Nov 23, 20203 min
Updated: Nov 25, 2020
Hello and welcome back to another #Norsevember review! Today we'll be taking a look at the Norse-inspired Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young.
Genre: YA Fantasy
Category: Emotional Read
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Rating: 4/5 Stars
Sky in the Deep follows Eelyn, a Viking-inspired female warrior who fights alongside her Aska clan against their age-old enemy, a rival clan known as the Riki. It's during one of their clashes that Eelyn comes face-to-face with her brother. The brother who died five years ago. Fighting alongside the enemy.
First off, how cool is a Norse-inspired YA fantasy? As a major Skyrim geek, I am on board with anything Nordic. I was so interested in this type of world being explored in YA (I normally only see it in adult) that I did a little digging into why Young chose this type of world.
In doing so, I stumbled across a quote from Young in this interview by Dani Hedlund:
"The original idea was a warrior girl on the battlefield who sees her brother on the other side. I didn’t know exactly what kind of setting I was going to do, but I knew I wanted it to be something different—familiar to fantasy but something that hadn’t been done. I also knew that I didn’t want to have to justify or explain the warrior aspect of the girl. So I thought Vikings would be perfect because, in Viking times, women warriors were not an exception to the rule. I felt like it was the perfect fit."
Young mentions she did tons of research into Viking weaponry, culture, religion, and lifestyle, all of which helped create an authentic atmosphere down to the snow-encrusted mountains and freezing seas. However, Young also diverges from pure historical by creating her own clans and religions for these people to believe in—another Skyrim-esque feature I loved.
I've mentioned in previous reviews that characters make or break a book for me. Characters and atmosphere are the key components in the books I love. I can get by on a basic plot and worldbuilding so long as the characters arrest my attention.
Thankfully, Sky in the Deep does just that. I love Eelyn. I love her ferocity, her stubbornness, her pride. I love her willingness to sacrifice everything for the people she loves and her openness to welcoming new ones into her life. I love how emotionally her character is written. The entire book, while peppered with plenty of action and gorgeous imagery, is really about Eelyn's journey to become someone different. You follow her through anger, through hurt, through vulnerability, through strength, and through love.
Eelyn's myriad of interactions and relationships with the other characters are fascinating as they unfold. I appreciate that Young doesn't shy away from the platonic relationships. Readers see Eelyn find a new mother figure in the rival clan, to help fill the void of the one she lost. She learns the man her brother has become in the years since she saw him last, and she struggles through heartbreak and anger to forge a new sibling bond with him. She takes on the role of older sister and protector to a young boy.
And, yes, she finds love, although the romance is largely a background feature to help Eelyn along her emotional journey. The romance blossoms naturally as she begins to warm to her rivals, to the village so much like hers, through her growing fondness of the family she is staying with.
The "message" of a story isn't always clear in YA, and it doesn't always have to have one. Sky in the Deep has a strong theme underlying the entire plot, however, that comes full circle in the end: do not be afraid of change. Do not be afraid to open yourself to others, to new ideas, to other cultures and religions. In the end, we're all the same on a basic level of humanity.
Eelyn sees this through the similarities of her rival clan. She sees them laugh, love, sing, work, and raise children. They cook, heal, hold religious gatherings. They weep for their dead and send tokens with their loved ones so they'll come home safely.
It's a beautiful message with plenty of real-world implications we can all learn from.
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