OND ELDR. BREATHE FIRE.
Raised to be a warrior, seventeen-year-old Eelyn fights alongside her Aska clansmen in an ancient, rivalry against the Riki clan. Her life is brutal but simple: fight and survive. Until the day she sees the impossible on the battlefield—her brother, fighting with the enemy—the brother she watched die five years ago.
Faced with her brother's betrayal, she must survive the winter in the mountains with the Riki, in a village where every neighbor is an enemy, every battle scar possibly one she delivered. But when the Riki village is raided by a ruthless clan thought to be a legend, Eelyn is even more desperate to get back to her beloved family.
She is given no choice but to trust Fiske, her brother’s friend, who sees her as a threat. They must do the impossible: unite the clans to fight together, or risk being slaughtered one by one. Driven by a love for her clan and her growing love for Fiske, Eelyn must confront her own definition of loyalty and family while daring to put her faith in the people she’s spent her life hating.
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publisher: Wednesday Books (April 24, 2018)
Page Count: 341 pages
My friend Cassia bugged me to read this book for months! Just the title and the fact that it’s about Vikings intrigued me and I’m so glad I picked it up!
The Plot: The action and rest scenes are very well balanced, neither felt too long. The intrigue carried throughout with constant underlying tension. The inciting incident comes rapidly. Far faster than I thought it would. Perhaps too quickly? But still, this book was a very satisfying standalone that put me through a rollercoaster of emotions but ended on a great note.
The Characters: Eelyn is a great protagonist and refreshing in the YA genre. She’s responsible but she’s still a teenager. She also has a lot of motivations and concerns that work well with her time period like how she fears being a slave or dying a common death will deny her entry to the afterlife. She also has a wonderful character arc.
I enjoyed the other characters as well, especially little Fiske’s little brother. The antagonist was unusual in this book since it wasn’t one person but a group of people. But that doesn’t mean they don’t pose as a personal threat to the main character.
The Setting: I loved the setting! The descriptions were all so vivid. The fjords reminded me so much of Iceland. It made me really nostalgic. There were also a lot of other unusual world-building elements like animal sacrifice, slavery, that real mentality about seeing other people as property just because you captured them in battle, no government so people have to solve civil issues on their own, tough kids because they’ve had to grow up in a harsh environment, and being genuinely afraid of favor and abandonment by gods. The prose is really pretty and I love the scene when the title finally ties in when the characters step onto a frozen lake at night with the stars reflecting on the surface. The cold has its own beauty.
Epic Things: The Riki’s god Thora has a sacred animal and that’s a bear. I’ve always thought sacred animals in mythology were cool like owls or ravens. It’s also really neat that the MC fights with axes. It’s a more unusual weapon.
The Theme: A big theme is rebirth. Both Eelyn and her brother go through drastic changes that put them through so much they're almost completely different people. That's the most I can say without spoilers galore.
Content Cautions: Since this is about Vikings, of course, there’s some blood and violence. The worst was definitely when an eye gets gouged out in torture. One character is also left half-naked in the snow to freeze, animals’ throats are slit for ritual sacrifice, and a character has an infected wound that has to be drained. There are also one or two make-out sessions and an implied sex scene
What We Can Take Away For Our Writing:
1.) Tying Emotion to Description - Young does a great job with her prose and making it all feel personal to her character. Every swatch of description has some personal impact on the character and how it makes her feel.
How this can be applied to writing: This is something my agent pointed out I needed to work on in my writing and it honestly breathes so much more life into your story when you think of what this description reminds your character of and how it makes her feel.
2.) Consistent Wound - Throughout the book Eelyn has a wound in her shoulder from the beginning battle. She actually re-opens it multiple times. Also, she acknowledges it hurts and has to give it medical attention.
How this can be applied to writing: If your world doesn't have healing magic, you've gotten keep track of those wounds. They don't just go away! I know if I even have a papercut I keep thinking about it every time it stings. Your character will definitely remember a bullet wound, so write it that way!
Conclusion: Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Five Inukshuks!
About the Author: Adrienne Young is a born and bred Texan turned California girl. She is a foodie with a deep love of history and travel and a shameless addiction to coffee. When she’s not writing, you can find her on her yoga mat, scouring antique fairs for old books, sipping wine over long dinners, or disappearing into her favorite art museums. She lives with her documentary filmmaker husband and their four little wildlings beneath the West Coast sun.