Cover Image: The Islands of Iros

The Islands of Iros

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Member Reviews

Luke and Damien have been friends for a long time, but when they meet Kaori, they decide to expand their friend group. The three of them decide to join their island’s champions, the Crimson Raiders, in their quest to locate a source of immense magical power. But misadventures occur along the way, and the three friends find their loyalty and bravery tested on their adventures.

The concept of this work is one that instantly drew my attention – I love fantasy, pirates, and oceanic adventures with a focus on friendship. Unfortunately, it fell flat for me. 

One of the most important things for a work of fantasy is creating an engaging and immersive setting. This work had almost no real descriptions of the setting, the culture, or the people, which made this world unbearably bland. There was no worldbuilding, history, or explanations included for anything, including major plot points, which also majorly detracted from this book. 

The writing style of this work was odd. The author chose to barely give page time to things that were supposed to be intense or dangerous for the characters yet devoted endless pages to dialogue that added nothing to the plot or the characters. The dialogue also included modern slang and the prose was often quite clunky and awkwardly written. The characters were poorly written overall. There were three main characters, yet none of them had a distinct voice or felt developed or alive. Everything was overexplained immediately after it happened, both for emotions and actions taken by the characters, which drastically slowed down the plot and was simply frustrating. 

I imagine this book could still be enjoyable for younger readers, but I feel like it needs some intense editing and reworking before I could recommend it to anyone. My thanks to NetGalley and L.M. Bracklow for allowing me to read this work. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are my own.
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<i>Thanks to NetGalley for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review.</i>

I've had trouble getting into this one. The concept is definitely an interesting one, and I'm always excited by a fantasy set around island nations, but the execution left me wanting. 

Most of my complaints are technical. The characters (side characters included) are distinct and have some depth to them, albeit not well translated onto the page; the plot is spare but very intriguing; the worldbuilding is also more minimal than I'd have liked, but there are hints that it could have some depth too; the plot pacing was wonky.

The biggest hurdle to my enjoyment was the writing. It didn't always stay consistently "fantasy," in terms of dialogue or description. Words and phrases from contemporary language were used often, especially "OK." And frequently the writing was just clumsy: "Kaori had failed to remember about Ivan being a superhuman trained by Captain Bauer himself since he was a child." There was little to no subtlety, and every emotion and action of the characters was explained immediately, sometimes with randomly introduced backstory and too much "telling." Some of this may be a translation issue, or simply the fact that English isn't the author's first language - in which case major kudos for what she was able to accomplish. Either way, she would definitely have benefited from having a more thorough editor.

There is so much potential here, as I mentioned; I'd love to see more from this author as she grows in her writing, and I'd love to see more of Iros. Heck, I'd appreciate a direct sequel for this book, because I want to see the three main characters fight some giants. You can never go wrong with a pirate-y adventure, and I've no doubt that some kids will enjoy this; it's easy to follow, easy to get into, but I wish the completed work had been a bit more polished.
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This was a darker middlegrade than I thought it was going to be. And I loved it.

The best thing about this story is the relationship between our three main characters and how they interact. Each chapter switches between them with makes the story really fleshed out and that makes you get to know the characters well. We go from learning about Luke's grief after his brother's death to Damian's support and dreams to Kaori's want for escape. And nothing is hidden from the reader.

Under the entire story you can feel this undercurrent of a need to protect, the Crimson Raiders are a must to protect their Island against the Mokrullians and to try to find a finger. Yes, a finger. This blend of seriousness and standard middlegrade whimsy combined with the authors writing makes me want to have more.

But I have to go back to the first sentence I wrote in the review, this is a dark middlegrade. In most books for children that I've read, violent things happen off screen. We know from the beginning that Luke's brother has died, but we are there when it happens. We also get a proper look into Kaori's life as a forced servant to someone who is a known murderer. Things like this made the story feel more real to me but it's something that is necessary to know beforehand if it's something you want to avoid. There's plenty of light in the story too, and it's feels great to see the friends grow as they work through the story.

I would highly recommend this book if you want some darker middlegrade on sea.
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Loved it loved it loved it. 
I definitely will be buying this book. This author knows how to write a story. 10/10 recommend!
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A stunning adventure, what really hooked me first was the characters, and how different they were from each other. Then secondly by the story itself. Overall a fun adventure that I am eagerly awaiting the sequel for.
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What worked:
The plot is told through the viewpoints of Luke, Damian, and Kaori. Each of them hopes to become one of the Crimson Raiders, defenders of Zutoro, but their reasons are vastly different. Damian hopes to find treasure and the legendary, power-filled finger of a sorcerer who died many years ago. Kaori wants to escape servitude to seek adventure across the seas. Luke doesn’t really want to join the Crimson Raiders until he swears to get vengeance against the enemy general responsible for his older brother’s death. The alternating chapters provide unique thoughts of these characters that aren’t always shared with their friends.
The search for the sorcerer’s mysterious finger is at the center of the plot and comes across as an unusual quest. It’s weird that someone will need to eat the finger in order to absorb all of the sorcerer’s powers and the fact that the sorcerer was evil adds an element of uncertainty. Actually, one of my first questions was wondering if the malevolent nature of the sorcerer might influence the person possessing his magic. I can give you three guesses about which character will eventually inherit the sorcerer’s powers. To add another layer of mystery, hints are cast that the sorcerer may not actually be dead so readers will wonder when he may pop up again.
A curious twist to the plot is when the person inheriting the magic is trained by another character, a Crimson Raider, who expected to receive it. There’s an inherent animosity between the two characters due to the jealousy and anger felt by the trainer, although he’s generally portrayed as an annoying bully anyhow. He’s never practiced magic, but he’s done more research about it since he assumed he’d become the new sorcerer. The trainee obviously has no idea how to conjure the ability and nose bleeds and weakness result whenever enchantments are cast. Also, anger is a strong catalyst to evoke the power which causes me to wonder if there might be an evil nature to it. Toward the end of the book, the author introduces another huge twist to the sorcerer’s magic that dramatically changes the characters’ roles.
What didn’t work as well:
Readers may want to know more about the inner workings of the characters, especially Damian. He’s the quietest of the three main characters and is driven to find hidden treasure but it’s not clear why. There’s also a moment during Crimson Raider training when he surprisingly threatens another boy. The action makes sense in the context of the situation but that behavior is out of character for Damian. He is the most difficult one to figure out due to his angry moments and his avoidance of interacting with others.
The Final Verdict:
The plot is easy to follow and should appeal to young readers. The most interesting aspect of the story is the magic because of the mystery behind how it works and the toll it takes on the sorcerer. Overall, it’s an exciting start to a series and I recommend you give it a shot.
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Twelve-year-old Luke Weiler loves his older brother, Finn who protects their island from Mokrullian enemies. However, when Finn’s ship explodes right before an important mission, Luke vows revenge against the Mokrullian leader, Elvos Kreen and enrolls in the Nakamura Training Camp with his childhood friend, Damien. Alongside their new friend Kaori, they are chosen as trainee’s to accompany a mission to search for Darakhan’s finger – claimed to grant magic to the one who eats it.

Luke, Damien and Kaori are my new favorite trio. We have the ridiculously useless yet funny; the ridiculously good at anything yet serious; and the ridiculously smart yet sensible. Out of all three, Luke was my favorite.

Luke was a character I loved from the first page and more as the story progressed. He had a lot of love to share and didn’t judge anyone at first glance. Although he wasn’t good at anything in particular, he tried his best and valued his friends. His emotions were written on his face, but Luke always considered the other person’s feelings. Even when feeling depressed or annoyed, Luke tried to put other’s first. He really was a good kid and one who understood when he went wrong.

The plot of this story was intriguing and there was never a dull moment. Told in alternating perspectives of our trio, we get a glimpse of the events and the growing bonds from each side. The mystery of finding Selior Darakhan’s finger, to Luke’s new sorcerer powers to the Mokrul spy was all executed beautifully. There was a lead up, rising action, the reveal and the falling action – not too fast and not too slow. I also loved our supporting characters, from the Crimson Raiders to their Captain. Each was justifiable, had a key role in the story and was a great addition to the family. Honestly, I feel that you cannot dislike them and this includes Ivan because he’s just not that great at expressing his emotions but he does care.

Overall, this was a story I devoured and now unfortunately, wait for the next book in the series. I must admit Damien’s feelings towards Luke were quite obvious and I loved their bond! I was a bit sad near the ending because Luke’s future really started to worry me given his friends are so much more gifted. However then I remembered, that Luke’s finding Darakhan’s finger first and his sometimes unexplainable behavior was not natural. There is more to his story and I’m highly anticipating the next book in this series!

This is a series I hope to own in the near future!
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A great well rounded magical fantasy adventure story full of tension to keep you reading into the wee hours.
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I really enjoyed reading this, it was I was hoping for a young adult fantasy novel, I was invested in the world and did what I hoped for from a good fantasy novel. The characters were really unique and did what I was expecting. I enjoyed getting through this novel and was hoping for more in this world. I really enjoyed the way L.M. Bracklow wrote this and look forward to reading more from them.

"A  man with a long beard and a tattered robe walked out of the shadows, but something about him wasn’t right. The man’s appearance was spectral. Luke could see right through him. A ghost. The old man was a ghost. What had Luke gotten himself into? He needed an escape plan, but how was he supposed to run when he couldn’t even stand?"
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