“‘There it waits. Beyond my strength. Promise me,’ pleaded the dragon. ‘Daughter of men, cast my child upon the winds and into the furnace of the earth. Call the wind to break open the earth and let out the hidden fire. You must call the wind, and the wind must become fire. Do you understand? Swear it to me!'”
Trei is unusual; a refugee and foreign-born inductee into the kajurai, the flying protectors of the Floating Islands. Even some of his classmates are suspicious of him, thinking him a traitor infiltrating the school to learn the secret of dragon magic. His cousin, Araene, is also a bit different, insisting on being educated as a mage, even if it means she must dress as a boy. However, their unique experiences prove vital when a neighboring country invades, and when the dragons suddenly and mysteriously leave, taking their powerful magic with them. Though they are barely older than children themselves, Araene and Trei must work together to hatch the last fire dragon’s egg and save their country from destruction.
This detailed and captivating fantasy relates the story of two cousins, both new students, who play key parts in saving their home, the Floating Islands, from both losing the magic that protects it and from being invaded by a powerful neighboring nation. The chapters alternate, with one being the perspective of Araene, who took refuge in the mage school after her parents were killed in a plague, and the next being from Trei’s perspective, who is studying to be a kajurai. Though there is much backstory and many plot twists, they are handled masterfully, and it makes this quite an interesting fantasy (after the first three chapters of setup). This original story had the feel of Ursula K. Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea and it was a delightful diversion from final projects. Fire dragons? Floating islands? Girls who dress like boys in order to go to mage school? What’s not to love? (Also, isn’t that cover art beautiful?)
Neumeier, Rachel. The Floating Islands. Bluefire Books: New York, 2011. 387 pp. Ages 14 and up.
If you liked this book and you haven’t read A Wizard of Earthsea, that would be a great place to start! If you loved the dragon element, another great classic is Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series. I promise, you’ll love them!
Author’s website: http://www.rachelneumeier.com/