Island of Exiles and Sea of Strangers by Erica Cameron: Review & Giveaway

December 15, 2017 Giveaways (Ended), Reviews 4

Island of Exiles and Sea of Strangers by Erica Cameron: Review & Giveaway

Today I’m featuring the first two books in Erica Cameron’s Ryogan Chronicles, a fantasy adventure series that pushes the envelope in many ways.


Island of Exiles and Sea of Strangers by Erica Cameron: Review & GiveawayIsland of Exiles by Erica Cameron
Series: The Ryogan Chronicles #1
on February 14th 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, LGBTQ+
Pages: 400
Source: NetGalley, Blog Tour
My content rating: YA (Nothing more than kissing, Some talk of sex)
My rating:
4 Stars

In this diverse, gritty survival fantasy, a girl warrior turns against her island clan to find the brother they claim died, uncovering secrets. Perfect for fans of Graceling and Snow Like Ashes.

In Khya’s world, every breath is a battle.

On the isolated desert island of Shiara, dying young is inevitable. The clan comes before self, and protecting her home means Khya is a warrior above all else.

But when following the clan and obeying their leaders could cost her brother his life, Khya's home becomes a deadly trap. The only person who can help is Tessen, her lifelong rival and the boy who challenges her at every turn. The council she hoped to join has betrayed her, and their secrets, hundreds of years deep, reach around a world she's never seen.

To save her brother’s life and her island home, her only choice is to trust Tessen, turn against her clan, and go on the run—a betrayal and a death sentence.

add-to-goodreads 
My Take copy3

This first book in the series throws us into a strange and deadly desert world where every day is a fight for survival. 

What Fed My Addiction:

  • Utterly unique. I’ve never read anything like this series, and the world that Cameron has created is beyond anything I could possibly imagine. Like, seriously, how does she come up with all of it? It’s unmistakably brilliant.
  • Diversity. Traditional gender roles are simply not a thing in this book. In fact, the society in the fantasy world features three completely accepted genders. In addition to that, sexuality and romantic relationships seem to be relatively fluid for the people in this society as well (and some people are asexual). This is all accepted without comment, which I loved.
  • Family bonds. The society doesn’t have a traditional family structure. Siblings are rare and almost never raised together. Despite this (or maybe because of this), Khya is extremely close to her brother. My absolute favorite parts of this book had to do with the emotional connection between Khya and her brother.
  • Hate to love romance. Khya doesn’t care for Tessen at the beginning of the book, but it’s not because Tessen is unlikable or a jerk (which tends to frustrate me). Still, because of Khya’s initial feelings, the romance is appropriately slow to develop. Which only makes it better when they finally make their way to each other.

What Left Me Hungry for More:

  • Very complicated worldbuilding. This book is not a quick and easy read. The world, the society, the magic system, the political and religious systems—they’re all incredibly complex. You’d do well to have the glossary handy!
  • Slight trouble connecting at first? It took me a little while to warm up to these characters at first—possibly because I was spending so much of my mental energy on figuring out the worldbuilding.
  • Not necessarily a Young Adult tone. The series is marketed as YA, and technically the main characters are young, but they don’t feel young to me. In this society, Khya is already a warrior of sorts and she leads a very adult life. Because parents aren’t really part of the picture in their society (at least not at all directly), there’s very little interaction with them. Khya is self-sufficient and even takes care of her younger brother in a somewhat parental role. Don’t get me wrong, I think YA readers will enjoy this, but the book didn’t have a typical YA tone or feel to it.

I ended Island of Exiles ready to jump straight into Sea of Strangers. The first book was full of surprises and I was eager to see where they all led.

***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley and Chapter by Chapter Blog Tours in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***


Island of Exiles and Sea of Strangers by Erica Cameron: Review & GiveawaySea of Strangers by Erica Cameron
Series: The Ryogan Chronicles #2
on December 5th 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, LGBTQ+
Pages: 340
Source: NetGalley, Blog Tour
My content rating: YA (Characters have sex)

Know your enemy if you want to survive…

The only way for Khya to get her brother back alive is to kill Varan—the immortal ruler who can’t be killed. But not even Varan knew what he was doing when he perverted magic and humanity to become immortal.

Khya’s leading her group of friends and rebels into the mountains that hold Varan’s secrets, but if risking all their lives is going to be worth it, she has to give up everything else—breaking the spell that holds her brother captive and jeopardizing her deepening relationship with Tessen, the boy who has been by turns her rival and refuge since her brother disappeared. Immortality itself might be her only answer, but if that’s where Khya has to go, she can’t ask Tessen or her friends to follow.

add-to-goodreads 

My Take copy3

The second book in this series brings Khya and her allies to a world they never imagined. 

What Fed My Addiction:

  • Serious magic. The magic in this book was definitely kicked up a notch and Khya’s strengths become the key to saving her world. The desosa (which could be described as the source of magic) comes to life in this book almost as a character all its own. This was easily my favorite part of the book: Khya’s exploration of magic and how it differs in the new world she faces (and how it’s the same). The stakes are raised when it comes to the magical consequences of the characters’ actions as well!
  • Questioning beliefs. Khya and her friends are thrown into a situation where they discover that many of their core beliefs were lies fabricated by a power-hungry man. They are rocked to the core by this realization, of course, and watching them deal with that was fascinating.
  • Shades of gray. Khya discovers that, while she has come to see the leader of Shiara as a villain in many ways (and the people of Ryogan certainly view him that way), there are many ways that the Shiaran society seems to have improved on Ryogan values. For instance,  In Ryogan, society has a different take on the third gender than they do in Khya’s society, and it’s much less humane. Also, their system of punishment seems unduly harsh to Khya. She realizes that Shiara’s leader has many faults, but he did try to make Shiara a better society than the one he came from in many ways.

What Left Me Hungry for More:

  • Less connection to the characters than in the first book. The reason this installment gets three stars from me instead of four is that, for some reason, I never quite connected to the characters in this second book the way I did in the first. There are several reasons that I think this might have happened: First, Khyra’s brother is mostly out of the picture in this book, so her relationship with him feels more distant somehow. The gap could have been filled with other secondary characters, but I felt like there were too many of them for me to truly feel connected to any of them. (There were some moments that should have felt tragic, but they just didn’t really reach me emotionally). The main villain of the story is also missing from this installment, so the stakes didn’t feel quite as high because there was no immediate danger. And, since the romance was pretty much resolved in the first book, we didn’t have that romantic tension to draw us into the relationships either.

While this second installment didn’t quite live up to the first for me, there were aspects like the exploration of magic that I absolutely loved. And the ending hinted at an epic finale, so I’m eager to read book three!

***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley and Chapter by Chapter Blog Tours in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***

About Erica Cameron

Erica Cameron is the author of books for young adults including the Ryogan Chronicles, the Assassins duology, and The Dream War Saga. She also co-authored the Laguna Tides novels with Lani Woodland. An advocate for asexuality and emotional abuse awareness, Erica has also worked with teens at a residential rehabilitation facility in her hometown of Fort Lauderdale.

Author Links:
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Sea of Strangers Prize Pack, including:**
* A signed copy of Sea of Strangers
* A $20 Visa gift card
* A swag pack
**For international: 1 copy from book depository and a $20 Visa gift card

 

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4 Responses to “Island of Exiles and Sea of Strangers by Erica Cameron: Review & Giveaway”

  1. Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight

    Do you know what the biggest problem of being book twinsies is? That you write everything I want to say in your reviews, and now Idk what to even say for my own 😂 Because I seriously felt exactly the same- SO much same. Like, legit some of these things are straight from the little notes I made. I’d be low key creeped out if I didn’t know you better 😉 Obviously, great review bwhahah

    Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight recently posted: Review: Three Sides of a Heart by Natalie C. Parker
  2. Jen

    I thought Island of Exiles was the most fascinating, unique book I’d read in a while. But the terminology and not being able to connect to the characters was my biggest struggle. I’m sorry you had the connection issue with the second book, it can be so frustrating when that happens. But the shades of grey and magic sound fabulous!

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