The Girl the Sea Gave Back by Adrienne Young
Published by Wednesday Books on September 3, 2019
Series: Sky in the Deep #1.5
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Young Adult
Length: 336 pages Source: NetGalley
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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.
Disclaimer: I received this book for free from NetGalley and Wednesday Books in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Adrienne Young weaves beautiful worlds.
Sky in the Deep came as a delightful surprise last year, and ever since, I’ve been looking forward to The Girl the Sea Gave Back. The cover is exquisite and I was excited to delve back into this world. There’s something mythical about the mixture for historical fiction and an edge of fantasy in this chilled, foggy landscape. As with her debut, the world spills on to the page in stunning splashes of color and it’s very easy to be mesmerized.
That said, I didn’t feel as though this book was as successful as her debut, and here’s why: I fell in love with Eelyn, but I did not love Tova. There was always something detached and far away about Tova, and it made it hard to share her experiences. She was lost, but instead of pulling the reader in with her confusion and desperation, this created a meandering wall to keep the character out.
I think, on some level, Adrienne Young knew there needed to be another character to balance out Tova’s uncertainty. Halvard was my favorite little side character in Sky in the Deep, and I didn’t expect him to come into this book at all, let alone as a POV. A good amount of time has passed in this world, and Halvard is no longer the brave, kind boy he once was. He has grown into an uncertain, cautious man. As with Tova, I found him distant. There was a lot of talk about the way these two characters felt, but none of it pulled my heartstrings.
The theme of this book was making your own fate, but the plot was unsteady. I think that Halvard’s POV could have been dropped completely, and Tova’s strengthened and there would have been more balance between character, plot, and atmosphere. Don’t get me wrong – the atmosphere dominates, it really does. In the beginning it feels like the plot is about preventing a war and later, it’s about Tova finding out where she belongs, and in many ways, it felt like she was going to be a Pocahontas type character… but the Disney movie version. Honestly, the plot was uncertain and disappointing. Eelyn made me believe that Young could do so much more with her characters, and now I expect it.
I cannot in good conscious give The Girl the Sea Gave Back as much love and as many stars as I gave Sky in the Deep. I didn’t connect with it and I found so many of the situations and relationships forced. But that doesn’t mean I’m giving up on the book. I am looking forward to giving this one another try once it has been finalized, and I’ll curl up some afternoon with the hardcopy and let you all know if I loved Tova the second time through. For now, I’ll close in saying that you should come for the atmosphere, because it’s a truly masterful Norse-esque fantasy setting, but don’t expect too much.
What companion novels are your favorite? If I’m being honest, I feel like I usually enjoy them more in theory than actuality… but I want to hear about what y’all love, so tell me the best-of-the-best in the comments!