War or peace?
This question is at the center of The Girl the Sea Gave Back, an action-packed YA fantasy from author Adrienne Young. While this book may not have enthralled me as much as I had hoped, Young weaves the themes of war and peace to create an interesting story that revolves around war, never glorifying it, while giving us two main characters fighting for peace, for a better and different future.
Many people want Tova dead. A curse, among the Svell, a people who mistrust her, Tova has lived her entire life among these people with no friends and only one ally. She longs for home, for people who will love her and claim her as their own.
Tova is a Truthtongue, the one who casts the stones in order to see the future and the will of the gods. Throughout her years with the Svell, the future has shown death and destruction, and because of this, the Svell see her as the bringer of death. Tova starts to see herself that way too. Now when she casts the stones, they predict complete destruction. In the future, the Svell no longer exist.
Halvard’s parents wanted him to have a different life, a better life than they had—a life unplagued by war. Yet when the Svell begin to attack his clan’s villages, destroying them one by one, it seems there is no other choice. Still, Halvard clings to the hope of peace. Those hopes are shattered on the battlefield, however, when a Svell warrior slays their chieftain in the middle of peace negotiations. With their chieftain dead, Halvard must take his place and lead his clan into a battle he does not want.
He wants to put an end to war.
She wants to put an end to death.
Tova and Halvard belong to opposing clans, but when they face each other on the battlefield, they both feel something they can’t place—a strange pull towards each other. Tova feels that their fates are intertwined, although she doesn’t yet know how. But maybe, just maybe, he could be the way home. War looms on the horizon inevitably. However, this war could be different. There will always be war, but there need not always be hate.
The Girl the Sea Gave Back is action-packed, and for that reason, the book was not my favorite. A huge portion of the book is taken up by epic battle scenes that are brutal in their violence, yet still beautifully written. While this isn’t my cup of tea, I see why some people appreciate it, and I highly recommend this book for anyone who loves action-packed fantasies.
And while I wish there had been more character development, I did really love both of the main characters. Tova, in particular, really captured me. Her deep longing for a home, a place where she was loved and understood, was something I really related to—something I think a lot of us relate to. We really see, both through her point of view and through flashbacks, how cruel the Svell are to her and how isolated it makes her feel, so we root for her. I also was fascinated by her own internal struggle with her role as a Truthtongue. She truly believes that by telling the future, she has brought death to countless people, and she struggles to live with herself, often wishing that she too was dead.
Although this book is not something I would usually read, it did take me on an emotional journey that I thoroughly enjoyed. I highly recommend this book for lovers of action-packed fantasy and mystical viking gods.