When I first picked up this book, it’s safe to say that the blurb had me expecting a YA romance like never before, set in a fantasy world filled with action scenes and displays of magic that would awe. What I ended up getting, however, was a lukewarm romance (at best) and action scenes that, while fast-paced and intriguing at times, were watered down by bad pacing and a lack of build up.
Before we start this book review, I must say that I’m usually a sucker for trashy fantasy YA novels. The writing can be subpar, but if the plot is suspenseful enough, the character development intriguing enough and the romance juicy enough, you can bet that I’ll be turned into a fan once the book is over. So, going into this book, I expected to fall in love with all the characters based on the blurb alone. But unfortunately, Isles of The Gods by Amie Kaufman just didn’t make the cut for me.
Set in a world where Gods exists and war is seemingly inevitable, the Isles of The Gods follows Selly as she finds herself stuck on a ship with Prince Leander, a handsome stranger, who is enroute to the Isles of the Gods to complete a sacred ritual that may save them from chaos after her plans to escape and search for her father is ruined. There is action, magic and romance that will leave you sitting on the edge of your seat…
…or so I thought. When I first picked up this book, it’s safe to say that the blurb had me expecting a YA romance like never before, set in a fantasy world filled with action scenes and displays of magic that would awe. What I ended up getting, however, was a lukewarm romance (at best) and action scenes that, while fast-paced and intriguing at times, were watered down by bad pacing and a lack of build up. In 400 pages, more or less, the average non-fantasy reader may think that’s a little lengthy. But for a book that is split into three parts, trying its very hardest to not only juggle multiple storylines but also multiple different povs, the book just does too much with too little and the story clearly suffers as a result.
From the start, we are introduced to five different perspectives: our two main love interests, one protagonist and two antagonists (who are clearly set up to join the good guys later on). While I did enjoy the characters in their own right, none of them were developed well enough to really build my love for them as people. It’s unsurprising that the majority of the book chronicles Selly’s and Prince Leander’s POVs, but it really makes you wonder why the other perspectives are even included at all. The antagonists get so little screen time it’s hard to relate with or understand their motives. Save for setting up a potential plot line later on in the series, there is really no point in detailing what they may be thinking when they only get a chapter every once in a blue moon that spans two to eight pages, tops.
The action in this book is constantly undercut by bad pacing and slice of life-esque chapters that do little to build tension or momentum within the plot. I understand that there needs to be room for the romance to develop, but it’s executed so poorly that I find it hard to suspend my disbelief. The book starts out slow before—you guessed it—everyone just dies. The action picks up at odd points in the story without enough build up or tension to make it feel worthwhile. In the end, it all just seems so sudden and out of nowhere that I couldn’t help but wonder if anything in this book really mattered to the plot at all.
Before reading the book, I was told to expect an enemies-to-lovers romance—which, might I add, is my favourite romance trope of all time. But instead of enemies to lovers, they should just rebrand it to be trauma-bonding-into-relationship, because that’s what it is. There is no slow burn, no set up and no payoff for a true enemies-to-lovers storyline to shine. The characters barely even hate each other when the book begins, and the romance just speedruns itself into a relationship after the characters experience a massive amount of grief.
All in all, it’s safe to say that The Isles of The Gods did little to satiate my love for trashy YA fantasy novels. Even as I’m writing this review right now, I still have about ~60 pages left to read but I can’t seem to bring myself to really finish the book. While the magic system and world building are interesting, they aren’t fleshed out or unique enough for me to recommend this book to readers. Of course, if these aren’t much concerns to you, you might beg to differ! I’d imagine that if I had read this book in high school, I probably would’ve fallen in love with its characters and story like I did for many other fantasy novels in the past.
So, if you’re looking for a simple read where you can turn off your brain for a few hours during the day, this book might be up your alley. Otherwise, I suggest you look elsewhere.