The art of buying books has become a hesitant action of mine while I wait for the $50 all-you-can-into-a-box book buffet that’s about to arrive. It’s a once in a year thing for my entire country, and so I don’t want to be wasting my money on just any old book. So I cajoled my mum into buying this for me, secondhand mind you, instead. Thanks mum!
However, despite the somewhat negative connotations that both the title of this post and the implication that I didn’t buy this myself might give you, this book was a little gem in it’s own right. The content matched the cover; gorgeous both inside and out. Not only that, but the pages were printed with orange stars, compasses and carefully coloured maps that are supposed to resemble the ones that are described within the pages. Even if I hadn’t enjoyed the story, I’m sure that the beautiful designs would have earned it at least an extra star on goodreads.
If you want to read my version of the blurb, skip down a little into my ‘plot’ section.
Winner of the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2017
Forbidden to leave her island, Isabella Riosse dreams of the faraway lands her father once mapped.
When her closest friend disappears into the island’s Forgotten Territories, she volunteers to guide the search. As a cartographer’s daughter, she’s equipped with elaborate ink maps and knowledge of the stars, and is eager to navigate the island’s forgotten heart.
But the world beyond the walls is a monster-filled wasteland – and beneath the dry rivers and smoking mountains, a legendary fire demon is stirring from its sleep. Soon, following her map, her heart and an ancient myth, Isabella discovers the true end of her journey: to save the island itself.
This was a middle grade story that read like a young adult book. Stylistically it was quite age appropriate. The sentences are short and sweet to wash over, while the pages that you have to get through are minimal. I managed to finish it in a couple of hours. However, the content was that of an old young adult book that is supposed to be read when you’re fifteen and up, or mature enough to not be put off or influenced by blood, sex and violence. It was quite dark in some places – floor riddled with teeth and arms dripping in blood – yet also quite childish in others, which managed to create quite a striking contrast. I am willing to say that this contrast helps contribute to the book’s elevation from it’s middle grade rating into young adulthood.
I’m trying something different in the review (as you might be able to tell), so I just want to say that this age rating that I’m going to give isn’t resolute. I know that there are 12 year olds out there who watch Game of Thrones, 16+ year olds who still buy fluffy rabbits to put in their bedrooms (myself included) and that age ratings will be different for everyone. I’m not trying to impose my will onto anyone, but I do think that this has been placed in the wrong age category. I can’t imagine my sister reading some of these things! Although she is huge contemporary fan who hates reading about magic, so that might contribute a little to that.
A great deal of myths are detailed within the pages which is almost an irony. The words, the structures and the plot of this book read quite like a myth themselves. In an attempt to describe the book without copying the blurb, I’m going to say:
A dictator poses as a governor in this mystical tale of an isolated village and its inhabitants.
The songbirds have left. A naive best friend has been pushed away, determined to prove herself and landed in grave danger as a result. Her father is the dictator that the villagers all love to hate. We follow a girl who is made of maps and myths on her journey to save her best friend, but ends up saving a little more than she counted on.
That was very crap and vague, but I’ve put the actual blurb at the top of the post if you want to go and read that!
Isabella: She is the main character in the book, and who we follow for the majority of the journey. There was no blatant description of naivety in her character as you might normally get in books written for younger readers. I thought that was quite refreshing. She’s also an extremely sweet person, the type who’s friends with the spoilt rich kid AND the quiet girl who sits in the back. Honestly, it was a joy reading about a selfless person who doesn’t come off as a caricature of ‘goodness’.
Lupe: She is the rich best friend. There was a lot of naivety in this one, but it was likely due to her spoiled upbringing than her age. Despite a rocky start, she soon began to grow on me and by the end she was one of my favourite characters. Hargrave was quite good at making us dislike her one moment, and adore her the next. I don’t want to spoil anything, but she has quite a brilliant redemption arc! I believe that, given the chance, she would also have been quite selfless throughout the book if she had been a little more aware of what was going on.
Pablo: I believe he was a take on the angry older boy, but he was also so much more. He’s the type of boy to play with children two years younger than him, even when boys his own age make fun of him. He’s the type of boy who can fight, but will stop when it puts his mother at risk. He’s the type of boy who takes up arms in a rebellion, but knows when to put them all back down again. In short, he’s perfect (and 15, so this isn’t creepy).
To give this a rating is like allocating stars to the tale of Hercules. You just don’t do it. I debated on what to give this. I’m confident that, although seemingly not referencing anything in our world, this is something that deserves to be a myth of our time.
While it was a wonderful story and I enjoyed it quite a great deal – I do think that it has been marketed incorrectly. Skeletons and beloved pets almost being eaten don’t seem all that appropriate for unassuming middle graders (who I am assuming are 9-13). If it were marketed as pure myth or young adult, perhaps it would have been a little more appropriate. I also really didn’t like the first chapter, in fact, I almost put the book down because of it. So I’ve settled on:
I hope you enjoyed this post! Have you read this book yet? Did you enjoy it as much as I did, or perhaps you had a completely different experience with it? Please don’t forget to follow by email / wordpress / twitter / insta if you enjoyed my content ♡