I visited two very interesting fantasy worlds recently:
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
After a freak volcanic eruption kills his entire family, Trei must leave his homeland to go and live with his aunt and uncle on the floating island called Milendri. “Floating Island” is not a redundant term – the islands actually float high in the sky, kept aloft by the magic of the sky dragons and guarded by the kajuraihi, the men who wear wings and fly. When Trei sees one of these men on his journey to Milendri, he is immediately entranced and swears to himself that he will become one.
Trei is warmly welcomed by his aunt and uncle and cooly welcomed by his cousin Araene, a girl with a quick tongue and a passion for cooking. Like Trei, Araene has a dream: to become the most famous chef on Milendri. As time passes, the two cousins find that they have more in common than they thought and are able to become friends. However, circumstances are conspiring to keep Trei and Araene from fulfilling their dreams. Can the cousins work together to do the things they love best?
The idea of islands that float in the air is not a new one, but it’s not one that I’ve seen too often (the other good example I can think of is the Firefly episode “Trash”) and the corps of flying men who defend the islands is new. I liked the magic system Neumeier uses as well – the power is used by the people but it comes from dragons, who allow the people to use it. Trei was an interesting and likeable character, but the one I liked best was Araene. She is a strong and well-rounded heroine, stuck in a tough situation who has decided to deal with things her own way. I would love to see these characters again in another book.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
When Aoife turns 16, she’s going to go crazy. She knows it will happen: her mother’s in a sanitarium, her beloved brother disappeared awhile ago after he threatened her with a knife, and plenty of people have been struck down by the Necovirus (like the whole city of Seattle) which screws up human brains. Until then, Aoife has decided that she will learn everything she can about engineering, in the hope that maybe somehow she won’t go crazy, and can spend her life working with machines like the gigantic one that powers the city of Bost…Lovecraft. Then Aoife gets a mysterious message from her brother saying that he needs her help. With her friend Cal and guided by Dean (who has secrets of his own), Aoife journeys to her father’s house in Arkham, intent on finding her brother, even if he has finally gone crazy.
I gave this book the “fantasy” tag, and it is that, but I think a better descriptor would be “steampunk.” The setting is full of machines, dirigibles and clockworks and Aoife’s ambition is to become a mechanical engineer. It’s a fascinating setting, even if it did take me awhile to figure out that “Lovecraft” was standing in for Boston. I suppose I probably would have got there sooner if I knew anything about the Lovecraft/Cthullu mythos (I don’t, obviously). However, not knowing about that author or his works did not keep me from enjoying this one. I was mostly fascinated with the setting, although the twists and reveals for Aoife, Dean and finally Cal were all interesting (Cal’s especially caught me by surprise). If I have a chance to visit the world again via a sequel, I’ll most likely take it.