Title: The Girl the Sea Gave Back (Sky in the Deep #2)
Author: Adrienne Young
Genre: YA Fantasy/Historical Fiction
Release Date: September 3rd 2019 from Wednesday Books
Format: Library audio book
Narrators: Caitlin Kelly and Dan Bittner
Listening Time: 8 hours, 23 mins
Goodreads Synopsis: For as long as she can remember, Tova has lived among the Svell, the people who found her washed ashore as a child and use her for her gift as a Truthtongue. Her own home and clan are long-faded memories, but the sacred symbols and staves inked over every inch of her skin mark her as one who can cast the rune stones and see into the future. She has found a fragile place among those who fear her, but when two clans to the east bury their age-old blood feud and join together as one, her world is dangerously close to collapse.
For the first time in generations, the leaders of the Svell are divided. Should they maintain peace or go to war with the allied clans to protect their newfound power? And when their chieftain looks to Tova to cast the stones, she sets into motion a series of events that will not only change the landscape of the mainland forever but will give her something she believed she could never have again—a home.
*I originally received an e-ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, but I ran out of time to review it and therefore listened to a library copy. But all thoughts and opinions are my own and no quotations will be used*
Many of us remember how the author’s debut novel Sky in the Deep was HIGHLY anticipated by many, including myself (I pre-ordered it) and then when the mixed reviews started coming in, that made me hesitate to read it right away. Then, when the cover for this book got revealed, I loved it so much and really hoped that this would be a good one. Since this takes place 10 years after Sky in the Deep but follows different people, I was hoping I could read it, not having read the first one. Luckily, that was the case. I was able to follow this story well, while understanding a couple of the references from the first book enough to not be confused. It’s sad to say that I’m glad I listened to the audio book of this, because I would’ve DNF’d the ARC halfway through if I had just read it. The narrators saved this book from being yet another DNF. Overall, this book was severely disappointing.
I’ll start with the positives of this book first. First, the author is a good writer. Young writes this viking-esque world and you feel like it’s bleak and very cold where these people live. They have to forage for food, defend their village and also be tough to survive their environment. I liked how this book started with a funeral ceremony for a young girl and you feel the sadness of this, but also the harsh reality that this happens. Then, in some moments of the book, you can see the bare trees, lots of snow and feel the cold weather. I liked the atmosphere in this book and that made it one highlight.
The next thing is what I mentioned previously: both narrators. Caitlin Kelly voices Tova’s POV and Dan Bittner voices Halvard’s POV. I love Bittner’s voice work from Renegades by Marissa Meyer, so when I saw his name, I knew he would do an amazing job. But I also really loved Caitlin Kelly; she channels the betrayal, uncertainty, anger and bitterness that do occur in Tova’s chapters. Tova is a Truthtongue, but doesn’t live among her own people. Therefore, she’s always been treated as an outsider and never really given a chance among the Svell clan that she lives with. Both narrators pulled out all the stops for moments of anguish, frustration and also fragile hope to bring the characters the life they needed for me to continue listening.
But those were the only highlights I had with this book. The major problem I had was the pacing! This book is just over 300 pages and there were SO many times where I kept asking myself: “When is the story going to move along?” So much of the book just felt like a ton of dialogue, inner monologues and repeating the same information. I felt like the story was finally going somewhere at the 80% mark! I couldn’t believe how the long the book took to answer a couple mysteries together and also to solve the conflict that pretty stale from the get-go. But there could’ve been so much more happening in this book: more fight scenes, more interactions with the two characters or even digging into Tova’s powers more for example. The other thing is that the reason the clans start fighting again seems so…simple? Yes, there is something that doesn’t go according to plan and they start fighting again. But I couldn’t really distinguish both clans from each other. The fighting felt so useless, since there isn’t much fighting in the story.
The next thing that really bugged me was the “romance” between Tova and Halvard and I use those air quotes literally. These two people only meet twice in this book before the final climax of the book and by the end, you get an obvious moment that there’s a quickly blooming romance between them. But at one point, Halvard has his hands around her throat since he thinks that she’s from the clan that killed some of his people. But once she tells him that she has to help him live because it’s fate, then he starts thinking about her more and both are so willing to stay with each other, despite barely knowing anything about the other. This kind of thing really bothers me when it happens in books. Allow the characters to get to know each other a bit, let alone some good conversation to see if they even like each other. This proposed romance feels extremely delayed and forced. By the end, it’s a poorly used plot device. Just because it’s “fate” doesn’t work anymore in 2019.
The final thing that lowered my enjoyment was that while the narrators did their best to portray these two protagonists, nothing stands out from both Tova and Halvard. All I really knew about Tova was that she has the ability to see the future, she has many tattoos that are both showing that she’s a Truthtongue and that she’s from another tribe. She can use a bow and she was raised by a man from the Svell clan and she’s not sure why her family tried to sacrifice her to their good. That’s it! I never got to know any of her feelings towards the Svell culture, any hobbies or anything else she liked. I just knew the basics, but I wish I felt more! With her powers, I’m sure she feels a lot of things concerning the things she’s seen over the years, but we don’t see that. Then, with Halvard, who is a good young man who cares for his people and is a good fighter. But we just don’t get to know these characters more than just the surface level. Their inner monologues were not only repetitive but also boring. Plus, they had no chemistry whatsoever with what their “romance” offered.
Overall: With a paper thin plot, flatter than cardboard characters and a forced but minor romance plot, this book went nowhere. The first chapter gives some promise, but nothing truly pays off until past the 80% mark. This was a boring, emotionally flat and unexplored book where the magic barely plays a role in the book and I just didn’t get why these clans fought and how they were different from one another. While I will give this author another chance, since some of her writing is good and the world was decently built, this book was very disappointing. I get the mixed reviews this has been getting. This needed many more pages and deep work on characters to make me care.
Have you read this? If so, what did you think of it? Do you also like Sky in the Deep? Let me know in the comments!