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Book Review: Island of Exiles by Erica Cameron

Cameron’s Island of Exiles is a fast-paced tale of one sister’s love and loyalty against all odds.

Itagami, on the island of Shiara, is home to the Miriseh, and the people they protect. When early storms begin wracking the city, and neighboring clans encroach into Itagamin territory, life becomes increasingly difficult. One such encounter claims the life of Khya’s younger brother Yorri. But Sanii, Yorri’s partner, believes something is amiss and enlists Khya’s help to uncover the truth. With the unasked for assistance of Tessen, a basaku mage, Khya and Sanii make a recovery that will shake the very foundations of Itagamin life.

I dove into this story! The world-building is top-notch. Magick seems to be something the majority of the population can use, and comes in many different flavours. There are those who work rock, those who heal, those who can manipulate fire, or use telekinesis, those like Khya who can craft wards, those like Yorri, with heightened reflexes, and like Tessen, with enhanced senses. Some of the magic, like that of Yorri, and Tessen, seem less magic, than psionics. The variety is great though, and seems to manifest randomly. There doesn’t seem to be a fully genetic component that, say keeps fire workers or healers in the same lineage.

Itagamin society as fascinating to the anthropologist in me. It functions very different from what I’m used to, with everything designed to keep people safe, happy, and healthy, but still without the nuclear family unit as most of our world understands it. Children aren’t raised in year groups, in nurseries, which leads to doseiku groupings where life skills are taught. Reaching a certain age leads to a test to place the doseiku into castes- yonin (non-magic folk), ahdo (mid-level mages), nyshin (high-level mages), and the kaigo council. The Miriseh are immortals who rule Itagami.

This society has three different genders. Besides male and female, there are the ebet, who use the pronouns ‘ey’, ‘eir’ and ’em’. I did find this a bit difficult to mentally pronounce at first. It was never fully explained what the difference was between the three genders. Was it personal choice, or are there defining characteristics that clearly mark what they are? It is noted that they are physically unable to bear or sire children.

I did find the random discussion of Khya’s moontime pointless. It wasn’t necessary to story, and while there’s nothing graphic about it, it’s something I as a woman deal with monthly. I don’t want to read about it unless it’s absolutely pertinent to the story, such as say, a young woman experiencing it for the first time, or if it happens in a society where the women are sequestered during that time, which Itagamin society is not.

As for characters, I really liked Tyrroh, and Yorri, though we don’t see too much of Yorri. Tsua, Chio, Zonna and Osshi are pretty cool, too. Osshi is a historian, so always a plus in my eyes. Tessen is my favourite. If it wasn’t specifically mentioned that he is seventeen, I’d have thought him much older, given his maturity level. And he just seems so sweet. Honestly, he deserves far better than the person he’s pursuing. I hope he finds it. I really do. I don’t like seeing people taken advantage of, and taken for granted.

Despite that she’s one of the main characters, I really did not like Khya. She’s very immature, whinging on about how Tessen ‘stole’ promotions from her, rather than considering its her own immature behaviour that plays a factor in it. She treats him like an ass, when he’s never done anything to her. Khya openly admits that she’ll go against Itagamin custom and law by putting her brother before others. We are supposed to believe that there is something special about her, but I just don’t see it. I’m into the second book now, and still don’t see it.

I wasn’t a big fan of Sanii, either, though I liked em better than Khya. It is Sanii, not Khya who is the catalyst for the story. It is Sanii, not Khya, who tumbles to the island’s secret, and who then convinced Khya. Ey have a greater maturity than Khya as well. Really, what was off-putting about Sanii’s personality was the crankiness. To get a better idea of eir personality, I’d need to see them around Yorri, and I hope we get the chance.

Overall, this story left me eager to read the next one. If you are a fan of innovative magick, and stories influenced by Japanese lore, be sure to check out Island of Exiles!

***This book was reviewed via Chapter by Chapter Blog Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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