Review: The Girl of Ink & Stars

Publisher: Chicken House
Published on 5th May 2016

Each of us carries the map of our lives on our skin …

This is a truly captivating story, steeped in mythology, and told with a beautifully lyrical quality, full of action, tension and deep emotions.  Both utterly entrancing and terrifying!

Isa lives in the town of Gromera, on the Island of Joya, with her cartographer father, under the harsh rule of the interloper, Governor Adori who has cut the town off from the rest of the Island, but no-one understands why. 

Isa is best friends with the Governor’s daughter, Lupe, until the day they have a bitter fight as Isa accuses Lupe of not caring about the horrific murder of one of their classmates.  This fight between the friends provides a catalyst which sees Lupe determined to restore her friendship by leaving the town to track down the murderers that her father is unwilling to hunt for. 

The Governor may not care about the death of one of the islanders, but he will not abandon his daughter, so he leads an expedition to enter the Forgotten Territories to find her.  Filled with guilt, Isa is determined to help track her friend and offers to be the group’s navigator.  Despite her apprehension, she is excited about the opportunity to map the island as her father has taught her a deep-seated love of cartography.

As they wander deeper into the island, the tension intensifies as they find a blighted landscape and deserted villages.  It is not long before mythology seeps into reality as Isa’s map of Joya reveals hidden mysteries, inhuman teeth are found and sudden attacks are made, but are the attackers the feared Banished or the return of something more terrible?  Something the islanders believe are mere stories, stories of the Fire Demon Yote tying the island to the earth, stories of his ferocious fire dogs …

As the search for Lupe becomes more desperate and hopeless, the tension escalates masterfully… my heart really was pounding as I raced through the action, and felt the emotion of Isa and Lupe as they fight for their own survival … and the freedom of the island.

I really admired Isa who is not an infallible friend, and is prepared to accept when she has made a misjudgement, and actually do something about it, despite her fear.  I loved her courage, determination, and her deep-rooted belief in the mythology of the island.  The Governor also intrigued me: he is clearly cruel and a despot, yet obtains a certain level of redemption in his later choices, although these cannot excuse his tyranny and his failure to help the people of Joya. 

I adored this incredibly powerful story of redemption, sacrifice and remembrance, interwoven with a marvellous myth, and bursting with tension and terrifying action.  Kiran Millwood Hargrave is a must-read author whose writing captures my imagination and holds me spellbound every time I pick up one of her books.

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