I’m writing this having just put the book down and therefore with a swelling heart, which is often (though not always) the case in the moments after I finish a good book. Time usually makes me a little more critical, but I’ll honour this book with a review from within its beautiful presence.
I’ve read Frances Hardinge before – A Skinful of Shadows – which I enjoyed a lot (though not as much as this one). She’s a wonderful storyteller who creates intricate, fantastical worlds full of magic and possibility, and with such satisfying what ifs. I’d go as far to say her creativity seems to have no limits.
The detail of her worlds is just astounding. In this one you’ll find (amongst so much more): a tribe of people who wear permanent smiles no matter their thoughts, their teeth encrusted in jewels; Flickerbirds that can ensnare the threads of your shadow and unravel your soul; and Farsight Fish that, when eaten, can allow you to temporarily let your senses wander, a bit like those of ‘a Lost’.
A Lost, you say? Read on…
She also writes wonderful heroines.
In Gullstruck Island, we meet Hathin, a young girl of the Lace tribe. She is as good as invisible, born only to serve her older sister, Arilou who is a ‘Lost’ – one who can throw out her senses away from her self and experience the world from many a vantage point. Hathin lives in Arilou’s shadow and as her carer – a Lost isn’t always in full control of their bodies given that their senses are often not there – and this defines Hathin. She’s ordinary, unimportant and struggling under the weight of her responsibility.
Gullstruck Island has a handful of Lost who serve the island, able to be news bringers and problem solvers of every kind. There’s nothing they cannot find or hear or sniff out, and this proves to be there undoing.
Set on an island surrounded by sleeping volcanoes, where huge areas of land are given over to their dead – whole towns overflowing with urns and pushing the living deeper into Barren land – this book tells a story of loss, vengeance, and racial tension within its fictional world.
It is so wonderfully woven, so many threads that tie up with such satisfaction. It’s masterful storytelling. Part way through I questioned how much I was enjoying it, but once I allowed myself to just get lost in it (and ignore everything else!) I fell in love with the wonderfully written characters and their quest, and the end really touched my soul.
I absolutely recommend it!
To find out more about this book and the author visit here.
Thanks for reading,