Review: Island of Exiles - Erica Cameron

Island of Exiles Island of Exiles by Erica Cameron
Series: The Ryogan Chronicles #1

My rating: {★★★★★}

YA Fantasy
Published February 14th 2017 by Entangled: Teen

Source: Entangled: Teen via NetGalley
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.
I have NO idea why this book hasn't had more hype! I really, really enjoyed it and it's like nothing I have ever read - which is saying something, especially in the YA world!

The world building is complex, thorough and absolutely fascinating: Erica Cameron has done an AMAZING job of creating a distinctive and diverse fantasy world.

The writing is descriptive and yet easy to read and the world is full of gritty and shocking detail. There's a glossary provided at the back of the book to help orient the reader (if necessary) and it's clear that every last detail has been so well thought out in advance; from the social structure to the politics to the culture. There's a whole lexicon of rankings and unique terms and while this may be confusing or intimidating to some readers, THIS particular reader was entirely grateful and appreciative of the intricacies and involvement of this world and the sheer depth of world-building involved.

The island of Shiara is dystopian-esque in quality and the intensity of the plot is breathtaking from the very first chapter.

I absolutely LOVED how effortlessly diverse this book is. It wasn't diverse for the sake of being diverse; it just was. There were multiple sexual orientations (including asexual), an absolute plethora of varying skin colours, even a third gender with its own specific pronouns!! Yet none of this was unusual in this fantasy world and sex positive society.

The main character, Khya was just a breath of fresh air. She's a Desosa Mage which means she can manipulate energy and in her particular case she is a fykina ward mage -able to shield herself and others from both magic and the physical world. She's a warrior in every sense of the word and her fierceness, stubborn nature and dedication both to the clan and to her brother completely endeared her to me and seeing this world through her POV and watching her character development throughout the book completely invested me in the world and the plot.

All of the characters in fact were just fantastically written - multilayered, complex and so REAL with their own personality quirks and flaws.

The romance!!! Wow, the romance. It was a complete SLOW BURN and somehow it featured all of my most favourite tropes and I just SHIPPED IT SO HARD!!! It was a total asset to the story and yet also managed never to be the center of attention and didn't take away from the main plot arc at all. I wouldn't mind seeing A LOT more of the romance in the next book - just saying!!

The magical system in this world is also really well thought out and systematic. There wasn't any one point where it was too unbelievable and the use of magic always took it's toll - I appreciate that in a fantasy.

This completely unique book is full of mind-blowing creativity, unpredictable twists and turns, one of the most enticing romances I have read in a while and a riveting plot that draws you in further and further until the desperation is palpable. I definitely cannot wait to read more of this series and I can't wait to see where Cameron takes us next.

Since the day one of the yonin nursemaids smiled at me and said, “You take very good care of your brother.”Your brother.
Yorri had been
mine—the first and only thing that had ever belonged to me more than the clan—and I promised to protect him; I swore it on blood before I knew how tightly those vows bind.

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