Published by Wednesday Books on April 24, 2018
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction
FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
As soon as I realized Sky in the Deep was about Vikings, it immediately became one of my most anticipated reads of 2018. (Have I mentioned that I love Viking stories?) I was hoping for an exciting, action-packed read, and I’m thrilled to say that I got that and so much more. Sky in the Deep opens with our main character, 17 year old Eelyn, and her Aska clan engaged in battle with their lifelong enemies, the Riki clan. The fighting is fierce and the energy is electric, but all of that fades away when Eelyn sees something on the battlefield she never expects to see – her brother, who she watched die in battle five years ago, apparently alive and well and fighting for her enemy. It’s a total WTF moment and I was immediately hooked and, like Eelyn, I had so many questions that I wanted answers to.
How is it possible that Eelyn’s brother is there if she actually saw him die? And why in the world would he be fighting against his own people and for his sworn enemy?
During one of the clashes between the Aska and Riki, Eelyn is captured and taken up into the mountains to the Riki village. If she can survive winter in the mountains surrounded by all of her enemies, she has the opportunity to confront her brother face to face and demand answers.
But when the Riki village is raided by a ruthless clan who has also attacked the Aska village in the past – the same clan who killed Eelyn’s mother — Eelyn becomes desperate to get back to her family. It becomes clear that if the Aska and the Riki are going to survive, they’re going to need to work together to defeat their common enemy.
Can Eelyn convince her father that the Riki are not their enemy and that they need each other?
Eelyn was such an epic main character. I really loved her. She’s a fierce and proud Aska warrior and her loyalty to both her family and her clan knows no bounds. Some of my favorite scenes from Sky in the Deep are those scenes where Eelyn is out there fighting like a total badass on the battlefield. What I also loved about her character though is that she’s not all fierceness and badassery – she’s also a vulnerable and conflicted sister who fears that her brother is a traitor to her people and doesn’t know what to do about it or how to feel about it. I thought the author did an incredible job of conveying every emotion Eelyn was feeling. Her pain was palpable, as was her anger, her initial hatred of the Riki, her feelings of betrayal, etc. Everything about Eelyn was so vividly depicted that it was just very easy to feel a connection with her.
Sky in the Deep is one of those books that I would consider to be the best of both worlds – if you enjoy action-packed battle scenes, you’ll love it, but if you enjoy character and relationship-driven stories, you’ll love it too. The battle scenes were truly thrilling. There were axes and swords flying everywhere and I was on the edge of my seat each time Eelyn fought, hoping that she would make it through unscathed. The scenes were vivid and somewhat graphic but didn’t really veer over into outright gory territory, which worked well for me.
As if those action-packed scenes weren’t fabulous enough, the book is also filled with relationships that just really got to me. I’ve already mentioned the conflicted relationship between Eelyn and her brother. That one just broke my heart because Eelyn was so crushed to think her brother was a traitor. I really wanted to hate him for hurting Eelyn with his betrayal, but then we hear his side of the story, and everything I initially thought of him got turned on its head and I just wanted brother and sister to reconcile so badly.
The brother-sister relationship takes center stage when it comes to relationships, but it’s not the only relationship by far. I thought the author did a beautiful job depicting the evolution of the relationship between the Aska and Riki clans once they realize they face a common threat and need to band together if they hope to survive. I loved the range of emotions that she has the various Aska and Riki clanspeople, Eelyn and her captor Fiske in particular, move through – the long-standing hatred, the mistrust, the curiosity, tentative acceptance, friendship, etc. These relationships were all so messy and so realistic and I just ate them up!
And yes, there is a romantic relationship as well. And guess what? I didn’t hate it! Why? Without giving too much away, I’ll just say that it was a subtle relationship that gradually developed over the course of the story and I never felt like it took over the story or distracted from anything else that was going on. There’s no insta-love at all – in fact, it’s quite the opposite. It’s enemies to lovers all the way, which apparently I’m a huge fan of!
Even though I loved Sky in the Deep overall, I did have a bit of an issue with uneven pacing. Those action-packed battle scenes had me absolutely flying through the pages, as did the scenes where Eelyn confronted her brother or where she clashed with her captors. But then I would hit the occasional lull when the story focused more on the day-to-day life of the Riki and Eelyn’s thoughts as she watched them and did chores for them.
These domestic-focused chapters were still beautifully written– let me be very clear on that– and they definitely served a purpose, which was to show Eelyn that her sworn enemies are normal people just like she and her fellow Aska are. My issue was mainly that reading about sewing and gardening and other chores just felt a little mundane in comparison to the adrenaline rush that goes along with reading about someone slashing and hacking their way across a battlefield. I think this would have been a 5-star read for me if there had been fewer passages that dealt with household chores.
Sky in the Deep is a fantastic read that has something for everyone. If you’re into character-driven books that feature fierce females and plenty of complicated relationships, then this is a book for you. However, if you’re into action-packed stories that feature warring Viking clans, this is a book for you too. And finally, if you’re into a slow-burn romance featuring enemies who suddenly don’t hate each other quite as much as they thought they did, then yes, Sky in the Deep is for you as well.
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.