The Poet X

The Poet X
Written by Elizabeth Acevedo
Poetry, Contemporary, Social Issues
320 Pages
Publishing April 1st 2018
Thank you to Hardie Grant Egmont
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Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.

But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers, especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself.

So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out, much less speak her words out loud. But still, she can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.

Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.
Sixteen year old Xiomara Batista is a beautiful young woman, intelligent and compassionate, whispering words between the pages of her worn leather journal of a life never her own. Altagracia and her husband migrated to America from the Dominican Republic, surrendering her celibacy to a womaniser and embracing her Catholicism, residing in the community of East Harlem.

My parents probably wanted a girl who would sit in the pews
wearing pretty florals and a soft smile.
They got combat boots and a mouth silent until it's sharp as an island machete.

Brother Xavier was birthed as a whisper moments before Xiomara, wailing, entering the world. Xavier attends a prestigious private school, incapable of confronting his tormentors, incapable of confronting the men who sexualise Xiomara, now conscientious of her physique.

Her mother is antagonistic woman, disapproving, abusing and degrading Xiomara and the young woman her daughter represents. An independent feminist young lady. Emotionally absent, her father is a complacent bystander, creating a turbulent and oppressive environment.

We're wild women, flinging verses at each other
like grenades in a battlefield, a cacophony of violent poems
and then we're both gasping, wordless.

Xiomara's exploration of the world as a young woman is analytical, faith, femininity, relationships and the expectancy of young women and women of colour. Inspired by the poetry of women of colour, creative writing encourages Xiomara to articulate her thoughts. A formidable young woman who will confront, inspire and empower her captive audience throughout her verse narration.

To grab my notebook,
and write, and write and write
all the things I wish I could have said.
Make poems from the sharp feelings inside,
that feel like they could
carve me wide

Children of Blood and Bone

Children of Blood and Bone
Legacy of Orïsha Book One
Written by Tomi Adeyemi
Fantasy, Magic, Diversity
352 Pages
Published March 13th 2018
Thank you to Pan Macmillan Australia
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Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zelie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now, Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers and her growing feelings for the enemy.
Heaven and Earth once blessed the lands of Orïsha until the Maji community was slain, a genocide ordered by King Saran. Zélie Adebola remembers the night her small wind swept community was pillaged, her mother slain by atrocities of the Monarchy. The vibrant white mane of the Divĩner children continue to be oppressed and persecuted by the King, in retribution for the atrocities of the Kosidán.

Zélie Adebola is a defiant young woman, her village of Ilorin decimated by the Monarchy of Orïsha as her mother was captured and slain. The young women of Ilorin are disciplined in the artistry of non lethal defence, taught to protect their bodies against the brutality of the Guard, Mama Agba ensuring the Ilorin godlaw is preserved. Brother Tzain is a gentle man, Zélie and Tzain caring for their windowed father and one another. Zélie inherited her tenacity and defiance from her mother, a vivacious woman compassion and inspiration, her husband and children bereaved by their loss.

As Zélie encounters the Monarch heir attempting to abscond the Orïsha marketplace she is reluctantly embroiled in the heist, enticing the Guard to Ilorin to retrieve the sacred artefact. The Divĩners are an enslaved lineage, children with dormant abilities and artefacts once lost to time have now resurfaced to awaken the Divĩners, their ashê laden blood a language of the gods and expendable to King Saran. 

Amari is the daughter of King Saran and a reluctant heir to the Orïsha Kingdom alongside brother Inan, a general of the Orïshan forces. Unaware of atrocities of her Kingdom, Amari is held captive within her palatial tower, maligned by her mother for her dark complexion, her vitality quelled by her oppressive confinement. Brother Inan is a morally ambiguous young man pursuing validation from his father. With the Monarch wealth comes privilege but Inan and Amari are burdened by parental expectations. Amari is a treasonous deflector pursued by Inan under instruction of King Saran, loyal to the Orïsha kingdom and the crown.

The narrative Tomi Adeyemi has conceived is transcendent, intertwined with meticulous folklore. Children of Blood and Bone emphasises the lives of the African American youth lost to violence, inspiring readers and invoking discussion about prejudice. The prose is exquisite, the celebration of  West African mythology and the Yorùbá dialect is captivating. A breathtaking debut.
Abogbo wa ni ọmọ r1ẹ nínú 1j1 àti egungun.
We are all children of blood and bone.

Tempests and Slaughter

Tempests and Slaughter
The Numair Chronicles Book One
Written by Tamora Pierce
Fantasy, Magic, Coming Of Age
464 Pages
Published February 13th 2018
Thank you to Hachette Australia
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Arram Draper is a boy on the path to becoming one of the realm’s most powerful mages. The youngest student in his class at the Imperial University of Carthak, he has a Gift with unlimited potential for greatness and for attracting danger. At his side are his two best friends, Varice, a clever girl with an often overlooked talent, and Ozorne, the leftover prince with secret ambitions. Together, these three friends forge a bond that will one day shape kingdoms. And as Ozorne gets closer to the throne and Varice gets closer to Arram’s heart, Arram begins to realize that one day soon he will have to decide where his loyalties truly lie.

In the Numair Chronicles, readers will be rewarded with the never before told story of how Numair Salmalín came to Tortall. Newcomers will discover an unforgettable fantasy adventure where a kingdom’s future rests on the shoulders of a talented young man with a knack for making vicious enemies.
The Imperial University of Carthak is a prestigious school, educating the brightest adolescent Mages throughout the kingdom, including promising young mage Arram Draper, the ten year old son of a thread merchant. Mages are a revered member of the community, educated in the artistry of healing, spell casting and the combative arts. Arram Draper is an intelligent, gentle young boy and an advanced learning academic of The Imperial University of Carthak.

Prince Ozorne is an interesting character and although charismatic, isolates himself from his peers at university. Beneath the debonair facade is a volatile and passive aggressive young man, his despair exoneration for the threatening and abusive behaviour towards friends and acquaintances.

Varice Kingsford is a wonderful young woman, a culinary artiste despite the displeasure of her family. Established friends Varice and Ozorne welcome Arram to the independent learning program where he will receive private tuition in each discipline.

In a kingdom where slavery is celebrated in the gladiator area, the Sirajit revolutionaries oppose the barbarism of the royal family, Prince Ozorne's father slain during the uprising and his son determined to avenge his father. Encouraged by his mother, Princess Mahira, Varice and Arram are concerned for Ozorne, the Emperor's nephew now second heir to the Emperor throne. Arram is introduced to the gladiator arena when rescued by Musenda, Gladiator and slave. Under the Carthak empire, slaves are imprisoned to serve nobility or destined for the arena where death is inevitable. Musenda is a gentle, compassionate man, financially supporting his widowed sister and her two children on the arena. Arram has seen the despair, the hunger of enslavement and the life threatening wounds throughout his placement as an apprentice medic, believing in freedom against slavery and a prosperous Kingdom.

Carthak is atmospheric and meticulously illustrated. The linear narrative traverses several years throughout Arram's education, as he begins to specialise in healing. Throughout his interactions with each discipline Master, Arram learns humility, compassion and the atrocities of slavery within the Kingdom.

Tamora Pierce is an esteemed and accomplished fantasy author, exploring a world enduring exploitation and injustice, revenge and slavery. Racially and sexually diverse characters epitomise a vibrant origin story of gallantry and valour. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

Tin Heart

Tin Heart
Written by Shivaun Plozza
Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, #LoveOzYA
310 Pages
Expected Publication February 26th 2018
Thank you to Penguin Teen Australia
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When Marlowe gets a heart transplant and a second chance at life, all she wants is to thank her donor’s family. Maybe then she can move on. Maybe then she’ll discover who she is if she’s no longer The Dying Girl.

But with a little brother who dresses like every day is Halloween, a vegan warrior for a mother and an all out war with the hot butcher’s apprentice next door, Marlowe’s life is already pretty complicated. And her second chance is about to take an unexpected turn…
Seventeen year old Marlowe Jensen was diagnosed with a congenital heart condition, the resilient young woman the recipient of an organ transplant bestowed by a sixteen year old young man. Since the transplant, Marlowe is experiencing a dissociation of identity. Recipients are forbidden to contact donor families but Marlowe is resolved to uncover her anonymous donor, compelled by gratitude and appreciation for the perpetual sixteen year old boy.

Marlowe is an extraordinary young woman. Although the transplant was successful, Marlowe attends monthly hospital appointments to ensure her body remains healthy. Encouraged by her progress, Marlow is returning complete her education. Naturally her peers are curious and Marlowe is feeling overwhelmed by the unwanted attention. Especially the effortlessly stylish and popular Zan Cheung. The tentative friendship between Marlowe and Zan was lovely. Zan is a Chinese Australian young woman who challenges stereotypes, sexuality, racism and advocates for equality.

Marlowe's single mother is a vegan warrior, opening a small business selling vegan products next to a family owned butcher. Her brother Pip's flamboyant costumes and idolisation of David Bowie is infectious, her mother's protests are theatrical and wonderfully confrontational, igniting a rivalry between Marlowe and apprentice butcher Leo. Leo is charismatic and incredibly attractive but beneath the debonair exterior, Leo and Marlowe both share parental constraint. Leo is pressured to abandon his education for the family owned business while Marlowe's mother is affectionately overbearing. The romance was wonderfully tender and delightfully entertaining. 

Through the online group established to introduce donor families and transplant recipients, Marlowe believes she may have found her donor. Although morally ambiguous, Marlowe finds her donor's sister Carmen and befriends her under an assumed name, convoluted by Zan's attraction to Carmen's friend Kari. Although I don't condone her deception, I sympathise with Marlowe as unconsciously, she had been preparing for her own passing with only her mother and brother unable to accept her diagnosis.

The transition to recovering survivor is a journey of realisation and acceptance for Marlowe, gradually feeling a sense of control and empowerment of her environment. Marlowe's experience is prevalent throughout Australia. Last year in Australia, over fourteen hundred members of our communities were the recipients of an organ transfer from over fife hundred patients. Marlowe's journey represents the thousands of organ and tissue donors and recipients throughout our communities each year. Those waiting for the opportunity to begin their lives. Organ donation is rarely spoken about until a family is confronted with the death of a loved one and although Marlowe is a fictional character, the narrative encourages discussion.

Shivaun Plozza is an exceptional and revered Australian young adult author. Captivating until the final page.
For more information on organ and tissue donation in Australia, visit the Donate Life website.

The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone

The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone
Written by Jaclyn Moriarty
Fantasy, Adventure, Middle Grade, #LoveOZMG
November 2017
512 Pages
Thank you to Allen & Unwin Australia
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I was ten years old when my parents were killed by pirates. This did not bother me as much as you might think, I hardly knew my parents.

Bronte Mettlestone's parents ran away to have adventures when she was a baby, leaving her to be raised by her Aunt Isabelle and the Butler. She's had a perfectly pleasant childhood of afternoon teas and riding lessons and no adventures, thank you very much.

But Bronte's parents have left extremely detailed and bossy instructions for Bronte in their will. The instructions must be followed to the letter, or disaster will befall Bronte's home. She is to travel the kingdoms and empires, perfectly alone, delivering special gifts to her ten other aunts. There is a farmer aunt who owns an orange orchard and a veterinarian aunt who specialises in dragon care, a pair of aunts who captain a cruise ship together and a former rockstar aunt who is now the reigning monarch of a small kingdom.

Now, armed with only her parents' instructions, a chest full of strange gifts and her own strong will, Bronte must journey forth to face dragons, Chief Detectives and pirates and the gathering suspicion that there might be something more to her extremely inconvenient quest than meets the eye...

From the award winning Jaclyn Moriarty comes a fantastic tale of high intrigue, grand adventure and an abundance of aunts.
Ten year old Bronte Mettlestone is embarking on a wondrous adventure, adhering to her late parents legacy despite the concerns of Isabelle, her Aunt and guardian. Patrick and Lida Mettlestone were adventurers, abandoning their only child with Isabelle then captured by pirates. The news of their demise delivered during afternoon tea. To receive her inheritance, Bronte is to travel the kingdom and empires to deliver keepsakes to ten of her father's sisters, adhering to the specific instructions precisely or fracture the Faery thread binding her itinerary. Each fracture brings impending destruction to the town of Gainsleigh and Bronte must embark on her journey alone.
Bronte Mettlestone is a wonderful young lady, curious and dependable. Abandoned as an infant, Bronte has been raised by Isabelle in the shire of Gainsleigh, her parents traipsing around the kingdom discovering new worlds and adventures before their demise. 

Her first destination is Livingston and the Elivish Festival of Matchsticks. Emma has been imprisoned for thievery of a pepper grinder. Claire organises Spellbinder conventions and Sophy is a veterinarian at the animal hospital for dragons. At the precise moment, Bronte presents her offering of cinnamon, chilli flakes or sugar cubes, rousing fond memories of her patents spanning the continent. Bronte growing increasingly exasperated towards her deceased parents she was never afforded the opportunity to appreciate. An avalanche in the mountain village, Katherine Valley Boarding School, the Riddle And Popcorn Cruise Ship and the Kingdom of music, culminating in a gathering in Nina Bay to celebrate the lives of her parents.
Bronte's journey is enchanting and at only ten years of age, her adventures are gallant and delightfully whimsical. Following the instructions, Bronte discovers new friends in each town including the mysterious young barefoot boy, adding intrigue. The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone is wonderfully endearing, imaginative and effervescent. 

Blog Tour: Goodbye, Perfect

Goodbye, Perfect
Written by Sara Barnard
Contemporary, Young Adult
Published January 1st 2018
Thank you to Pan Macmillan Australia
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When I was wild, you were steady...

Now you are wild, what am I?

Eden McKinley knows she can’t count on much in this world, but she can depend on Bonnie, her solid, steady, straight A best friend. So it’s a bit of a surprise when Bonnie runs away with the boyfriend Eden knows nothing about five days before the start of their GCSEs. Especially when the police arrive on her doorstep and Eden finds out that the boyfriend is actually their music teacher, Mr Cohn.

Sworn to secrecy and bound by loyalty, only Eden knows Bonnie’s location, and that’s the way it has to stay. There’s no way she’s betraying her best friend. Not even when she’s faced with police questioning, suspicious parents and her own growing doubts.

As the days pass and things begin to unravel, Eden is forced to question everything she thought she knew about the world, her best friend and herself.
Sixteen year old Eden Rose McKinley had a precarious transition from childhood to adolescence, her narcotics dependent mother unable to provide for her children, placing Eden and Daisy into foster care, adopted by nurturing Carolyn and Bob McKinley. Although Eden has transitioned from difficult child to destructive adolescent and now discourteous young woman, Bonnie Wiston Stanley is an astute young woman. The authorities are demanding answers, where is Bonnie and why did she escape the confines of her life?

Bonnie is involved in an illicit sexual relationship with Jack Cohen, a member of the teaching facility, now absconding and evading authorities. The nonlinear narrative centers on Eden, the friend and confidant Bonnie has embroiled in her precarious circumstances. While the authorities continue to investigate Jack Cohen, Eden and Bonnie covertly communicate through messages, Bonnie insisting their four month relationship is consensual.

A friend coerced by a paedophile is confronting and distressing and Eden was determined to disregard the severity of the authoritative adult and adolescent sexual relationship. Contemplating her interactions with Bonnie during the illicit relationship, Eden concedes that Bonnie appeared despondent and burdened by ambition, unusual for the perceptive and accomplished student. Bonnie claimed she was in a relationship that Eden assumed was fabricated. 

Jack Cohen is accountable for the manipulation and coercion of a minor, using his authority to segregate a vulnerable adolescent. Bonnie was abandoned by the faculty, previously informed of the inappropriate relationships with female students and Bonnie's parents, unable to recognise the behavioural changes in their daughter.

Eden continued to deliberate whether to disclose Bonnie's location, seemingly only concerned with her own consequences rather than Bonnie's safety. Her character was insufferable and abrasive.  Despite her dishonesty, Eden continues to conceal information from the authorities. 

Goodbye, Perfect is an important discussion surrounding boundaries by an adult in a position of authority, coercion and consent. Unfortunately the narrative is monotonous and frustrating, aggravated by indecision, inadequate character realisation and an unsatisfying conclusion.

Between Us

Between Us
Written by Clare Atkins
Diverse, Political & Social Issues, Romance, #LoveOZYA
Published January 29th 2018
304 Pages
Thank you to Black Inc
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Is it possible for two very different teenagers to fall in love despite high barbed wire fences and a political wilderness between them?

Anahita is passionate, curious and determined. She is also an Iranian asylum seeker who is only allowed out of detention to attend school. On weekdays, during school hours, she can be a regular Australian girl.

Jono needs the distraction of an infatuation. In the past year his mum has walked out, he’s been dumped and his sister has moved away. Lost and depressed, Jono feels as if he’s been left behind with his Vietnamese single father, Kenny.

Kenny is struggling to work out the rules in his new job, he recently started work as a guard at the Wickham Point Detention Centre. He tells Anahita to look out for Jono at school, but quickly comes to regret this, spiraling into suspicion and mistrust. Who is this girl, really? What is her story? Is she a genuine refugee or a queue jumper? As Jono and Anahita grow closer, Kenny starts snooping behind the scenes...
Jonathan Do is the biracial son of an Australian mother and Vietnamese immigrant single father, living within the parched landscape of Darwin in the Northern Territory. Jonathan disinterested in his education and preferring intoxication rather than accountability, choosing to isolate himself from his estranged mother living in Sydney. The relationship Jonathan shares with his father is distant and impersonal, preferring the company of Minh, Dzoung's sister. After the collapse of his relationship with girlfriend Priya, Jonathan became increasingly depressed, his father now concerned is the cause of Jonathan's destruction.

Anahita Shirdel is an Iranian asylum seeker at Wickham Point Detention Centre, previously located on Nauru and Manus Island. Wickham Point is a fortress to asylum seekers from Burma, Afghanistan, Iran, Vietnam and New Zealand, pregnant women and children have been transported to Darwin without their partners, the Australian Human Rights Commission convicting the centre as inhumane, ignored by the Australian government. Anahita's mother is pregnant to partner Abdul who remains on Manus Island, transported to the mainland after being diagnosed with preeclampsia along with Abdul's son, three year old Arash. Anahita is a beautiful young woman, gentle and compassionate. The devastating conditions experienced in Iran have left Anahita traumatised, overwhelmed by nightly terrors. Australia offered an opportunity of freedom and safety, now left behind the cyclone fence and kept in oppressive, inhumane conditions.

Dzoung Do is a guard at the regimented detention compound, his narrative often confronting and intolerant. Dzoung is a Vietnamese immigrant, sponsored by his sister Minh to journey to Australia, marrying an Australian citizen and forgoing his traditional Vietnamese heritage. Determined to integrate into western society. Dzoung initially facilitates the friendship between Jonathan and Anahita, as Anahita begins her education at the local secondary college. The guards at the Wickham Point facility are often cruel, some regarding those seeking asylum as subhuman. Dzoung is an infuriating character, judgemental and increasingly without compassion. He allowed his own moral compass to be poisoned by the racist, bigoted employees at the Wickham Point facility.

The tentative friendship between Jonathan and Anahita is gentle and compassionate. Jonathan allowed Anahita to set boundaries within their friendship concerning her personal and cultural principles. Although Jonathan continues to experience casual racism, Anahita's peers are considerate and courteous. Friend Zahra's journey to Australia is indicative of the harrowing journey made by asylum seekers. Boarding substandard transport with family members often lost to the treacherous conditions.

The plight of asylum seekers is a precarious discussion for Australians. Men, women and children journey to Australia in dangerous conditions only to be denied basic human rights. They are detained behind cyclone fences in remand compounds on Nauru or Manus Island. Those granted refugee status will never be afforded the opportunity of freedom, treated inhumanely and exposes vulnerable asylum seekers to sexual, physical and psychological abuse, withheld in indefinite detention.

Clare Atkins is one of Australia's finest young adult literature authors. Between Us is a passionate conversation of Australia's inhumane treatment of those seeking asylum, reminding us of our understanding and our compassion. Compelling and influential reading. 

Sky In The Deep

Sky in the Deep
Written by Adrienne Young
Fantasy, Historical, Violence
Publishing April 24th 2018
352 Pages
Thank you to St. Martin's Press
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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.
The Aska villages strengthen for battle every five years in the name of Sigr, including seventeen year old Eelyn and her father. Occupying the coastal villages of the fjord, it is an honour for a warrior to represent her clan, wielding her weapons beside Mýra, her friend and fellow warrior. Five years after the loss of her brother during battle, he is seen in the forest depths, ending the lives of those who wept for the young man taken from their community, now warring alongside those he had once vowed to destroy.

Seventeen year old shield maiden Eelyn is gallant and courageous, an Aska warrior compelled by the memory of her deceased brother. Five years has elapsed as the violent crusade commenced in the name of Sigr, as Eelyn strengthens her resolve alongside her father and friend Mýra. The Riki converge to defend their honour and sanctity when Eelyn is overwhelmed by a Riki combatant, shielded by her brother upon the killing fields of Hylli. Her brother whose body was ostensibly forsaken to the wintry landscape.

Eelyn is wounded and captured by Fiske, a Riki warrior and kinsman to Eelyn's brother, transported to the village of Fela. Eelyn is hostile, denouncing her brother who has brought disgrace upon her family, the Aska and Sigr, the Scandinavian deity. An Aska warrior is a disposable commodity and to ensure Eelyn's protection while recovering from her wounds, Eelyn unwillingly becomes a dýr of servitude, to be traded after the winter dissolves. Eelyn is placed in the steel collar of a dýr and although Fiske's family are initially mistrusting, Eelyn is only expected to perform domestic duties rather than sexual as the narrative insinuates. 

The Aska and Riki are being decimated by the Herja. The Herja are ruthless and inhumane, indiscriminately pillaging villages along the fjord by massacring entire communities. It is a moment of unification for the Aska and Riki villages, centuries of conflict have created a prejudice between alliances and to reconcile will ensure the survival of both communities. 

I enjoyed the broad mythology of the Viking Iron Age despite being devoid of any significant historical information. The narrative appears to take place within the Nordic Viking Scandinavia homeland rather than maritime, although the Aska villages are situated along the fjord, a ravine created by a glacier. The native language used is also fictionalised throughout the advanced readers copy and I hope the finalised novel will provide readers with a glossary. 

Sky In The Deep is magnificent. I was captivated by Eelyn and her resistance, her strength and humanity. The prose is captivating, the fictional wintry Scandinavian landscape is beautifully cinematic, exhilarating and atmospheric. 
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