Saturday, 11 February 2017

Reading Challenge: A Bestseller from 2016

The Girl of Ink & Stars is set on the island of Joya, a place that once upon a time (according to local myth) was free to wander the seas until a fire demon tethered it and prepared to take it over. Arinta, a girl of the island, gave her life to prevent this from happening.

Skip forward several generations and the island is under the dictatorship of Governor Adori, the songbirds have long since fled the island and been replaced by ravens, and swimming in the sea is forbidden. Isabella and her father the mapmaker live poor lives, like the rest of their neighbours, stifled under the tyranny of their self-proclaimed master. Her life is somewhat complicated by the fact that the daughter of the Governor, Lupe, is her best friend. The fabric of Isabella's life is made up of the stories she has learned, the lines of her father's maps and the simmering tensions around her.

A local girl goes missing and is found not so much murdered as butchered. Lupe's lack of comprehension causes Isabella to lash out verbally at her and the Governor's daughter heads off into the Forbidden part of the island to track down the murderers and prove she is not as rotten as her family. There is an uprising in the island and while Isabella's father languishes in the dedalo she sets off to rescue her friend. On her journey, it becomes clear to Isabella that strange forces are at work on the island and the myth of Arinta and the fire demon may have more fact that fiction about it.

It's difficult to say much more about the story without giving things away. The tibicenas are a horrid creation, monstrous creatures that have a visceral effect on those they encounter. The description on what happens to the animals near the start of the book is also unpleasant - there are hard hitting images in this book. The author builds the feeling of an island in peril as the story progresses and just as Arinta had to make a sacrifice for the sake of the isle and its people so too do those who would save their home.

Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Isabella is a strong central character. The loss of her mother and beloved brother have shaped her without warping her. She has ambitions and dreams and feels a strong duty to her father and Joya. When Lupe heads out into danger she feels terribly guilty and rescuing her friend and keeping her safe is a driving motivation for Isabella. 

The prose is descriptive, and at times the description is not comfortable. I don't suffer from claustrophobia but some of the passages towards the end regarding the underground tunnels that are travelled through made me very uneasy to the point I wanted to skip ahead to the next section. The one thing that irritated me about the book was how many of the chapters seemed to end on a cliffhanger sentence. I don't think the story needed it quite so much as it was used. 

8 out of 10 bottles of ink

Are you undertaking the #popsugarreadingchallenge?
Tempted by this book, but already have your bestseller from 2016 covered? These are other categories in the Reading Challenge this book could apply to:

A bestseller from a genre you don't normally read
A book involving travel

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