Island of Exiles – Erica Cameron – Ryogan Chronicles #1 – Entangled: Teen – Published 14 February 2017
In this diverse, gritty survival fantasy, a girl warrior turns against her island clan to find the brother they claim died, uncovering secrets. Perfect for fans of Graceling and Snow Like Ashes.
In Khya’s world, every breath is a battle.
On the isolated desert island of Shiara, dying young is inevitable. The clan comes before self, and protecting her home means Khya is a warrior above all else.
But when following the clan and obeying their leaders could cost her brother his life, Khya’s home becomes a deadly trap. The only person who can help is Tessen, her lifelong rival and the boy who challenges her at every turn. The council she hoped to join has betrayed her, and their secrets, hundreds of years deep, reach around a world she’s never seen.
To save her brother’s life and her island home, her only choice is to trust Tessen, turn against her clan, and go on the run—a betrayal and a death sentence.
Island of Exiles is a rich and epic fantasy, incredibly detailed with superb world building. I am picky about what fantasy novels I read, but this one far surpassed all my expectations and I am now eagerly awaiting book two in the series.
When I was offered a chance to read Island of Exiles I was told it was suited to readers of Graceling and Snow Like Ashes. That’s a pretty high standard to reach, but despite that, I was still surprised when this book was actually really very good. It reminded me in parts of Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta (one of my absolute favourite fantasy novels) and The Host by Stephanie Meyer (just the parts about a subsistence culture living in a harsh, desert-like surround, with a strong community focus).
Island of Exiles has some intense and well-layered world building. Every little detail is considered, but there are never any information dumps or description-heavy sections. The new vocabulary in this novel is huge. And yet I never found myself confused or lost. There is a glossary at the back, and while I admit that some of the ranks went over my head so too would any military ranks we use in the real world, so I just kept reading, paying attention to each new word, creature or name as it was introduced. The terms give this novel a distinct Eastern feel and yet the setting, culture, language and people of this book are unique. There are also a whole range of magic powers, a third gender and diverse sexual orientations.
Khya is a strong, independent young women. She has the power to create wards to protect both herself and others. She is part of the top class, one of three her clan is divided into, and serves by patrolling, fighting, and protecting her clan and their home. Her focus is also on protecting her younger brother, a bond that many do not understand. She is fierce, powerful, clever, and serious – everything a fantastic fantasy protagonist can be.
One of the things I loved most about this book was the romance. It plays a big part in this novel and yet it really doesn’t steal the limelight. Tessen just isn’t in any way Khya’s focus. He is just there, has been her whole life, stealing promotions from her and basically being annoying. He is a fly at which she swats some times. And he continues to integrate himself into her life. Their relationship develops so incredibly slowly and naturally, it is beautiful to watch. I love how he annoys Khya, how she dismisses him and how he continues to always be there to support her. I love how we see this all through Khya’s eyes. I love how she never suddenly realises that she is in love with him. It’s so much more than that. She just slowly sees him as he really is. I’m not very good at explaining this, but it’s worth it to read Island of Exiles just for their relationship – all the endless action and detailed fantasy world building are just a bonus.
The whole book brings a high level of action and tension. There is never a dull moment and the end only gets more and more exciting. I can’t wait for the next book. I’m incredibly grateful I had the chance to read this book.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: Young adult fiction.
Themes: Relationships, romance, magic, faith and beliefs, brother-sister relationships, adventure, LBGTQIA, fighting, betrayal, class structure, social structure.
Reading age guide: Ages 12 and up.
Advisory: Sexual references. Mild descriptions of violence and fighting.
Published: 14 February 2017 by Entangled: Teen
Format: Paperback, ebook. 400 pages.