Review: The Girl the Sea Gave Back

The Girl the Sea Gave Back
By Adrienne Young
Published September 3, 2019 by Wednesday Books

Publisher’s summary:
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 among 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.

I really loved Sky in the Deep, Adrienne Young’s debut novel, so I was excited to read the companion novel, The Girl the Sea Gave Back. It’s not a direct sequel, but it’s set in the same world as Sky in the Deep and the main characters appear in supporting roles.

The Girl the Sea Gave BackSet 10 years after the events of Sky in the Deep, the Nadhir have experienced an unprecedented stretch of peace, but the neighboring tribe of the Svell are growing in strength and may be a threat to the Nadhir, who are still rebuilding after the events of the first book. Halvard is 18 and has been chosen as the heir to the chief of the Nadhir. He wrestles with whether he is truly the right choice for the job.

One of the Svell’s advantages is a young woman named Tova. She is a Truthtongue, someone who can see the future. She is also a member of another tribe, the mysterious Kyrr. She washed up on a beach and was found by Jorrund, the Svell’s spiritual leader. Her life with the Svell has been hard. Although they need her, they also fear her, and the only person who shows her any kindness is Jorrund, but Tova always wonders if it’s because he needs her abilities to maintain his power.  She lives in constant fear of outliving her usefulness to the tribe.

The story is told in alternating chapters from Tova and Halvard’s points of view. It’s effective because the characters have very distinct voices. Tova’s lonely life contrasts with Halvard’s much more secure position. She’s an outsider with no memories of her past, while he is a favored son of his tribe, with a supporting and loving family. The two have little in common, but when Tova casts the rune stones, a connection between them is forged.

The book has a fast moving plot, and most of the action takes place over just a few days. Young’s spare prose works well for the story. The bleakness and beauty of this world really come through in her writing. It’s a gripping story, and I hope Young writes more books set in this world.

Although this is sort of a sequel, it’s possible to read it without having read Sky in the Deep. But the two books go so well together, I would recommend that you read the first one before reading The Girl the Sea Gave Back.

I received an ARC from the publisher through NetGalley.

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