The girl of ink and stars

This is a review by my friend Dakota.

The Girl of ink and stars is a heart-racing tale written by ‘Kiran Millwood Hargrave’. 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 criticises 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 harbour 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.

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