floating islands + cartography // the girl of ink and stars by kiran millwood hargrave #bookreview

Each of us carries the map of our lives on our skin, in the way we walk, even in the way we grow. - The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
So, in making good on my goal to read more fantasy and/or dystopian novels, I decided to read The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave. Thanks goodness I did because it was beautiful. And I mean it: not in the story, but the formatting was breathtaking (like coloured words and illustrations around the edges of the pages and just wow!). Clearly, I need to find more novels that are formatted/illustrated like this.

For me, The Girl of Ink and Stars started off sounding more like a parallel earth with small fantastical elements than your traditional new fantasy world type of thing. There are places like Afrik, Chine, Europa but the story is set on the fictional island of Joya, which used to be a floating island before the supposedly mythical fire demon, Yote, anchored it to one place. Isabella Riosse, the thirteen year old daughter of the island's cartographer, doesn't remember Joya before it was anchored; she doesn't remember life before Governor Adori, from Afrik, arrived and outlawed leaving the island or crossing to the other side, known now as The Forgotten Territories, either. Isabella's small world consists of Gromera, the town where she lives with her Da and the memories of her Ma and Gabo (her deceased twin brother), but she longs to map the whole of Joya, as much as Da longs to explore the world beyond Joya. She grew up hearing the stories of before and the myths of Anrita, who fought Yote, a thousand years ago.

On a day that begins like any other, a local girl is found dead in the governor's orchard and Isabella's best friend, Lupe (also the governor's daughter) goes to the Forgotten Territories in search of her. Lupe plans to prove she's not the selfish, helpless girl everyone (including Isabella) sees her as. Without further ado, Isabella is also swept into the adventure. With her Da locked in the governor's prison, Isabella disguises herself as Gabo and joins the official search for Lupe as cartographer. On that search, she gains her chance to map the island, and discovers the all-too-real reality of ancient myths.

The Girl of Ink and Stars is a simplistically, though still beautifully, written fantasy adventure. As expected, there's a lot of cartography going on and myths are prominent throughout, which I really loved. I enjoyed the emphasis on friendship and family and the good old-fashioned adventuring. There are a couple of surprising plot twists and the ending! Oh! The ending was wonderful. I feel, though, like The Girl of Ink and Stars is targeted more towards middle-grade than young adult - probably why I found it a little tame. I wished for more of everything, basically - especially more about the setting because, outside of Joya, I never quite understood what kind of a world it was. Besides that, it was a thoroughly charming debut from Kiran Millwood Hargrave. (And did I mention how pretty is it?)




  1. Oh wow, this sounds gorgeous. I love books that have little extras in the forms of drawings! Another book that I can think of that includes those drawings is 'The Chaos of Stars' by Kiersten White. That was really good too. I'll definitely be adding this to my tbr list, you make it sound so good!

    1. Oh, yes, illustrated books are some of the best. And The Chaos of Stars looks so pretty on GoodReads! I'm so glad you enjoyed the review, Fluer. :)


Post a Comment

Thanks for reading down this far, haha. Leave a comment?

Popular Posts