Imagine a place so wild and fantastical that even the characters who inhabit this strange world can lose themselves in the magic around them. These are the Floating Islands, held above the seas by the power of invisible dragons.
Trei is only 14, orphaned and alone, when he first sees the flying men of the Islands. Taken in by his aunt and uncle, he is “sky-mad” by the time he meets his fierce cousin Araenè, who also has seemingly unattainable dreams. The Floating Islands place very strict constraints on women, and Araenè’s secret of donning boys’ clothing and disappearing into the streets creates a bond between the two teens.
A tragedy causes their worlds to get a little smaller and their paths to become infinitely tougher. Doors appear out of nowhere for Araenè, and through them she finds a possible future as a mage, a career only allowed for boys. Trei attains his ultimate dream of becoming a kajurai—a flying man—only to have his life threatened by an invading army. The young cousins find that their special gifts may be the only way to save the Floating Islands from disappearing forever.
In The Floating Islands, Rachel Neumeier creates a world with special wings designed for the flight of men and stone orbs that deliver magic in the form of flavors and spices. The rich details of Neumeier’s fantasy appear with the same ease with which the Islands seem to hover over the ocean, and the alternating voices of Trei and Araenè swap back and forth like the changing of trade winds. Young readers will find this book a delicious feast of geographies, histories, magic and flavors, and this reader certainly hopes there will be a sequel.