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The Floating Islands by Rachel Neumeier

The Floating Islands

by Rachel Neumeier

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1981259,376 (3.89)12



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Look, if you want to write an omniscient novel, write from an omniscient point of view! Don’t give us long, somewhat telepathic descriptions of what a 14-year boy can interpret from a person’s facial expression. We’re not even dealing with deductive genius like Sherlock Holmes here.

I had such high hopes for this book. The setting (and some magical concepts) are creative and both exotic and wondrous. But it was seriously lacking in other areas.

I won't go into everything, but practically speaking, I think kids might have a hard time getting through the long chapters which sometimes lose their momentum. Characterization is weak at times (mr perfect prince comes to mind). I got tired of the spices (cumin mentioned 19 times, ginger 24--though to be honest, I'm surprised it's that few). The book lacks flow, and the changes in perspectives don't always work. It often feels like you're jumping around.

And then that ending! It was ridiculous. They decided not to go forward with their goals because that country honorably released their prisoners? And then the emperor released the traitor? And he's going to scold the traitor’s unknown civilian uncle?? Seriously? I couldn’t stop rolling my eyes. And perhaps worst of all, there was no real depth to this story.

Like I said, promising, but failed to deliver. ( )
  EuronerdLibrarian | Feb 25, 2014 |
Loved this book. Magic, adventure, romance, friendship are all in this book. Two cousins are brought together and one wants to be a mage and the other an island flyer. ( )
  SparklePonies | Feb 13, 2014 |
Trei comes to the Floating Islands, which are held aloft by wind dragon magic, from Rounn - a long way to the north in Toulonn - having lost his home and family and town to a volcanic eruption. His mother's family welcomes him in - but he has seen the kajuraihi who ride the winds, and has been taken by a deep longing to be one of them. His cousin Araenè is a gifted cook, but her future is circumscribed, as she is a girl in a society where girls are not provided with an education and are only expected to marry well. Trei, too, faces opposition to his chosen career, as a half-breed Toulonnese boy; Toulonn being a war-like nation from which the Floating Islands consider themselves independent. But Toulonn has other ideas about that.

I really enjoyed this story. The chapters alternate between the two cousins, giving us a dual viewpoint of the city of Canpra, which is the capital of the Floating Islands. It is well written, though not complex, and kept me wanting to read on.


Five stars.

( )
  humouress | Nov 1, 2013 |
Detailed and creative world building; well-developed magic system; great characters; beautiful writing with lots of sensory imagery; dragons! ( )
1 vote SheilaRuth | Aug 23, 2013 |
Opening: "Trei was fourteen the first time he saw the Floating Islands. He had made the whole long voyage south from Rounn in a haze of loss and misery, not really noticing the harbors in which the ship sometimes anchored or the sea between. But here, where both sea and sky lay pearl-gray in the dawn, the wonder of the Floating Islands broke at last into that haze."

In general, I'm a fan of fantasies with some sort of political component--the Queen's Thief series (obviously), Leah Cypress's Mistwood. This is another one of those, except that it's much subtler. The political aspect is there if you look for it, but it doesn't ever take over the story.

Instead, the focus is on two cousins, Trei, a half-Island, half-Tolounnese boy who has lost his family, and Araenè, who has never left the Islands but longs for the freedom to study what she wants. Throughout the book, they both struggle to find their place in a world that seems all too likely to deny them their hearts' desires.

Neumeier has a gift for clear, vivid descriptions, and for creating worlds that seem both plausible and interesting. Here, the Islands have a particular flavor which sets it apart. I loved the fact that Araenè is so focused on the tastes of things, which means that is how she senses magic. It's a lovely way to think about it and one I haven't encountered before. The kajuraihi, winged men, who Trei longs to join also add a particular dimension to the story which I enjoyed a lot.

In general, this feels less like a traditional fantasy than City in the Lake did. Which is not to fault City in the Lake--I enjoyed it very much and would heartily recommend it. But I liked seeing what Neumeier did with a different kind of setting. She certainly delivered.

So, I liked story, characters, and setting very much indeed. It felt very solid to me--solid in a way that means the whole thing held together. I was never thrown out of the story by a jarring moment. There was one relationship that I thought developed a little quickly, but I then I felt like this was also a story about people growing up quickly and so it was all right with me.

One of my favorite quotes: "Araenè wondered, caught again between laughter and tears, whether any apprentice before her had ever broken all four of the mages' rules less than a day after arriving at the school."

Book source: public library
Book information: Alfred A. Knopf, 2011; YA/upper mg (there's some mostly off-screen death, but I think upper mg could very easily enjoy this one)

Rachel Neumeier, previously ( )
  maureene87 | Apr 4, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375847057, Hardcover)

When Trei loses his family in a tragic disaster, he must search out distant relatives in a new land. The Floating Islands are unlike anything Trei has ever seen: stunning, majestic, and graced with kajurai, men who soar the skies with wings.

Trei is instantly sky-mad, and desperate to be a kajurai himself.  The only one who fully understands his passion is Araene, his newfound cousin.  Prickly, sarcastic, and gifted, Araene has a secret of her own . . . a dream a girl cannot attain.

Trei and Araene quickly become conspirators as they pursue their individual paths.  But neither suspects that their lives will be deeply entwined, and that the fate of the Floating Islands will lie in their hands. . . .

Filled with rich language, and told in alternating voices, The Floating Islands is an all-encompassing young adult fantasy read.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:30 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

The adventures of two teenaged cousins who live in a place called The Floating Islands, one of whom is studying to become a mage and the other one of the legendary island flyers.

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