The Girl The Sea Gave Back by Adrienne Young

I would like to thank Sarah from Titan for an advance copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review

Publisher – Titan

Published – Out Now

Price - £8.99

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 amongst 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.

As all fantasy fans know prophecy and fate are always a little bit dodgy.  Be you a Dark Lord, Nazgul or Grand Vizier the legends will never go the way you think. For Vikings the runes were seen as the guide to the fates and Adrienne Young returns to her world inspired by Norse life to give us a more magical tale of betrayal and finding where you fit in.

In her first novel in this sequence which I reviewed very positive (Sky In The Deep ) saw the tale of two Viking settlements that at the moment of their destruction decided to work together; cast aside the generations of bad blood between them and eke out a victory against a mysterious force from the sea.  Now several years later we see the next instalment in the saga. The Nadhir (the new name for the joined tribes) are slowly rebuilding but are still weak in numbers.  The Svell are a nearby tribe that start to fear this potential new threat on their borders and there is debate whether war or peace is the best option. The Svell leader Bekan and his brother Vigdis are working at odds against each other but Bekan respects his mysterious TruthTongue Tova a mysterious arrival to their land as a young child.  She alone can use rune stones to tell the future and her answer to this question requires action – but no one will be the same again. Meanwhile in the Nadhir we see Halvard who we last met as a young boy now about to become a man is en route to meet the Svell for talks – nothing however will stay the same again.

Young proves as always that they are going to deliver a really well written tale.  She can build scenes of magic, love and battle very competently and you do feel like you’re in a very different world to our own. Unlike Sky in the Deep we have a greater use of magic and the Norse-style mythology than we have seen before. Here the concept of the Spinners (effectively the Fates) who are pulling together the threads of the Svell and Nadhir’s destinies.  If Sky in the Deep was more the novel or the warriors this is the novel for the mystics and here we have the mystery of Tova who can link with the Spinners and seems central to the conflict about to erupt as well as the mysterious Kyrr clan that lurks in the icier realms and seem ambivalent about entering this conflict.  You do get the sense reading this this tale is part of a wider mythology and that is really appealing.

However unfortunately while I loved the writing and the premise of the novel, I could not really settle into the story. I suspect a lot of this was that the things I loved most about its predecessor seemed to be missing. This novel is more set in a very short period with a number of flashbacks into Halvard and Tova’s past; but the story never really takes off for me.  Tova is a more vaguer lead figure as she doesn’t know much of who she is, and it becomes clear the Svell are not her best guardians.  Unlike the earlier tale it was not giving us a feel for this Svell as more than the bad guys. There isn’t really a moral conflict for the characters and while if this had been evident then the story would have mirrored the first too much this lack ed the complexity of the earlier novel. It felt overall more like a future set up for a bigger tale – and this was evident in what seems a very fast conclusion.  It feels an interim step very much in the larger tale so I’m hoping that the next instalment is able to use this step to really leap forward.

For those yet to read Sky I think this would be a good entry point for new readers just to introduce you to Young’s very accomplished writing style and this world is interesting, but I do feel this is lacking the same level of energy and complexity.  But I will still be on the lookout for future novels as I think Young is a writer to watch.