Trigger/Content Warnings: Violence, graphic scenes of torture, animal sacrifice/death, sexual assault, discussion of sexual assault/rape.
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.
My Take: 5/5 Stars
“We find things, just as we lose things.” ~ Adrienne Young
SKY IN THE DEEP, for all its violence, is a bit of a quiet read. It moves quickly with its short chapters, but digs deep into the main character’s emotions. It deals with subjects that are heavy but poignant: family; loss; and most especially, the idea of othering. Who is really other, the book seems to ask.
At the core of the novel is an enemies to lovers romance trope, one of my favorites, but it goes beyond that, too. The story is about sacrifice and learning to realize how we define “enemy” and how flimsy that concept can be sometimes. It is a quiet reflection on the bias we hold because we were raised to hold it, a tough yet important subject set in a high fantasy world inspired by Viking lore, where it is perhaps easier to examine.
Sky in the Deep isn’t necessarily a book I would traditionally give five stars, because quiet books tend not to be my personal favorite, but this one was buoyed by a character who struck me deeply for one simple fact. She was not afraid to cry. Eelyn is a warrior, trained to kill her enemy without mercy since she was a toddler. Yet she cries on page–well, a lot–for lack of a more delicate way to say it. At first, I found it irritating, then I realized that by allowing her character this sensitivity, this vulnerability, Adrienne Young was doing something quite spectacular — she was giving us more than a warrior. She was giving us femininity in many of its possible forms, which is something I often find lacking in high-powered fantasy featuring lady warriors. Women warriors in literature tend to mirror their male counterparts by refusing to shed a tear. When they do cry, they are frequently critiqued by readers for doing so (NOT that I think that’s how men should be instructed to act, either), and I’ve often questioned this tendency. Are we being good feminists by making our females mirrors of men? Or are we being reactionary by saying, “I can do anything you can do.” Which is true, women can, but in my opinion, they should also do it in their own way. They should be strong in a way that is true to them. And Eeyln, remarkably, was.
So for this quiet book with a lot to say, I raise my glass and say well done. I cannot wait to read the next.
Question of the day: What’s the last quiet book you read and loved?