Author: Adrienne Young
Publisher: Wednesday Books
First Published: 24 April 2018
Rating: 4.5 stars
“I wouldn’t last in this village the whole winter. I couldn’t wait for the thaw. I had to find a way home.”
I will start by saying that I was given an ARC copy in exchange for an honest review. These opinions are my own. Thank you so much to Wednesday Books, St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley!
Raised to be a warrior, seventeen-year-old Eelyn fights alongside her Aska clansmen in an ancient rivalry against the Riki clan. Her life is brutal but simple: fight and survive. Until she sees the impossible on the battlefield—her brother, fighting with the enemy. The brother she watched die five years ago.
Faced with her brother’s betrayal, she must survive the winter in the mountains with the Riki, in a village where every neighbour is an enemy, every battle scar possibly one she delivered. But when a ruthless clan thought to be a legend raids the Riki village, Eelyn is even more desperate to get back to her beloved family.
I adore this Viking and Celtic inspired world. It is such a refreshing change from the standard medieval European inspired world. I really hope we get more of this world. Either a sequel, a spin-off novel, a novella or a short story, I’m not fussy! Please, can we get more!
To my surprise, this story ended up being a lot more character driven than originally thought. Don’t get me wrong the action scenes are done amazingly. The pace is fast and it feels like you’re there alongside Eelyn during the battles. After the fighting is done for the day, we get these pockets of normality where we see more of the Aska culture. When she sees her brother on the battlefield fighting alongside the Riki, she tries to tell her father but he refuses to listen. But Eelyn doesn’t believe it and the next day her curiosity forces her to look for her brother, which end up with Eelyn being taken as a Riki hostage. Which is where the story switches its focus. Eelyn want’s to survive; she wants to get back home. So the narrative becomes more internal focused on herself, Iri and the Riki clan she’s found herself living with.
Adrienne Young has the beautiful way of showing the difference between these two clans during the time Eelyn stays with Fiske and Iri. And most of it is through the simplest of things. The way Eelyn braids hair and in the slight colour variation in the two sides armour and weapons. But the most stunning thing is getting to see how similar the two clans are outside the battlefield.
Eelyn is a wonderfully complex character. She starts off as this battle harden, Aska warrior who follows her beliefs and training completely, never really questioning anything. She, in the beginning, unlikable, also slightly one dimensional as this is all we see her as a warrior. As the novel progresses you see the changes in Eelyn too. She softens, but it’s not at all easy for Eelyn to accept this. She fights tooth and nail to cling to her hatred of the Riki and the belief that they are the enemy because it’s a difficult reality to realise that these people might be exactly like her. For me, this is handled beautifully and feels like a very human thing to do, because if she keeps questioning the way her world works does her life even make sense anymore? The most interesting thing to see was Eelyn thoughts has she told herself these people meant nothing and she wouldn’t hesitate to kill them to get want she wants to be juxtaposed with her soften actions towards them. Eelyn character development was amazingly handled and that takes a seriously talented writer to pull that off.
The mythology is a particular interest of mine and I adore the way Young has interweave the Viking inspired culture and beliefs. We have the two gods, Thora and Stgi. The Vikings are known to have been superstitious people and we see hints of that through the novel; totems carried in the armour of the Aska, the sacrificing ceremonies carried out to thank the gods for keeping them safe.
This story has so much to offer, more than what you might originally think of a YA fantasy. I was so looking forward to it, as I love the Viking and Celtic cultures and history. I am so happy that thing book was everything I want it to be and more. If you’re not sure if this is the right book for you, trust me it is. I cannot wait to see what Adrienne Young writes next but I’m hoping it’s something set in this world!