(Goodreads summary here.)
Sky in the Deep was one of the two books included in the May OwlCrate box. As I mentioned in my unboxing post, I had a feeling that this was going to be the book included in it and was one of the reasons I decided to order the box. I knew I wanted to read it and figured it was as good a place any to start with book boxes.
As for the book itself, I can’t quite sort out my thoughts on it as a whole. There were definitely things I really enjoyed about it, but other parts seemed to fall really short of expectations. I had heard mixed reviews before I read it, although I went into it with an open mind as best I could.
The plot itself, particularly the imagining of it, is spectacular. I tend to really enjoy the dueling clans trope, and the addition of the Viking-based societies made it even more badass. The concept that Eelyn has to learn to live with and accept the people who are meant to be her enemies is a fairly common narrative, but I always find it powerful. No matter how often it shows up, I can get behind messages of acceptance and understanding.
I did, however, have a bit of a problem with the pacing. It is definitely a fast-paced novel, but for some reason, it didn’t work for me. I felt like all the parts that were less interesting and had less action took up way too much time to get through, while all the action-packed events were jammed into a handful of pages. For instance, the last battle scene is the climax of the novel; it’s the moment where everything either goes right and there’s a happy ending, or it all goes to crap and everyone dies. It should be a tense scene, but it happens in the span of about 5 pages. I wanted way more drama and action and angst at the end to really draw me in, but I got absolutely none of it. It made everything so anticlimactic! The last chapter really jumped ship, too. It is labeled as a chapter, but it felt way more like an epilogue. It ended way too abruptly to be truly satisfying; I would’ve really appreciated seeing exactly how everything worked out in the end, instead of having it all mentioned in passing. Honestly, to me, it felt a little lazy.
In that same vein, I was kind of frustrated by the lack of world building. There was immeasurable potential for the construction of a thorough world, with rival clans and opposing gods, but I felt like all of that was brushed over. Sure, most things get explained eventually, but I never felt like I really understood why anything was happening. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, but I really love good, well thought out world building. For me, it can really make or break a novel. And in this one, it really broke it more than it made it.
As for the characters, I thought Eelyn was a brilliant protagonist. She is strong, fierce, and loyal but still has emotional depth. She isn’t an unfeeling, heartless warrior like she could have been. She loves her family and would die for them, and then she lets the Riki family into her heart and protects them just as fiercely as she does her own blood. I really appreciated that she overcame her prejudices in the end. Eelyn could have only protected Iri or Fiske but ultimately found that Halvard and Inge had become a part of her family as well. As often as she said she didn’t like to cry, Eelyn rarely forces herself not to. She shows emotion the way a normal person would. Just because she’s a warrior who has fought and killed doesn’t mean she isn’t affected by it. Warrior societies are epic, but they’re not interesting or believable if they lack the ability to show feelings.
The story with Iri is really phenomenal. I loved that he wasn’t really afraid to show what he was feeling, and that kind of wearing his heart on his sleeve was really refreshing for a male character. He obviously loves widely and openly, and it becomes a point of tension between him and Eelyn. It helps to centralize the story while giving Eelyn something to learn from. Iri’s role in the book really establishes it as a story of family, both blood and found, which I always love in a book.
As much as I love the inclusion of the principles of found family, I do wish there had been more of it. I felt like, by the end, there was too much emphasis on Eelyn’s feelings for Fiske that could have been on her realizing that Myra, Inge, and Halvard were her family, too. That romance in general was frustrating to me, especially because I never felt like I really understood Fiske. A good love interest, for me, should have depth, and we, as readers, should be able to understand what they’re thinking and why they feel like they do. His whole character just seemed ridiculously flat, which made him seem unintelligent, which made him boring. For as complex of a character as Eelyn is, she deserves to be paired with someone equally complex. Fiske just doesn’t fit that bill for me. Especially because it was a more enemies-to-lovers style relationship, I would’ve liked to see more of the change in feelings on both Eelyn’s and Fiske’s part. Also, this couple was way too predictable. I’m generally okay with guessing who is going to the love interest for the main character, but I don’t want to be hit over the head with it like I was in this. There were really no other options for who it could have been. I’m not necessarily asking for a love triangle where Eelyn would have been torn between two boys, but I kept hoping that maybe Fiske was meant to be the obvious choice only to be usurped by a new character, but it didn’t happen. I guess I kept hoping that maybe Fiske would have a sister Eelyn would fall for instead of him, but no such luck.
I know it seems like I had more negative things to say about this book than positive ones, but I still really enjoyed reading it. For as many complaints as I have, there was just something about this book that I really like. I can’t really articulate is, but I think most of it has to do with Eelyn as a character. As I’ve said, I thought she was really well-developed and beautifully written. I kept expecting her to fall flat or become a stereotype, but she never did. Maybe my expectations were too low, but all I can say is that I liked it despite its issues.
Have you read Sky in the Deep? What characters from other books really surprised you?