Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Floating Island: By Rachel Neumeier



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. . . .


The Floating Islands starts with a heavy beginning that may turn initial readers away. But readers shouldn’t fret over this, instead they should know that grief and loss isn’t the central theme of the book, instead it is one of finding ones place in the world. Neumeier does this by creating two cousin protagonists that are lost in the world they’re each in. Trei has just lost his family in a horrific accident and been throw out of the only other family and land he’s ever known. Araene, Trei’s cousin, is also hopelessly lost. In her world of the floating islands women are not granted the same rights as men, are not afforded schooling, the ability to wander about, nor even the selection of their future careers. The two cousins meet and recognize each other as the trapped and lost beings they each are. From here the story takes each cousin down a different and unexpected road, full of surprises, mysteries, sadness, and magic.

I found a number of things that were well done about The Floating Islands, but first and foremost has to be the imagery and setting. Neumeier does a fantastic job creating a vivid and unique setting that really stands out in the book. Besides the pure descriptive aspect of setting the island is laid out in a way that allows readers to feel as if they are navigating the streets and rooftops themselves, instead of just reading about them.

Besides this the character interactions, especially between the two cousins, seemed especially well written. As I mentioned before this is a book not of just pure magic and action, but one of character building and more specifically finding ones self in the world, and I have to say Neumeier does a fantastic job making this book so.

Of course while the character interaction and setting is well done in The Floating Islands, I did find a few things I had a problem with in the book. The first problem I had was with the system of magic Neumeier creates. I think there’s nothing wrong with having a system of magic in the way Neumeier creates it in The Floating Islands, but my problem is with the fact that Araene was instructed that magic would be a certain way and then Neumeier made it completely different when describing Araene use it. Also the very fact that Araene could master the magic of door making and others so easily when it seems everyone else was having such a hard time with it seems unrealistic and ridiculous.

Another problem with the magic (and this is really something I just felt, everyone might not feel this way), was that I wanted to hear more about it. I wanted it to be more than just a tool that is used to steer the cousins in their directions, but instead to be described more fully and given an intricate nature with the story.

That said this was a great book that was very well written. My complaints really are miniscule compared to the success of the overall story, and I feel I would have no problem recommending this book to a friend looking for a good book. All in all a very good book.

8 out of 10


Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers

Published: February 8, 2011

Price: $16.99

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