The Book Review Blog for The-Paisley.com

Double Review: The Island and The Waves by Jen Minkman

Welcome to my stop on the tour for Jen Minkman’s The Island and The Waves, organized by Rogue Book Tours!

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When I originally signed up for the tour for The Island and The Waves by Jen Minkman, I did not realize that Shadow of Time, which I reviewed yesterday, was written by the same author. Blame it on my scheduling method that includes the book titles in the calendar only, and not authors’ names. So at the end of my Shadow of Time review, I wrote that I looked forward to reading more by Jen Minkman. Imagine my pleasant surprise when I realized that the next TWO books that I planned to read are written by her. So kick back, check out the reviews, and enter the giveaway at the end of the post.

First up in today’s Double Review: The Island

The Island

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Synopsis

“I walk toward the sea. The endless surface of the water extends to the horizon, whichever way I look.Our world is small. We are on our own, and we only have ourselves to depend on. We rely on the Force deep within us, as taught to us by our forefathers. If I were to walk westward from here, I would come across a barrier – the Wall. Behind it, there are Fools. At least, that’s what everyone says. I have never seen one.”

Leia lives on the Island, a world in which children leave their parents to take care of themselves when they are ten years old. Across this Island runs a wall that no one has ever crossed. The Fools living behind it are not amenable to reason – they believe in illusions. That’s what The Book says, the only thing left to the Eastern Islanders by their ancestors. But when a strange man washes ashore and Leia meets a Fool face to face, her life will never be the same. Is what she and her friends believe about the Island really true? Or is everyone in their world, in fact, a Fool?

Reading the Alphabet Review

The Island is a fast-paced novella in which readers meet Leia at the age of 10 when she and her twin brother Colin leave their parents and their home to live in the manor. It is something that all children do at that age on their side of the island. The Parents continue their lives in their village, and the children, now adults in their society’s opinion, live together and learn how to survive. They return to the village they were born in only after marriage.

Flash forward six years and Leia is now 16 and is starting to question if how it’s done should be the how it’s done. One big factor in this is Saul, the leader of the manor. Leia doesn’t like him one bit, finding him power hungry and cruel. He assigns the work and doles out punishments and he is the only one who can see all the pages of the Book that they believe in and he chooses the passages that he reads to them. Leia quickly discovers that she is not alone with her questions, and when it is revealed that Saul may be holding out on them Leia takes a dangerous chance to get some answers. She runs into unlikely help, a Fool, a member of the other side of the island. The two groups of people are separated by a wall and have very different belief systems. Until meeting Walt, she had never met a Fool. Can she trust him? Does she have any other option?

The Island is a relatively short novella and as such, one gets to know Leia through her thoughts and actions, but learn little of her history. The secondary characters are fleshed out only so much as Leia thinks of them and we have to accept things about them at face value. Yes, I know novellas are short by nature, but it’s in the character development in particular that I wish The Island was longer. For example, Mara is Leia’s best friend, but when did they become friends and what makes them so loyal to one another? This is not to say that I don’t think Minkman did a good job, on the contrary, what she did accomplish with character development within the length is great, Ben and Saul are cruel and Walt is charmingly self-assured, but I really wanted more.

Where Minkman excels is in the pacing and action. The Island moves at such a good clip that no part feels extraneous (something you would definitely not want in a short novella), and it’s easily readable in one sitting. I did not want to put it down, and I was glad that I didn’t have to. I needed to know what would happen next, especially as Leia’s society’s entire belief system is turned on its head with explanations that completely tickled me. I’m not going to spoil what their belief system it for you, but if you find yourself skeptical as you discover it, trust me, keep reading.

After reading The Island, I couldn’t wait to start in The Waves to learn more about Walt and his side of the island, and I was glad that I could do so right away.

To read an excerpt, click here.

Next up: The Waves

The Waves

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Synopsis

Walt lives in Hope Harbor, an island community that has put its trust in salvation from across the sea. The townspeople wait patiently, build their ships to sail out and welcome the Goddess, and piously visit the temple every week. Horror stories to scare their children are told about the Unbelievers on the other side of Tresco. But not all is what it seems. Walt has questions that no one can answer, and when his best friend and cousin Yorrick is killed in an accident, he digs deeper to find out the truth about the origins of Hope Harbor’s society… and the secrets of the temple.

Reading the Alphabet Review

The Waves is a companion novella to The Island and is told from Walt’s perspective. We meet Walt in The Island. Slightly longer than The Island, The Waves encompasses a bit more time and provides an alternate description of life on the island. Walt and his people are not the Fools that Leia believed them to be when she first meets him in The Island. Walt is about to discover that Leia and the people on her side of the island are not the Unbelievers that he thought them to be either. The two sides just believe in different things.

When we first meet Walt in The Waves, he is 15 years old remembering a memory from when he was 5 about spending time with his grandfather, a firm believer that the Goddess Annabelle will come from across the sea and come back for the people on that side of the island. Walt, however, is not so sure. When his cousin, next in line to be the Bookkeeper (the person in charge) begins to fuel his suspicions, Walt begins to wonder what else could be out there…especially on the other side of the Wall. After a few years and some jaw dropping turns of events, Walt finds himself climbing over the Wall and meeting Leia for the first time. From The Island, we know that she is in a heap of trouble, only this time we see everything from Walt’s perspective.

Walt is such a great character and I am glad to have gotten to know him better in this book. He begged for more attention in The Island. He isn’t nearly as self-assured as I thought in The Islands, and it makes me like him even more. He is very self-aware and it’s interesting to see himself analyze his actions especially as it revolves around Leia. Their interactions are enjoyable to read and their initial hesitation and awkwardness is palpable. There isn’t insta-love, but there is the more believable insta-attraction even if they aren’t fully aware of it at first (part of the whole awkwardness). I also enjoyed Walt’s cousin Yorrick and his cousin’s girlfriend.

The pacing flows smoothly throughout the plot, and as Walt’s world begins to unravel I could not put The Waves down. I read it in one sitting. I was satisfied with the ending, grateful for the epilogue, but would also welcome a Book 3 perhaps told from alternating POVs between Leia and Walt.

To read an excerpt, click here.

Overall, I highly enjoyed my time with these two books. I think they would be best read back to back to get the complete story, with The Island being read first.

*****

Jen Minkman

About the Author

Jen Minkman (1978) was born in Holland, in the town of Alphen aan den Rijn. When she was 19, she moved between The Hague, Salzburg (Austria), Brussels (Belgium) and Cambridge (UK) to complete her studies in intercultural communication. She is currently a teacher of English and Dutch at a secondary school in The Hague, Holland. She tries to read at least 100 books a year (and write a few, too!). She is a published author in her own country, and translates her own books from Dutch into English for self-publication. In her spare time, she plays the piano, the guitar and the violin. For every novel she writes, she creates a soundtrack.

“I have always been drawn to writing. My first book was a sci-fi novel at the age of eight, which I painstakingly typed out on my dad’s typewriter and illustrated myself. Nowadays, I stick to poetry, paranormal romance, chicklit and/or fantasy. In my home country, I am the first-ever published writer of paranormal romance, and I will gradually make my books also available in English (seeing I have to re-write and translate the books myself, this will take some time!).”

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*****

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