The Girl the Sea Gave Back – Adrienne Young (Sky in the Deep #2)

Summary: The story of an entwined destiny between a girl burdened with mystical foresight and a warrior untested in battle.

Tova was a child when she was discovered washed ashore in a half-burned boat by the Svell clan.  The sacred symbols and staves inked over every inch of her skin mark her not only as a member of  the Kyrr, but as a Truthtongue.  The Svell believe her cursed, forsaken by her own people.  But Tova’s ability to cast the rune stones and interpret the web of fate woven by the Spinners makes her valuable.  Until the day she foresees the Svell destruction, compelling them to wage war.

Across the valley, the rival Aska and Riki clans have lived peacefully for more than ten years as a new people have lived peacefully for more than ten years as a new people — the Nādhir. But when Svell raiders attack and a village’s inhabitants are slaughtered, Halvard believes there might be a way to avoid war.  Chosen to be the Nādhir.’s next chieftain, he convinces his elders to negotiate with the Svell before more blood is spilled.  His hope for a truce is shattered when the Nādhir. are deceived by their enemy and ambushed without mercy.

But there is more to Tova’s prophecy than bloodshed.  As long as Halvard  lives, his people have a future.  And if what Tova sees in the runes is true, her own path is interwoven with his.  Now, she must find the courage to free herself from the only family she’s every known in order to fulfill her own fate.  (Summary from book – Image from

My Review:  The Girl the Sea Gave Back is a sequel to an audiobook that I reviewed back in 2018.  The first book, Sky in the Deep, can be read as a stand alone novel, but those wanting a continuation of their Eelyn and Fiske’s story in the sequel, might be a little disappointed to find them relegated to the role of secondary characters.  The story felt more like a spin-off than a sequel, with the plot centered on different characters and set ten years after the events of Sky in the Deep.

The Girl the Sea Gave Back focuses on a young seer named Tova, thought dead her own people and found by the aggressive Svell clan, and a warrior named Halvard, brother to Sky in the Deep‘s Fiske, and chieftain-in-training for the newly formed Nādhir people.  The story alternates between Tova and Halvard’s perspectives on different sides of the dispute, but often overlap so that I was able to see the ‘scene’ from both sides of the fight.  I enjoyed this book’s basic plot but, for much of the story, I felt a little lost.  That could be entirely my fault.  It’s been nearly two years since I read the first book and although the Nordic setting was seamless and easy to conjure, I kept having to stop and look up some of the secondary characters to refresh my memory.  I tell you, the old memory banks ain’t what they used to be.  The story jumped around in time a bit, to better  illuminate the characters’ backstory, but it all felt a bit Time Traveler’s Wife to me as I was trying to order things chronologically in my head. 

As with the Sky in the Deep, I loved the Nordic/Scandinavian setting, the assorted warring clans, and their differing belief systems of The Girl the Sea Gave Back. It really helped ‘set the stage,’ if you will.  I just wish the book had been a bit longer to allow for more interaction between the two main characters.  While Halvard and Tova catch glimpses of each other in visions and across battlefields, they have limited face-to-face interaction for much of the story.  They do meet, eventually, but I didn’t feel like there was enough time for them to develop any real chemistry before the book was just…over.  I wish there had been a few more in-person interactions to give time for things to develop organically and to really draw out any romantic tension.

Overall, I enjoyed the idea of The Girl the Sea Gave Back but not quite as well as its predecessor.  To get the most out of the second book, I recommend reading it soon after the first or at the very least finding yourself a decent summary to refresh your memory.

My Rating:  3.5 Stars

For the sensitive reader: Some violence of the Viking variety.  A kiss, but no sex or major makingout. No language that I can recall.  Several Norse-ish belief systems.

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Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

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The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

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