BLURB: “Forbidden to leave her island, Isabella dreams of the faraway lands her father once mapped. When her best friend disappears, she’s determined to be part of the search party. Guided by an ancient map and her knowledge of the stars, Isabella navigates the island’s dangerous Forgotten Territories. But beneath the dry rivers and dead forests, a fiery myth is stirring from its sleep…”
REVIEW: I had been eager to read this book for a while, and one of the first things I noticed is that it seems to also have been based on one of the more common tropes of YA fiction in recent years; that of the protagonist living under a tyrannical regime where information is kept from the public. Isabella is a young woman living with her father (a mapmaker), her hen (Miss La) and her cat, desperate to explore the world outside of the borders of the island of Joya, the only place she has ever known. As the only friend of the restrictive Governor’s daughter, Lupe, Isabella is determined to join in the search for Lupe when she runs away to try and fix a mistake that she has made. Disguising herself aa a boy, Isabella joins the search party as a navigator along with Pablo, her neighbour who, it soons transpires, she has rather a crush on. I loved the description of this fantastical world in which Isabella lives, and how it seems to link in some ways to our own world – I suspect it is meant to be a future version of one section of our current earth. The book itself is also beautifully illustrated, which adds to its mythological and magical nature, and intricately designed.
I did find upon reading this book, however, that it reminded me very strongly of the Disney film ‘Moana’, released in the same year as the novel’s publication. Isabella’s desire to explore the world outside of her island reminded me very much of Moana’s, as did her pet hen (who ends up in almost as many sticky situations as HeiHei), and, most significantly, her battle at the end of the novel with a mythological fire demon living beneath the island itself. I would therefore definitely recommend this novel to fans of the ‘Moana’ film, though the similarities did a few times strike me as almost uncanny.
I loved the ending of this novel, however; it was moving and poignant, with the sadness of the death of Lupe intermingled with the joy of freedom for the island of Joya. I felt perhaps this novel could have been longer, as some parts felt somewhat rushed, but otherwise I enjoyed it and thought it a very good debut.