4.25 out of 5 stars
Quick, straightforward and violently beautiful, Sky in the Deep is as harsh as it is lovely.
Young Eelyn is a warrior of the Viking-esque Aska clan. Every five years, her people fight a brutal season against their rival clan, the Riki. One season, her brother Iri dies. The next season, she learns otherwise. Captured herself in battle, Eelyn must survive as a prisoner among the Riki – but she is not without allies: some who surprise her, and some who surprise themselves.
Sky in the Deep is very simple. There’s a single story line, always on Eelyn. B plots flit at the edges, details that inform her world, but the reader never leaves her point of view. It’s unusual, and absolutely perfect for this story. It keeps things arrow-straight and moving just as quickly. Cold, harsh, lethal: that is Eelyn’s world.
There is love too. The Aska and Riki each fight for their people, and with so much blood between them, no one ever bothers to wonder if there’s another way. Iri is the path by which Eelyn learns about the world beyond of her village and their never-ending war. She also meets Fiske – Iri’s new, chosen brother among the Riki.
Here’s the one spot where the sparseness of Young’s writing does this story a disservice. Eelyn and Fiske are clearly love interests. There are so few other characters that it’s never a question. They come to trust each other slowly, including one really beautiful scene on a frozen lake from which the book gets its name. But I didn’t feel it. I wanted them to get together… and that was delivered, like a pizza. Pretty standard issue. The reader is so entirely inside Eelyn’s mind that Fiske ends up seeming a bit wooden, just a little dry. Perhaps that’s intentional, in the same way I praised the writing for matching the story. But it left me less invested in their eventual relationship. Everything else in this book is so brutal, I wanted true love/hate, bad guy into good guy, rip my heart out along with the pages kind of stuff. I wanted ACOTAR’s Ryhsand in the moment you realize whaaaaaaaaaaaaat and then immediately faint. I wanted great. What I got was good.
Perhaps the truest strength of Sky in the Deep is that it’s a 4.25 star book even without a stellar love story. But when everything else is so perfect, I could not help wishing for just a little bit more.