Sky in the Deep: The book that reminded me that I need to catch up on the TV series, Vikings

3.5/5 stars
FYI: there will be spoilers for the end of the book in the final paragraphs of this review. I will put a second spoiler warning line before the spoilers, but I wanted to give you fair warning now.

Sky in the Deep is one of those debut books that leaves you with the knowledge that this author will bring great books into the world in the near future. Though a thoroughly enjoyable book, Sky in the Deep felt like it was lacking something. It probably would have benefitted from another 50 pages to really explore the story a bit more, but as a debut book it is solid.
Eelyn is an intensely strong female character who also shows vulnerability in perfect balance. She felt like a real person, which I was happy about. I was truly worried she’d be a one-dimensional killing machine character and I was immensely satisfied to find a female character that was strong, ferocious, AND had depth. I would not want to meet Eelyn on the battlefield, but she is a character that I would love to have as a friend. A ferocious, axe-wielding friend.
Fiske and Iri, though they share no blood, are brotherhood goals. In fact, all the family relationships in this book are very well written, and there is a strong theme that family does not always mean blood relations. It’s been a while since I read the book so I can’t go too in depth as to why I liked Fiske so much (my brain is a colander and all knowledge eventually gets drained out), but I was all about this guy. Give me a big, leather and fur clad, Viking man and I am good!
The atmosphere of this book was probably my favorite part. Though most of that probably came from the fact that I read this book in the summer and as the sun was baking me alive, I fell in love with the winter landscape of this story. But while I jumped into the snow-covered scenery descriptions to make little snow angels, I felt like the Aska and the Riki could have used a bit more depth. I got a general sense of how these Viking tribes lived their lives but I felt like I wanted more. I could have also used more exploration into the Herja. I got the sense that they were creepy but not enough of a sense to actually get creeped out.
And this is where we come to the part that disappointed me the most: the ending. So…
hiddle-spoilers
I flat out refuse to believe that two warring Viking clans would just lay down arms against each other and fight together after one discussion. Yes, they had the common enemy of the Herja but it was too much of a stretch for me to see these clans basically go from white hot hate to fighting together on the battlefield without there being quite a few instances of friendly fire. There needed to be a way for there to be more exploration of the clans coming to their truce. It was too clean and quick. That being said, I am okay with how the book ended in general. It was definitely a little too “Happily Ever After” but for some reason I was okay with it. Probably because I would have been PISSED if Fiske had died.
At the end of the day, this really was a solid debit novel and I recommend picking up a copy. The atmosphere was stellar, the main characters were full of raw and real emotions, and it was a complete story. I truly feel this book would have benefited from about 50 more pages to really get into the world building and fleshing out the ending in a more believable way. I was lucky enough to attend the launch party of this book back in April and heard from the author that there will be a second book in this world. I look forward to seeing what Adrienne Young brings to her second novel.

Kingdom of Ruins: The book that made me realize I want a grumpy traveler of my very own…

Kingdom of Ruins by D.C. Marino

Rating: 4.5/5

Release Date: July 26th, 2018

FYI: I received a copy of this eARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Synopsis from Goodreads.com:

“In the Lands Within, history does not rest. Each archaeological layer communicates with the living generation, choosing its friends and enemies—and its kings. But an alliance has been struck no one could have anticipated, and an ancient evil is soaking into the soil. History is being erased, purchased and re-written at a terrible price. And a kingdom that shouldn’t have been forgotten is fading from memory.

In the Lands Without, archaeologist Lori Brickland has found a pottery shard with a heartbeat. The pulse might be a trick of the mind, or it might be the first sign of life in a world of ruin. An exiled traveler will say she shouldn’t search for the truth, a calculating ruler will say she’s the one he’s looking for. And the kingdom? The kingdom will need her before the end. It’s time to accept what she’s always known…

This isn’t archaeology.

This is war.”

Have you ever read a synopsis and immediately thought “I MUST HAVE THIS BOOK IN MY EYES NOW!”? Because that was my exact reaction when I read the synopsis for Kingdom of Ruins by D.C. Marino. Archaeological adventures in a world where the very ground communicates with the people of the land? Exiled travelers and calculating kings? Sign me the heck up!

And this book did not disappoint. We meet Lori Brickland when she is ready to walk away from her archaeological career due to the onset of atephobia (fear of ruins, which I didn’t not know was a thing and had to google when I read it), but through some meddling by her grandfather, she ends up following a particularly stern traveler through a rip in reality and into the Lands Within. I won’t go into the particulars of what follows Lori’s world jumping because I don’t want to spoil the adventure, but I will say that I enjoyed this book from start to finish.

The characters were all well developed and I could grasp their personalities pretty quickly. I understood their motives and could see how they got to where they were for this story and where they were going. I have a three-way tie for my favorite characters: Lori, who deals with her atephobia head on and also does whatever the heck she wants (Thane: “Lori, don’t do the thing.” Lori: *does the thing*). Meridian, who has a violin, is delightfully aware of who she is as a person, and has THE BEST expressions (I nearly died when she used the world “buckets” as an exclamation…I use that expression all the time and I’ve never heard of anyone else doing that). And then there is Thane, my grumpy, leather bound traveler with a mysterious past and just the right amount of sarcasm. I lived for the exchanges between Lori and Thane (*heart eyes forever*).

The world building was thorough without overdoing it. I got a clear image in my head for each location that Lori traveled to and that is a huge thing for me. I have to be able to create the world in my mind from the bones the writer leaves behind. The descriptions were absolutely divine and every once in a while, I would just stop to reread a sentence and savor it. The way the ruins and nature were described in the same way that a living creature would be gave the story a layer dark whimsy that I loved. There were a few instances where dialogue was written into the paragraphs of exposition, which robbed the reader of the breaks that a dialogue exchange can bring, but that was really my only complaint.

The long of the short of it, folks, is that I quite loved this book. I think it is a fun and whimsical adventure story with great characters and I am desperate to read more from this world. It should be said that the book has a complete ending but it leaves it open for more books (MORE BOOKS NOW PLEASE!). I’ll be writing a more in depth, spoiler-y review on my blog after the book is released and I have my final copy (you best believe I have this beauty on pre-order at B&N).

Tomorrow I’ll be posting a review of the Rule by Ellen Goodlett! Have a grand night, book people!