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Review: City of Islands - Kali Wallace


Genre: Middlegrade

Published: Katherine Tegen Books, July 2018

My rating: 3.5/5 stars


Despite the beautiful worldbuilding and great premise, this wasn't as magical as I was hoping for....

Set in a city comprised of (you guessed it:) islands, we follow Mara, a young treasurediver searching the ocean floor for valuables. Instead she finds the skeletons of strange creatures, thought to be long forgotten, humming with magical powers. This sets her off to a new adventure, uncovering the secrets of her city, aswell as the strength that lies within herself.

The best thing about The City of Islands is without doubt its setting: I loved the City, which gave me major Atlantis vibes for some reason. I also loved the first half: drowned in mystery and atmosphere. Unfortunately, the pay-off was a little disappointing to me. The story takes some cliché turns and becomes something many of us have already read before. I still enjoyed my time with it, and think as a 12-year old I would have loved it, yet it doesn’t transcend its genre as some other middlegrade is able to do. It’s not for a lack of trying: there are some themes in this, that should have been able to have a deep effect on adults as well; especially child labor and slavery. Maras job is, possibly intentional, very reminiscent of Ama’s (Japanese pearl divers), which could have been a powerful plotpoint. Yet the resolve was all too easy for me and none of it quite packed the punch.

That being said: The City of Islands was a very enjoyable and fantastical read, that I would definitely recommend to children in this age group or adults who just want some nice middlegrade. If you are looking for a genre-transcending read that will blow you away: this wasn’t it for me unfortunately.


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