Review: The Marauders’ Island (Hen & Chick #1) by Tristan J. Tarwater & A Book Giveaway!

The Marauders’ Island is the kind of book that is so delightful and refreshing that you can’t help but share with everyone you know. During the week or so that I read it, I plastered the book’s image all over social media hoping it would reach as many people as possible. I want you to read this book! It has powerful mages, a diverse cast of characters, a gorgeous tropical setting, positive representation of LGBTQ people, a complex relationship between a mother and daughter, and so much more! All this goodness makes a reader like me giddy with joy.

Let me explain why I liked this book so much.

First of all, the plot:

The story’s beginning is one of my favorite parts about the novel. It’s mostly exposition and world-building, which is pretty standard for a Fantasy adventure, but I found it very fun and rewarding getting to know our protagonist, Azria. She’s a 16-year-old mage who lives in the land of Miz and is just about to take a test before a council of mages to be considered a legitimate mage of Miz. Given that mages are a rare breed, carrying the official title will give her credibility across nations. So yes, it’s a pretty big deal and Azria’s very nervous. Not only because she wants to prove she deserves the official title of mage, but because her mother, dubbed “Pirate Queen Apzana” by some, is returning after 5 years of being away adventuring or doing whatever it is alleged pirate queens do. 

Given that Apzana has been absent for a third of Azria’s life, it’s understandable that their reunion starts off a little shaky. But when Apzana offers Azria the chance to adventure with her on the mighty Hen & Chick, Azria is only too eager to leave her home island behind and become a member of the Hen & Chick crew. Azria’s role is to use her powers as a mage to raise The Marauders’ Island, a mysterious island with a dark history that was sunk under the sea many generations ago


Why you should read it

The Marauders’ Island is a YA Fantasy that depicts a complex and realistic relationship between a mother and a daughter. How rare is that for YA in general, and for YA fantasy in particular? There are no dead parents to be found here! I’m so glad that’s the case because that trope is trite at this point. Apzana is actually vital to the story because much of her family history and secrets are what drive major points of conflict in the plot.  Seeing Azria’s relationship with her mother grow, change, and solidify over time was one of the most rewarding aspects of the story.

If you’re looking for positive representation of LGBTQ+ characters in YA literature, this is the book for you! The sexuality of some of the characters is only implied or casually mentioned and it’s never a big deal. They seem to live in a society in which heteronormativity is not the only socially acceptable lifestyle. Well, for the most part. We do meet one trans character who was rejected by “The Church,” but her family fully supported her! Imagine that, a YA novel that has LGBTQ+ characters who are loved, accepted, and who don’t experience suffering and tragedy due to their sexuality. Yes, sometimes Queer people lead happy and healthy lives, so it’s important that more literature reflects this reality. 

Azria is an excellent role model and hero for boys and girls alike. She’s smart, confident in her abilities, has a great head on her shoulders, and is overall worthy of our praise and admiration. For young girls of color, seeing Azria depicted with dignity and respect is vitally important. We cannot underestimate the impact positive representation in literature and media has on children and it is clear that Tristan J. Tarwater understands this. You will not find any problematic representation in this book. 


After an immersive start with stellar exposition, the middle drags on a bit before reaching the climax. The ending also felt like it resolved itself a little too neatly. It was still fun to read, and of course I like watching characters I care about overcome crises, but a few times I felt Azria got out of trouble rather conveniently. Moreover, I wish some of the side characters had been fleshed out further, which could have easily been done if the book were longer. The Hen & Chick crew is a colorful bunch, and I hope to see them become fully-realized people as the series progress. Finally, this feels very much like Book 1 in a series. It can stand alone and be appreciated for its introduction to a new world, but there is so much potential to explore. I understand that it’s important to raise the stakes as the series progresses, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect greatness from book 1 in a series.


Final thoughts

In the end, The Marauders’ Island earns my earnest recommendation because it is the kind of fun, feel-good story more teenagers should be reading. Yes, there is conflict and difficult moral choices the characters must face, but I closed the book with a big smile on my face because the story’s just so damn delightful. I highly recommend it to parents and teachers who are looking for light, family-friendly swashbuckling adventures for younger readers. The target audience is YA, but anyone can enjoy this story and if you give it chance, you certainly will!


The Marauders' Island (Hen & Chick #1)

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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32 thoughts on “Review: The Marauders’ Island (Hen & Chick #1) by Tristan J. Tarwater & A Book Giveaway!

  1. Thanks for this! I always love to find new diverse fantasy. And it’s cool that this explores a mother daughter relationship. Parents are often conveniently ignored in YA after all. From the cover I thought this was middle grade which is why I hadn’t paid much attention. But since it’s YA I’m waaaayy more likely to get to it

    1. I’ve read a few reviews that say this book reads like a MG novel, but I think it reads more like a mix of MG & YA, if that makes any sense. But it’s closer to YA for sure and the protagonist is a teenager who deals with serious and more light teen issues. There’s nothing wrong with MG fiction, of course! I”m actually trying to read more of it 🙂

  2. This sounds like everything I have been craving in YA fantasy lately. Diversity, pirates, mages, complex mother/daughter relationships, accepted LGBTQ+ characters, good role models for young adults… Other than your comment about the middle dragging, this sounds practically perfect.
    Do you have any idea how long this series is expected to be?

  3. Sounds like a great start to another fantasy series! With this recent push for more diverse books, I feel like we are on the cusp of waves and waves of stellar diverse novels both in the YA arena and elsewhere! thank you also for the contest!

  4. This sounds lovely. And I am so glad that the mother is present in it, and the story explores her relationship with her daughter. Too often parents are just ignored in YA and MG fiction. Definitely going on my TBR!

  5. Your enthusiasm for this book is contagious. And, I will echo what Your Daughter’s Bookshelf says about parents in YA books. I get why they’re often not there, but I love it when an author manages to fit them in!

    1. The mother-daughter relationship takes center stage in this book as far as relationships go. There is a hint of romance, but Azria is too busy going on adventures and trying to raise giant sunken islands to spend much time on romance.

  6. This book sounds like so much fun! I agree with Naomi that your enthusiasm is contagious, and I’ll add that it’s also very endearing! 🙂 It’s so important to have positive and diverse role models. This is definitely something I’ve been thinking more about, especially as I have recently become obsessed with the podcast “Sooo Many White Guys!” Have you listened to it before?

      1. I think you’ll really like it — don’t let the name of the podcast throw you off, haha. It’s all interviews with people of color & other minorities. I’m currently listening to the interview with Roxane Gay!

  7. Great review! I may have missed something, but is this a graphic novel or ‘novel’ novel?
    The cover is great and I love that it surrounds a mother-daughter relationship. Something all too rare in YA (which is understandable, but it’s nice to see more).
    And high fantasy! Who can beat that!

  8. This is the second amazing review that I’ve read for this book!

    “…a YA novel that has LGBTQ+ characters who are loved, accepted, and who don’t experience suffering and tragedy due to their sexuality.”

    How refreshing!! I will definitely be adding this one to the TBR… I really hope I win the giveaway 😊 Great review as always Naz!

  9. This is such a great review, and that cover kind of reminds me of some books I used to read when I was a bit younger. I love the fact that there’s such an emphasis on the mother daughter relationship. Too often these aren’t as explored as they could be. Too bad this is an US giveaway ahah, I can definitely feel your enthusiasm in this review 🙂

  10. Such a spirited response to what sounds like a very spirited story! And how wonderful that it’s written for younger readers, who definitely need more stories with these positive elements in it (as well as great storytelling of course). Although I am not in the US, I’m looking forward to hearing who wins your draw, as it sounds like this is a book which should have more and more and more readers!

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