Review of The Isles of the Gods, by Amie Kaufman

Isles of the Gods

by Amie Kaufman
read by Nikki Patel, Homer Todiwala, Donnabella Mortel, Vidish Athavale, and Steve West

Listening Library, 2023. 12 hours, 49 minutes.
Review written February 14, 2024, from a library eaudiobook
2023 CYBILS Award Finalist, Young Adult Speculative Fiction
Starred Review

I listened to this book because it was a Cybils Award Finalist (even though I’m not on the panel this year), and I was mesmerized. In the first place, the production is very well done, with one of my favorite narrators, Steve West, reading a large portion. The book has five viewpoint characters, with a narrator for each one. This enhanced the experience and made it easier to realize when a different character was telling the story.

Our main character, though, is Selly. She’s a merchant’s daughter and has grown up on ships. Now, she’s gotten the disappointing news that her father isn’t coming back for her after a year apart. So she plans to sneak aboard the last boat heading north before winter. She plans to get her things off her assigned ship and go in the night. But before she can get off the ship, her captain tells her the whole ship is leaving quietly in the night. The prince, whom everyone thought was leading a procession of ships to various allies, is actually traveling undercover on their ship.

Every twenty-five years, the royal family of Alinor must make a sacrifice at the isle of their goddess, the Sentinel. Well, Prince Leander has been putting it off, and now he’s a year late — and war is brewing. He’s a powerful magician, but for this one important task, he’s been a slacker.

And it turns out there are people and powers who want to stop Leander so that Alinor’s goddess will not have power, and their own god can awaken and they can start a war.

Two of the five narrators are among the group trying to stop Leander. Let’s just say that the voyage does not go smoothly. There is plenty of danger, plenty of tension, and high stakes.

Because of the high body count in the other Amie Kaufman book I’ve read, Illuminae, I was not surprised that there’s also plenty of death in this book. Don’t get too attached to any character, because all lives are in danger and those who want to stop Prince Leander are ruthless.

I must admit, at the start I rolled my eyes a little, thinking it highly unlikely that our two main characters, Selly and Prince Leander, could fall in love with such dramatically different backgrounds. I wasn’t rolling my eyes at all by the end. Amie Kaufman pulls off a tender slow-burn romance based in character, and it’s exquisitely done.

Now, I’m not completely sure I wanted to know all the motivations of the people working to thwart Prince Leander, and maybe five different viewpoint characters wasn’t entirely necessary. But the other characters had short segments so I was never impatient to get back to the main story, and it did add depth to my understanding of the politics of the two countries and how much was at stake.

Though this book stops at a good place, there are some big loose ends that are not tied up, so I will be waiting impatiently for July’s release of the next book, The Heart of the World. It is already on a list to order for the library.

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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