REVIEW: The Girl the Sea Gave Back by Adrienne Young

The stones don’t lie.

This is the BEST first sentence that I’ve read in a really long time. It’s so spooky and ominous, and I was instantly entranced by this harsh and passive world that Adrienne Young created.

SEA follows Tova and her search to find her true clan—the clan that pushed her into a burning boat into the sea after inking symbols and staves across her skin. She was found by the Svell clan, who let her live but believed her to be a cursed Truthtongue. In her search, she casts the stones, which help her read the truth, but finds that the Svell will be destroyed in the future, which compels them to wage war against the Nadhir.

Halvard, the Nadhir chieftain, knows that the Svell are trying to wage war. He thinks he can find a way to avoid the war…until they are deceived by the Svell and are ruthlessly slaughtered. What he doesn’t know is that Tova is searching for him because he is the key to the Nadhir’s survival.

I bought this through Book of the Month YA and I was really surprised when I received it and it was only 300 pages. (For reference, most books in the YA world now are almost always over 400.)

Those 300 pages, however, did NOT disappoint. I really loved the setting, as it was clannish (it really reminded me of Scotland or Scandinavia, and strangely reminded me of Young’s first book Sky in the Deep) and brutal. I love her descriptions of the world they lived in, but I also appreciated how it was almost under-described, leaving you to discover their world from within your own imagination.

There was always an air of mystery around Tova that I couldn’t really get past. Halvard was so much easier to connect to, as he was the one who wasn’t afraid to acknowledge his emotions, and even after a betrayal, he still put trust in people. Tova was trustless, wary, and reminded me of a hardened but nervous horse.

I felt like I was in medieval times when brutality and grimness were ever-present, but it wasn’t glorified or revered the way most books, TV shows, and movies do. My favorite part about Adrienne Young’s books is without a doubt that she acknowledges the brutality but doesn’t glorify it. I loved the world but would not have wanted to be a part of it.

A few sections were slow and hard to get through, mostly because there were only two main plot points: stop the war and discover Tova’s past. Though the two points were well-written, they weren’t really complex. Sub-plots or romances would have made the book more relatable. Also, I totally shipped Halvard and Tova, but there wasn’t much about their relationship. :(

However, Tova’s relationships with others were incredibly complex, and the contrast between lonely Tova and loved Halvard was very interesting. Normally it’s the other way around, so it was refreshing to read!

Overall, I recommend this book if you enjoyed books like Sky in the Deep, Three Dark Crowns, Grave Mercy, and And I Darken, and TV shows like Poldark and Outlander, or if you’re interesting in more distant, brutal worlds with Scandanavian or Scottish settings.

Thanks for a great read, Adrienne!

Let me know how YOU felt about SEA! I’d love to hear from you.

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