Author: Kiran Millwood Hargrave
Read: May, 2016
You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but sometimes it’s tricky. Before I review the actual written book, I just want to comment on it’s beautiful design. The pages are full of small drawings related to the story/setting, from compasses to sea monsters to sailing ships. The cover folds out to reveal a gorgeous map of Joya, the fictional island where the story is set. It just adds another layer to the storytelling, really emphasising the importance of maps/cartography to the overall plot of the story. Kudos, book designer.
The book follows the journey of Isabella, a cartographer’s daughter who dreams about travelling/exploring the rest of the island they live on, leaving the closed off Gromera for the Forgotten Territories. Isabella gets the chance to do so after her best friend, the Governor’s daughter Lupe, goes missing and Isabella deceives her way into the search party. However, a greater danger is lurking in the Forgotten Territories as an old myth starts to awaken.
Overall, I really quite liked Isabella as a main character. She was brave and headstrong, believably flawed. However, the rest of the characters felt a little flat in comparison. The author doesn’t really elaborate on any of the secondary character’s back stories or personalities, meaning the feel a little two-dimensional at times. Also, a lot of the adult characters seem incredibly oblivious. Not that some obliviousness isn’t desirable in adults in children’s literature (because how else is anybody not yet in adulthood meant to go on a dangerous adventure, am I right?), but in this book it felt a little too forced and this in turn meant that some plot points felt contrived and unlikely.
The setting, by contrast, was well-developed and interesting. The island of Joya is beautifully described, helped by the fact the Isabella has a love for geography and maps. Seriously, I kind of want to visit for a holiday now.
The plot of the novel is fast-paced, but somewhat predictable at times. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t lacking originality, but a few of the plot “twists” were rather obvious. However, the overall story was interesting enough to me that these small issues can be largely forgiven. The Girl of Ink and Stars was fantastical and fun – I highly recommended it as a summer read for all book worms.
“Cats never understand the gravity of a situation.”
“We are all of us products of our surroundings. Each of us carries the map of our lives on our skin, in the way we walk, even in the way we grow.”
If you like this, try:
The Wee Three Men by Terry Pratchett
Stardust by Neil Gaiman
The Golden Compass/ The Northern Lights by Philip Pullman