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The Floating Islands by Rachel Neumeier
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The Floating Islands (2011)

by Rachel Neumeier

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2281350,815 (3.78)12

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After his family are killed, Trei travels to the floating islands to live with relatives. He takes one look at the Kajuraihi, who fly on the winds, and knows that this is what he wants to do. His cousin, Araenè, dreams of becoming a chef, but the closest she can get is dressing up as a boy and sneaking into university lectures.

This starts as a story of Trei and Araenè dealing with loss and pursuing their respective dreams despite those of would say that they don’t belong - Trei’s Tolounnese father and upbringing mean his loyalty to the islands is questions, while Araenè worries about people seeing through her disguise. But then the islands are threatened with war, both of them are willing to take risks to protect their home.

Floating islands have some unique defences, but they have their vulnerabilities too.

The Floating Islands is such a lovely, quiet story about grief, and friendship, and flying. Flying! Also dragons, and a hidden magic school, and people making sacrifices. I found it appealing and compelling with an intensity I hadn’t expected based on the opening chapters.

Then he said, “Kajuraihi have been soldiers, Trei, a first line of defense for the Islands, but not for a long time. Now they’re more often couriers. Discreet couriers at the highest level, but still fundamentally messengers. Does that sound like something you’d like to do?”
Trei didn’t answer. If the question had been just that - do you want to be a courier? - then the answer would have been no. But if the question was, are you willing to become a courier if it means you can fly? - in that case, he thought, the answer would be yes. Because when he imagined walking the streets of the city, watching winged men soar overhead and knowing he would never be among them... the thought was almost a physical ache within him.
( )
  Herenya | Mar 14, 2017 |
I have had this book on my to be read pile for quite a while. I really enjoyed this young adult fantasy. There's some great world-building here and I enjoyed the characters and their adventures.

The story did take a bit to get going; I thought the first 60 pages or so were a bit slow. After that though I was completely drawn into the story and engaged with our two main characters.

The story alternates between Trei (a young man who has lost his whole family and arrives in the floating islands seeking his uncle) and Araene (a young woman who desperately wants the freedom given to the men of her home island and who is an exceptional chef). Both characters were equally engaging and interesting. Both characters grow a ton throughout this short novel and really start to develop into amazing people.

The story has a very classic fantasy feel to it with magic and dragons and countries at war. The writing style is beautiful and flows well making the book easy to read. I was impressed with how much was packed into this stand alone book, I really enjoyed it.

Overall I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this fantasy story. It starts a bit slow but as it continued I was impressed with how much world-building, story, and character development was packed into this brief novel. I would definitely recommend to those who enjoy traditional fantasy types of stories. ( )
  krau0098 | Nov 27, 2016 |
It took me several attempts, and until p. 106, to figure out why this adventure wasn't engaging me. It has great characters, terrific world-building, graceful writing, valuable themes, but.... But, in the background, there's no joy or humor. Everyone is always worried, or frustrated, or grieving, or angry. Comic relief is important, whether we're reading Shakespeare or Harry Potter - too bad Neumeier forgot about it.
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Jun 5, 2016 |
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 |
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.

Recommended.

Five stars.

( )
  humouress | Nov 1, 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.

» see all 2 descriptions

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