They say the day the Governor arrived, the ravens did too. All the smaller birds flew backwards into the sea, and that is why there are no songbirds on Joya. Only huge, ragged ravens. I’d watch them perch on the rooftops like omens, and try to squint them into the chaffinches and goldcrests Da drew from memory. If I imagined hard enough, I could almost hear them singing.
‘Why did the songbirds leave, Da?’ I’d ask.
‘Because they could, Isabella.’
‘And the wolves? The deer?’
Da’s face would darken. ‘Seems the sea was better than what they were running from.’
Cover and interior design by Helen Crawford-White
Published by Chicken House May 2016
288 pages in paperback
Summary from author’s own website:
Forbidden to leave her island, Isabella Riosse dreams of the faraway lands her father once mapped.
When her closest friend disappears into the island’s Forgotten Territories, she volunteers to guide the search. As a cartographer’s daughter, she’s equipped with elaborate ink maps and knowledge of the stars, and is eager to navigate the island’s forgotten heart.
But the world beyond the walls is a monster-filled wasteland – and beneath the dry rivers and smoking mountains, a legendary fire demon is stirring from its sleep. Soon, following her map, her heart and an ancient myth, Isabella discovers the true end of her journey: to save the island itself.
I loved the sound of this right from hearing the title – and then I found it had maps! I had to have it. But would it live up to my hopes?
I needn’t have worried. It’s a lovely book full of friendship, adventure and magic (and maps - literally). Beautifully produced, it portrays a marvellous world rather like our own in some fabulous ‘othertime’. The writing is uncomplicated which makes it al the more emotionally intense. Still, some experienced independent readers might well enjoy it before the 10+ age suggested.
Dear Readers - enjoy the portrayal of the alternative Canary Island La Joya, delight in the well-depicted friendships give the story its heart, but be wary of the cruelty, frights and tears that go with it all. Steer clear if you’re squeamish or sentimental.
Spot the light touches of poetry glimmer along the way as you follow brave Isabella into the Forgotten Territories. Perhaps you’ll find something of that fantastical Jules Verne feeling – with a dash of Ray Harryhausen – but without the wordiness. Expect to be moved.
When you’ve finished, you may want to treasure it like a souvenir – a quality piece of folk-inspired art, full of colour and verve. I rather hope Chicken House bring out a hardback gift edition – this is likely to be a future classic.
K. M. Lockwood lives by the sea in Sussex - see the pics on Instagram. She fills jars with sea-glass, writes on a very old desk and reads way past her bedtime. Her tiny bed and breakfast is stuffed full of books - and even the breakfasts are named after writers. You'd be welcome to chat stories with @lockwoodwriter on Twitter