Spoiler-Filled ARC Review of The Girl the Sea Gave Back

The Girl the Sea Gave Back.jpg

Number of pages:  336

Rating (out of five stars): 2

Release Date: September 3rd, 2019

*Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing a copy in exchange for a review. My opinions are honest and my own.

Quick disclaimer: I wrote the first 700 words or so of this review well before release, so some of this might not make sense now that this review is going up a day after release. This review was also supposed to be out before release, but I moved in to where I’m staying for school and have been working full days in between, so whoops. I’m running on anxiety and black tea.

I’m going to echo some other reviews I’ve read and say that this book would really benefit from some editing. Yes, I did read an uncorrected proof, but I’m fairly certain ARCs normally go through at least one round of edits before being sent to the printer (/being made into e-ARCs). I could always buy a finished copy and see if anything has improved, but that’s an expensive hardcover copy I would then own of a book I didn’t enjoy.

And it sucks that I didn’t enjoy it, because Sky in the Deep was an incredible surprise of a book that I loved so much. And I hate what this review is about to be. I hate it so much that I’ve been avoiding writing it for a solid week or so.

Basically, this is going to be a very nitpicky spoiler-filled ARC review, because I honestly have no idea how to give you my thoughts on this book without spoilers. I need to be able to pull examples (but not actual quotes) and talk about this book. Which is why I hate this review because I know how hard this book was to write for the author. But I’m also slightly obligated to write this review because I downloaded and read the e-ARC I got accepted for (the publisher is maybe hoping I slack on my blogger duties for this one, though)

For those who do not want to be spoiled for a book that has not been released yet (future Moira is here to say it’s been out for almost 48 hours now), the TL;DR of this review is temper your expectations. If you loved Sky, Tova and Halvard are very different from Eelyn (and in the case of Halvard, different from who they were at 8 years old).

So now I’m going to give you time to scroll away.

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Away

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NOW

Okay, so now that anyone who doesn’t want to be spoiled is gone, I’m going to start by talking about the characters.

First we have Halvard. Now I believe I called him precious in my review of Sky and said I would protect him at all costs (I am too lazy to check at the moment). But in The Girl the Sea Gave Back, I just didn’t care about him. And I should have been able to. But the problem is that his whole internal struggle about becoming the next chief just feels half-hearted after some very early in the book murder and the fact that when he gets home, they proclaim him chief, he takes part in the whole ceremony, and then comes up with this intricate battle plan on the spot under immense pressure. His whole internal struggle is him not being sure he can be a good chief, and then he just is a good chief and everything is fine.

This might have been forgivable if Tova didn’t feel like not a fully formed character. Her personality was basically “trust fate” and “I can’t stop thinking about that guy who looked at me across a field before my clan murdered a bunch of his people”.

Which gives me an easy segue into the romance. If you have also read this book, it is possible for you to be asking “what romance?” right now, because…yikes. Basically, they lock eyes across a field, she decides her fate is tied to him somehow, he tries to STRANGLE HER, he immediately trusts her when she tries to switch teams after (accidentally) helping her clan murder the previous chief as well as his father figure, they kiss for some reason, and she decides that she would rather stay with him forever than be with the family she’s been searching for for about 12 years. What?

Please don’t give me “but they’re fated to be together”, because they said about as many sentences to each other over the entire book as Aurora says in the entirety of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty (18 lines). I don’t care if the tree on her arm matches the tree on his axe. There is no way this book should have ended with them being in love. No. Stop it.

This book also had multiple flashback chapters, which were all unnecessary. If you read Sky, you would already know or have a sense of the information presented in Halvard’s flashback chapters, but they also didn’t provide anything new on Tova’s part. I think Tova’s flashbacks actually made me more infuriated with her, because it would almost seem like she put something together, and then turns out she didn’t. Halvard’s were basically about his dad dying (info we already had from Sky), Fiske being a father figure to him (info we had from Sky), and Iri coming to stay with them (info we had from Sky). I’m all for flashbacks in books, but they have to serve a purpose other than giving us information we already have from the previous book in the series or the book itself.

Another weird thing with the writing was how Tova would have some realization about “mortals”, and my note every time was “she’s saying this as if she isn’t mortal”. This happened twice in her internal monologue (before she figured out (after seeming to figure it out well before then, but not I guess) that she died), but it happens aloud after she knows she was dead, which makes it feel like some unexplored thing. If she’s not mortal, what is she? What role will her immortality play in her romance with Halvard? Is she a god? How did she come back to life? Is she actually alive? And many more fun questions the book doesn’t answer that this whole thing poses.

My last gripe is also about the writing, and it comes down to the use of over-complicated metaphors and overuse of similes. I have a highlight on the kindle app of a line that says something along the lines of “there was a seabird in my chest” (quote is entirely from memory, but if it happens to be an exact quote it was taken from an uncorrected proof and may not be in final versions of the book), with a note that just says “what?”. While that note (that appears many times throughout the book) probably sums up my thought on this book, it most definitely sums up my thoughts on the writing. And the writing here could very well be the exact same as the writing in Sky and I jut didn’t notice because I loved that book so much and I don’t tend to notice the writing when I’m enjoying a book, but that doesn’t mean I needed a million similes that took 4+ lines of text to explain. The whole point of using figurative language is help emphasize the point you’re making, not have the reader read an essay on why it makes sense to make that comparison.

Overall, I’m super disappointed I didn’t enjoy The Girl the Sea Gave Back, but I unfortunately can’t recommend it. It has therefore earned 2 stars out of 5.

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