I’ll confess, I started reading this without knowing it was part of a series, but now that I’ve read the third I’m excited to go back and read one and two. Did it stand alone as a novel? Pretty much! There were a couple of moments where I didn’t really understand certain significant aspects but on the whole this was an adventure I could get on board with while not having read the two previous books.
The main character Penny is a really great female protagonist, smart and feisty without being a cliché. The plot is well thought out, kind of like a tropical (I really hate comparing things to this but) Hunger Games. There’s a bit less political overtone though, which is a pleasant departure.
What I really enjoyed is that this book really carries you along. You don’t feel like it’s dragging or dull but you don’t whip through it like a greyhound because it’s too easy. The descriptions are evocative and exciting and, for someone who hasn’t travelled nearly as much as she would like, they really upped my wanderlust to eleven.
What really struck me was the way Aguiar creates atmosphere, as I say her descriptions are incredible, you’re never in doubt about the atmosphere of wherever her characters are. But the way she builds suspense, crafts tension and weaves intrigue is phenomenal. The relationships between characters is also brilliantly done, friendships are forged gradually, not just thrust upon people because they happen to be stuck together.
Another hugely impressive feat? There was no romance plot! I worried, every time a new male character was introduced to our protagonist I winced a little. But no! She had her eye on the prize (literally) and managed to make it through without being distracted by a tall/dark/handsome/misunderstood/brooding/floppy-haired berk as so many amazing protagonists are.
Isn’t it a little bit sad that I’m impressed when a YA novel doesn’t include a really forced, not that helpful to the plot, romance? It’s no secret that it’s as cliché as love triangles is now and yet authors continue to write them, editors continue to let them, and publishers continue to sell them. I suppose because people continue to buy them…
But back to the matter at hand. I don’t know what the other two books are like and once I’ve managed to read them maybe I’ll do a sort of roundup to evaluate the third one in the light of the other two (is this something I should do? would you be interested?) but this was a lovely read. I was pleasantly surprised as the cover made me feel like it would be a bit cheesy? But yes, if you’re looking for something to make you long for adventure in sunny, tropical lands then look no further, be carried along by the current of Aguiar’s stupendous prose.
Have you read any of the books in this series? What did you think?