The new gut-wrenching epic from the New York Times bestselling author of Sky in the Deep.
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.
Historical Fiction | Young Adult | Fantasy
***Received an Advanced Readers Copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review***
Well tickle me into a tizzy, I cannot believe how much I am obsessed with this series – or should I say stand-alone series? Whatever it is, I am going to go with it because I am head over heels in love with Adrienne Young and all that she is bringing to the historical Young Adult Fiction world. Jaw dropping, stab stab with some gut wrenching goodies that kept me turning each page, so yeah, I liked it. The characters that seem so humanly believable down to the refreshing world building, I am beguiled.
Something that is always hard for me to appreciate in young adult fiction is the world building, but I have really come to expect a certain level of descriptive genius from Young, at least at this point. I absolutely loved every angle, every tidbit of information around this Viking world that I was reading. Most of the development is around the Nadhir, Nadhir being the two combined clans from Sky in the Deep, connecting both Fiska and Eelyn, there is this time frame of ten years seeing where things for these clans evolved. The war that had been steamed from hatred found peace inside themselves but now face the growing, power hungry Svell Clan. The brutality, sheer hatred and malice in every combat scene sent my heart in a pounding panic. When you connect with even the supporting characters on both sides which ultimately enhances the world building between how different a society of people could be, or become with just a stretch of land or change in understanding, it simply captivates the reader.
Vigdis is definitely the main leader who is generally out for power, more lands, more to conquer. Using Tova to gain the upper hand in how to manipulate his people to fight his war. The war, the battles my comrades this is what excites me about historical fiction of this magnitude. I love descriptions, I enjoy reading something that I can picture, and yes, in terms of actual historical basis, this may gear more left corner in fiction fantasy, but the basis of historical passion is there. Not only was the human counterparts the main attribute for the world building, but really the cultural, almost spiritual aspects of the dynamics themselves gave such a breath of fresh air to the entire plot. Between the Spinners, the belief system, their code of honor – it screamed clan differences of their human nature in what was imaginatively delightful. Power hungry leaders, check; corruptible religious agenda, check check. It was really well thought out development.
And speaking of the characters, the main characters, ugh yes, amazing – especially Tova. Wow. Okay, so firstly let me say I was not expecting a character dynamic of her structure in the least bit, especially considering how Eelyn was for our female lead for Sky in the Deep. Tova was simply put, designed to be this weaker, almost inferior damsel. At least for most of the novel, she was this sheltered, criticized, emotionally and mentally abused, her meeker personality was adamant, and honestly, I liked this a lot about Tova. As the novel grew, the visions aiding her inner strength, Tova evolved into somewhat of a badass. The entire time reading all I could do was picture this Kiera Knightley-isk character, King Arthur comes to my mind for her role as Guinevere; she was portrayed as a weaker, tattered woman, hindered by the wills of hatred and corruption by the clan she called home, but once that weight was removed, this damsel was one heck of a force, one with a bow. So as much as the fierce warrior female leads tickle my soul, I have to salute Tova, I felt this was such a great change of pace which really aided in her personal growth as a young woman that was important to explore.
Halvard on the other spectrum had a little bit of a bath and forth throughout the novel. I felt he had this convenient, blood hungry Viking personality but still a child-like outlook or even fear when things came down to the nitty gritty. He literally submersed himself in this goal of bringing the Svell clan down but at the same angle still had this humanized mannerism that made you question his ability to truly understand himself as an adult. He struggles a good deal throughout which made the reader ultimately sympathize with his uncertainty. As the novel grew, his maturity, passion and potential really shined; he was such a phenomenal hero in my mind.
There is the obvious factor of a romance; I know all you readers are curious, especially from someone who actively complains about romance within a young adult fiction but this romance was almost silent background noise rather than up in your face smooches. It was more about their connection through a sort of fate, rather than a blissful enjoyment of growing fondly with one another. It kind of takes me back to my previous comment about the cultural, spiritual backbone that was The Girl the Sea Gave Back. The ending, or rather the beginning of their romance was the perfect blend of swoon with the complete understanding of the fate that was given in the runes.
Bottom line, I adored it. Absolutely blown away, it was a page turner for me. My only issue is that for once I would have enjoyed more interactions between the main characters Halvard and Tova, but even the lack of this element didn’t hinder my enjoyment for the world building or the character dynamics between not just the main characters, but the entire clan conflicts as well. Not only was my chest pounding with excitement through every battle cry sang, I was shedding legitimately tears when something happened to a character that left me gutted. It was phenomenal. I honestly cannot wait to see what comes next in this world, I am curious to see the next shining clan, perhaps the Kyrr? Another. It will be interesting to read when the time comes!