A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Sky in the Deep is an intense Viking warrior fantasy. The publisher sets the age at 12 and up, but with its heavy themes and bloody battles, this story feels like a better fit for high school-age readers. So many people die in battles and raids with axes, swords, arrows, and knives that two clans are nearly wiped out. Lots of blood flows, with some gory details: Throats are slit, with blood spurting in a "pulsing stream"; axes hack at enemies and are pulled out of flesh; an arrow is pulled out of someone's back, stitches are sewn, etc. During a torture scene, an enemy's eyeball is ripped out, and a knife is twisted in his leg. There's also a threat of sexual violence twice, with a brief sexual assault. Expect some consensual sexual activity as well, though nothing is described beyond kissing and clothing being removed. Mature readers can contemplate how hard it is for these characters and clans to overcome prejudice, hatred, and the thirst for revenge.
What's the story?
In SKY IN THE DEEP, Eeyln is a young Aska warrior from the fjords who's back for another fighting season against the mountain-dwelling Riki clan. She's focused on getting as many kills as she can until, in the heat of battle, she sees something she can't believe: Her brother, who's supposed to be dead, is fighting alongside the Riki. Eelyn breaks from the ranks to follow him, gets shot in the back with an arrow, and is taken prisoner. In the Riki village, she's made a slave of her brother's friend, Fiske, who will protect her until she can escape after the winter thaw. Everyone else in the Riki village is her enemy, and Eelyn discovers things about her turncoat brother that she's not sure she can forgive. Then the brutal Herja clan begins raiding both Aska and Riki villages and taking prisoners to be sacrificed. Eelyn realizes that the Aska and Riki just might need each other to survive.
Is it any good?
This absorbing Viking warrior story keeps the war beat drumming, the axes swinging, and the romantic tension building at a fierce pace. There's an epic feel (and an epic body count!) without an epic novel page count -- Sky in the Deep clocks in at a mere 335 pages.
Eeyln is the right conflicted character to carry Sky in the Deep to a deeper level. She struggles against her fate at first, but her eyes slowly open to what has to change in herself and her culture in order to survive. As readers root for Eeyln to find empathy for the Riki and even grow to love one of her enemies, they're rooting for all of humanity to evolve. Overall, this is a very strong debut novel from Adrienne Young.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Eeyln's journey in Sky in the Deep. How has she changed? What changed her? What hasn't changed about her?
There's quite a body count in this story. Was all the bloodshed jarring? Expected for this culture? What's the impact of media violence on kids?
This is author Adrienne Young's first book. Will you look for more from her? What appeals to you about her writing?
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