Genre: MG Fantasy
Goodreads Summary: Forbidden to leave her island, Isabella Riosse dreams of the faraway lands her father once mapped. When her closest friend disappears into the island’s Forgotten Territories, she volunteers to guide the search. As a cartographer’s daughter, she’s equipped with elaborate ink maps and knowledge of the stars, and is eager to navigate the island’s forgotten heart. But the world beyond the walls is a monster-filled wasteland – and beneath the dry rivers and smoking mountains, a legendary fire demon is stirring from its sleep. Soon, following her map, her heart and an ancient myth, Isabella discovers the true end of her journey: to save the island itself.
I had seen lots of talk about this book on my twitter feed for a while now, and when it was picked as the Waterstones Children’s Book of the Month for May, I knew I had to read it. And I was completely blown away, not only by the utterly stunning packaging of the book, but also the beautiful story inside!
Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s debut novel is one of magic, adventure and friendship told through simple and yet lyrical writing that is short but perfectly told. This book reminded me of the magic I used to feel whilst reading as a child and why I love to read. I am so glad that a MG book about a girl having adventures and fighting monsters exists because I honestly can’t remember many from my own childhood.
One of my favourite things about this book is the friendship between Lupe and Isabella. It’s not perfect and they fight and have insecurities but ultimately they love each other and will do anything to help the other out. I love stories where friendship is front and center and to have a MG book with a female friendship like theirs is so fantastic. I also loved Isabella as a characters – she was smart, brave and selfless but she also had her moments where she was reckless and spoke before she thought.
The world building was well crafted and seamless – I never was confused about Isabella’s situation or her setting. The fact that Kiran Millwood Hargrave was able to build this world so fully, craft such rich characters and tell a wonderful story in about 200 pages still astounds me. I can totally see where all the hype for this book is coming from and I urge you all to pick it up and read it! It’s truly wonderful.