I used my time at the beach last week fairly well, if I do say so. I managed to read about 85% of a book in about six days, which is a much faster clip than I usually make.
The Island by S. Usher Evans is the first in her Madion War Trilogy, which I picked up at Awesome Con in April. After talking with the author for a few minutes, I decided to buy all three books at a discount.
After finishing book one, that seems like a pretty good decision. The Island is a solid adventure story that was easy to digest on a lazy vacation.
I think part of my enjoyment of this book came from how quickly I was able to read it, which might sound worse than I intend. I had started this book a week or two before my vacation and only read about 30 pages.
With brief sections that flip back and forth between the two protagonists, the story was easy to chip away at, but difficult to really buy into at first. By reading it in larger chunks and more frequently, the characters really stayed with me until the end. I finished the last third or so in a single day.
The main characters, Theo and Galian, each have distinct voices and personalities that clash from the first scene they meet — in a dogfight in the sky. When the two enemies end up crash-landing on the same remote island, they each begrudgingly decide to rely on each other for survival.
It’s pretty obvious that this is intended to be a budding romance, but the conflict between them is done well enough to make that romance seem implausible at first.
Their relationship builds naturally over the course of the story without any of their flaws being tamped down, and all of a sudden, it feels right. I won’t lie, I flew through the emotionally charged sections where their relationship becomes real.
The world-building started off slowly, and I was worried that this would be too “shallow” of a universe for my taste. While it is certainly character-driven, the world subtly takes form around Theo and Galian, until it’s clear that Evans put a lot of thought into their personal histories, the histories of their people, and the looming conflict between them.
Each detail of the island they are stuck on and their discussions of their own lives ends up paying off by the end, and definitely sets the stage for book 2 really well.
Some of the action/suspense sequences feel contrived and unrealistic, but they serve the narrative. Highlight below if you want a spoiler.
The most obvious example of this is when Galian falls off a 30-foot cliff and bashes his head into the rocks below. Not only is his head still intact after that, but he suffers no other major injuries. Not even a broken bone. He’s merely knocked unconscious for a couple days before waking up without any other side effects. Dizziness? Blurry vision? Nothing? A fall off a 10-foot cliff onto rocks could break someone’s neck. Of course, Theo panics and realizes her love for Galian while he’s out, so the details of the injury really don’t matter. But I still wish they had been given a little more consideration.
In any event, the action in this story is really beside the point, as the real interest in driven by Theo and Galian themselves. That was enough to keep me turning the pages, so I gave this a 3-star review on Goodreads.
Overall, this was an enjoyable survival adventure with a heavy dose of forbidden love, and I look forward to reading #2.