Saturday, May 5, 2018

The Girl of Ink and Stars

The Girl of Ink and Stars
Kiran Millwood Hargrave
When I picked this up I was really in the mood for a children's lit book and it was being featured on a table at the bookstore. While I still really enjoyed it I wasn't really in that mindset anymore when I got around to reading it. Still, it's a pretty good read and I'm glad to be adding it to my collection. One aesthetic complaint I have (that didn't really affect my review of this book I'm just being a little picky here) is that the map on the inside doesn't really make sense. It's very minimalist and while it's a nice touch it didn't quite line up with how things are described in the book. And I tried to follow it. Look, I love maps in fantasy stories so this was just a bit disappointing.

On that note, though, something that was incredibly frustrating while reading was the passage of time within the novel. A large chunk of the story deals with a quest type situation, which means a lot of traveling. There were two huge discrepancies here: one is that sometimes they'd travel miles in a day and get from one side of the island to another almost instantly with little to no reference of days or even hours having passed, and the other was that it seemed as if they almost never stopped or ate anything or took care of the horses even when days or hours passing was mentioned. While it's definitely addressed that they're at a hurried pace as they go it's not really addressed in a realistic way. It was incredibly frustrating to try and keep up with the movement of characters and how long they had been out on the journey. I still don't really no exactly how long of a time period the novel takes place over besides that the final chapter is set much later.

This book is fantasy-lite: there are some fantastical elements but none of them are too flashy nor do they really take over the plot. It feels very anchored in the real world. The fantastical elements serve more as a way to make little things shine and stand out and that was kinda nice, even if I wasn't expecting it. In a lot of ways the magic and myths in this story remind me of Moana, partly because it is set on an island world and has to do a bit with the ocean and ancient spirits, and partly because the focus is on the female protagonist and not necessarily the magic that is around her. Instead the stories and the legends of Isabelle's island guide her and serve as tools.

Easily the best part of this book is the central female friendship. Isabelle and Lupe are amazing characters. Both of them are incredibly one dimensional and Lupe in particular kept surprising me. When the book starts I had an idea of what she might do but every time she made a choice it was nothing I could have expected and all for the better. She defied stereotypes in every way and she was fantastic. Isabelle, the main character, was just as great even if she wasn't as surprising (since we get insight into her head after all). And her desire to help her friend at any cost is great to see. As much as Isabelle loves some of the men in her life they're not the ones motivating her-- it's her friendship that keeps her going. Honestly, why aren't there more books that show healthy female friendships?

Overall, I recommend this one. I think it's one a few awards and rightly deserved. It's not one that I would say run out and buy and read right now, but also don't turn away from it when it comes across your path. The sad thing is I don't think it's available in America right now so you'd have to order from Book Depository or something similar if you live across the pond. Definitely something that many shelves would benefit from.
TL;DR The female friendship that is central to this book really makes it a novel worth reading and sharing.

Winner of the Waterstones Children's Book Prize 2017, and the British Book Awards' Children's Book of Year 2017

Forbidden to leave her island, Isabella Riosse dreams of the faraway lands her father once mapped.
When her closest friend disappears into the island’s Forgotten Territories, she volunteers to guide the search. As a cartographer’s daughter, she’s equipped with elaborate ink maps and knowledge of the stars, and is eager to navigate the island’s forgotten heart.
But the world beyond the walls is a monster-filled wasteland – and beneath the dry rivers and smoking mountains, a legendary fire demon is stirring from its sleep. Soon, following her map, her heart and an ancient myth, Isabella discovers the true end of her journey: to save the island itself.
Kiran Millwood Hargrave is an award winning poet, playwright, and author.

Her books include the bestselling winner of the British Book Awards Children's Book of the Year and the Waterstones Children's Book Prize 2017 The Girl of Ink & Stars, and Costa Book Awards- and Blue Peter Awards-shortlisted The Island at the End of Everything. The Way Past Winter is forthcoming in October 2018. Her debut book for adults, Vardø will be published by Picador in early 2020.

She is represented by Hellie Ogden (UK) and Kirby Kim (US) at Janklow & Nesbit. Kiran lives in Oxford with her husband, artist Tom de Freston, and their cat, Luna.
 Book cover linked to Goodreads. Book cover, and description taken from Goodreads. 

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