Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young
Eelyn lives only to fight with her father, her best friend Mýra, and the rest of the Aska clan against their mortal enemies, the Riki clan. Every five years, the clans meet on the battlefield and do their very best to slaughter one another, then return home with the survivors to heal their wounds and train for another five years. Eelyn doesn’t question why the Aska are bound up in this eternal blood-feud; this is how things have always been, this is how they will always be, and the best death Eelyn can imagine is in battle against the Riki. Should she die ingloriously, however, or be captured as a slave, she will be denied entrance into the Aska afterlife, and will lose all honor.
Her older brother, Iri, died while fighting the Riki five years previously, so when Eelyn sees him fighting alongside the Riki, she becomes obsessed with determining whether it’s really him, and if so, why he would abandon their people. But the Riki capture and enslave her, and while living among them, Eelyn begins to question the rituals and mythology she’s taken for granted her entire life, and to wonder whether the Aska and Riki are so different after all.
Sky in the Deep (2018) is definitely Norse-influenced, and Adrienne Young seems to have taken a lot of cues from the Vikings television show while creating her own cultures, languages, and customs. Fight scenes are visceral and well-written, and there are a few quiet moments that are quite striking in their depiction of the natural world.
However, Eelyn’s transition from bloodthirsty warrior to reluctant diplomat was far too quick, and didn’t feel like a natural evolution. There’s an element of master-slave insta-love, as well, that isn’t made any less uncomfortable by the later equalization of the parties in question. Mýra’s reactions to developing events were far more credible and realistic, and I think the novel would have benefitted from seeing some of the passage of time through her eyes as a contrast to Eelyn’s.
The Aska and Riki have a shared enemy, the Herja, and here again I think Young missed an opportunity to deepen the story and provide more to her readers: there are whispers and rumors of something supernatural about them, but nothing really comes of it other than shifting Eelyn’s concept of The Feared/Hated Other from the Riki to the Herja. Ultimately, I wanted something meatier, but YA readers who are looking for a star-crossed love story with thrilling and blood-soaked action scenes should give Sky in the Deep a try.
Kind of a mixed bag, I guess.
Yeah, it’s a shame, but it happens sometimes.