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Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

*The Floating Islands* by Rachel Neumeier- young adult book review
The Floating Islands
by Rachel Neumeier
Ages 11-15 400 pages Knopf February 2011 Hardcover    

A brilliantly descriptive narrative, The Floating Islands is a fantasy set in a world where islands float in the sky. The main character, Trei, has been orphaned by a disaster on the mainland of Tolounn. Rejected by his father’s brother, Trei is sent to live with his mother’s brother on the magnificent Floating Islands.

Here, Trei first sees the kajuraihi - men with wings who fly through the skies. Immediately, Trei knows that he is destined to fly also. His uncle and aunt support his desires, encourage him to apply for the program and are delighted when he joins their ranks as a novice. Here he learns the rudiments of wing preparation, flying methods, strategies, and befriends a member of the Floating Island’s royal family, Ceirfei.

The secondary character, almost equally important to the plot, is Araenè, Trei’s cousin. As a girl, her future is limited to finding a husband and managing a household. Araenè has a brilliant gift for cooking and baking; often bored, she explores her city disguised as a boy.

Here, her gifts for taste lead her to a hidden school of magic and a mysterious dragon’s egg. Eventually, after her own parents are killed in an epidemic, Araene enters the school and discovers her own magic powers involving the creating of doors to just about any where she would want to visit.

The first part of the book focuses on Trei and Araenè as they move from their families into their new communities learning the art of flying and magic, respectively. The central conflict revolves around the aggression of Toulonn toward the Floating Islands. Toulonn has developed steam engines which appear to be essential to their military power. With Trei’s ability to fly, the leadership of Ceirfei and Araenè’s magic skills peace prevails despite overwhelming odds.

Neumeier narrates this action-packed story in alternating, episodic, rather long chapters told alternatively from Trei’s point of view and Araenè’s perspective. Trei’s story is unique, logically sequenced and easy to follow. In contrast, Araenè’s story is sometimes confusing and beleaguered with multiple characters which are difficult to differentiate. The beauty of the story comes in the end when their separate lives converge to achieve peace.

My 7th-grade reviewing partner and I both found the book somewhat tedious in parts, yet difficult to put down in others. Overall, the author is successful in creating what many readers are looking for in high fantasy – plenty of magic and an action-packed plot.
Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

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  Kristine Wildner/2011 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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