Nancy Farmer – The Islands of the Blessed
Read By: Gerard Doyle
Length: 13h 29m (496 pages)
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Fantasy
Started: 26 January 2010
Finished: 18 February 2010
Where did it come from? The library.
Why do I have it? I’d read the previous two books in the series and enjoyed them.
The problem with dead
mermaids is all the vengance…
plus the smell of fish.
Summary: Jack, now 14, is attempting to settle back down village life after his most recent adventure. However, when his village is ravaged by Odin’s Wild Hunt, and then threatened by a spirit from the deep that has been summoned by a magical bell, Jack, the former shield-maiden Thorgil, and the Bard must head out once again in order to avert disaster. In their travels, they must deal with half-trolls, vengeful spirits, human sacrifice, mermaids, and all manner of deceit and trickery, but hopefully they will be able to lay the past to rest in order to save their loved ones, and find a place for themselves.
Review: I think one of the best things about this series is how well it handles religious conflict. Farmer has set her story at a really interesting intersection of Norse, Pagan, and Christian traditions, and her books deal with the positives and negatives of each religion with a degree of maturity and level-headedness that you wouldn’t necessarily expect from a mid-grade/young adult fantasy adventure. Although, I’ve always thought that these books don’t really feel exactly like fantasy. I mean, there are trolls and elves and gods and evil spirits and such, but to me it feels more like historical fiction – just historical fiction where the characters are moving through a world where all of their myths are real.
So, although I’m really enamored of the world that Farmer has created, the disappointing truth is that the story in The Islands of the Blessed just didn’t hold my attention as well as either of its two predecessors. It had the same problem as The Land of the Silver Apples, where there’s just too much going on – too many characters both new and reintroduced, too many adventures, etc. – without enough of a central throughline on which to hang all of the rest of the stuff. If I were forced to pick a “main” story, it would probably be that of the mermaid’s spirit and the bell, but even that was ignored for large swaths in the middle of the book, and when it was finally brought back up, it was dealt with too quickly, and very anticlimactically. There’s not even really a character arc to grab onto as the central thread of the story, since while the characters do grow up a little bit over the course of the story, it was never real a focus. (Also, the Bard was inexplicably crabby about trivial stuff throughout the entire book, which sort of ruined his whole “mysterious and powerful” vibe.)
Overall, it wasn’t terrible, but it did feel like it lacked some focus, and that diffuse nature made it hard for me to find a hook that really made me want to keep listening. 3 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: Younger readers who enjoy Jack and Thorgil’s adventures for adventure’s sake will probably really enjoy this one just as well as its predecessors. Otherwise, I think I’d recommend just reading the first book of the series, The Sea of Trolls; it’s worth reading to get a feel for Farmer’s world, and it manages to pack in a bunch of fun adventure without going off the story rails.
Other Reviews: Here, There & Everywhere (2nd Edition)
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.
First Line: Jack’s fingers ached, and blisters had formed on the palms of his hands.
Cover Thoughts: Oh, man, that draugur is terrifying. If I owned this book, it would absolutely have to be stored cover-side down. Yikes.