By Nayisha Patel and Ellen Freeman
Not to be Overlooked introduces a variety of wonderful but lesser-known books to assist readers in finding their next great reads. This week’s column covers a review of Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie and Sky In The Deep by Adrienne Young.
Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie
Kamila Shamsie's book Burnt Shadows chronicles the intertwining histories of two families from various cultures and backgrounds. The work explores themes of love, loss, war and identity over multiple decades and nations.
The narrative opens on 9 August 1945, the day the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan. The primary character, a young Japanese woman named Hiroko Tanaka, survives the explosion and relocates to India to live with her fiancé's family.
The narrative traces the lives of multiple characters throughout a vamriety of time periods, including that of Hiroko's son Raza and his Muslim close friend Sajjad Ashraf. The Partition of India, the Cold War and the War on Terror are just a few of the historical events that are discussed in the book. The characters in the book wrestle with their identities and where they fit into the world as they deal with questions of race, religion and nationality.
The way Kamila Shamsie combines several people and historical facts to tell a complicated and nuanced story is masterful. Her characters are well-drawn and unforgettable, and her writing is poetic and evocative.
The novel poses significant concerns about how conflict and violence affect people individually and collectively, as well as how cultural and political differences can affect how we live and who we are. Covering a period of nearly 60 years, beginning with the Nagasaki A-Bomb and ending with the post-11 September America, this is a profound and compelling novel about families, countries and conflicts. This book demonstrates the power of language as a cultural and attitudinal barrier as well as a tool for communication.
Overall, Burnt Shadows is a strong and worthwhile book that will leave you thinking. It paints a subtle and poignant picture of how history, cultural influences, and political forces shape our lives, and of the fundamental human experiences of love, sorrow and belonging.
Sky In The Deep by Adrienne Young
Sky In The Deep is bestselling author Adrienne Young's YA debut.
A dark and mysterious Viking-inspired fantasy is a standalone but has been marketed as part of the Sky and Sea duology.
The book follows Eelyn, a member of the Aska clan, as she fights beside her clansmen in an ancient and bloody rivalry with the Riki. Sky in the Deep is a unique standalone fantasy novel full of myth, war and romance.
Throughout the novel we see Eelyn grapple with the sudden realisation that the brother she believed to have died - that she saw die - on the battlefield, is alive and well. And worst of all, he is living and fighting with her enemies: the Riki clan.
One of my favourite aspects of Sky in the Deep is the way belief is woven into the narrative. The beliefs of the Aska and the Riki are so integral to the story, and Adrienne Young skillfully weaves rites and rituals into the story.
Throughout the novel Eelyn begins to question everything she has ever been taught. Her hatred for the Riki runs deep and has been ingrained in her since birth. Adrienne Young does an excellent job at showing Eelyn's journey to understanding the way her clan came to hate their enemies so deeply.
The battle scenes are intense and well crafted, leaving the reader on the edge of their seat. Adrienne Young's ability to drive tension into the heart of each scene is demonstrated in this debut. We see the early stages of the writing style she wields so skilfully in her later works.
Sky In The Deep is a fast-paced and mysterious story, full of blood, tears and romance. Eelyn learns to question all she knows in the face of her love for her father, brother and the man who tried to kill her and came to save her life. The journey Eelyn goes on throughout the novel demonstrates Adrienne Young's incredible ability to create characters who are imperfect, believable and fierce.
Adrienne Young demonstrates her ability to craft a world that is well-developed and atmospheric, in a way that brings this short standalone to life. The attention to detail in terms of the setting, but also the daily life and cultures of the two opposing clans is integral to the plot, but also the character development we see in Eelyn and Fiske in particular.
There are a few trigger warnings to be aware of with this one, so please them before reading.
Overall, Sky In The Deep is a dark, atmospheric battle-filled adventure. If you're looking for an intense, fast-paced and rare fantasy standalone, I'd recommend you give Sky In The Deep a read!