Review of The Girl the Sea Gave Back by Adrienne Young

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.

The Girl the Sea Gave Back is a book that I have been so looking forward to! In the UK we had to wait for Sky in the Deep to pick up a publisher so the bonus being that I had only just finished reading it and the world was really fresh in my mind. Firstly can I just talk about how beautiful the cover is! The way the waves merge into the dress and the effect of the storm is fantastic – I usually don’t love people covers but this one is amazing.

The story is set in the same universe but further on in time, little Halvard is all grown up and the peace between the clans has thankfully held. I really liked that we picked up with Halvard, he was such a brilliant character in Sky in the Deep and following his story as a child grown in peace time was really enjoyable.  In a difference, this story is told in a dual POV, I love this ever fluctuating view point, I think it really brings extra depth to the story and allows for the pace to grow. With Tova, our other narrator, comes two new clans which brought a greater scope to the world, more gods and more superstitions. The two stories tumbled over one another gloriously as pages turned. However, as we are looking at POV’s from different people in different places (rather than the usual 2 people in the same group) I didn’t feel that we got to connect to the surroundings enough, like it was written in an almost nomadic way. That being said I had solid world building from SITD to fall back on and I loved the more eerie and ethereal feel here. Where SITD was all out war from the opening page, TGTSGB has a quieter more contemplative feel and despite the harsh brutality of the world and what the characters are facing, it gives the time to provide greater depth to the other side of war.

I adored grown up Halvard, it’s like he has taken all the best bits of Iri and Fiske and turned them into a great warrior, friend and confidant combination. His character has developed in a way I didn’t think it would but I loved being surprised in that way! Tova as well is a wonderfully written character and truly I could have read a book all about her (don’t tell Halvard) I found her background utterly fascinating and her use of superstition and runes in a world so entrenched in their gods, both edgy and captivating. If Adrienne Young writes about this world again I would love to know more about her people. There is a decent handful of name drops too that will keep fans of book one more than happy.

One thing that did routinely pull me out of the story though, is that I never really quite got to understanding about why the Svell had such a dislike of Tova or why she was blamed for the things she had been. There was a lot of background that would have benefited from being expanded on and I think that would have made it a more all encompassing read. It was a fairly short read so there was definitely capacity to do this.

One things for sure, Adrienne Young continues to write beautiful and captivating worlds that I love being transported into.



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