eARC Review: Sky In The Deep by Adrienne Young
Release Day April 24, 2018!
OND ELDR. BREATHE FIRE.
Partial synopsis provided by Goodreads.
Sky In The Deep
Author: Adrienne Young
Publication Date: April 24, 2018
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Page Count: 352
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Cover Artist: ---
My Rating: ★★★½
Eeyln is no stranger to battle. She’s been trained her entire life to defend herself, her family, and her clan against their rivals; the Riki. The Riki and Aska clans meet in battle every five years–a bloody tradition which began with the gods Thora and Sigr themselves. Each time, the battle claims many lives–including Eelyn’s brother, Iri.
Or so she thought.
In the midst of yet another skirmish with the RIki, Eelyn happens upon her deceased brother. Thinking the Aska god, Sigr, sent her his spirit to defend her, everyone concludes that Eelyn was in Sigr’s favor. Eelyn, however, thinks otherwise. Unable to let the thought go that her long-lost brother may actually still be alive, Eelyn stalks the Riki, only to discover a painful truth. Not only that, but she is captured and taken as a slave by the Riki.
Unable to cope with the newfound knowledge that Iri still lives, but lives and fights with the enemy, Eelyn must discover empathy within herself in order to understand how her brother could end up across enemy lines. Through her own trials, Eelyn realizes that life isn’t always as it seems, and life can change within the blink of an eye.
All included quotes have been taken from an ARC and may not match the finished publication.
For a story with such a simple plot, Sky In The Deep still had a way of grabbing my attention. When I say simple, I mean that there aren’t numerous elements to remember, info dumps of world-building, or a multitude of characters to get to know. I also mean “simple” in a sense that there really is only one or two main focuses for the characters throughout the entire story. Because Sky In The Deep wasn’t overwhelmingly complex, it was easy to follow, direct, and made for a quick, yet engaging read.
I will say that I had hoped for more of the fantasy aspect to kick in (because this is considered to be a fantasy and not historical fiction) but it still had an interesting plot. The characters are the key and central focus and are what drives the story forward.
Not a large amount of detail is given on the actual location that this story takes place. The landscape shifts from a common battlefield between the fjords and the hills/mountains where the two warring tribes of the Aska and Riki reside. The climate resembles that of Northern European territory. A heavy winter season is present for the majority, if not all, of the story, and works against the main character at times. Basic political systems rule the tribes present in Sky In The Deep. Resembling an “eye for an eye” mentality, if someone wrongs another, it’s up to the people involved to settle the matter–as shone with Fiske and Thorpe.
This is supposed to be a Viking-influenced story. Considering that fact and historical evidence, the Viking age was between 800 – 1066 AD, so this is probably around the time frame that this plot is set. The lifestyles of the people are primitive and resemble that of earlier societal establishments. Comparing this book to actual Viking history is a bit of a stretch. While yes, there are definite parallels, its not like a historical fiction, where the lifestyles are described in depth and widely developed.
Three tribes or people groups are identified: the Aska, Riki, and Herja. Little information is given about the Herja, where they live, their motivations, etc., except for their cruel practices and human sacrifices they perform to their god (which remains unnamed.)
“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. And we spent the next five years counting the days to the moment we could make the Riki pay for our pain.”
The Aska and Riki both worship a different god. Sigr, the god of the Aska, is known as the god of the fjord. In Old Norse translations, Sigr means “victory” but shares no resemblance to any actual Norse gods.
“She’d tell the story of the Riki god Thora, who erupted from the mountain in fire and the flames that had come down to the fjord. Sigr had risen up from the sea to protect his people and every five years, we went back to battle to defend his honor, bound by the blood feud between us.”
Likewise, Thora, the god of the Riki, isn’t well defined. While it’s said that she “erupted from a mountain in fire,” it is unclear whether she is god of volcanoes, mountains, or even thunder? Thora is the female counterpart to Thor, the god of thunder in Norse mythology. However, it’s unclear what she is supposed to represent here. More information on these details would have really helped with boosting the fantasy aspect of the story, as it remained rather lacking in the department.
Both the Aska and the Riki have the same structural beliefs. When they die, they believe they travel to a heaven-like realm, referred to as Hylli (meaning “favor” in Old Norse), or Solbjørg (meaning “house of salvation” in Old Norse) depending on which tribe one was a part of. Once there, the dead are reunited with loved ones that had passed on before them. I’m mentioning this because it too, plays a large role in the plot. Eelyn, believing her brother Iri to be dead along with their mother, looks towards the day when they will be reunited. She and her father pray to idols of the two so that their souls may find their way in the afterlife. Death, in general, is a common occurrence within these tribes, as they are pit against one another every five years.
Pacing & Readability
I found Sky in the Deep easy to read. Moderately paced, the characters guide the reader through a shorter text, making the passage of time seem fluid and effortless.
Point-Of-View & Characters
The story is told from the perspective of Eelyn, the main character. This strong seventeen-year-old has grown up training for, and knowing battle. Understanding at a young age that life is tough, she’s adapted to understand and accept tragedy when it befalls her. Though, it doesn’t make it any less easy. After losing both her mother and older brother in clan wars and raids, she holds dear to her father and best friend Myra. However, when confronted by the ghost of her dead brother, she begins to second guess herself and everything that she believes she knows.
“I tried to remember who I was. Strong. Brave. Fierce. Sure. I tried to summon her to me–that Eelyn who would choose her people over anything else. I searched for her within myself, but she was different now. I was different. And it was something that was already done. Something I couldn’t change.”
Myra, Eelyn’s best friend and “sister” lost majority of her family at a young age. Because of that, her and Eelyn understand each other well. The two share a strong bond, and exemplify a beautiful image of friendship with how they support one another.
Both Iri and Fiske felt like similar characters. While they obviously played different roles, they didn’t feel as significant as they should have. I felt that their characters were underwhelming and underdeveloped. Similar to Eelyn and Myra’s friendship, I did appreciate how they too, represented a deep friendship and “brotherhood” together.
The main antagonists are the Riki (towards the beginning) and Herja clans to the Askas. To Eelyn, her own perspective and discriminations are also antagonists.
“Feeling that lighting strike in my soul. That Iri was alive. And not just alive. He’d betrayed us. All of us. The boy I’d shared my childhood with. The boy I’d fought side by side with. He was worse than any enemy. And the blood we shared was now poison in my veins.”
Betrayal is by far the biggest theme throughout Sky in the Deep. Believing her brother dead, Eelyn is dumbfounded when she comes across what she thought was her deceased brother on the battlefield. When she realizes that he’s fighting for the enemy tribe, the Riki, she follows him, but is captured and taken to be a slave with the Riki.
Not knowing how to handle his betrayal, Eelyn works through a series of emotions, trying to understand how he could do such a thing. Which leads into the next theme.
Survival is the primary focus of everyone in this story. Life is harsh, battles are frequent, and the threat of the ruthless Herja constantly plague the minds of the characters.
Five years prior, Iri was thought to have been killed on the battlefield by the Riki. His body was found, but left. When the Riki returned to bring one of their own home for burial, they found both he and Iri were still alive. The Riki insisted that he be brought back and cared for, and he eventually was adopted into the clan. There, he found love, which became his reason for not returning to the Aska. Love, and the fact that his family probably wouldn’t take him back if he has returned after converting to following the foreign God, Thora, kept him with the Riki. Learning how accept where Iri now is, as well as her shameful status as a slave to the Riki, leads directly into the next theme.
”We find things, just as we lose things, Eelyn. If you’ve lost your honor, you’ll find it again.”
For the Aska, it’s literally damning to become a slave. Once one assumed the title, they were no longer able to traverse the afterlife to be with their family after they pass away. When the Riki made Eelyn into one, she became immensely ashamed of her position. Also fearful to return to the Aska to expose the shame onto her father, Eelyn contemplated on returned at all.
It was during this time that she realized why Iri never returned to the Aska. His position, too, would bring shame to his family. It took Eelyn to experience a similar situation herself before she could understand her brother’s “betrayal” and the truth behind it. Not only that, she had to confront her own prejudices against the Riki in order to convince them and the Aska to fight together against the Herja.
While there is some credit to give in this area, I also want to point out a few things. Sky in the Deep has been highly esteemed among Young Adult readers for its strong female lead and the “equality” shown between men and women. However, slavery is very much a part of daily life in these tribes, and the fact that Eelyn is nearly raped, I fail to see this equality. If everyone wants to get caught up only in the fact that women fight alongside men in battle instead of being sheltered from it, I think they are missing the bigger picture.
While Viking women were known for their grit, life for a women during that period was also very difficult. Just because they were active warriors for their people didn’t eliminate all threats from others. Again, Eelyn is nearly raped…what does that say about “equality?” It shows that not everyone had the same definition of the word. I also think that because of Eelyn’s position–being the sister to Iri, and a love interest to Fiske–saved her from subjugation to treatment that otherwise would have been dealt to her when she was enslaved. Personally, I don’t think the theme of equality between men and women is actually portrayed as strongly in this story as people may think.
Things that I liked:
⇒ The themes and messages.
⇒ The origins for the tale.
⇒ There’s no swearing!
⇒ Even though it wasn’t well defined, I liked the setting and atmosphere that this story took place in.
⇒ Again, although it wasn’t focused deeply upon, I liked the culture this was set in. It stood out as its rather unique in this aspect.
Things that I didn’t like:
⇒ The overall lack of the appearance of fantasy. It read as a historical fiction with a few twists. But personally, I didn’t think it fit well into the fantasy genre.
⇒ The gore and torture scenes.
⇒ Incompleteness in some aspects of the world-building.
Overall, I thought this was a good read. While I had some issues with the world-building feeling incomplete, I appreciated Eelyn’s character and watching the transformation she went through. Sky In The Dark has strong messages about redemption, and setting aside differences in order to work together.
Sexual content: Mainly kissing. There is a scene where a Riki character nearly tries to rape Eelyn. There is also reference towards Eelyn and another character having sexual relations.
Violence: Quite a bit, including some gore and torture scenes.
1. What inspired SKY IN THE DEEP? How did the idea and Eelyn come to you? Do you have any
favorite Viking stories?
The sibling betrayal was definitely the first inspiration for this story. I was driving in the pouring rain on
this country road and that first scene just hit me – Eelyn, seeing her brother on the battlefield after
thinking that he was dead for five years. I pulled over on the side of the road and scribbled a million
notes on an old envelope. I was immediately hooked to the idea and I wanted to know what had
happened. I started writing that first chapter and I just never stopped.
2. What type of research did you do for your characters and world-building? What languages did
you study to implement the languages that the Aska and the Riki speak? What was the strangest
thing you had to research for this book?
I did a ton of research for this story. I actually really love to research things so it was a lot of fun. A lot of
it was stuff like clothing, landscape, weapons, food, etc. But I did a lot of research into Norse mythology
as well to build a foundation for this world. The language used is Old Norse, but it’s a dead language so
studying it was really difficult. There is a lot of controversy about it among scholars and there’s no real
way to fully understand it, so I just did my best based on my own investigation. I’m definitely not an
expert! The weirdest thing I had to research was how to tear out someone’s eyeball. Yuck.
3. What was your writing process like for SKY IN THE DEEP?
Complete and utter obsession. When I draft, I get really buried in the world and I don’t really come up
for air until I get to the end. I write as much as I can and limit my intake of other influencers that could
mess with my mindset. I don’t watch TV or movies or listen to music that’s not on my playlist, and I kind
of don’t have a social life until it’s done.
4. What was your hardest scene to write? What was the easiest?
I really didn’t struggle to get this story on the page the way I have with other books so I really don’t
know what the hardest scene to write was. But the easiest was the first chapter. I wrote it so fast and it
just clicked in so perfectly.
5. Which of your characters are you the most like? Who was your favorite to write?
Eelyn! We have so much in common and she really inspires me. But I think Halvard was the most fun to
write. I really, really love him.
6. Do you have a soundtrack for SKY IN THE DEEP? Can you share a couple songs? What would
Eelyn’s favorite song be?
Yes! Music plays a HUGE role in my writing process and I have a playlist for every project. The ones I
probably listened to the most while drafting SKY are To the Hills by Laurel, Bare by Wildes, and Rise Up –
Reprise by Foxes. But a link to the whole playlist is on my site!
7. What books have inspired you to write? What books are you looking forward to reading this
The ones that inspired me to write are nothing like my books. One of the most influential ones for me was A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, because the human element is so beautiful and the author explores so many things in that book that really took my breath away. I wanted to write stories that went deep like that, but I love fantasy so I try to it within that realm.
8. Any advice on querying? Or writing advice for aspiring writers?
Querying – do not just sign with any agent who will take you. Make a dream agent list of qualified agents
who have good reputations and make consistent sales. Query them. If they don’t bite, then write
another book that they might want. Believe me when I say it is worth waiting for the right agent!
9. Any details about the companion novel?
I can’t say anything about the companion novel yet! But I’m hoping that we can start talking about it
soon because I am really excited about it!
Adrienne Young is a born and bred Texan turned California girl. She is a foodie with a deep love of history and travel and a shameless addiction to coffee. When she’s not writing, you can find her on her yoga mat, scouring antique fairs for old books, sipping wine over long dinners, or disappearing into her favorite art museums. She lives with her documentary filmmaker husband and their four little wildlings beneath the West Coast sun.