The Girl the Sea Gave Back (ARC) by Adrienne Young

Set to release on September 3rd, 2019, The Girl the Sea Gave Back is Adrienne Young’s second novel, following in the footsteps of Sky in the DeepThe Girl the Sea Gave Back promises to be a moving coming-of-age tale, perfect for those who appreciate the wild and the wildlings, strong female protagonists, and cinematic battles.

DISCLAIMER: Thank-you to Raincoast Books for providing me with an Advance Readers’ Edition of The Girl the Sea Gave Back by Adrienne Young, in exchange for an honest review. 

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.

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After absolutely loving Sky in the Deep, I was very excited to dive back into Young’s brutal, viking-inspired fantasy world. The Girl the Sea Gave Back is a companion novel (not a direct sequel) to Sky in the Deep, and therefore picks up years after the conclusion of Sky in the Deep, following new leads, but still giving readers a peek back at the characters they fell in love with when reading Young’s debut. And, as before, Young produces a beautifully written tale full of Scandinavian culture and mythology, personality and romance, and a healthy does of magic.

The Girl the Sea Gave Back is told through the alternating perspectives of Tova, a mysterious orphan with spectacular powers, and Halvard, a young chieftain with plenty to prove – and even more to lose. Tova’s story focuses on her life with the Svell, who treat her horribly, even as they simultaneously rely upon her power to see their fate and what the Spinners have chosen. And while Tova does have some tough decisions to make, readers may find her story quite repetitive, and the selfish nature of her decisions difficult to swallow. Throughout the story she is easily manipulated and often wrestles with conflicting emotions, but in the end she follows her own path, for better or worse. In comparison, the contrasting story is told from the familiar perspective of Fiske’s younger brother, Halvard, which will likely resonate more deeply and personally with readers. Halvard’s story focuses on him coming to terms with becoming the new leader of their clan, and dealing with his feelings of uncertainty and incompetence in light of the difficult choices war forces him to make. Through it all, Halvard stays true to himself – a noble man with a good heart and even better intentions. He is easily the more likable of the two, and readers will find an easy connection to his plight, while Tova’s personality and indecision make her hard to read.

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Beyond the personality of the two lead characters, Young crafts a darkly lyrical tale, which is once again filled to the brim with Scandinavian culture and mythology, though at times the connections feel more subtle than they did in Sky in the Deep. Throughout the novel, Young’s prose will paint a clear picture of the characters, settings, and events for the reader, building a strong story line and world to accompany her characters on their journey. Moreover, the plot always felt like it was moving in the direction of the conclusion, making for a very engaging read that wraps up with plenty of action, bloodshed, and resolution – all of which are certain to leave readers feeling satisfied with this atmospheric fantasy read.

“[Fate] was the curling, wild vine that choked out the summer crops. It was the wind that bent wayward currents and damned innocent souls to the deep.” – Adrienne Young, The Girl the Sea Gave Back

Perhaps the most intriguing – and engaging thing – about Young’s The Girl the Sea Gave Back is the importance that the story places on family, relationship, and connection – romantic or otherwise. Because while The Girl the Sea Gave Back undeniably features a romance, it is more subtle and most certainly not the focus of the story. Readers will find that Halvard and Tova’s blossoming relationship is more centered around the concept of fate, or destiny, than on the actual interactions between characters. While this may cause the romance to fall a bit flat for many readers, it is the other relationships that really win the reader over. Both Tova and Halvard’s relationships and connections to their father figures feature centrally in the plot, as does the importance of strong family and community bonds.

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Overall, The Girl the Sea Gave Back by Adrienne Young is a short, atmospheric read that is steeped in Scandinavian culture and mythology. While Tova’s character falls a bit flat, Halvard’s story is sure the engage readers and pull them deeper into the simple, yet satisfying plot Young has written – right until the last, battle-worn, bloody page (4/5).

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