Sailing on a ship sounds awesome until I think about being in the middle of the ocean when a storm hits. It’s fun until it isn’t, and that’s exactly how I would describe my time aboard The Isles of the Gods by Amie Kaufman.
With a final sacrifice, the goddess Barrica ends the war by trapping her brother and the god of risk, Macean, in a suspended sleep state. Then 500 years pass without the gods in the world, but faith for Macean is growing to dangerous levels. So much so that the people of Alinor fear Barrica the Warrior won’t be able to hold him for long. However, with a direct line to Barrica, the Alinor royal family plans to strengthen her power through a secret sacrifice passed down through the generations. As the Prince of Alinor readies for a trip to the Isles of the Gods, a crime boss in Malleacea wants to expand her power and plans to start a war to do so.
The characters in this story are tropey, but I still liked them…at the beginning anyway. Selly is a blunt tomboy with a shipload of attitude. Leander takes up the role of a charming prince who cannot spell or even understand the word ‘responsibility.’ Keegan, the scholar, shockingly values books above people. Jude is a cinnamon roll playing a bad guy because he got mixed up with the wrong people. And Laskia is just angry. I liked the connections between the characters and originally thought that Kaufman did a great job establishing how complicated the relationships were. However, by the end, the POVs were not executed well. Keegan, Jude, and Laskia peter out. They practically disappear from the narrative and when they do steal back a chapter it’s only so they can push the plot forward.
One element that I found particularly interesting in this book is the magic system, but unfortunately, it’s not the focal point of the story. There are magicians who develop affinities for one of the four elements: fire, water, air, and earth. Yes, we’re getting into Avatar territory, and don’t worry, the royal magicians have the ability to control all four elements as well. These affinities are well known, but it’s how the system operates that caught my interest. The magicians commune with the spirits associated with their element and must provide a sacrifice to tap into their power. It’s also a relational power, so having a sacrifice does not necessarily equal untold control over the element. Additionally, the level of sacrifice also determines the strength and communion with the spirits. The strength and cooperation of the spirits are based on how important that sacrifice is to you. There were a lot of interesting glimpses into this system, but I was greedy for it to play a bigger role. Kaufman leaves the door open for the second book to explore this deeper thanks to a certain magician’s mysterious abilities.
It was strange to start off loving this book and then lose interest halfway through. Isles started off really strong. The POVs were especially captivating, and I soaked up each chapter to learn how the character’s past and present would be charted to connect with others. The book’s climax is where everything changed for me. Here, the interactions become too forced and less believable after the first half of the book was underpinned by how much certain characters hated each other. I also became exhausted with the plot because it felt like the goalposts kept moving on me. The characters would set and achieve a goal, only for the game to be changed which forced them to set yet another goal to accomplish before it was changed once again. It was a tiring cycle, and I lost a lot of steam in the latter half of the book because of it.
It’s a shame The Isles of the Gods lost the wind in its sails. It broke my connection with the characters, and the unfolding mystery in the latter half of the book isn’t tempting enough to read through another 400 pages. There’s enough good in this book that you may still find this story intriguing, but I am letting this series set sail without me.
Rating: The Isles of the Gods – 6.0/10
I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an unbiased review. The thoughts on this story are my own.