Review: The Floating Islands

The Floating Islands
The Floating Islands by Rachel Neumeier
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The cover says it all – a marvelously inventive and thoroughly realized fantasy world, set mostly on a chain of flowing islands, held aloft by the power of a fire dragon in the bowels of each. The states are autonomous from the mainland, but the Little Emperor has been eyeing them for strategic purposes, as stepping stones on his way to his next conquest, since his country’s art is war. The books starts with our hero, Trei, now an orphan, making his way to the islands in search of his mother’s brother, after his father’s brother said they couldn’t keep him since he was only half Toulounnese, and half an islander. The Toulanns are a proud people, and take their pride seriously. His mother’s family welcome him in with open arms and he begins to transition to his new life. But he is filled with dreams of the kajuraihi, men who can fly (with the aid of constructed wings), by a special type of “magic” that allows them to see the air currents and use them, and draw small amounts of power from the sky dragons who fly high around the islands. He wants to be one – to enroll in the school. He meets his cousin Araenè, who likes to dress in boys clothes and go to lectures at the local university on cooking – she wants to be a chef, but in the islands, women are seen as household items only – to get married, learn a few womanly arts and be a good wife and mother. They aren’t treated poorly, just restricted from careers. One day, while out walking, she stumbles into a strange, hidden place -the school of mages, and one of the mages takes an interest in her. When tragedy strikes, she returns, and as a boy, enrolls herself as a mage, since the master she met the first time, saw the magic within her. And thus, our two intrepid heros are set on new careers. But Toulonn has decided to set sail against the islands. Normally they are safe from such incursions, being high in the air, but the Toulonnese are using their mages, and some kind of magic to bring the winds down and thus the islands. It is up to our two to save the day. At once intriguing, and with a fully developed world, it is fun, exciting, poetical, beautiful and you want to know more, about everything. Even minor characters are well drawn, even with a quick stroke. The action never stops, and the excitement builds. There is even some small romance. I can only hope there is more on these islands, as I was captivated by them. Just the sort of place I would love to live.

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