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’m a fan of stories about platonic relationships in general, but those about siblings have a special space in my heart. So when I first heard about Island of Exiles, I was excited, especially since it also featured a bisexual main character and an asexual side one. Though the book ended up being a pleasure to read, I must admit I wasn’t as captivated by it as I thought I would be.
First, the good: the protagonist, Khya, is incredible. She’s strong and determined, and I very much liked her more cold/impassive personality. Her two main relationships, with her brother and Tessen, are wonderfully complex and the best part of the story. Khya and Tessen’s relationship in special was incredibly refreshing and very different from your usual (and in my opinion boring) YA romance.
The mythology and worldbuilding in Island of Exiles is also great. Shiara is different, original and the author was successful in showing how its desolate climate shaped Khya’s people’s culture (also another highlight). The writing is good, though nothing extraordinary, and the plot is interesting if slow at times.
But what made this book sit in the “it was nice, I guess” category for me were, well, the characters. Yes, I just said Khya is an amazing protagonist, but aside from her (and maybe Tessen) no one is fleshed out enough and even Khya and Tessen themselves didn’t manage to make me actually care about them. Find them interesting? Sure. But care? Sadly, nope. And since I couldn’t care about them, much of the book’s emotional punch fell flat, maybe bordering on boring.
As for the rep, I can’t speak on the bisexual rep (though I couldn’t find fault in it) and the ace character is sadly super minor, so I honestly couldn’t care much about them.
Still, Island of Exiles is a good book and a great start to a new series. I don’t know if I’ll read the next one, but I certainly recommend The Ryogan Chronicles to fantasy lovers who would like to read about a different world & interesting characters. 3.0 stars.