[This review is based on an ARC edition provided by the publisher via NetGalley. These are my honest opinions.]
“Honor above life.”
The Aska motto above signifies what a large role honor plays in Eelyn’s Viking culture. I love how Adrienne Young also plays with several meanings of family and how those interpretations tie in with the theme of honor. The author really digs multiple layers deep into these ideas, and her thoroughness contributes to a touching story complete with rounded characters.
Young’s prose is lovely, her descriptions utterly vivid. The world felt so authentic because of the cultural details included about the Riki and Aska ways of life. Yet, the information was presented in a skillful way, not at all info-dumping on the reader. The story was well-paced, and I flew through it in just a few days.
Eelyn’s character drew me in immediately, and I became emotionally attached in the first chapter. It is quite an accomplishment when a debut author can achieve this effect! I rooted for Eelyn through the entire story, and there were so many layers of tension that contributed to her character growth. She faced plenty of internal and external conflict throughout. By the end of the book, I’d grown fond of all the main characters – with the exception of the Riki Tala, who seriously got on my nerves. But Eelyn, Fiske, Inge, Iri, and Halvard truly felt like a genuine family at the book’s conclusion.
I also thought the slow-burn romance was effective. Your opinion on the enemies-to-lover trope could impact your enjoyment of the romance in this book. However, I thought the romance was well-paced, and it was in no way insta-love. It took the two characters quite a while to build up trust and develop understanding for each other’s way of life. The tender moments between them were so touching and filled with chemistry.
This book also had plenty of battle action and violence since war is an essential part of Viking culture. I would caution readers who are sensitive to this type of violence, because it included things like eye-gouging. Furthermore, some of the things that happened to Eelyn during her period of capture were quite brutal. As a member of the Aska clan, she often got attacked and was in constant danger from the men in the Riki village. So, it may not be the best book for the youngest of readers.
But another thing I loved about this story is that the moments of vulnerability were balanced by many other scenes of awe-inspiring strength and endurance. Eelyn displayed so much spirit, and I can’t wait to see what characters Young will create in her forthcoming publications!
Everything about this book felt so carefully thought-out. Once I reached the end, I even realized how beautifully the title ties in with the book’s theme. You should definitely give it a try!