Published by Wednesday Books on April 24th 2018
Source: Publisher, Netgalley
Genres: Action & Adventure, Historical, Fantasy, Young Adult, Romance, War & Military
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Seventeen-year-old Eelyn’s world is war. Raised to fight alongside her Aska clansmen in a generations-old blood feud against the Riki, 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 if she wants to make it back to the fjord after the thaw. But when she begins to see herself in the people she's been taught to hate, the world Eelyn once knew begins to crumble. And after the village is raided by a ruthless clan many believe to be a myth, Eelyn is given no choice but to trust Fiske, her brother’s friend who has tried more than once to kill her. Together, they must end the blood feud between their clans or watch their people be slaughtered.
A lush, Viking-age inspired fantasy about loyalty, forgiveness, and the definition of family.
I was beyond prepared for this book, from its dazzling cover to the tremendous praise it got from well-known authors. While I really enjoyed Sky in the Deep, it reads more of a lighter YA fantasy than anything. It’s very easy to get swept up with the characters’ emotions, and the heavy focus on family is really refreshing. The story, with its light world-building and loose plot, is very character-orientated as we explore the growth of Eelyn and eventually fall in love with all the characters. It’s a very fun debut, and no doubt one that fantasy readers will easily love!
The story begins with war. While the writing may seem clunky at first, once I got into the flow it became easier to follow. Eelyn, who tells this story from her first person POV, is a warrior in the Aska clan and grew up learning to hate and fight the Riki clan. The rivalry between these clans is steeped in legends of the respective gods they worship, Thora for the Riki and Sigr for the Aska, and how their battle carried on with their people. Every five years they meet to fight to the death, and in between these battle years they survive and prepare for more war. While I’m not familiar with the history of Vikings, which this book is inspired by, the simplicity of the whole antagony between the two clans was confounding at first. But it also brought for an easy-to-follow plot that lent its focus more to characters, so I ultimately didn’t mind it.
Our hatred of the Riki was written onto our bones. Breathed into us by Sigr. What had started as a quarrel between the gods turned into the hunger for revenge – a blood feud. Every five years, we lost those we loved.
In the first couple of chapters, Eelyn finds her brother Iri fighting on the Riki side, against their clansmen. She’s hurt and confused, because she thought he died five years ago on the battlefield. However, she finds herself captured by the Riki when she tries to follow him and brought back to his Riki clan to serve. Her anger and feelings of betrayal were so easily to identify with in the beginning. I really felt my heart go towards Eelyn as she refused to understand why her brother would forsake his clan after a near-death experience, and treat the enemy like family. The more she spends time with the Riki, however, the more she opens her heart to them and realize that while different, they’re very much the same.
Because thinking we were the same made too many things possible. It made paths fork where they didn’t before. It was terrifying. ‘Are we still enemies? You and I?’
‘No.” He answered, simply.
This similarity is even more highlighted when the Riki and Aska fall because of a common enemy, the Hejia clansmen. Again, not much detail is given with this aspect of the plot. The major importance is the fact that Eelyn must somehow unite the Riki and Aska to fight against the Hejia despite their animosity towards each other. While the plot itself is really, very basic, and the world-building along the same lines, there is no denying the frosty atmosphere that Young successfully writes. Readers can feel the cold seep through their bones as the story follows Eelyn when the ice first forms and she’s taken away from her home beside the ocean to the mountains.
Eelyn is a very flawed warrior with grief in her heart and battle in her soul. But throughout the story, we can see her opening a bit more. She finds that her initial hatred towards the Riki may not be warranted as they have similar rituals as the Aska, and the evidence of love. I also really enjoyed the relationships and encounters she was with Riki and Aska alike. Her love towards her father was super heartwarming, and the torn relationship she has with her brother heartaching. She vacillates between wanting to love the brother she knew and hating the new one she sees. Despite it all, she can’t help liking the Riki family that brought him in.
The romance that develops is good because of its subtly. In fact, more romance-orientated readers may probably want for more, but I thought that the light development was very fitting for the action and emotion of the story. It is evident in the last three-fourths of the story and woven easily with the rest of the plot rather than seen as a hindrance, despite the forbidden romance bent it takes. It also seems quite natural with the way the story progresses and how the characters grow, so I for one am quite satisfied with that front.
I wouldn’t quite call the world-building lacking, but rather unnecessary to the story. The progression of the character development really made the day, even while the simple plot kept the action going. I really enjoyed Eelyn’s character and am very happy that this is a stand-alone, with a conclusive ending that could leave room for more. (In fact, there’s a companion sequel coming in 2019, and I have a guess on whose book it is!) Overall, Sky in the Deep is about the love of family, and the love of people beyond blood relationship. You don’t need to be someone’s brother or sister to know how to love them as one. There was fantastic action, incredible characters that you really grow to love, and heartfelt relationships that make Sky in the Deep a hit. Fantasy readers must definitely pick up this historical fantasy!
We were warriors. And she was willing to fight for me the way I was willing to fight for her. Nothing would ever change that.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Content Warning: abuse, animal death, heavy violence, torture – please be aware before reading!
Thank you MacMillan and Netgalley for the review copy!