This was one of my most anticipated ARCs from NetGalley and honestly, I’m a bit disappointed. Please keep in mind that I did read a very early advance copy of this so many things I complain about here could be fixed in the final edition. I actually plan of re-reading this after the published copy is released to check for myself.
*I received a digital ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review*
The new gut-wrenching epic from the New York Times bestselling author of Sky in the Deep.
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.
I don’t know why but I didn’t get into this book until a few weeks after downloading it. It was just so slow, which is the total opposite of how Sky in the Deep starts. Sky in the Deep draws us in right from the beginning with a battle scene and continues with that momentum whereas The Girl the Sea Gave Back starts with an intriguing flashback and then a lot of talking. I think the potential was there to be really interesting but it just doesn’t pick up like I had anticipated.
I think I would have benefitted from a reread of Sky in the Deep so I could get a refresher of characters and their relationships. I felt like I had picked up the second book in a series instead of what is marketed as a companion. In my experience, companions can usually be read by themselves and just mention some of the previous characters and plots. This one relied more on the previous world building and, for those of us who read Sky in the Deep awhile ago, it felt too confusing.
On top of feeling confused over the characters and situation, the plot took awhile to pick up. It felt like there was a lot of thinking and talking going on rather than any events actually happening. This might not have been an issue if The Girl the Sea Gave Back isn’t marketed as an extension of Sky in the Deep but it is so I can’t help but compare this book to that. I kept waiting for events to pick up, for conflicts to arise, for character deaths, etc. and, though some of that happened, the way it was written made it felt so downplayed and unimportant.
The ending of the book is where things pick up and really start to get interesting. Before that I didn’t feel any connection to the characters, didn’t really see any plot developing, and honestly couldn’t see the point of this book. I mean, really! I loved Sky in the Deep and the built-up companion was really letting me down! The ending did give me some sense of satisfaction but I do wish it would have happened sooner and would have packed more of a punch. Hopefully this is something that will be fixed in the final copy.
The romance aspect of this book was not working for me, and I felt conflicted about the romance element in Sky in the Deep as well. There just wasn’t enough there for me to feel anything about the characters as individuals, much less as a couple. Tova and Halvard supposedly feel this connection and fall in love but there isn’t anything in the story that is explored in enough depth to help me see this love develop.
So, after writing all this out, I realize my rating is actually more of a 2.5. I’ll keep it rounded up at 3 because I’m reading an ARC, but I’m really bummed that a book with such promise let me down so much. I was so excited to return to the atmosphere, characters, and overall feeling of Sky in the Deep but it just felt off. I couldn’t put Sky in the Deep down but looked for any excuse to put The Girl the Sea Gave Back down.
If I do end up rereading this after publication I will post an update and let you know if my rating has changed and why.