Title: The Floating Islands
Author: Rachel Neumeier
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Originally published: 2011
The dice landed on: 4
Did I finish?: Yes.
Do I like the cover?: Yes, a lot.
Short summary: Newly orphaned Trei arrives at The Floating Islands and moves in with his mother’s family just before a plague breaks out. His cousin Araenè discovers new powers and they both have an important part to play when the islands get attacked by Trei’s father’s homeland Tolounn. Trei flying his kajuhari wings and Araené using her newly discovered mage powers.
I must confess that the main reason that I picked up The Floating Island is the cover. I love it and want it on a poster!
I quite liked the book itself too. It has a fantasy story with quite a few surprising elements while still keeping to a fairly well known fantasy formula. I like that the book touches on many moral issues without making anyone an out and out villain.
The Floating Islands seems like a nice society, but keeps it’s women from any sort of public life. I woman’s job is to get married and produce children. Tolounn has more equality, but is hell-bent on conquering all of its neighbouring countries. None of them are perfect and none of them all good.
The story has two storylines, one for each of the cousins. This way the reader get closer to the action as the cousins quite often find themselves in separate places. You also learn more about them and their motivations. Loyalty is an issue for Trei, he is half tolounnese and half islander and has to decide where his loyalty truly lies. Araené doesn’t want a traditional island woman’s life. Ideally she’d like to be a chef, something that is impossible. However, magic and the mage school came her way, so she pretends to be a boy to be able to stay in school.
There are also some rather nifty dragons, some really cool mages and a nice sky-mad prince.
So, why only a 4?
Despite the great setting of the story and an interesting storyline with good characters I’m a bit disappointed. I find the writing ok, but not more than that, and I never feel that I get to know many of the other characters as well as I’d like. I wish the book was longer so the building up part could have lasted longer, it’s all a bit abrupt. The book also has many of the markings of being number one in a series, without there being any hint of a book number two being on the way. There are too many loose ends floating around. I might be happier with it if a book number two is published.
All in all I think it’s a good YA book, but not outstanding. It doesn’t soar like the islands, the kajuhari and the dragons it contains.
But I still love the cover, nothing’s going to change that.