Island of Exiles (The Ryogan Chronicles #1)
By: Erica Cameron
Publication Date: February 14th, 2017
In this diverse, gritty survival fantasy, a girl warrior turns against her island clan to find the brother they claim died, uncovering secrets. Perfect for fans of Graceling and Snow Like Ashes.
In Khya’s world, every breath is a battle.
On the isolated desert island of Shiara, dying young is inevitable. The clan comes before self, and protecting her home means Khya is a warrior above all else.
But when following the clan and obeying their leaders could cost her brother his life, Khya’s home becomes a deadly trap. The only person who can help is Tessen, her lifelong rival and the boy who challenges her at every turn. The council she hoped to join has betrayed her, and their secrets, hundreds of years deep, reach around a world she’s never seen.
To save her brother’s life and her island home, her only choice is to trust Tessen, turn against her clan, and go on the run—a betrayal and a death sentence.
To describe Island of Exiles in one word would be “unique.” And I know this word gets tossed around a lot, I mean aren’t all books, in their own way, unique? But when an author creates such a well defined world that is so divergent from your typical fantasy, you can’t help but throw out “unique” and hope readers understand the depth with which you mean it.
The reader is thrust into this new and brutal world of Shiara, Khya’s home, and is inundated with not only a new concept of magic, but a way of life and a culture that is painstakingly detailed and far different from our own. Not only is Khya’s society split among those who can fight and those who can not, and those with magic and those who have none, it is also layered and the divisions of power are described and thoroughly labelled. Khya’s society, and Erica’s portrayal of it, is lushly detailed and the language adopted by these people is not a surface addition to add authenticity, it is woven into the story. This world is also open sexually, not only in ideas of sex but also in its acceptance of sexualties beyond heterosexual and cisgender. Bisexuality, pansexuality, homosexuality, and asexuality are all considered normal and a third gender, a hermaphroditic one, is also included, with own pronouns no less. And throughout the book’s inclusivity and complex culture, the language needed to describe all of it is daunting and it gave the book a rough start. Now, in a case with a world that is so different as this one, and so many new words are needed to describe it, there can be two outcomes: the dreaded infodump or the sink or swim method. Neither is highly enjoyable, but I personally prefer the method that Erica employed here where she gave her reader a swift kick in the ass into the deep end. Once the reader gets the hang of the language, however, navigating the book, the world it contains, is easy.
Khya is badass and a wonderful and real character to follow, and her love and devotion for her brother is relatable and heartfelt. She is surrounded by characters that are dimensional and emotional, people who love and argue and hate and hurt and forgive and have motivations outside of what drives Khya. And then there is Tessen who fulfills his role of love interest very well, it’s a slow burn romance that is very satisfying and left me wanting more, while holding his own as a complex character who moves from rival to friend.
For a completely unique read that is tense and harrowing and creates a world where the people can be just as treacherous as its elements, Island of Exiles is highly recommended for anyone looking for a diverse and spectacular read.
Disclaimer: The synopsis and cover picture were pulled from the book’s Goodreads page. Neither belong to us. An advanced copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.