When I was offered The Girl The Sea Gave Back to review I immediately grabbed it up as I’d already read Adrienne Young’s previous novel, Sky In The Deep, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I received the new book and was intrigued by the blurb on the back, and found it to be enjoyable once I started reading it. The one thing I wasn’t expecting, however, was that this was a direct sequel to her last book. Not once was this mentioned in the description, and once I realised several characters were making a return I was overjoyed.
The Girl The Sea Gave Back isn’t the kind of sequel where it’s absolutely necessary to have read the previous book, however, as much of what happened in the last book is given in background detail here, during events more than a decade later. It takes the world that Young created in Sky In The Deep and expands upon it in new and interesting ways, yet tells a story that also stands on its own as a great book. Because of this I felt a little torn over how to review this book. Is it its own separate entity, or should I talk about it as a sequel? Well, I’m going to try and do both.
The Girl The Sea Gave Back tells two stories that interweave with each other: one that follows the titular girl the sea gave back, Tova. Tova, a member of the Kyrr tribe was thought dead by her people, and cast adrift into the sea in a burning boat. However, when the boat fails to burn fully, and the alive Tova is found by a villager from the Svell tribe, she’s taken in to act as a Truthtongue, a woman who is able to read the future through rune casting. The Svell use her abilities when they choose to attack a neighbouring tribe, the Nadhir.
This is where the second narrative kicks in, and where the book is a sequel to Sky In The Deep. The Nadhir are the remnants of the Riki and Aska tribes that came together to fight a common enemy in the previous book, and have now been a unified tribe for ten years. We follow one of their leaders, or soon to be leaders, Halvard. Halvard has been chosen to take over as the chief of the tribe, and finds that he is having to take on these responsibilities sooner than expected when the Svell declare war. Halvard is also a returning character, one who was much younger in the last book, and more of a secondary character.
The narrative jumps between Tova and Halvard every chapter, not only following their journey through these events, but also key moments from their past that helped to shape them into the people they are. This is a big change to the narrative style of the previous book, where we centred on just one character. This change, however, is great, and we get to see two sides of certain events, and Young uses these jumps in narrative to create peaks in tension and mini cliffhangers.
The two narrative viewpoints also work in helping to show that these two characters aren’t just tangled up in the same series of events, but that their destinies are tied together. Each of them helps to shape where the other ends up, and they ultimately rely on each other in order to survive what happens.
One of the other big changes to this book over Sky In The Deep is the pace. The last book was set over a number of months, and followed a much longer, and more personal journey. This book happens across a few days, a week at most. The action starts much earlier here, and there’s a sense of tension and pace that doesn’t let up throughout. Because of this the book grabbed me a lot quicker, and I found myself desperate to find out what was going to happen next. If Sky In The Deep was a character study, The Girl The Sea Gave Back is a roller-coaster action tale.
I was hugely surprised and impressed with The Girl The Sea Gave Back. It stands on its own as an exciting action story in a beautiful and well crafted world, but it also builds upon the world created by Sky In The Deep to tell an even bigger story. Whether this is your first introduction to Adrienne Young’s work, or if this is a return, it’s sure to keep you hooked throughout.
The Girl the Sea Gave Back is available from 3rd September from Titan Books.