They were wrought with meaning, each one, but they had only ever been secrets to me – Adrienne Young.
I have been anticipating this book for six long months. I completely fell in love with Adrienne Young’s Viking world when I read her debut. It was filled with angst, love, hatred, violence, blood, gore and pride, so much of it bursting at the seams. I flew through the story, wanting to experience every touch, every look and every movement that came alive in the pages. Sky In The Deep had me hooked onto a world and a history that I had only ever scratched the surface of before and I couldn’t wait to dive a little deeper into Adrienne Young’s world with The Girl The Sea Gave Back.
The title alone sent me into a frenzy when I first read it. I love the ocean; it is one of those natural elements that mesmerises me no matter where I am in the world. The fact that it was so crucial to Adrienne Young’s next story, so much so the word appeared in the title, had me itching to read the next instalment of the life of the Aska and the Riki tribes since that bloodthirsty battle that had united them against a demonic tribe a decade ago.
The Girl The Sea Gave Back begins with anguish, the kind that rips a mother’s heart from her chest as a child is lost to the sea surrounded by flames and fog. She disappears from her lands that day and, miraculously, enters a new world. Nevertheless, Tova believes that she should never have been found. The swirls of ink and symbols on her arm illustrate histories of her people, legends that she could never begin to understand and the curse of tradition that she has been born with. She is found amongst the land of the Svell and for ten years she has been their Truthtongue, a girl with a knowledge of the world in both the physical and spiritual form, a plague to those who surround her. Despite their hatred and their terror of this strange girl, it is she who they turn to when the fortune of the people needs to be told and sometimes, more often than not, they don’t like what they hear.
At a time when the clan is torn apart by the rules and beliefs of two brothers as well as their possible destruction, things turn to the old ways, to war and battle cries that scream for blood lust, of power over peace. As for Tova, she believes it is all her fault, no matter what the Spinners have decided.
The Girl The Sea Gave Back is a multitude of journeys. It is a journey for Tova herself as she finds her place in the world after being so frightened and horrified for the majority of her life, a lost little girl who decides that she will be the one who dictates her own life, not the men who hate her with a violence that slices the very bone of humanity. Tova realises that she has a power unlike anybody else and with it, she can change the world that surrounds her. Although set in the beautiful fjords and mountains, across glistening seas that are ethereal, the story of a young woman finding her own voice can be related to many of the stories that we hear about in our world today, that we live ourselves in a world not too dissimilar to the rages of wars among clans. Young women have the power to change the world, just as young men do too.
This story is told from two aspects and if you’ve read Sky In The Deep (if you haven’t why not?), you will find comfort in the characters who have grown and shaped the land of the fjords into a peaceful community that is full of love and understanding for human life as well as the spirit and honour of the gods. Halvard is at the centre of the story. He is on his way to becoming a leader, the one they will call upon to make the best decisions for the clan as a whole and he is nowhere near ready for a responsibility of that magnitude. In some ways, he is so much like the eight-year-old Eelyn first met ten years ago; timid and full of irreplaceable love. In others he has grown; his strength in body and mind is unstoppable and his ability to share that among his people and his enemies is incomparable.
The Girl The Sea Gave Back is an incredible story with characters that are foreboding, mysterious, strong and callous, full of wonder and a toughness that only Vikings know. The element of magic and fate entranced me; it made me believe more so in fate, but also that fate can be changed and, of course, that we are masters of it. Nevertheless, Adrienne Young’s debut, Sky In The Deep, held such a high bar – too high, it still being my favourite of the year – that it is so difficult to compare, and for that I don’t know whether to commend and congratulate Adrienne Young or curse her myself for writing a debut that is unrivalled, even by her own hand.
Full of grit and brutality with a hope that even in the darkest of times there is a light that will shine, no matter how small, The Girl The Sea Gave Back is the book to read when you need to know that your gut feeling is right, even when everyone around you is against you and your beliefs.
Does The Girl The Sea Gave Back make it to your 2019 reading list?
Love, Faye xo