The Floating Islands by Rachel Neumeier
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Familiar but resonant themes coupled with a detailed and fantastic world filled with magery, adventure, war, and characters who are, at their core, all too human, make for an enjoyable read.
Neumeier's treatment of issues like loyalty, duty, orphanhood, the challenges of trying to fit in when one is of two places yet fully of neither, racial and gender roles, and the struggle for individuality make for a well rounded tale that though unearthly, rings true.
At times the plot seemed too neatly contrived, and at others the action seemed sudden and weight of detail awkward, but overall it was a smooth read and the characters were nearly all quite likeable. I enoyed the fact that even adversaries are, for the most part, written as people with different interests and different values, rather than as entirely evil.
Far too often the good guys are too good, and the bad guys too bad, leaving tales bereft of nuance. Neumeier manages to create characters who behave predominantly as individuals without taking on the weighty cowl of classic archetypes. This isn't to say that the archetypes don't make their appearances, but rather, that the characters are not defined solely by them.
More than the complexity of the story, for truly, the story was at times quite predictable, I enjoyed reading it knowing it was the sort of book I could comfortably set in front of a child who enjoyed fantasy stories of adventure and magic, without any concern for exposing ze to foul language or anything sordid.
If you're looking for a good wholesome adventure, it's definitely worth putting on your "Want to Read" list.
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