A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
As in the companion book Sky in the Deep, weapons, clothing, armor, and warrior lifestyle are modeled on the lives of early Vikings. Some details on fighting techniques and the work of healers. The idea of "Spinners" is introduced -- beings similar to the Fates in Greek Mythology.
"War is easy" is repeated often. The path to peace is more difficult but worth it. Leadership that honors family, mourns loss, and shows mercy is part of that path.
Positive Role Models
Tova begins as someone who's willingly led by others in order to keep herself safe. As she trusts in her own intuition more, she escapes that life to do what's right. This trust in herself takes a long time. Oddly, when warmongers see what they want to see in the runes she casts, she feels responsible. Halvard is plagued with doubt about his ability as a leader but makes good decisions that pull his people toward peace. He shows mercy on the enemy when others wouldn't and rightly trusts an outsider whom everyone else fears.
Violence & Scariness
Bloody battles and skirmishes, with some close-up details of gory action: throats slit with knives, the pop of a knife plunging into a chest, axes digging into flesh, etc. Scores dead, including a few secondary characters who are heavily mourned and burned on pyres. Many wounded, with details about blood loss, infections, and stitching deep cuts. A whole village of innocents is slaughtered, with details of aftermath (children dead in mothers' arms). A head is chopped off a corpse and carried away. Many flashbacks to violence in characters' pasts, including families dying of illness and in war and getting dragged and beaten by local villagers. A funeral boat carries a drowned 6-year-old girl away.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Characters drink mead and ale in homes and before and after battle. Some drinkers are older teens.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Girl the Sea Gave Back is a Viking warrior fantasy from the same world as Sky in the Deep, but it takes place about 10 years later. A few of the same characters show up, but they have no major role to play, so either book can be read first. As in that novel, the battles and skirmishes are extra bloody here. Expect close-up details of gory action: throats slit with knives, the pop of a knife plunging into a chest, axes digging into flesh, etc. Many die, including a few secondary characters who are heavily mourned and burned on pyres. Many are also wounded, with details about blood loss, infections, and stitching deep cuts. A whole village of innocents is slaughtered, with details of the aftermath (seeing children dead in mothers' arms). A head is chopped off a corpse and carried away. Characters (including teens) drink mead and wine at meals and before and after battle. The main characters are admirable: Tova finally listens to her intuition and escapes her old life to right wrongs, and Halvard grows into the leader his people need in a crisis, one who ultimately chooses peace, even though it's harder to achieve.
Is It Any Good?
Though a much smaller story in scope than the author's last Viking-set fantasy, this companion novel still resonates, with thoughtful characters and a deep sense of place. Sky in the Deep brought two clans and two people together and explored prejudice and empathy. The Girl the Sea Gave Back gives readers a skirmish, a cry for war, and a big battle with far too many flashbacks in between. The goals are simply survival and peace. Secondary to that, Tova would like to know more about where she came from and what her real purpose is. Readers knows long before she does and may wonder why she doesn't escape from the Svell as soon as possible. When she makes the connection with Halvard, it's a long time before anything real can come of it.
While readers are waiting for Tova to come around, there's much to enjoy in The Girl the Sea Gave Back. The setting and the details of this world and the cultures that inhabit it will draw you in. The mystical Kyrr fascinate, even from afar. Author Adrienne Young pulls in close to the Viking-style beards and braids and armor -- and to the hearths where warriors stitch each other's wounds. Time slows in front of a funeral pyre as loved ones are laid to rest. The whole story may keep to a simple plot, but it hones in on its depths quite well.
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