Review: The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

27973757Forbidden to leave her island, Isabella Riosse dreams of the faraway lands her father once mapped.

When her closest friend disappears into the island’s Forgotten Territories, she volunteers to guide the search. As a cartographer’s daughter, she’s equipped with elaborate ink maps and knowledge of the stars, and is eager to navigate the island’s forgotten heart.

But the world beyond the walls is a monster-filled wasteland – and beneath the dry rivers and smoking mountains, a legendary 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.

This is a beautiful book. It is possibly the most beautiful novel I’ve ever seen. I want to find the designers, shake them firmly by the hand, and then steal their talent from them by the all-encompassing power of osmosis. (I am aware that I am not a plant and such things are not possible but a girl can dream.)

Just look. Look at these two pages.

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The entire book is printed in navy, with orange detailing and it really is something special. It also has a gate-folded cover with colourful maps on the inside. It’s is a beautiful piece of book production and I wish I produced it myself. Even if I had never intended to read it, I would have bought it just because it’s a beautiful object. (I always did intend to read it. I mean, just read the title, does that not seem like something I would love?)

I was a bit unsure of this book at first, it’s split into parts and the first section isn’t the most exciting thing I’ve ever read but I think if I were younger, I would have appreciated it a lot more. However, I am happy to report that once the action started, it was excellent. I felt nervous feelings in my stomach and everything, I definitely was not expecting that after the beginning. It definitely has echoes of The Firework Maker’s Daughter (which is one of my favourite things) so I very much appreciated that.

What I love most about this book though is the character development. There’s a certain character (Lupe) who begins as an entitled, brattish child and ends up as something entirely different, and it shattered my heart a little bit. The Girl of Ink and Stars doesn’t shy away from being brutal.

It went in directions I was not expecting and I found myself loving it. I loved the setting, I loved the characters, and I loved the mythology that bound the whole thing together. It’s a short read, but a good one and I am glad I stuck it out. It is poignant and lovely and a good way to wile away an evening.

Harry Potter re-readathon: The Chamber of Secrets

The Chamber of SecretsHoo boy, I was supposed to post these every week for seven weeks, since I read the whole series in about 14 days. But alas, life happened, as it often does, but I have resolved to be more regular in my blog updates and book reviews and various other things. So I am posting this from the past. Hooray for queued posts! Anyway…

The Chamber of Secrets was never my favourite. Possibly because it sits between the first book (much excitement because it’s the start of the series) and the third which, until recently, was always my favourite. It’s pretty hard, then, for the book between those two to be quite as exciting. That said, it does have the joy that is Gilderoy Lockhart and his failure at life. (Or perhaps it’s not a failure, not until the obliviate mishap anyway.)

Though it was never my favourite, Riddle and the diary always fascinated me. I loved the idea of having a book that could interact with me, and I mean really interact with me, not a choose your own adventure or an enhanced ebook type deal. A really real book, which really did talk to me and respond to my words and actions. Who doesn’t want a book that tailors itself to them and them alone?

I often ignored the fact that the diary was evil. Or rather, I didn’t care that it was evil, I just thought it was cool.

Now that I am older, wiser, and more dashing (the crowd sniggers), I see it in a different way, even though I would  still like a really real interactive book. I can see now how creepy and twisted the Riddle in the diary is, and how much that scarred Ginny (especially when it is mentioned in later books). There are all sorts of mental manipulation techniques in the Potterverse and arguably this is the worst. Especially when you consider the life-sucking part.

Shudder.

I can now see what little-me overlooked, the ever so subtle setting up of the latter half of the series, though if older me hadn’t already known about horcruxes, I never would have guessed what relevance the diary would have had to future events. At first the series was seemingly less connected, the first three books had clear openings and endings and most things were left resolved, excepting the looming threat of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, but once you go through them again, you see that it isn’t quite as cut and dry as it at first seemed. I like that. I like that a lot.

Harry Potter re-readathon: The Philosopher’s Stone

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone  2For Christmas, along with (I presume) many thousands of other people, I received the beautiful complete box set of all of the Harry Potter books with lovely illustrated covers by Jonny Duddle. I can’t lie to you, at this point I want every single box set of Harry Potter books there is in existence because they are all glorious but that is another post entirely.

Since Christmas, on my daily commutes and when I have been walking past the often crowded lunch table at work, I have been seeing so many, many people reading Harry Potter. It is beautiful. Naturally, as I have now got all of the books with matching designs (if they don’t match, it’s very hard to concentrate), I’ve been reading them too!

There is something great about nostalgic re-reads, especially if you haven’t read a book since around the time it came out, like me. I think the last time I read The Philosopher’s Stone was the year that The Goblet of Fire was released. Almost sixteen years ago. When I was 9. Good lord. Since then I’ve watched the film countless times, it’s so easy to forget things that weren’t included in the film when you haven’t read the book since you were 9.

Like Professor Binns, who I forgot existed entirely, and the fact that Dumbledore is at one point seen sporting a bonnet. A bonnet. (This is an image I definitely plan to doodle.) And the entirety of what happens in the novel before Harry is dropped off outside the door of number 4 Privet Drive.

What I did remember, however, was my first experience with the world of Harry Potter, which I may have mentioned before. Read aloud by a wonderful primary school teacher with a wonderful name (Ms. Chodyniecki) who read each character using a different voice. Hagrid’s was my favourite. I am also pretty sure that the aforementioned teacher stuck a plastic Halloween witch’s finger to the end of a stick and used it to point at things on the board – excellent tactic.

I am now on book three of my re-read (blogs will appear for each book, hoorah!), I want to speed through them but I am forcing myself to take it slowly and give it the time it deserves – who knows what other memories it could unearth. Now, at a nearly ripe 25 years of age (just over a month until that milestone), I am enjoying the Harry Potter books more than ever and if any of you out there, in the great beyond of the internet, haven’t read them in a very long time, I would highly recommend you do so too!