Monday, September 3, 2018

Sky in the Deep - Adrienne Young

This review is based on the audiobook version of Sky in the Deep

Summary: OND ELDR. BREATHE FIRE.

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. (Summary and image from goodreads.com)

My Review:  There are two things I hate doing.  Okay, there are actually more than two things I hate doing, but for the purposes of this review, I'm limiting it to just two -- painting ceilings and running.  Painting ceilings while running is most certainly my definition of hell.  Anyhow, I've recently turned to audio books to take the sting out of doing things I hate and Sky in the Deep got me through several leg-burning running sessions and arm-burning painting sessions.  It really helped to distract me from my gripes and was actually a strong motivational tool, as I wouldn't let myself listen to it unless I was running or painting and I was able to keep going a lot further than I would have otherwise, because the part of my brain in charge of whining was engaged elsewhere.

On to narration, something I don't typically have to talk about in my reviews.  I have a thing with narrators.  They have to be a certain way and if they aren't that way then I can't listen to them.  If they are monotone or overly expressive, I'm done.  A guy reading in a high falsetto every time a girl character utters a line?  DONE.  Suuuuuper slooooow talkers?  You guessed it!  I'm done.   Thankfully, it only takes about 20 seconds of listening to the book to know whether I'll be able to stomach them or not.  Sky in the Deep's narrator was neither monotone nor overly expressive and she didn't exaggerate the characters to the point of distraction.  She just read in a normal voice, giving inflection or tone where needed without going over the top, which let the story take center stage.  A story that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Sky in the Deep is set in territory that will seem quite familiar to fans of The History Channel's Vikings series (think coastal Scandinavia in 800-1066 AD), with warring clans that worship a series of deity common in Norse mythology, each with it's own rites and rituals.  With the help of the author, it was easy to visualize the icy fjords, fertile valleys, dense forests, glaciated mountain ranges, and small fishing villages common to the area.  Though I didn't read the words myself, I felt the author did a phenomenal job of setting the scene and made the world come alive while I listened.

Eelyn is an amazing Aska warrior - fierce, determined, and devoted to those she loves.  She lives a simply life on the fjord, fishing and training to fight their enemy, the Riki, whom she loathes, having lost her mother and brother at their hands.  When she is gravely injured and taken prisoner in battle, Eelyn soon finds that her brother is not only alive, but fighting for the enemy.  As a captive, Eelyn is forced to serve Riki family and, in doing so, begins to question all she has been taught and finds her loyalty to the Aska tested.

I really loved my time with Sky in the Deep, hated tasks notwithstanding.  Eelyn is a fiery female protagonist (gotta love those), who knows what she wants and doesn't take crap from anyone.  She is loyal to a fault, can hold her own in a fight, isn't afraid to cry, and fully capable of throttling an enemy and then ripping out their eyeball to get information*.  She basically kicks butt when necessary, but can show compassion when the situation calls for it.  Through the course of the story, Eelyn embarks on both literal and figurative journeys, and each felt moving and authentic in its own way. She maintains her status as a staunch defender of the Aska people, but has several experiences and realizations that fundamentally change the way she sees the world and her place in it.

Additionally, there is a seemingly star-crossed romantic relationship at play that, while not the entire focus of the book, is quite compelling. Let's just say it starts with fight to the death and quite a lot of vehement loathing.  Eventually, hatred leads to tolerance, tolerance leads to (romantic) tension, and tension leads to some steaminess, but, thankfully, the author opted for a "fade to black" scene that left just enough to the imagination.  Overall, I quite enjoyed this book.  It came out this year (2018) and isn't part of a series, but there is a companion novel coming out in 2019 that I definitely plan to pick up.  I'd recommend this audio book to anyone who either a) loves the Vikings TV series and similar Scandinavian lore, b) enjoys action-based YA stories with a healthy side of romantic tension and a heaping serving of violence, or c) all of the above.

*Yup.  She did.  And it was gross but impressive.

My Rating: 4 Stars

For the sensitive reader: This story is particularly violent and those with a weaker stomach might take issue with it.  We're talking warring clans here, people.  In the course of the fighting, throats are slit, guts ripped out, and eyeballs (well, one) forcibly removed from their sockets.  There are also a few instances of attempted sexual assault.  Not explicit, but possible triggers. I can't remember any profanity but, then again, I wasn't taking notes while reading.

1 comment:

Monika said...

This book sounds amazing! It has recently been published (or will be? Not sure) in Poland and I really wanted to read it but reading your review made me realize that the translation might be mitigated in order to be compelling for younger Polish audience. I'll give it a try in English as I LOVED The Vikings.

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