The gods are awakening and it might be the end of the world as they know it…
The Isles of the Gods is the latest YA work from established author Amie Kaufman (of Aurora Rising and Illuminae renown), following a group of kingdoms and sleeping gods, specifically through the lens of five leads who want the gods either awake or asleep for their own reasons.
The Isles of the Gods is largely standard YA in many respects – a headstrong, likeable heroine, a love interest with whom she shares snarky banter, and a cast of conflicting characters to bounce off them as they explore the general conceit of the novel. Kaufman’s book, however, feels fresh and sparky, unafraid to mix funny one-liners with dark plot and context, sharing similarities with Katy Rose Pool’s The Age of Darkness trilogy (which also follows five disparate leads and a YA-meets-mythology plot) as well as Rory Power’s In a Garden Burning Gold (with its focus on immortal beings and political intrigue).
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Kaufman does well with the world building, establishing competing kingdoms under the patronage of sleeping or inactive deities, infusing court politics into a story rife with assassins, massacres, religious zealotry, and pirates. The five central characters tie into this world – a young sailor seeking her home, a wayward prince with an unfortunate destiny on his head, a bloodthirsty acolyte, a bastard son of a king, and a surly scholar seeking enlightenment – and make the kingdoms the strongest part of the book by far.
This isn’t to say that The Isles of the Gods is perfect – the characterisation of the ostensible five leads has room for improvement, with the quintet largely falling into their established cliches, and the supporting characters not faring much better, even when we’re encouraged to care about their fates. The action beats are handled more strongly and confidently, with a devastating first-act sea battle and thrilling finale acting as examples of Kaufman’s flair for set-pieces.
The Isles of the Gods is an enjoyable if flawed YA novel, and an auspicious start to a new series from Kaufman. While it has room to develop its characters, the plotting is solid and exciting, and readers will, upon conclusion, no doubt be eager to discover what happens to Selly and co. as soon as possible.
The Isles of the Gods is out now from Rock the Boat.