to convince both clans to fight together.
There is romance, if you couldn't tell! It's a subtle romance between Fiske and Eelyn. There is no insta-love or insta-lust - and you'd see why, when you see how Fiske and Eelyn meet and what happens after that. Eelyn shouldn't have fallen for Fiske, but she did, and I get it. I see why. They are so similar, and they needed each other, and they grew to care about each other. I loved how subtle the growing feelings were - I expected the romance between Fiske and Eelyn, but I also love watching it bud very slowly. And hey, no love triangle! A good slow-burn, hate-to-love romance. Two of my favorite tropes when it comes to romance!
The ending is a really, really good ending, for the Aska and the Riki, for Eelyn and her people, for Fiske and Eelyn, for Iri and his new paths. I so respect Adrienne Young for ending the book the way she did - it's a good HEA. Don't get me wrong, everything isn't sunshine and rainbows in all things, but the author also didn't do something obnoxious and cruel to any of the characters. The ending is so positive and hopeful and I loved it.
What I Did Not Like:
Hmmm, I guess I wouldn't have minded more kissing? Fiske and Eelyn's chemistry was super subtle and didn't really start showing until more than halfway through the story - and for good reason (Eelyn was hurting and hating everyone, and rightfully so). But I would have loved to see a little more chemistry and tension between them, because I feel like they would have had such fiery chemistry. Their chemistry is simmering in a subtle way, which is cool, but there's nothing wrong with some good passion too. *wink*
Anyway that's not really a bad thing or a complaint, more of wishful thinking but HEY this book was excellent, don't mind me!
Would I Recommend It:
I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants an action-packed story with a tough but vulnerable heroine (i.e. a warrior who is also not a cold-hearted killing machine), a difficult brother-sister relationship, a smoldering hate-to-love romance, and a pact that could change the course of history for the two clans. This story is so powerful because it shows how two sets of people can seem so different but are really just like the other. I think any YA reader would enjoy this book, and it's a standalone so there's no waiting for additional books!
5 stars. This is the type of historical fantasy (or maybe just historical fiction - it's not always easy to classify Viking-based fiction) that I love and need more of. I love the kickbutt heroine who isn't perfect and isn't merciless, but is still fierce and tough. I love the kickbutt hero who makes difficult decisions to protect those he cares about, and whose selflessness is so underrated by those around him. I love the story of the Aska and the Riki coming together to survive. This book is a new favorite of mine, an instant preorder, a novel worthy of shelf space. I can't wait to read more by the author, unrelated or otherwise!
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