It was what we’d been taught our entire lives––vegr yfir fjor––honor above life.
Sky in the Deep is a Viking inspired story with battles, betrayal, and the realization that your enemy isn’t as different from you as you thought. I really loved this one! I read it in the bulk of one day and then immediately wished I hadn’t because it was over.
Sky in the Deep takes starting in the action very literally. We find ourselves in the middle of a battle with Eelyn and her fighting partner, Mýra, readying themselves to charge at members of the Riki clan. They’re members of the Aska clan, and once every five years, they meet on the battlefield to avenge those of their tribe who fell in the years before. For Eelyn, this is her brother. She fights to avenge his death five years before, pushing down her own guilt about being unable to give him proper rites after the battle. When she meets him on the battlefield and he saves her life, people think that she’s been touched by Sigr, their God. Eelyn isn’t so sure. When she discovers that it wasn’t a spirit sent by her God, Eelyn is thrust into the world of her enemy.
I thought that the beginning of the story was strong because it was right in the action, but it also meant that I felt a little blindsided as a reader. I didn’t know much about the world, just that they were fighting. Initially it did put me off a bit because of how frantic it felt. Young dials it back by having Eelyn captured, which helped immensely. There’s still the feeling of being in the action, but it’s bubbling underneath the surface instead of being right there. I loved that. Young used this time to show the different cultures that are in the book, and I was able to get a clearer picture of the world. I love world building, and this novel was full of everything I like seeing when authors build new worlds: different cultures and ways of life; different religions and celebrations; lush settings. It was great!
I also really love when enemies are thrown together. I like seeing how perceptions can change, warp, and blur the longer they’re in forced contact with one another. This was shown full force in Sky in the Deep. Eelyn’s fierceness is not something that fits in with the world of the Riki. To them, she’s the murderer of their friends and family. She feels the same of them, naturally, but she’s the one in the weaker position. I loved reading Eelyn’s thought processes as they moved from escape and murder to survival and acceptance. Her interactions with her brother, Fiske, and Fiske’s family were really done well. I liked that there was a variety of characters with different personalities. They weren’t all fighters, so I was able to get a good look at what living with the Riki was like.
I haven’t read many Viking inspired tales in young adult, so this was a nice treat away from what is popular in young adult fantasy. The area of this world we’re shown is very narrow in Sky in the Deep, but there’s definitely the possibility of the world being expanded. We only get a look at three clans in this novel, but I imagine there’s many more. I thought that Young did a really good job of building a conflict, clans and their beliefs, and a variety of characters in a short amount of time.
I mentioned before that I like when characters suddenly have to survive in their enemy’s world. I also really like the romance storyline of a character falling in love with their enemy. When done really well, I think that it’s one of my favorite romance tropes. A romantic relationship wasn’t the only relationship that needed to be built up; Eelyn also had to learn to trust other people. None of the relationships were instantaneous. They were built up naturally and they felt real. I love when writers include other relationships that aren’t romantic because they round out the characters so well.
All of the characters in this were very different from one another. They all were unique in their own way, making the world and the book more interesting than if Young had only focused on Eelyn and Fiske. They were all powerful in their own way and each had their own personality. A big thing I look for when reading is if secondary characters have their own quirks and desires, making them fully fleshed out. They were, so this book was even more interesting for me!
I think this will definitely be a popular novel for readers who like fantasy, romance, and Vikings! Once I was fully immersed in the story I couldn’t stop reading. I’m looking forward to Young’s next novel––rumored to possibly be in this same world!––and will pick it up when it’s out. Young has a talent in building harsh worlds and realistic characters that really jump off of the page.
I received a copy of Sky in the Deep from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Sky in the Deep will be published on April 24th, 2018!