Magic shines from new children’s fantasy The Storm Keeper’s Island
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“Once in a generation, Arranmore Island chooses a new Storm Keeper to wield its power and keep its magic safe from enemies. The time has come for Fionn’s grandfather, a secretive and eccentric old man, to step down. Soon, a new keeper will rise.”
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Review of children’s book:
The Storm Keeper’s Island by Catherine Doyle
There is a sense of foreboding in the opening prologue of new children’s book The Storm Keeper’s Island. In a field of wild flowers a boy and a girl approach a tree which speaks to them. There is an atmospheric tone of magical wonder, but also an ominous fear that some kind of darkness is coming.
The book then hits the ground running as young Fionn Boyle faces seasickness and fear. He struggles to contain his dread of the sea during the ferry crossing from mainland Ireland to the small island of Arranmore. His mother is unwell so Fionn and his older sister Tara are travelling to the island to spend time with their grandfather, Malachy Boyle.
Tara visited Arranmore the summer before. She has made friends there and is familiar with the island and its secrets. However, Fionn is out of his comfort zone and feels left out. Tara will not include him in the activities she has planned. The distance between Tara and Fionn is a source of loneliness and frustration for Fionn.
On his arrival at his grandfather’s cottage home, Fionn is drawn into a strange world of shifting realities. His grandfather’s huge collection of homemade candles are bemusing. With their strange labels, the candles fill every corner and alcove of the cottage. Sometimes they have broadly descriptive names such as Summer Rain, while others are specific, like Josie’s 12th Birthday Party.
Disturbing memories and magic
Fionn has a lot on his mind before even stepping foot on the island. And being on the island takes Fionn back to disturbing memories about his mother and father’s lives there. Fionn’s father’s death and his mother’s deteriorating mental health haunt him.
Fionn is introduced to other residents of the island. Bartley Beasley and his family hold a grudge against Fionn and his grandfather. However, this has not prevented Bartley from getting involved with Tara. Bartley’s sister Shelby is at least friendly to Fionn and begins to fill him in on the mysteries of the island’s past. This includes an ancient battle of great sorcerers – Morrigan and Dagda.
Fionn is bewildered by the island’s tendency to shift and change. His grandfather and the candles he crafts open up the memories and the history of the island and its inhabitants. Lighting the candles takes Fionn into the past where he encounters frightening and magical adventures. He has to overcome his fears to find answers and take his place in the conflicts which still rage on in the island.
What we loved about this book
My son and I loved the magical tone of the book and the sense of adventure and mystery. It seems that Catherine Doyle has poured her real-life experience of Arranmore and her love of Irish myths and legends into her writing. The result is a gorgeously poetic prose. Doyle’s writing is inspiringly imaginative.
Descriptions like “shops and houses crowded together like little old ladies looking over the port,” bring Arranmore to life. The concept of memories and weather being caught up in candles is also delightful and works fantastically. Fionn has depths and joins a host of children’s book characters which I am sure will be well-loved for generations of kids to come.
What we didn’t love so much
The Storm Keeper’s Island sets up further adventures of Fionn in forthcoming books. The book is a great opening section of a narrative, which sets the tone and builds the world of the magical island and its heroes and villains beautifully. However, I felt like this book was a bit more of a taster than a full story in itself. Readers will have to wait until the sequel is released in 2019 to see if Fionn will directly encounter the character who looks set to become the main villain of the series.
I also found the petulance of Fionn’s sister Tara a little irritating. Having said this, my son and I are definitely looking forward to the sequel book, as we have fallen in love with the unique ideas set out in this opening book.
Who will enjoy The Storm Keeper’s Island?
Fans of magical adventures and fantasy like Harry Potter and Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow should enjoy The Storm Keeper’s Island. It’s a kid’s chapter book for older children, perfect for readers aged 9-12.
Update – Summer 2019
The wait is over to find out how Fionn’s adventures continue in the much anticipated sequel to The Storm Keepers Island. Catherine Doyle’s second book in the series, The Lost Tide Warriors is available now.
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