Title: The Girl of Ink and Stars
Author: Kiran Millwood Hargrave
Publisher: Chicken House Ltd.
Publication Date: May 5, 2016
Blurb via Amazon: Forbidden to leave her island, Isabella dreams of the faraway lands her cartographer father once mapped. When her friend disappears, she volunteers to guide the search. The world beyond the walls is a monster-filled wasteland – and beneath the dry rivers and smoking mountains, a 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.
‘The Girl of Ink and Stars’ is Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s debut novel and what a debut it is. Hargrave paints a beautiful picture of a made up land and as I always do in made up lands within books, I want to explore them. But like the main character, thirteen year old Isabella, I was forbidden to explore at the start of the book, so I genuinely empathised with her frustration and longing.
From the get go it was clear to me that this was a book that would get me thinking, mainly due to Hargrave’s mellifluous tone that made observations deeper into mundanity than she necessarily had to. I thought the tone was nice though, really bringing the Isle of Joya to life in her writing and Isabella’s narration.
At first I thought that the story moved a bit too slowly, but I was eventually grateful for the build up, because it made the climax of the adventure all the better. All of the characters Hargrave brings to us in this book are of great variety and all have great depth to them. However, Isabella excluded, I do feel that she could have gone a lot deeper, but this would have probably made for a longer book.
I would say that this book is short and sweet, but I feel as if that belittles the tale we are told. It is not sweet, that is too immature for my liking, but I would instead describe it as beautiful, iridescent, thought-provoking and so many more adjectives of abject praise. As a writer, I thought I learned a lot about how to tell a story and it is story telling that is at the centre of the whole book. Somehow, like a master craftsmen, or, in my eyes, a magician of writing, Hargrave has told a long story in immense detail with such few words. The idiom ‘good things come in small packages’ comes to mind.
In the book, the lines of young adult and middle grade fiction are blurred and I thought that was transcendent in itself. Isabella is a girl who has lost everything and she just keeps on losing more, but with a resilient mindset, she has kept her sense of wanderlust, curiosity and imagination despite her hard times. That really hit home with me and moved me greatly.
‘The Girl of Ink and Stars’ by Kiran Millwood Hargrave is, as it says on the cover, ‘a tale of wonder and courage’, bringing to the readers the stuff of dreams and the stuff of nightmares wrapped in a small bundle of wondrous joy and heartbreak.
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