Sky in the Deep was the book that I didn’t know that I needed: a gripping adventure with language and characters I marveled at and a story that is terrifying and healing and hopeful. It’s really amazing how Adrienne Young does it, actually, considering that there’s a lot of violence—I mean a lot—and it still feels like a book that could stitch people back together.
On a superficial level, you could say that this book is Game of Throne-esque. At least, that’s how it felt to me, as a person who doesn’t read or watch a lot of violent texts. But this book has heart—a big wounded one that insists that there can be common ground, that people can overcome differences and find ways to live and even be happy together.
I don’t know; does that sound like a book that we need today?, she asks innocently.
Eelyn is an Aska, and every five years, the Aska fight the Riki “to defend” their gods’ “honor” and because they are “bound by the blood feud between us.” In the opening battle, Eelyn is shocked to discover that her brother, Iri, who presumably died in the fight five years before, is now a Riki. He saves her life when his fellow Riki, Fiske, tries to kill her, leading Eelyn’s father and other Aska to believe that Iri was a spirit sent by their god to help her during the fight.
But Eelyn suspects that Iri is still alive, and during the next battle, she chases him down. Though her brother again tries to protect her, she becomes a Riki prisoner and is taken back to their village where she’s purchased by Fiske as a dyr, a slave of sorts for his family. Iri says that she’ll stay there until the spring, until they can return her to the Aska.
Though Eelyn assures herself that she’ll return home, being a dyr is the most humiliating fate she believes that she can suffer. She's also faced with Iri's betrayal. Since this world is one that values fighting prowess, community, and above all else, honor, Iri’s decision to become a Riki makes him worse than a traitor. She can’t understand why he would give them his loyalty, and why he would take up arms against his sister and father and the people who raised him and loved him.
But the longer that Eelyn lives in the Riki village, the more she realizes that life is more complicated than that, that it’s not as simple as black and white; that it might make it easier to kill one another if the Aska and Riki believe that they’re fundamentally different people, but that that might not be the right way to think.
This book has a lot of love, but it also has a lot of violence, and the graphic descriptions were sometimes difficult to read. But I do believe that in this case, the violence is working toward a greater end. Young helps us see that this world is a brutal, uncertain one, but one that also accommodates better, bigger things, like peace and understanding. It’s a world where community reigns, but it’s also possible to choose families for oneself.
Peace, understanding, and love are choices here, and that makes every decision to pursue them, rather than violence, harder and even more admirable.
Give me that HEA, please.
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