ABOVE THE STAR: THE 8TH ISLAND TRILOGY is the first in a planned series of three fantasy books for young adult readers that focuses on a fractured family that transports to another world to find a cure for their daughter’s cancer before it’s too late.
At 368 pages, the novel takes its time to fully develop its unusual characters and intricately describe its other-worldly settings, but quickly presents its important themes: coping with abandonment, fighting for a worthy cause, finding ways to communicate, and overcoming fear.
The story revolves around a sad little family comprised of Grandpa Archie (an ailing old man), Tessa (a pretty middle-aged mother whose husband abandoned her), 14-year-old Ella (who is dying of cancer and is no longer able to speak), and Arden (the missing husband, father, and son whose whereabouts are unknown). The adventure begins when the normally frugal Archie arranges an extravagant ocean cruise for the family. His motives soon begin clear to the reader, although not to Tessa and Ella.
Having discovered his son’s journals that describe another world called Jarr-Wya, Archie believes that Arden has teleported there to find a cure for his daughter’s disease. Archie attempts to follow in Arden’s footsteps, which unexpectedly leads to the surviving passengers of the cruise ship coming with him on his highly dangerous mission. The inhabitants of Jarr-Wya are unlike typical YA fantasy creatures; there are Olearons (composed entirely of fire), Bangols (short goblin-like creatures with stony growths under their skin and glowing yellow eyes), and Millia (deadly sand beings that distort the mind and devour the body).
Although Ella has lost her voice because of the cancer, she communicates through sign language, awkward shrieks, and her drawings in a journal. The book is written in third-person omniscient, with some sections in first-person narration written by Ella (a good technique for keeping YA readers engaged). There’s also telepathic communication where Ella’s thoughts are revealed, so readers can stay attuned to how she feels about her sickness, her perilous circumstances in Jarr-Wya, and her romance with one of its creatures.
Despite complicated scenarios and backstories that may confuse younger readers, the dialogue remains simple and highly readable. Ella’s suffering is hard to endure at times, as she vomits, convulses, cries, or makes strange noises. Some of the flesh-burning attacks on humans also may be too intense for more sensitive readers. Slightly older YA readers and adult fantasy fans may be the ideal market for this imaginative work.
ABOVE THE STAR: THE 8TH ISLAND TRILOGY, a fantasy novel for young adults, excels at world-building and creating sympathetic characters, though descriptions of disease, suffering, and death are quite intense at times.
~Carol Michaels for IndieReader