Book Review : Sky in the Deep

This review contains spoilers. Read at your own risk.
Book Review : Sky in the DeepSky in the Deep (Sky in the Deep, #1) by Adrienne Young
Published by Wednesday Books on April 24th 2018
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 340
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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.
Part Wonder Woman, part Vikings—and all heart.

I had to buy Sky in the Deep as soon as I saw the cover. I was immediately struck by the picture of the main character, Eelyn, and how much she reminded me of Aloy from Horizon Zero Dawn. Adding to that the promise of Vikings, I was sold! But sadly, Sky in The Deep, wasn’t actually, well, deep. All of the characters were very bland, as was its strange romance and most of the story. Sky in the Deep read more of like what someone thought a Viking story should be, rather than an actually researched or complex Viking world.


I had never known real fear until the moment I saw Iri in Aurvanger. I had never considered there was more to life than the most basic explanation–that the gods were willing over us. That they were giving and taking their favor. But I was without my clan. I was alone….”


Sky in the Deep follows Eelyn, a warrior of the Aska clan. Every year, the Aska clan meet the Riki clan in battle to appease their warring gods. Their entire way of life revolves around training and preparing for this battle. Eeyln killed her first man when she was eleven, growing up and fighting alongside her now deceased older brother. Imagine Eelyn’s shock when she sees her brother Iri, whom she believed dead for five years, in battle fighting along the enemy. Perturbed, she follows him into the woods and is kidnapped by his new people the Riki. In order to prevent her from being killed, Eeyln is forced into slavery and bought by her brother Iri’s friend, Fiske.


As she lives with the Riki, Eelyn begins to see them as people and not just enemy warriors. But for the life of me, I can’t really see why. It is unclear to me why Iri and Fiske decide to keep Eelyn’s identity as Iri’s sister a secret for his safety. No one seems to reason that Iri, who was once also an Aska prisoner that was accepted into the Riki clan, could vouch for his sister in an effort to keep her alive–instead it’s all about the threat Eelyn poses to him. Furthermore, supposedly Iri’s adoptive family is loving and kind to one another–one of the main reasons Iri stays among the Riki–but not particularly caring to their slave, Eelyn. They force her to attend religious gatherings for a god she does not serve, are blatantly unconcerned that making her their slave means she cannot get into her own people’s heavens due to her resulting lack of honor, and only start liking her when she saves their child from death. And they don’t even manage to protect her from a man who strips her naked and ties her to a tree, hoping she will freeze to death. Another Riki sees her predicament and does not help her to test if their God, Thora, wants Eelyn to live somehow. Yikes.


None of these events endeared me at all to the Riki and it was unbelievable to me that Iri or anyone else would chose to stay among them. It also didn’t help that everyone was pretty much a cookie-cutter character that I’d seen time and time again. Iri’s new adoptive mother and Fiske’s actual mother, Inge, is the loving Riki healer who treats Iri as her own son. She teaches a beautiful villager to become her apprentice, who also falls in love with Iri. Inge’s son, Halvard, is the only family member kind to Eeylyn, because he doesn’t really fully understand everyone’s prejudices due to his young age. Fiske, his reserved older brother, and Eelyn’s owner, had the goodness of heart to rescue Iri from death, despite being from his enemy clan, but he does not extend the same benefit of the doubt to his sister, Eelyn. That is, until he randomly falls in love with her.


“’What are you thinking?’ He took my hand.
‘I’m thinking I don’t want to fight anymore.’
His fingers tightened around mine. It seemed so foolish now, all the fighting.
All the death and loss and mourning.”


I’m all for enemy to lovers trope, but this just didn’t do it for me. When Fiske and Eelyn first meet on the battlefield, they immediately try to kill each other. Later, he puts her down with an arrow in the shoulder when she makes an impulsive escape attempt. He claims that he shot her so no other Riki would actually kill her, but uh, Sky in the Deep’s attempt to sell this as him caring for her and as romance was cringey to me. No thanks. Call me a prude, but I prefer my romantic relationships to not include bodily harm for the sake of the female’s own good. I also just really didn’t see their romance coming, as Eelyn and Fisk have very few actual conversations and those that they do have are without substance–before someone catches feelings. Plus, readers don’t know much of anything about any characters–so even after reading the entire book, all I can tell you about Fiske is that he’s a Riki warrior, loves his family, cherishes his non-blood brother relationship with Iri, and thinks Eelyn is pretty even though he initially tried to kill her.


None of this makes him a dreamboat to me, and I’m not sure why it makes him one to Eelyn even after reading an entire book from her wishy-washy perspective. It’s also pretty telling that as soon as they express feelings for each other, she needs to assert that he no longer owns her. I’m also not even sure why Fiske likes Eelyn. She spends most of her time crying, needing healed, resenting his best friend Iri and then loving/worshiping him, or making some kind of trouble. Eelyn also doesn’t think things through before acting, has a one track mind, and isn’t able to put herself in other people’s shoes.  Eelyn has all of the typical bad traits of most young adult heroines. Basically, Sky in the Deep makes it seem like all she really has going for are her looks and battle prowess–not her personality. She’s certainly no Aloy.


To make matters worse, the characters of the Aska clan weren’t extremely likable to me either. They all seemed like types of characters rather than actual layered, nuanced characters in their own right. For instance, Eelyn’s dad has never been the same since the death of Iri and Eelyn’s mother at the hand of Herja raiders. Though a powerful warrior and a thoughtful man, he relies on his daughter as his reason to keep living and Eeyln spends much of the novel worrying about how he is faring without her by his side. I was shocked at how easily this man reconciled with his son, Iri, who essentially betrayed his family and his people to fight against the Aska clan for the Riki and their god, and enslaved his last surviving family member. I’d have a lot of feelings if I were him, but he simply bursts into tears, grateful that his son is alive, and hugs him. Apparently Vikings don’t hold grudges.


“My entire life, I’d never thought of the Riki as small children. I’d only known the fierce faces of their warriors in battle. But now they had pasts. Names. Souls.”


Even more surprising, was how easy it was for the Aska and Riki clan, who have been at war forever and have entire mythologies (that are mentioned maybe two times total, but are still told to readers) around why they need to fight each other, to come to an agreement to fight with each other against a mutual threat. All it took was one itty bitty blood promise and BAM, they’re in battle side by side. And suddenly, everyone is accepted into each other’s communities. All the deep-seated prejudices that lead Aska and Riki to kill each other on sight–gone. The smoothness of this treaty and the peace does not sit well with my idea of Vikings at all.


“Vegr yfir fjor.” Honor above life.”


I do feel like the author tried to make it more Viking-ish at some points. She threw in some Nordic sounding words every once in awhile, even though they really didn’t add much to the story at all–all icing and no cake. She also added a really gory scene in which Eelyn scoops out a man’s eyeball in torture, as if to demonstrate how battle-hardened, tough, and Viking! she actually was. But this scene was incongruous, not just because of the grossness of it, but because none of the rest of the battle descriptions in Sky in the Deep were not at all that gory or descriptive–even when Eelyn was going at people with her axe and sword.


Honestly, I think I would have liked Sky in the Deep better if it had just marketed itself as a fantasy story and not as Viking-inspired fantasy story, because it did not do the Vikings justice at all.  It was giant letdown. On the other hand, there simply wasn’t enough world-building to put it on the level of most other fantasy stories.  I didn’t know anything about the world Eelyn lived in at all. All I knew was that the Aska lived near the fjord and the Riki lived in the mountains and that the thaw made travelling difficult. Similarly, we are told even less about the Herja, the mysterious raiders who supposedly make blood sacrifices. Frankly, what I learned most about the world in Sky in the Deep was that I did not want to live in it–whether with the Riki or Aska–or even read it.


If you are looking for a quick and easy read without a lot of substance and like Vikings, Sky in the Deep would be the perfect book for you. But if you want a novel with authentic Norse lifestyle, developed characters and worlds, with believable romance and motivations, look elsewhere.

Book Review : Sky in the Deep - Blogging with Dragons

Posted February 28, 2020 in Book Reviews, Fantasy, Young Adult

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