Monday, August 26, 2013
Review: The Floating Islands by Rachel Neumeier
Title: The Floating Islands
Author: Rachel Neumeier
Rating: 4 Stars
I have a three-pronged reaction to seeing The Floating Islands on my shelf.
(1) A sigh of contentment because just look at that cover! It's gorgeous and oh-so fitting for the story within.
(2) A goofy smile because my copy is signed! Also: I think this is the only signed book I own, so a double goofy grin. (If those even exist...)
(3) A large pool of guilt because, no matter how much I try, I simply cannot seem to sit down and write a review for this book.
I've sort of promised myself that I am - under no circumstances - allowed to read another Neumeier book until I review the last book of hers I read; otherwise I'd just inhale all her books over a weekend. (Yes, they're just that good.)
When I read Neumeier's House of Shadows last year, I was struck by the strange sensation that Neumeier was not merely writing for an audience of fantasy lovers, she was writing for me. Which, obviously, is not true, but her books, nevertheless, contain all the perfect ingredients that I yearn for. With Neumeier, you are guaranteed to get three things, all done to perfection.
(1) Character Development
(2) Political Intrigue
(3) World Building
(NOT necessarily in that order, mind you!)
From the beginning itself, I was captivated by the three-dimensional quality of her characters. The Floating Islands shifts between the perspectives of Trei, an orphan who arrives at the Floating Islands to stay with his uncle, and Araene, his cousin who, as a girl, has a very limited amount of freedom. With this set-up, not only do we delve into the mind of these two protagonists - their dreams, hopes, and fears - but we also grow to understand the world around them. Trei cannot help but compare the Floating Islands to his homeland in the North and similarly, Araene cannot help but yearn to be a boy in her land instead of a girl. When Araene, notorious for sneaking out of her home as a boy, discovers a hidden school of magic and Trei, an outsider to the Floating Islands, is filled with an ambition to become a kajurai, one of the messengers of the realm who learn to fly, a tale of political intrigue is swiftly uncovered as are...dragons!
I wish I could wax poetry about this book, but I think I'll stick to sentences for the sake of all our sanities. Quite simply put, this book is brilliant. Trei and Araene grow to have a close bond of kinship - a pleasant change from the usual romances - and the focus of the plot never leaves the tense political situation at hand. Furthermore, the plot threads of Trei and Araene's life come together beautifully, all with a burst of emotion too as both these protagonists suffer greatly throughout the novel. While their adventures will keep you on the edge of your seat, their experiences will touch your heart.
What Neumeier does so well is build, not only her world (seamlessly), but also the relationships between her secondary characters. Both Trei and Araene grow to find their places in the world, both of their own accord and with the help of the new friends they make. I love that with Neumeier, nothing is truly sacrificed in her novels. Trei, who struggles to find a place to call home, and Araene, who is so uncomfortable in her own skin and what it dictates she can and cannot do in her own homeland, grow to find themselves gradually as the novel progresses. Furthermore, though, the secondary characters in this book are just as fleshed-out, integral to both the plot and the character growth. Neumeier is a true storyteller and tales are like one big puzzle piece, just waiting to be put together into such an incredible package.
The Floating Islands lacks for nothing. It has dragons in it - everyone's favorite mythological creature - politics, and, best of all, two protagonists to get behind. I already know I'll be re-reading this one, multiple times, in the future and I'm sure that each time, I'll discover something new to love about this. Is it my favorite Neumeier? Quite happily, I can't decide yet. After all, I still have so many of her books left to read - and I hope it stays that way for awhile. When I need a book to just get me, I know where to look: Rachel Neumeier.