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We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Book Review

The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements

Conclusion

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Isabella Riosse lives with her father, Da, on the island of Joya. Da is a cartographer, who has taught Isabella the craft of mapmaking. His world travels were halted when Governor Adori arrived on the island years earlier. The dictator forbade all sea travel, cut off Isabella’s village of Gromera from the rest of the island and banished anyone who resisted his rule to the forests beyond the city.

Governor Adori’s daughter, Lupe, is Isabella’s best friend. Lupe’s father shelters her from the realities of life and conceals the fact that one of her classmates, Cata, has been murdered. When Isabella hears Cata’s body has been found, she confronts Lupe.

Lupe admits she sent Cata into a forbidden orchard to get dragon fruit for her, but Cata never returned. Isabella is angry and criticizes Lupe for her carelessness. She also rages to her friend about the governor’s selfishness. She blames him for the deaths of her mother and brother, because he wouldn’t allow them to cross the forest for medicine.

The governor has been preparing his personal ship to leave the island. Isabella’s friend Pablo and others burn the ship so the governor can’t flee from whatever he thinks is coming. When Isabella goes to look at the ship, she sees the harbor filled with dead cattle and other animals belonging to the governor.

Pablo swears he and his friends had nothing to do with the dead animals, but the governor’s men begin arresting townspeople. They lock them in the Dédalo, a labyrinth beneath the governor’s house, which he uses as a prison. Pablo, Da and others are taken, and Isabella is left alone in her house.

Isabella finds a note from Lupe, who vows to prove all of the Adoris are not cowards like her father. She says she’s going to the Forbidden Territories to find Cata’s killer and hopes she and Isabella can be friends again when she returns.

Isabella cuts off her hair and dresses like a boy. Using the name of her dead brother, Gabo, she approaches the governor with Lupe’s note. She says, as a cartographer’s child, she can help him find Lupe. The governor takes “Gabo,” Pablo and some of his men on a journey into the Forbidden Territories in search of Lupe. They see the way the landscape has been destroyed and the Banished people have suffered.

The search party finds Lupe, and her father ultimately takes responsibility for his destructive leadership. He fights demon dogs called tibicenas alongside the Banished and presumably dies in this battle. The appearance of the tibicenas is Isabella’s first clue that an old legend she’s heard all her life may be real.

Her father had told her the story of a brave young girl named Arinta who lived on Joya 1,000 years earlier. At that time, Joya supposedly floated freely on the ocean like a living ship. A fire-demon named Yote lived under the sea and wanted Joya for himself. He tried to attach himself to it so it would stay secured to the ocean bed, but Arinta fought him. He sent his demon dogs after her to chase her through tunnels until she grew lost. She was never seen again. Some said she became a river, and others claimed her spirit still protected the land.

As the girls run from a tibicena, they plummet into a watery labyrinth. The water magically changes Isabella’s map, revealing a hidden layer. They follow the new map for a while, hide from more tibicenas and get lost in narrow tunnels. They encounter Yote and find Arinta’s legendary sword. Lupe grips the smoldering sword, which releases the sea. The water rushes in and pushes the girls through the tunnels. Lupe, weary and badly injured, slips to her death.

The water releases Isabella into the portion of the labyrinth beneath the governor’s house. She helps get Pablo, her father and others to safety. Joya pulls away from the ground and becomes a free-floating island once more. Isabella grieves for her friend, who ultimately saved their island. She reports how happy she and Da are a year later when their island, teaming with life again, continues to float toward America. They’re able to see new sights each day.

Christian Beliefs

None

Other Belief Systems

When animals around the island start leaving or dying, some villagers call it a bad omen. Isabella’s map magically changes when water from a river touches it.

Isabella’s father tells her how his father nearly drowned. He believes his father was saved because his boat, made of a glowing wood, was not of this world.

Humans feel pain when the tibicenas are nearby, even if the creatures are not attacking. A 1,000-year-old legend of a girl named Arinta, a fire-demon named Yote and Joya being a free-floating island turns out to be real.

Authority Roles

The governor is sent to Joya as a punishment for killing his father. His selfishness results in banishment or death for many residents. Da is a loving father who teaches Isabella his craft of cartography.

Profanity/Violence

D--n is used.

Tibicenas attack and injure members of the governor’s search party. The girls find themselves walking through bones and putrid ground in a tibicena feeding pit and later fall on the body of a dying tibicena. Isabella is disturbed to see the bay full of drowned animals and find blood on the shore. The governor blames the locals for the animals’ deaths. He has his men whip the townspeople and drag them away in prison cages.

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

None

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

Broken promise: Isabella promises her dad she’ll stay home with the door bolted while he’s gone. When she remembers she is supposed to meet her friend, she leaves and says she doesn’t think twice about breaking her promise to Da.

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

10 and up

Author

Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Cast

Director

Distributor

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

Chicken House Books

Released

On Video

Year Published

2016

Awards

Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, 2017; British Book Awards Children’s Book of the Year, 2017

Reviewer

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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