Series: The Isles of the Gods #1
Published by Knopf (5.2.2023)
Genres: High Fantasy, Young Adult
Format: eARC, 464 pages
Magic, romance, and slumbering gods clash in the start of a riveting fantasy series that spans gangsters' dens, forgotten temples, and the high seas from the New York Times bestselling author of the Aurora Cycle and the Illuminae Files.
Selly has salt water in her veins. So when her father leaves her high and dry in the port of Kirkpool, she has no intention of riding out the winter at home while he sails off to adventure. But any plans to follow him are dashed when a handsome stranger with tell-tale magician's marks on his arm commandeers her ship. He is Prince Leander of Alinor and he needs to cross the Crescent Sea without detection so he can complete a ritual on the sacred Isles of the Gods. Selly has no desire to escort a spoiled prince anywhere, and no time for his entitled demands or his good looks. But what starts as a leisure cruise will lead to acts of treason and sheer terror on the high seas, bringing two countries to the brink of war, two strangers closer than they ever thought possible and stirring two dangerous gods from centuries of slumber...
I’m not gonna lie, this started slow. I was pretty bored in the beginning, and the multiple POVs – five of them – were making it worse. I outright hated Jude’s chapters, and didn’t care a whole lot about Laskia’s either. 5 points of view were overwhelming, and in the beginning felt a bit unnecessary.
However, right around the 30% mark, things finally picked up. And from that point on, I was hooked! The action was almost non-stop from that point up until the end, with only a small lull in the middle.
I love the sea, and love stories centered around the sea. So, the setting of this one drew me in! I thought the magic system was really cool – affinities for elements, in which the person could speak to and control spirits; and marks on the arms of the magicians when their abilities manifest, to show which element they have an affinity for.
In addition to sea stories, I also adore stories with Gods in them – the kind where Gods are real beings that have a hand in the world. I actually would have liked to have learned a lot more about the other gods as well as the Mother. Maybe in the next book!
I also wish we could have spent more time at the actual Isles of the Gods. The book is literally named for them, yet they only took part of 15%. Not even kidding. It was a bit of a cathartic feeling, though, when part 4 came and they finally, finally reached the Isles. I’m talking that glorious dawning feeling of anticipation, which makes up for the fact that it took so long to get to it.
Back to the switching points of view: It was a bit much in the beginning, and even though I didn’t like Jude and Laskia’s chapters, I do see how they were necessary to understand them. I never really felt like I knew Jude, though. His POV gave us insight into how he was feeling about what was happening (namely that he didn’t want to be helping Laskia), but not who he was as a person. I kind of felt that way about Keegan, too. Overall, though, I thought it was a great cast of characters! I’m pretty excited for the audiobook, because it has a separate narrator for each character. (I’m calling it now, Donnabella Mortel – Zila’s narrator in the Aurora Cycle – is gonna be Laskia. I’m thinking Steve West will be Jude. I don’t know the other 3 very well, but I listened to samples of their other works and I feel like Vidish Athavale fits Keegan and Homer Todiwala fits Leander. Nikki Patel 10/10 has to be Selly and I can’t wait to hear her bring that sarcasm to life!)
I also enjoyed the romance. Enemies to lovers is my fave trope! (Did I mention it also contains the only one bed trope? Oh yes.) I loved the banter between Leander and Selly. He came off as a pompous ass in the beginning, and it was hilarious that Selly gave no quarter and kept him on his toes. When he brought the sass, she gave it right back!
Um, THAT ENDING?! View Spoiler »So like, is Leander going to die in the next book?! It was mentioned that a Messenger doesn’t last long because the power burns them out quickly. I guess Selly is helping to hold that at bay, so maybe with her he’ll be okay?! I am not thrilled that Laskia survived and is also a Messenger. I’m super interested to learn more about Selly’s magic, though! « Hide Spoiler The 9 month wait for book two is going to be long!
Writing style: 4/5
Overall rating: 4/5