5 Reasons to Read: Island of Exiles by Erica Cameron

Island of Exiles by Erica Cameron (The Ryogan Chronicles #1)

Genre: Fantasy, YA

Publisher: Entangled Teen on February 14, 2017

Source: Publisher

My thanks to the publisher for providing me with a digital review copy. No compensation was provided for this review, and all opinions are my own.

In this diverse, gritty survival fantasy, a girl warrior turns against her island clan to find the brother they claim died, uncovering secrets.

   

Have you been struggling to find an original, well written YA fantasy? Look no further! Here are 5 reasons to read ISLAND OF EXILES by Erica Cameron.

 

1. Creative World Building

 

If you enjoy complex social, political, and cultural contexts in their fantasy novels, rejoice! ISLAND OF EXILES has it all. Khya’s clan lives on Shiara, a land of inhospitable desert that forces them within the walls of their city, where they wait out natural disasters like floods and lightning storms. Already highly ranked within an incredibly rigid hierarchical structure, Khya is determined to use her skills as a ward mage to rise even higher…and bring her younger brother Yorri along with her. The various classes of people – the laboring class, middling fighters, warriors, and political advisors to the clan’s leaders – were fascinating to read about, and add texture and depth to the world of Shiara.

 

2. Compelling, Flawed Characters

 

When you’ve spent your entire life working towards one goal, you’re bound to have a bad case of tunnel vision. Khya’s stubbornness and single minded determination is by turns endearing and frustrating, and watching her realize that she has to let the people she loves make their own fate is really satisfying. It’s especially fun to watch her realize that she may have been wrong about Tessen, her former childhood friend and current rival…whose torch for Khya burns so bright it can be seen across the entire desert. The secondary characters are all fully realized and layered, and I can’t wait to see how their relationships with one another develop in the sequel.

 

3. Crazy Plot Twists

 

When Khya learns that the ruling council has kept vital truths from their people, her fight to improve her brother’s station becomes one to save her entire clan. ISLAND OF EXILES delivers some truly jaw-dropping plot twists, and surprises come from both within the city’s walls and without. The increasing number of lightning storms plaguing the clan, the incursions by enemy clans, and even the very class structure of the clan itself are all part of a much larger plot. Khya, Tessen, Sani, and their friends race against the clock to put it all together, and their adventures kept me flipping pages well into the night.

 

4. Multi-Level Diversity

 

Erica Cameron does an exceptional job of writing a diverse cast without feeling as though she’s aiming for some sort of diversity checklist. The entire cast of ISLAND OF EXILES is non-white, and queer people abound. A third gender (ebet/ey/eir) is accepted and celebrated, and there’s also great representation of asexuality. Khya’s society is quite sex positive even among teenagers – which isn’t a surprise given the average life expectancy of 30 years – and Khya herself has had relationships with men and women. It was really refreshing to see that sexuality and gender were total non-issues between Khya and her comrades, although there was definitely a lot of good-natured teasing about conquests!

 

5. Adorable ‘Ships

 

Which brings me to my next point: adorable ships, adorable ships everywhere! ISLAND OF EXILES features a number of really sweet, well-written romances, not the least of which is the slow burn developing between Khya and Tessen. Two words: swoon worthy. I squealed aloud multiple times at the cuteness! Erica Cameron is so good at writing romances that she can even sell a ship where the characters involved only appear on page together twice. That’s skill!

 

So what are you waiting for? Order your copy or place a hold on Erica Cameron’s ISLAND OF EXILES, releasing Feb. 14th!

What’s the most original YA fantasy you’ve read recently? Do you plan to read ISLAND OF EXILES? Let me know in the comments!

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  • Greg Hill

    I do need more YA fantasies, definitely. And that cover! Yay for flawed characters, especially that the secondary ones are well done. The diversity sounds fabulous too. I haven’t heard of this one but I’ll definitely be taking a look, and it’s a series too. Good to know… 🙂

    • Right? If you look closely you can even see how amazing the cover model’s eye makeup is! That’s some high def photography, haha. Island of Exiles is original and chock-full of great characters, definitely recommend it!

  • Jolien @ The Fictional Reader

    This sounds amazing! I’ll definitely be adding this to my to-read list, thanks 😀

    • No problem, Jolien! As soon as I heard about it, I knew I had to review it…and I was not disappointed! 😀

  • Wow – this one looks amazing (both in premise and on the cover). I’ve seen it around lately and I have to say – you’ve made a pretty compelling argument as to why I need to have some upheaval in my TBR. 😉 It’s coming out in 4 days…..I could shift a few things between now and then, right??

    This one sounds all kinds of diverse and really, really sounds like I would love it.

    Amazing review.

    • I know, right? This is a great example of beauty within and without, haha. There’s definitely enough time to do some TBR shifting, especially for a book that’s so unique. Mount TBR could always use a good reshuffle, right? 😉

      Thanks so much, Di!

  • No white people?? That is awesome! I love the idea of a third gender too, Kameron Hurley uses more than two genders in her stories as well, which I find endlessly fascinating. Thanks for the review!

    • OMG I know! I was so pleased when I realized that, haha. The third gender was really well done, and the grammar surrounding “eir” pronouns was pretty interesting too. You know, now that you mention it, I would definitely draw some links between Mirror Empire and Island of Exiles: two compelling, original, queer fantasy books! What’s not to love?

  • Danya we need to have a serious talk..about how you are playing a huge role in my TBR’s growth spurt! How can you tell me about an awesome, diverse novel with freaking awesome plot twists and expect me to ever tackle my TBR? 😛 *adds book to GR* You know how i’m going to take my revenge? Review loads of amazing, diverse and wicked awesome books on my blog and make you add them all to your TBR!

    P.S. Despite me complaining about my ever growing TBR I love feeding it so continue writing amazing reviews so I can grumble like an old lady and then add them to my TBR 😉

    • LMAO! Uma, I’m sorry…but there’s something you should know about me: I’m a major book pusher, guilty as charged! 😉 I can’t wait to read your reviews, because I’m already loving the sound of the books you’ve been reading lately. Plus you know there are gonna be some great discoveries thanks to Fantastically Diverse!

      Have no fear, I’ll valiantly carry on forcing my friends to read the amazing books I come across…it’s all part of my evil plan!

  • MaddalenaSpaceandSorcery

    All right, you’ve convinced me! 🙂 (see? hook, line, sinker…)
    I love complex, well-thought-out societies, even better if they are placed in inhospitable environments (Dune must have left its mark even more deeply than I realized) and if you add complex social and political issues, well… see above… 😀
    Thanks for sharing!

    • YES! That’s what I like to hear, Maddalena. 😀

      Same here! Give me a complex, layered social structure and I’m on board every time. Oh wow, Dune! Yeah, this definitely has some “inhospitable desert” vibes that are similar to Dune in that way. I really hope you enjoy this one, it’s shot to the top of my 2017 favourites list already!

      • MaddalenaSpaceandSorcery

        It went straight to my “next” list as soon as I read your review… 🙂

  • Ohh I do like creative worldbuilding

  • Lisa (@TenaciousReader)

    I haven’t heard of this one before! And I do enjoy some romance when its done well, plus all that other great stuff you listed!

    • There’s definitely not enough buzz for this one, which is too bad because it’s SUCH a good book! This one has it all, I hope you get the chance to pick it up soon Lisa. 🙂

  • How have i not heard of this gem before?? It sounds amazing, and reminds me a little of Rebel of the Sands series?? have you read it?

    • When I first heard about it I was so blown away — how could there be an upcoming YA fantasy featuring queer PoC that I hadn’t heard of??? I’m so glad that it lived up to its potential because now I can recommend it to everyone, haha.

      Yes I have! Well, the first book anyway. It does have some similarities in terms of the setting and PoC characters for sure, but the cultural backgrounds of the two societies are pretty different. That said, if you liked Rebel of the Sands you’ll love Island of Exiles!

  • Honestly, all you have to do is rave about a book and I’m convinced. I am always up for a good book and considering this has good representation ticking the diversity boxes without sounding like it’s trying too hard and I’m all over it. I was almost put off by the summary saying for fans of Graceling (which I am) but then I thought that’s just crazy don’t be put off by something tiny. I’ve added to my TBR and will hope I can read soon.

    • Right back at you, Becky! I’ve been making a serious effort to read more diversely this year, so when the opportunity to read and review this one came up I was all over it. Erica Cameron does a really good job with representation (which is a huge relief given the couple sketchy books I’ve read recently).

      Comparisons to favourite books can be so daunting! As a huge fan of Graceling I was intrigued by that comparison, but in my opinion they’re completely different beasts. The only major similarity? They’re both creative YA fantasies featuring non-white characters. Can’t wait to hear your thoughts on it, Becky!

      • Well, if this is the result of you trying to read more diversely then I think you’re gonna have a pretty good reading year.

        And to be honest, you saying that convinces me to read the book way more than a comparison to Graceling ever would so I don’t know why publishers insist on the comparisons.

  • I’m so excited for this! I’m reading this now, not too far in yet, but have been hoping for something unique and great world building. I’m a fan of flawed heroines so I couldn’t resist trying Island of Exiles! So glad you really enjoyed this one, Danya! 🙂

    • Ahhhh I’m so excited to hear your thoughts on it, Kim! The world building is pretty intense at first but once you’re hooked wow…things move so quickly! I hope you love this one as much as I did, and I’ll keep an eye out for your review. 😀

  • I can see why you gave this such a great rating, it sounds like the book has everything! The world building sounds super detailed and thought-out, and I love when characters are actually flawed and especially when side characters also seem really 3-dimensional. And the diversity is has sounds fantastic!

    • That’s the perfect way to sum it up, Kristen — Island of Exiles really does have everything! Honestly, I’ve been feeling a little burnt out on YA and especially YA fantasy lately, but this one reminded me of all the reasons why I love it. The characters and world were on point, and I’m really pleased with the representation in it too. Highly recommend it!

  • Lynn Williams

    Ohh, excited now – I actually hadn’t seen this one but 4.5 stars and all that swooning – I must read this one!
    Lynn 😀

    • Yes Lynn, you must! Who doesn’t want swooning, diversity, and a near perfect rating, right? 😀

  • I just came across this one a couple of days ago and was very intrigued! And your review has totally sold me, Danya. I love the sound of a unique YA fantasy, which is so ridiculously rare, and cute ships you say?? You know that’s one sure way to get me invested! 😉 And ooh I love that it has so much diversity to it. Pre-ordering this one ASAP! 🙂
    Fabulous review, Danya!

    • Yaaaaay! The only thing better than reading an amazing book is convincing all your friends to read it, right? 😀 I’ve been really struggling to find original YA fantasy and I’ve become quite tired of it honestly, but Island of Exiles is everything I’ve been wanting!

      Cute ships and diversity abound, but be warned: the world building is intense at first. Once you’re in it though…damn. This is one epic read! Thanks so much, Nick. 🙂

  • That sounds like a really compelling setting! I’ll have to add this to my to-read list. 😀

    • It was, definitely! Another commenter remarked that the setting sounds a bit like Dune, and knowing how much you loved that book (LMAO) I’m sure you’ll enjoy this. 😉

  • This one is new to me! I LOVE the sound of this fantasy world. Fantasy is my favorite genre and I love seeing different shades of fantasy. Props for the adorable shippy romances and multi-level diversity. 😀 😀 😀 😀 I’m glad you enjoyed this book, Danya!

    Have a fantastic week. =)

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!

    • It’s such a good read, Alyssa! Given what I’ve seen you review and rave about on your blog, I’m sure you’ll love this one! At this point I’m 100% more interested in a book when I know it’s diverse (and this one is own voices, too) and Island of Exiles does not disappoint.

      Thanks, Alyssa! You too. 🙂

  • Ummmm….So, this sounds amazing. All five are your reasons are like why I read books, lol! Nice to have a heads up about a book I haven’t even heard of.

    • OMG doesn’t it though?! I *died* when I heard about it, because clearly I need this book in my life. I wish there was more buzz surrounding this one, but I’ll generate as much as I possibly can because I loved it! Hopefully you get the chance to read it soon, Stephanie. 🙂

  • these sounds soo Great! I love all the reasons you listed and I definitely want to pick it up as soon as possible! Thanks for putting it on my radar!

    • Island of Exiles was SUCH a good read, Tori! It deserves a lot more buzz than it’s been getting. I can’t wait to hear what you think of it!

  • Hi, Danya! I’ve been missing due
    to a stomach bug. I see you’ve read some wonderful books. This is the first
    time I hear about this book and I’m definitely sold. This world sounds very
    interesting, and I love when the author can surprise readers with turns and
    twists. As you know I live for romance in my books and I can’t pass a book with
    number of well-written romances. And slow-burn is my favorite type. And it’s
    great that the author wrote a diverse book that feels natural. You are right,
    sometimes it looks like there is some sort of diversity checklist. Thanks for
    putting this book on my radar! Wonderful review!

    • Hey Ksenia! Oh no, I’m sorry to hear you’ve been ill but I’m glad you’re feeling better now. 🙂

      Seriously, Island of the Exiles has absolutely everything going for it! I can’t believe how little I’ve heard about it around the blogging world because it’s sooo good. The romance — both the primary one and the secondary one — in this one was killer, super sweet and swoony. Thanks, Ksenia!