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The Storm Keeper's Island by Catherine Doyle

The Storm Keeper's Island

by Catherine Doyle

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714257,465 (4.23)8
Fionn Boyle, terrified of the sea, must spend the summer with this older sister, Tara, and their grandfather on Arranmore, an island that has been known to make people disappear, and seems to be restless again.



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Excellent book. Well written, imaginative, sympathetic characters, interesting new kind of magic (candles that capture weather!), and also connection to folklore. It reminds me strongly of Susan Cooper's 'The Dark is Rising', but not so much that it feels like a copy. It seems a shame that every hero and heroine now days has to have parents with emotional problems. I don't think that makes a story particularly more "realistic". ( )
  Inky_Fingers | May 18, 2019 |
Literary Merit: Great
Characterization: Good
Recommended: Maybe
Level: Middle Grade

I really, really wanted to like this book, but it simply wasn't my personal cup of tea. It's a good story with adventure, folklore, and fun characters, but I found myself zoning out a lot while I was reading. Though there have been middle grade books I've really enjoyed, part of the reason I might not enjoy this book is that it seems to be geared towards middle school boys. It's told from the point of view of an 11 year old boy named Fionn, a young boy who lost his father at a young age and has just moved to an island with his annoying older sister. Because of this, the book seems far more tailored towards the experiences of a young boy, which I am very much not. Regardless, there were some things I enjoyed, and I can easily recognize the appeal this book would have towards its intended audience.

The Storm Keeper's Island follows the story of Fionn Boyle, a young boy who has been sent to a mysterious island that he has heard stories about his entire life. Though Fionn's entire family is full of brave, sea-faring adventurers, Fionny is terrified of the water. When he arrives on the island, however, he quickly learns that Arranmore Island holds many secrets, including those of the mysterious Stormkeeper, who controls the island's weather and chronicles the memories of every storm he witnesses in unique candles. He also happens to be Fionn's own grandfather. An evil and ancient enchantress, Morrigan, has been stirring lately, and it's up to Fionn to unravel the mysteries of the island before evil can take hold.

Like I said before, I really wanted to like this book. It has a really cool premise, and while I don't know much about the subject, it seems to draw very heavily from Irish folklore. Morrigan and Dagda make an appearance, and the magic seems tied primarily to the sea and the weather. While I can't speak for whether or not Catherine Doyle portrayed this folklore accurately, I really enjoyed the cultural aspects of the book. It really felt to me like there were ancient forces at work, and that everyone on this island held deep ties to one another because of this shared culture. The plot was extremely interesting, and I loved how the candle at the beginning of each chapter got smaller and smaller as the novel progressed and it burned down to a nub. Considering the use of candles as memories in this book, it was a very nice touch.

I also really enjoyed the dynamic between Fionn, his grandfather, and later his deceased father, as I could feel the importance of family ties to these characters. I can see a lot of young boys relating to the pain of losing a father at an early age, and his emotional reunion with his dad might provide a lot of catharsis for anyone going through such a loss. It also felt like Doyle was going for a sort of fantasy Alzheimer's as Fionn's grandfather lost his powers, which was both heart-breaking and an excellent way to incorporate a very real illness into a fantasy situation. Though Fionn's sister really annoyed me, I also liked the dynamic between her and Fionn, as I could feel the genuine affection they had for one another throughout the book. As someone with a younger brother, I really related to both their bickering and concern for one another.

One character I could not stand, however, was Bartley, though I believe that was intentional. He's stubborn, pig-headed, arrogant, and completely entitled, and it irritated me that Tara (who was otherwise described as being very intelligent) went along with him in order to look "cool." Though she learns her lesson in the end, I couldn't help wanting to punch her every time she did something awful or sided against her brother. Bartley's grandmother was also horrible, bullying a literal child because she didn't get her way years ago and craves power. Most of that family was terrible, to be honest. I did, however, really like Shelby, who proved to be a good friend to Fionn when his own sister was being brainwashed. Their friendship seemed really sweet, and as this seems to be the first in a series, I hope it develops further in future novels.

So why didn't I enjoy this book? It has great writing, interesting characters, and a really cool fantasy premise deeply rooted in folklore. It has the components of many books I really love, but for some reason it fell flat for me. I could easily see a child (male or female) picking this book up and really engaging with the story and characters, but for some reason I found it to be... difficult to stay engaged in as I read. I would start a chapter and completely zone out, having to go back and re-read what just happened because I was so distracted. It was also really hard for me to stay invested in the plot, even though I found the idea to be intriguing. I have never before seen candles that reveal a memory when burned before in fiction, and I thought their descriptions sounded really cool, each one totally unique based on the memory contained. Though the plot was confusing at times (multiple memory threads coming together, random and inconsistent rules for the candles, etc.), I don't think this is the reason I didn't enjoy the book. I honestly believe it's simply because I am not the intended audience for this book. While I can sometimes really enjoy books for which I am not the intended audience (after all, I read a lot of YA), something about this book fell flat for me.

Despite my lackluster response to this book, I would still recommend it to those who love fantasy and adventure, especially middle grade readers. This book is very clean and innocent; I don't even think there's a single curse word to be found. It is also billed as being a good choice for fans of Percy Jackson and Harry Potter, and I can definitely see a few parallels. I believe this would be a good fit for the middle school boy who has read every popular fantasy and wants something new, as this title is certainly unique. So... in the hands of the right audience, I think this book has a lot of potential...It just wasn't particularly memorable for me. I look forward to reading Catherine Doyle's future work, however, as I enjoy her writing style and think she has created a very unique fictional world. I'm hoping next time she will write a book I can truly fall in love with. Until then, this one will (unfortunately) be among the more forgettable works I've read. ( )
  SWONroyal | Apr 22, 2019 |
I was immediately attracted to this book because it is set in Ireland, on Arranmore Island in County Donegal and promised Irish mythology. Doyle delivers with realistic descriptions of the Irish countryside and retellings of old myths. I also think it's fun that she changed her main character, Fionn Boyle is named after her grandparents that lived on Arranmore, and that her last name is Doyle, so close to Boyle. Fionn Boyle regrets having to leave Dublin and his loving, but mentally-disturbed mother to spend the summer on remote Arranmore Island with a grandfather he hardlly knows and his sister, Tara, who has turned into a terrible teen. Even the ferry crossing upsets Fionn as he's afraid of the sea. His father died at sea. Grandfather Malachy at first seems confusing with his talk of magic and his candles everywhere, and Fionn despairs of enjoying the summer. Yet Malachy knows something Fionn does not: that Fionn is stronger than he thinks and that Arranmore is his true home. Fionna and Malachy form a bond, helping each other. In the meantime, another family on the island thinks their son should be the next keeper of the island after Malachy. At odds, Fionn and Bartley race to find the sea cave that will answer the one question both want to ask. This is a fine middle-grade novel full of adventure, family and mystery. I look forward to reading the next book. ( )
  bookwren | Jan 28, 2019 |
Eleven-year-old Fionn Boyle has come to Arranmore Island with his 13-year-old sister Tara to stay with their grandfather for a while. Their mother suffers from depression and can't take care of them. Fionn didn't want to come. He is terribly afraid of the sea and doesn't want to leave his mother to stay with a strange man he hasn't met.

Fionn's mother left Arranmore right after her husband's death and before Fionn was born. Strange things begin to happen as soon as he steps foot on the island. It feels like the island is watching him. His grandfather is rather a strange man. He is called the Storm Keeper but all he seems to do is make various candles. With Tara preoccupied with a new boyfriend, Fionn is left alone to figure out what is going on.

It is time for the old storm keeper to step down and the rival Beasley family, including Tara's new boyfriend Barley, really wants the job of being the next storm keeper. It takes a while before Fionn learns that his grandfather is charged with keeping the island safe from an ancient evil named Morrigan who is sleeping somewhere on the island.

There are a number of magical things about the island. The Sea Cave, if it can be found, lets the finder ask for one wish. Bartley with Tara's assistance is looking for the cave in order to ask for the power the comes along with being the next storm keeper. Fionn would like to find it too. Since he can't wish his father back alive, he'd like to have a cured mother.

Fionn goes on a number of adventures with his grandfather. Each time a candle is burned, it takes the one holding it back to the time and place preserved in the wax. One of their first adventures takes them back to the very beginning when Dagda united the five clans and defeated Morrigan and her soulstalkers.

This book was filled with adventures. I loved the characters especially Fionn who doesn't think that he is very courageous but surprises himself with his actions. I loved Fionn's grandfather Malachy who is nearing the end of his term as storm keeper and losing his memory. Shelby was a great character who helps Fionn learn about the island.

This was an excellent middle grade fantasy. ( )
  kmartin802 | Dec 28, 2018 |
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For my grandmparents, Captain Charles P. Boyle and Mary McCauley Boyle of Arranmore Island
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Prologue: In a field full of wildflowers, a boy and a girl stood side by side beneath an ancient oak tree.
Chapter One: The Sleeping Island: Fionn Boyle sat hunched on a plastic chair with his arms tucked into his sides and his chin tucked into his chest, and tried not to be sick all over his shoes.
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