Review: Island of Exiles (The Ryogan Chronicles #1) by Erica Cameron
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.
3.5 Out of 5 Stars
Genre: Another-World, Heart-Wrenching, Mystery, Romance, Supernatural, Survival, Suspense--
Khya's whole world is protecting her brother and doing her duty to her clan, her own needs don't play a big role in her choices. But when something shocking happens, Khya is lost and can't figure out who she is anymore. An encounter with someone important to her brother causes Khya to question everything she knows, including the bigger purpose on her island.
I was in love with the cover from the first moment I saw it so I knew I needed to get my hands on this book ( I had to buy myself a physical copy to proudly display on my bookcase). Full disclosure, I was super shocked at the content of the book- I went into the book expecting a modern day teen survival story, which this was not even a little bit. This was a full fledged fantasy world full of complicated magic, society, creatures and gods that I knew nothing about. I know fantasy likes to blindly drop the reader into the world, but there was absolutely no back story here and I floundered for awhile to try and put together pieces which made it hard for me to get invested in the story. Be it the hierarchy of the society, the magic aspects, the names for people and pretty much everything in the book, was completely foreign to me and hard to say. At the end of the book was a glossary which was really helpful and I wish I had seen it before I started the book because I felt a little bit like I was in over my head. That being said, the second half of the story really picked up for me and I flew through the pages now that I understood the world and there was so much action I could experience, less introspective thinking.
There were three genders within this society, male, female and Ebet- neither male or female (which made me super curious as to what parts were what or if it was a mind set as to what they associated with) It was a really interesting concept but it made me wonder how reproduction could work and I would have loved more details in general about things like that- whether an ebet could conceive. Also, the pronouns were super confusing and didn't start feeling more natural until half way through the book (I had no idea about the third gender until way into the story and was like 80% convinced that the strange pronounce was some sort of typo in the digital copy I was reading. It was really interesting where gender really didn't matter at all to the society, be it when it came to romance and sex, you just pick someone regardless of things with no stigma associated; also being nonsexual (Ushimo) was very common- you could even have a soul bond to a person and be completely platonic.
Khya was a hard character to understand, both from the reader and the tribe point of view. She was very closed off and private, refusing to get to know anyone, but taking on the responsibility of the clan. She considered Yorri "hers" so therefore she would fight to the death to keep him safe, regardless of what he wanted or needed. She acted like the adult or parent to him regardless of him only being a year younger and very capable himself. I felt very sad for Khya though, since Yorri was her everything (obsesseively so at times- it made me slightly uncomfortable in the beginning) where as he had a full life outside of her that she knew nothing about. It felt like he was a more complete person than she was at the start of the book.
Tessen was hands down my favorite character, I completely loved him and his perseverance, the fact he became the strength Khya needed, willing to risk everything he knew to take a stand with Khya. To be honest, he was pretty dreamy, with his sly smile and quiet determination- I wanted to shake Khya to really see him for who he was, and not what she thought he was capable of.
This was a very different type of read than I have experienced recently and the world building was so intricately done. This is the first in a series (of how many, I don't know) and I am glad I can jump right into the second book to continue my journey with Khya and her crew.