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