BREATHE FIRE— I’ve always had an infatuation with Norse mythology and the Vikings, and I’ve always wondered why no one had written about them through the lens of a YA novel. When I first heard about Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young, I was like “FINALLY. Someone is finally doing it!” Knowing what I do about reading a new author for the first time, I tried not to get my hopes up too high because I’ve been let down in the past. But Young really delivered with her tale, and I’m so pleased to tell you guys that this book has become near and dear to me. It definitely deserves 5/5 stars and I likely won’t ever stop recommending it. So, let me tell you a little about it!
“I stood at the entrance of the ritual house in the falling snow, holding basket piled high with yarrow. The huge archway was a detailed carving of the mountain, the trees etched into it in slanted patterns and the face of Thora, mouth full of fire.”
Sky in the Deep follows seventeen year old Eelyn, a viking warrior from the Aska tribe set on the coast of the snowy Fjord, who lives by the code “vegr yfir fjor” or “honor above life.” Her clansmen have an ancient rivalry with the Riki clan, who worship the goddess Thora above the Aska god Sigr. She lives to fight, and fights to survive. That is the ways of her people, and that is all she knows. Five years after the death of her beloved brother Iri, a brother who she’d seen fall in battle, she is revisited by his ghost fighting alongside their rival clan. But when she notices how corporal he appears, and how he has seemingly aged with time, she cannot fathom the truth. It is no longer a possibility that Iri is an apparition sent by her god—and her heart refuses to accept the harrowing truth of his deception.
Every five years, the Riki and the Aska converge in the mountains or alongside the coast to fight to the death. It is the way of their worlds, and a tradition that had been kept since the age of their gods. But when Eelyn tries to find her brother amongst broken bodies and swinging axes, she is nearly killed by Fiske—Riki’s new, adoptive brother. Iri pulls them apart before they tear murder one another, but Eelyn is then taken prisoner and sworn to secrecy about her brother’s lineage.
Eelyn must face her brother’s betrayal and live amongst his people, the Riki, and work as their servant if she hopes to survive the winter to then venture back home to her father. When the Riki village is suddenly raided, she must put her life in the hands of the man who nearly took it—Fiske. Her brother’s friend, and her captor, try to figure out how to unite the clans to defeat a deadlier enemy. But some rivalries run too deep, with too much blood spilled, and old rivals will never be truly at rest until their god’s thirst for blood and war is satisfied.
The setting takes place in a vague, Nordic country where one scene goes from thickly iced over lakes to snow-capped mountains where trees tower over the nestled villages. Young’s descriptions of the meeting halls and forests are gorgeous. I loved her writing style, because it easily hooked me from the first page and didn’t leave room for errors. In other words, anything I guessed that would occur actually didn’t occur, even with my close reading. It was a well thought out and characterized story, especially in regards to character development. A major theme throughout was the idea of giving in and changing. When to change, whether or not to change, and who to change for—which ultimately leads to the protagonist’s self-discovery and newfound outlook on life. The best part about this book is definitely following along as Eelyn struggles to find herself in two different worlds. Fiske fights the same inner battle, as does Iri, and all three of them go through this change differently and with contrasting perspectives. It was all very intriguing and stimulating to read.
I also really enjoyed how Young didn’t focus heavily on romance in this story. While there is romance, it isn’t a main aspect to the plot. There are no affairs, love triangles, or unrequited lover tropes involved whatsoever—none of these warriors have time for that. SKY is a story about self identity and coming of age, and Eelyn was a wonderful protagonist whose main concerns rested with her father, her tribe, and understanding how two groups of people can come to live in peace.
Overall, this was an amazing book. I highly recommend it if you’re a fan of the T.V. series Vikings (on History), or if you haven’t seen that show but loved the book…watch it!! I’m biased because Vikings is my favorite television series, and some of the characters in the book reminded me of characters from the show. Also, the soundtrack to the show is a wonderful companion if you want to listen to music while reading.
I have to give a massive thank you to St. Martin’s Press for granting me an early copy of this book and setting up a Q&A with the author, Adrienne Young! Below are the questions Young responded to for the Sky in the Deep Blog Tour.
- What inspired SKY IN THE DEEP? How did the idea and Eelyn come to you? DO you have any favorite Viking stories?
The sibling betrayal was definitely the first inspiration for this story. I was driving in the pouring rain on this country road and the first scene just hit me—Eelyn seeing her brother on the battlefield after thinking that he was dead for five years. I pulled over on the side of the road and scribbled a million notes on an old envelope. I was immediately hooked to the idea and I wanted to know what had happened. I started writing that first chapter and I just never stopped.
2. What type of research did you do for your character and world-building? What languages did you study to implement the languages of that the Aska and the Riki speak? What was the strangest thing you had to research for this book?
I did a ton of research for this story. I actually really love to research things so it was a lot of fun. A lot of it was stuff like clothing, landscape, weapons, food, etc. But I did a lot of research into Norse mythology as well to build a foundation for this world. The language used is Old Norse, but it’s a dead language so studying it was really difficult. There is a lot of controversy about it among scholars and there’s no real way to fully understand it, so I just did my best based on my own investigation. I’m definitely not an expert! The weirdest thing I had to research was how to tear out someone’s eyeball. Yuck.
3. What was your writing process like for SKY IN THE DEEP?
Complete and utter obsession. When I draft, I get really buried in the world and I don’t really come up for air until I get to the end. I write as much as I can and list my intake of other influencers that could mess with my mindset. I don’t watch TV or movies or listen o music thats not on my playlist, and I kind of don’t have a social life until it’s done.
4. What was your hardest scene to write? What was the easiest?
I really didn’t struggle to get this story on the page the way I have with other books, so I really don’t know what the hardest scene to write was. But the easiest was the first chapter. I wrote it so fast and it just clicked in so perfectly.
5. Which of your characters are you the most like? Who was your favorite to write?
Eelyn! We have so much in common and she really inspires me. But I think Halvard was the most fun to write. I really, really love him.
6. Do you have a soundtrack for SKY IN THE DEEP? Can you share a couple of songs? What would Eelyn’s favorite song be?
Yes! Music plays a HUGE role in my writing process and I have a playlist for every project. The ones I probably listen to the most while drafting SKY are To the Hills by Laurel, Bare by Wildes, and Rise Up— Reprise by Foxes. But a link to the whole playlist is on my site!
Listen to Young’s playlist here.
7. What books have inspired you to write? What books are you looking froward to reading this year?
The ones that inspired me to write are nothing like my books. One of the most influential ones for me was A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, because the human element is so beautiful and the author explores so many things in that took that really took my breath away. I wanted to write stories that went deep like that, but I love fantasy so I try to write it within that realm.
8. Any advice on querying? Or writing advice for aspiring writers?
Querying—do not just sign with any agent who will take you. Make a dream agent list of qualified agents who have good reputations and make consistent sales. Query them. If they don’t bite, then write another book that they might want. Believe me when I say it is worth waiting or the right agent!
9. Any details about the company novel?
I cant say anything about the companion novel yet! But I’m hoping that we can start talking about it soon because I am really excited about it!
And because I loved this book so much…I made my very own playlist for it! You can follow THIS link to listen on SoundCloud. Most songs are by Wardruna, who I’ll be seeing this spring in concert (aahhh)!
Runaljod // Wardruna
Pertho // Wardruna
Snake Pit Poetry // Einar Selvik
Sacrifice for the Crops // Trevor Moris
Skaldens Song Til Tore Hund // Ivar Bjørnson
Heimta Thurs // Warduna
Resan // Forndom
Burizas // Draugurinn
Dance with the Trees // Adrian Von Zieglers
Viking Boaters Dancing in Scotland // Adrei Krylov