For as long as she can remember, Tova has lived among the Svell, the people who found her washed ashore as a child and use her for her gift as a Truthtongue. Her own home and clan are long-faded memories, but the sacred symbols and staves inked over every inch of her skin mark her as one who can cast the rune stones and see into the future. She has found a fragile place among those who fear her, but when two clans to the east bury their age-old blood feud and join together as one, her world is dangerously close to collapse.
For the first time in generations, the leaders of the Svell are divided. Should they maintain peace or go to war with the allied clans to protect their newfound power? And when their chieftain looks to Tova to cast the stones, she sets into motion a series of events that will not only change the landscape of the mainland forever but will give her something she believed she could never have again—a home.
“Give me the child.”
Turonn’s hands reached for the girl cradled in his wife’s arms and she looked up, her swollen eyes glistening.
“They’re waiting, Svanhild.”
She touched her daughter’s face, tracing the curve of her brow with the tip of her finger. “I will carry her,” she whispered.
enjoyable/easy to read:
I was very excited to return to this world, even if it was only distantly connected to Sky in the Deep. While Young’s writing is as beautiful as ever, I didn’t feel the same connection to the characters this time around. The Girl the Sea Gave Back is technically a standalone, but you’re missing out on a lot of context if you haven’t read Sky in the Deep. The Girl the Sea Gave Back would feel even more shallow if you don’t have the beautiful worldbuilding that was done in Sky in the Deep to grow from.
I spent most of The Girl the Sea Gave Back waiting for it to start, and even now that I’ve finished, I’m not sure if much happened. I think with all the talk of fate and the inability to change what will happen, I lost interest. If you can’t change your future, and the plot is predictable from the beginning – what’s the point of reading?
Vigdis stood broad-shouldered beside him and I knew what he was thinking. That he should have killed me when Vera died. That he should have let me burn when Bekan fell in the glade. Every drop of blood spilled from here to Liera was the sea I was cursed to drown in. Somehow, Vigdis had known it. He knew that I’d bring death since the moment he first laid eyes on me.
And he was right.
Tova is an incredibly interesting addition to this story. Or at least her people, the Kyrr, are. They are so much cooler than anyone else we’ve met so far. This thin veil between this world and true, witchy magic was amazing. I want an entire book filled with them. Tova herself, on the other hand, was a little boring. For someone who has spent so much time on the outskirts, feared and hated, you’d think she would have a little more backbone. But, instead, it took ages for her to find enough strength to do something she wanted to do.
I was very excited to catch up with Halvard again. He was such a serious child in Sky in the Deep; it was nice to see him grown up and playing a more independent role. However, I think it would be difficult to understand him as a character if you were reading The Girl the Sea Gave Back as a standalone, as it assumes you know most of his history from the beginning. He would feel like a very incomplete character without any backstory. I wish we could have dug deeper into his motivation and leadership instead of just taking everything at face value.
The last 30% of The Girl the Sea Gave Back is excellent. Fast-paced and exciting, with a lot of tension. Tova and Halvard finally come in to themselves and make some big moves. Plus, Young writes battle scenes really well.
As good as the ending is, it did feel a little abrupt. I felt like I was finally getting invested, and it was suddenly over. I can’t go below 3.5 stars because, at the end of the day, I really enjoyed The Girl the Sea Gave Back. There were enough nuggets that while I was left wanting more, it was mostly good enough.