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Book Review

Island of Fire by Lisa McMann has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the third book in the “Unwanteds” series.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

After the death of Mr. Today, the leader of the magical land of Artimé, the whole country falls to pieces because Mr. Today’s creativity had sustained it. Mr. Today’s protégé Alex Stowe is the de facto leader of the Unwanteds, residents of Artimé who had formerly been citizens of the dystopian land of Quill. Alex’s twin brother, Aaron, currently rules Quill as High Priest.

Mr. Today left Alex with a coded spell that should restore Artimé to its former glory. But Alex can’t decipher the spell’s true meaning. Day by day, the Unwanteds’ supply of food dwindles and people leave and return to Quill. They choose to serve Quill as slaves, just so that they have enough to eat.

Alex has other problems, too. Sky and Crow, a pair of orange-eyed children with metal thorns woven into the skin of their necks, still haven’t spoken. They are refugees from a nearby island where Alex’s friend Meghan narrowly escaped the dangerous inhabitants. She, too, has a metal thorn collar. Meghan can’t speak either. Alex’s other two friends, Samheed and Lani, are still prisoners on the island.

Alex, Sky and Henry Haluki, Lani’s younger brother, discover that some paintings, which belonged to Mr. Today, contain hidden words when viewed through a magnifying glass. The words are Breathe, Believe, Commence, Imagine and Whisper. To fulfill Artimé's restoration spell, Alex wears Mr. Today’s robe and recites the words in the proper order. In no time, Artimé returns to its former glory, full of flourishing grass and trees and magical animals coming back to life. Alex is thrilled to have Artimé back but is even more gratified when his friend Simber, a magical stone statue of a flying cheetah, is restored.

In Quill, Aaron sentences his own father, a Necessary, to death, despite knowing that his mother is pregnant and needs his father’s help. At the last moment, Aaron changes his mind and pardons his father.

Gunnar Haluki, Lani and Henry’s father and former High Priest of Quill, arrives in Artimé and tells Alex that Mr. Today’s daughter, Ms. Morning, has been trapped in the Haluki house for several weeks as Aaron’s prisoner. Alex takes Henry on a rescue mission, and they successfully bring Ms. Morning back.

After a couple weeks on Warbler Island, the island of silence, Samheed and Lani develop sign language to communicate with each other. They are kept inside a dark cave. But then Lani is taken to the queen of the island, a silver-haired woman named Eagala who bears a striking resemblance to deceased High Priestess Justine, evil ex-leader of Quill.

Meanwhile, Alex conducts a complicated surgery spell to remove the metal thorns from Meghan’s neck, which gives her back the power of speech. Alex repeats the process with Sky and Crow. Sky explains the layout of Warbler Island so the Artiméans can plan a rescue for Lani and Samheed. She also mentions that Queen Eagala was Mr. Today and High Priestess Justine’s younger sibling and that she built Warbler Island’s strange system of underground tunnels and silent workers out of fear, as an effort to protect the island from attack.

Along with Henry, Meghan, Sky, Crow, and many other Artiméans and magical statues, Alex sails toward Warbler Island in a giant pirate ship he summoned with magic. However, the pirate ship begins steering its own course, not to Warbler Island but to the island nearest it — a pirate island. Pirate Island is unique because not only is it a volcanic island that occasionally spews fire, it is also a disappearing island that causes massive tidal waves when it sinks beneath the sea or rises back up again.

Alex, Sky and Crow disembark from the ship to explore Pirate Island. They discover a kind of reverse aquarium in a large pool of water — a dry place underground where the inhabitants of the island live without fear of drowning, regardless of whether the island rises or sinks. From a distance, Sky and Crow see their presumed-dead mother among the residents. Their mother sends sign language signals, telling her children to leave the island. They all follow her advice and flee to Warbler Island to finally free Samheed and Lani.

Samheed and Lani have spent two weeks working as laborers for Queen Eagala — Samheed as a shipbuilder and Lani as a metalworker. Alex frees Samheed and then Lani. As the Artiméans and Warblerans fight, Alex manages to cast the spell that removes his friends’ thorn collars, allowing them to talk. Back in safety on the pirate ship, Samheed demands to know why it took Alex and their other friends a full month to rescue them. Alex has to explain the destruction and rebirth of Artimé and the death of Mr. Today.

As life settles back to normal in Artimé, Samheed and Lani become a couple, and Alex has complicated feelings about his newfound attraction to Sky. When he sees her attempting to sail away from Artimé on a raft to rescue her mother on Pirate Island, he swims after her to bring her back. He confesses how special she is to him and promises to formulate a proper plan for invading Pirate Island and freeing her mother.

During a masquerade ball on Artimé, there’s a huge explosion. Alex, paranoid that Quill and Artimé will both be attacked by outside forces, goes to Artimé to see Alex. They discover that the explosion came from a skyship that crashed in the sea near Artimé, but they don’t have time to investigate further before they realize they’re all under attack by unknown forces.

Christian Beliefs


Other Belief Systems

Artimé was a magical land formed by Mr. Today’s creativity. The Unwanteds are all capable of using magic. Various spells are employed throughout the book, such as the one that returns Artimé to its grandeur. Statues are summoned to life, and ships are created by magic.

Authority Roles

Mr. Today was a kind and benevolent leader of Artimé, but Alex thinks he was foolish to create a world so fragile that the entirety of it would collapse if he died.

Aaron’s father is a Necessary, but when Aaron orders him around and speaks derisively to him, he insists that Aaron speak to him respectfully. Aaron refuses to comply and sentences his father to death. Aaron changes his mind before the execution.

When Sky believes that she’s the only remaining member of her little brother Crow’s family, she vows to live or die with him at her side and consistently looks out for him.


During a fight, Lani is stabbed in the leg with a saber. The Artiméans and Warblerans fight. Metal, thorned collars are put on people to keep them from speaking. Ms. Morning is kept as a prisoner until rescued. Samheed and Lani are forced to work when they are prisoners on the island of silence.


Sky kisses Alex.

Discussion Topics

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

Additional Comments/Notes

You can request a review of a title you can't find at reviewrequests@family.org.

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



Readability Age Range

8 and up


Lisa McMann






Record Label



Aladdin, a division of Simon and Schuster


On Video

Year Published





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