Shortlisted for the Jhalak Prize 2017 and Waterstones Children’s Book 2017 plus with a cover like this I had to pick this one up!
Isabella is the daughter of a cartographer living on the island of Joya. Under the rule of an authoritative dictatorship, the inhabitants of a small part of this island have been forbidden to venture out of a specified area which means they have never swam in the sea or travelled to the other parts of the – once floating – island. To complicate matters, Isabella is best friends of the dictator’s daughter who ends up missing following an unexplained death of a fellow school friend. What follows is a mission to save the missing friend which sees Isabella assume the identity of her deceased brother venturing out into the forbidden lands – colloquially known as the Forgotten Territories.
We encounter myth, monsters and magic throughout this delightful story. For a debut novel, the pace is strong – I raced through the last 100 pages such was the tension in this compact story. The author doesn’t shy away from the inevitable deaths along the way and for a children’s book I did think that was a bit strong however, on reflection, the demise of certain characters is necessary to make this story work. The reader is taken on an epic adventure in little under 250 pages – it is not a story I will easily forget!
Hargrave creates a magical world which I would love to see further developed into subsequent stories. It is almost like she has just begun to tell us the story of the island of Joya, its secrets (whether based on myth or not) and her wonderful heroine – Isabella.
I applaud Jhalak Prize for shortlisting this inventive novel from a new voice. For those of you with children I would suggest those 7 and over would enjoy this.
Recommended for: lovers of magic. If you enjoyed the Harry Potter books you will enjoy this one!
Favourite quotes: ‘Stars are the earliest maps, the most precise. They can tell you where you are better than a compass – after all, they have a bird’s-eye view.’
Thanks for reading – I hope you enjoyed it!