"Journey Across the Hidden Islands" is a young adult fantasy novel by Sarah Best Durst, published in 2017. And this book is exactly why I still buy fantasy novels from The Dollar Tree, even with the bad results this sometimes brings. This book was a light adventure novel that allowed me to escape, while still giving me a few substantial things to think over.

Seika and Ji-Lin are princesses, and daughters of the Emperor of an archipelago of islands called "Himitsu" that seems to be vaguely based on a fantasy version of Japan. They are both about to turn 12, and they have been separated for a while: Ji-Lin has been studying to be a warrior, which also involves having a flying lion for a steed. Seika, the more diplomatic of the two and the elder, is the heir apparent, and has been learning the etiquette and ritual necessary to be an Empress. Before that can happen, the two of them, together with Ji-Lin's flying lion Alejan, must complete their culture's most important ritual. Their empire was founded when a group of human and flying-lion refugees made a bargain with a dragon to set up a magical barrier, protecting Himitsu from monsters called "koji", which come in a variety of shapes and danger levels. Seika and Ji-Lin must go and see the dragon and renew the bargain. This journey provides the narrative backbone of the book, and the book starts as episodic adventures as they travel from island to island. However, about halfway through the book, they, and the readers, discover that Himitsu is not as isolated from the outside world as was believed, and that the tradition and ritual that they were raised in may be excluding certain truths. As the story continues, the girls must make a decision about whether to uphold tradition.

In terms of characterization, plot, and pacing, this is a pretty perfect example of a Young Adult fantasy novel. The setting is also original enough that it avoids the pitfalls of a generic high fantasy setting. But aside from that, I found this book relevant to much that is going on for young people, especially young women, today. Young women today are often studying for careers in fields like education, health care, and the law where attention to protocol is very important. A lot of the self-image of young women is tied into the idea of being meticulous and immaculate in an institutional context. So when I read this book, I could imagine Seika and Ji-Lin as young interns, staying up past 3 AM, trying to make sure that the color and font choices on a powerpoint presentation for the Interdepartmental Group on Knowledge Leadership were perfect. But just as Seika and Ji-Lin learn that the magic barrier protecting their islands is not all that it seems, young women learn that the institutions that they try to perfect themselves for have hidden histories of their own. Seika learning ritual greetings and motions is the education student learning how to get students to take standardized tests at the same time as she learns that standardized tests are useless. So the book, as fantastical as its setting is, seems to be based on a real conflict that is going on in young people's lives.

Also, this book had flying lions, which is just very cool.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.