BWW Review: SKY IN THE DEEP by Adrienne Young
"'Why did you do it? Why did you save Iri's life?'
'Because we were dying. Because it was the end. And at the end, life becomes precious.'"
~SKY IN THE DEEP
There aren't a lot of fiction novels set during humanity's earliest days, especially in YA. The first, and perhaps only, to spring to mind are Julie Eshbaugh's excellent Ivory and Bone duology, set in prehistoric times and full of clans, sabertooth tigers, and wooly mammoths, and Lesley Livingston's THE VALIANT, set in the time of Julius Caesar and gladiators. With shows like The History Channel's Vikings and the BBC's The Last Kingdom (Based on the Saxon Chronicles by Bernard Cornwell) becoming wildly popular, the genre is starting to bring its A-game to the dinner table in the form of books. This month, readers are lucky to see the release of not one but TWO novels centered around vikings, BEYOND A DARKENED SHORE by Jessica Leake (available now!) and SKY IN THE DEEP by Adrienne Young (available tomorrow, 4/24!). Having read IVORY AND BONE and now SKY IN THE DEEP, I've discovered I'm really intrigued by historical fiction about our long-forgotten past and am now excited to read BEYOND A DARKENED SHORE, which adds some Norse mythology into its mix.
SKY IN THE DEEP is one that has had social media buzzing and received a lot of early praise; it comes out tomorrow and is definitely one to pick up the next time you're at a bookstore. I hesitate to call it a "fantasy" novel because there is no magic involved. It is a tale of clans at war, of love and loss, of family and hearth. Maybe it's fantasy in the fact that nobody can really know how Viking life really was, but it feels more "real' and though it's not "historical" either, I would say it leans more into this category than it does the former.
The book centers around the blood feud between the Aska and the Riki clans. Every five years, the two clans come together in deadly warfare in the name of their gods, also locked in eternal battle, Sigr and Thora. Eelyn has lost much to the Riki, including her mother and brother. When she sees her brother Iri on the battlefield, she is sure her mind is playing tricks on her. When she loses focuses and is captured by the Riki, she discovers that Iri is not only alive, but living amongst the enemy. The Riki Clan is now his clan. He has been adopted by a Riki family. He is in love with a Riki girl. Eelyn's heart breaks and the vision of her brother she has held dear for so long shatters. How can he betray the Aska so deeply? How can he betray the family, betray her? Eelyn wants nothing more than to return home, but winter has arrived and the journey is deadly. Forced to live and work amongst the Riki, she discovers that they aren't so different from her own clan, and that a battle far greater than anyone could have imagined might re-shape the entire world.
This is a book that's really hard to talk about without spoilers. I went into this one not knowing much about it, just that people whose opinions I trust when it comes to books had read and loved it. I don't read a lot of historical fiction and have never watched Vikings, but I did love Eshbaugh's Ivory and Bone duology, and I am always willing to give a new genre a chance. I'm really glad I did because SKY IN THE DEEP has such a strong heart. It explores the lengths we'll go for family, the brutality of the way everyday life used to be, of the way lore once defined the world and our place in it. As much as I'm dying to talk about the characters and their relationships with one another and the way they evolved and changed, it's too spoilery to do so.
Suffice to say, SKY IN THE DEEP will keep readers on their edge of their seats with the action, the character growth, and the way Young weaves the threads of this gritty, unforgiving world together and makes them care about everyone's future. The book comes out tomorrow and is definitely worth picking up!