A review by Nalini Haynes
Selly is running away from home, the Lizabetta, a tall ship. Her father left her with the captain as a kind of apprenticeship to train her to become first mate. But Selly is over it. Problem is, the docks are full of Queensguard so she can’t get to the ship she hoped will take her to her father. Prince Leander is a runaway hiding on the docks when Selly bumps into him, literally. Their meet cute is as obvious as when Doctor Who’s next companion first appears on screen; neon arrows couldn’t emphasize it more. Leander boards Selly’s ship to travel to the Isles of the Gods. There he will make a sacrifice to save his nation.
Multiple points of view
Kaufman promptly introduces us to the 5 different points of view from which she tells the story in first person. Two aristocrats, one bastard, the sailor girl and the slum lord’s sister. Telling the story from various points of view provides depth and breadth that would not be possible from just one point of view.
However, Kaufman’s voice doesn’t differentiate between the characters. It’s still Kaufman’s one style relaying the story in five different first person narrations.
At the beginning of each chapter I had to keep reminding myself who was telling the story. This was particularly tricky when paths crossed so I had to remember that X was telling the story and Y and Z were in the room but not the “I” in question. After I mentally mapped out who was standing where in the scene, the pages flew past … until the next chapter, when I had to figure it all out again.
Part of the problem is I’m not good with names; I remember who and what before I remember names. So that’s on me. Others may love this but I prefer Kate Armstrong’s Nightbirds, which uses about the same number of points of view but instead of “I” they are all told in third person. Isles of the Gods is a fun story though!
Full disclosure (aka addressing the elephant in the room)
Amie Kaufman coauthored books with Jay Kristoff. I boycotted Kristoff and his works after we talked about people with albinism and how we are used and abused in books and on screen. After a few conversations with Kristoff on this subject, he deliberately – and, I believe, MALICIOUSLY* – used all the evil tropes to vilify people with albinism who are a vulnerable minority group. If he’d done that so obviously against, for example, Black people, he’d have been censured by many. But he did it to people with albinism who, for reasons beyond my comprehension, are still considered “fair game”.
*I believe Kristoff used those lazy tropes in retaliation for this review. I should, really, edit the review for SEO and because I always want to polish old reviews. However, I’m leaving it in its original form for interested parties to judge whether Kristoff’s reaction was appropriate: to vilify a vulnerable minority group because I personally – as a member of that vulnerable minority group – offended him. Added note: shitting on birds is STILL a joke in this house, hubby raises it from time to time.
However, to my knowledge Amie Kaufman has NEVER been part of that. I have read one or two of her other books not coauthored by Kristoff and have enjoyed them. So I separate Kaufman from her sometimes co-author when reviewing and I’ve never read or reviewed any of their joint projects.
Isles of the Gods is a fun fantasy adventure for teens and those who love reading YA (young adult) fantasy. It’s part romance, part romcom, and generally a kick ass adventure. A little predictable but then these days what isn’t? It was still fun seeing my predictions come true. This book is like the romantic genre in that way.
Anyone who enjoys this novel will love Kate Armstrong’s Nightbirds. And if you want something similar but wildly different, try Kate Heartfield’s The Embroidered Book (podcast discussing her book here) and Charles Soule’s The Endless Vessel (podcast and review coming around 5 June when his book is published).
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Imprint: A & U Children (Allen and Unwin)
Page Extent: 464
Category: Fantasy & magical realism, young adult