cover image Island of Whispers

Island of Whispers

Frances Hardinge, illus. by Emily Gravett. Amulet, $19.99 (120p) ISBN 978-1-4197-7433-1

Fourteen-year-old Milo sails a ship of souls to the realm of the dead in this elegiac fantasy from Hardinge (Unraveller). On Merlank, the dead linger until Milo’s father, the Ferryman, can deliver them to the Island of the Broken Tower, from which they can ascend to the afterlife. The dead are drawn to the shoes they wore in life, so after the death of the Lord of Merlank’s daughter, his wife gives the Ferryman the girl’s favorite pair to help lead her aboard his boat. But the grieving Lord has other plans; he tries to reclaim the shoes so his magicians can attempt to resurrect his daughter. He kills the Ferryman and captures Milo’s brother, but Milo escapes with both the girl’s shoes and his dad’s boots, determined to make the journey to the Broken Tower himself so that the girl and his father can pass on peacefully. Though the Lord gives chase, he is the least of Milo’s concerns along the mystical trials separating him from his destination. Using spare, evocative prose, Hardinge weaves a nuanced and affecting tale about grief, compassion, and the importance of living life fully. Gravett (A Song of Gladness) enhances the otherworldly tone with black, white, and light blue illustrations that are by turns bold and ethereal. All characters are portrayed with pale skin. Ages 10–14. Agent: Molly Ker Hawn, Bent Agency. (Aug.)