cover image The Fourth Island

The Fourth Island

Sarah Tolmie., $13.99 trade paper (128p) ISBN 978-1-250-76984-8

This lovely, mournful historical fantasy from Tolmie (The Little Animals) explores the uneasy relationship between people and place. In 1840, a stranger’s body washes up on the shores of Inis Mór, one of Ireland’s three Aran Islands, wearing a sweater that is undeniably Aran work, but doesn’t come from any known village on the islands. Shortly thereafter, residents of Inis Mór begin to disappear—and wash up alive on Inis Caillte, a fourth Aran Island that doesn’t show up on any map. Populated solely by the lost, the island heals the ailments of all those who reach its shores, among them Nellie, a deaf woman who arrives to find her hearing restored, and Jim, who finds happiness and family there after giving in to depression. As the denizens of Inis Caillte contend with their own loves, achievements, and losses, a creeping despair sweeps across Inis Mór. Drawing on themes of community, redemption, pain, and healing, the story has a lovely slice-of-life feel, but the unresolved ending will leave some readers unsatisfied. Still, the narrative voice is captivating, with the rich, conversational tone of a storyteller sitting at a fireside. The contemplative style, low stakes, and small cast is reminiscent of Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea Cycle and is worthy of the association. (Oct.)