3 out of 5 stars
A solid spinoff, but fails to capture the stark grit of its predecessor.
In the first pages on The Girl the Sea Gave Back, Tova dies. A child of the Viking-esque Kyrr clan, her body is set adrift in a boat, followed by a flaming arrow, for a burial at sea. Only her boat doesn’t burn – and Tova is not dead.
She washes ashore on the lands of the Svell. They see her for what she is: a Truthtounge, one who can read the runes and tell the Fates’ will. Though they take her in, she never becomes one of them. So when Tova is a teenager and events lead to a clash between the Svell and rival Nadhir clan, her loyalty becomes as fluid as the sea that delivered her there.
Sky in the Deep is a wonderful book (review: 4.25 stars). In The Girl the Sea Gave Back, Adrienne Young brings us back to the world of the Riki and Aska clans following the events of that story. The clans are now united as one, into the Nadhir. Halvard, a child in the first book, is grown and stars alongside Tova in this spinoff. Eelyn, Fiske and Iri make guest appearances.
Girl has the same stark, raw setting, the same brutality in its way of life, but it’s less gripping. Where Eelyn was all grit, Tova is mostly doubt. Where Eelyn had many things to fight for, Tova has one, maybe (Halvard), and then maybe some others (like herself), depending. There’s less action and more getting to that point; The Girl the Sea Gave Back spends more time waiting than warring. It was that quick fuse, middle-of-the-action pace that I liked best about Sky in the Deep. It struck fast, like an ambush. It also better matched Young’s direct, no-nonsense prose: the words are a weapon, the book is a battle. Here, Girl leans heavily on the magic and superstition of the people, but that feels like it belongs in a different story. Tova’s ability and her role in society are more interesting than Eelyn’s, but Eelyn is more viking. And that’s when this series has been at its best.