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A curious group of pioneers explore Polynesia in: PAST THE LAST ISLAND

By Kathleen Flanagan Rollins

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PAST THE LAST ISLAND is a continuation of a grand tale of exploration and invention, both technological and human.

A motley group of explorers, misfits, inventors and dreamers sails away from the world they know in order to discover new lands and new homes.

Nulo was born a misfit, a misshapen and deformed child rejected by his father, the chief, hated by his mother, and cherished only by the village midwife, Naia. Abandoned on another island after Naia’s  death leaves him without a protector, his dreams guide him to survival, and, when the village is struck by tragedy, to reunion with a motley group of refugees fleeing for their lives. Chief among these are Laido, the village’s master navigator, his wife the weaver Darna, and their children Nina and Tahn, along with Nina’s friend Ryu, also a student of the stars. Together, they adventure further on, taking in new members for their chance-built family, surviving volcanic eruptions, shark attacks, and gambling debts on their way. But can they make their way past the last island, through the endless sameness of the sea, to a land where they can make a final home for themselves at last?

PAST THE LAST ISLAND, the second in the Misfits And Heroes series, is an epic adventure story of exploration set in Polynesia of the distant past. The characters are wryly human, with foibles and temperaments that don’t always rub along well together, but with enough charm to draw the reader into their story. Events drive the action with vigor and energy, but the plot is episodic enough to allow a reader to put down the book and pick it up again later without losing track of the plotline. The author does a reasonable job of getting into a believable ancient mindset, showing vividly how much skill and care, for example, went into flint-knapping, how careful they were in their study of the skies and what interpretations they placed on the movements of the stars, how miraculous new technologies could seem, and how important dreams and visions could be for people with fewer scientific means of predicting the future. But these characters are not so different from modern people, either, and Rollins never forgets that, showing touching, tender moments like one character coaxing his beloved back from near-death with stories, or humorous quirks like another character’s attachment to his lovely treasures, or frightening images of hatred and jealousy feeding on each other and driving whole groups of people mad.

At times, the dreams, omens and visions do feel a bit like a deus ex machina, driving the plot with magic rather than knowledge or events. Some of the more evil characters, also, are too one-dimensionally rotten to be truly frightening, without redeeming characteristics or deeper dimensions to make them live and breathe.

PAST THE LAST ISLAND is a continuation of a grand tale of exploration and invention, both technological and human.


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