Cover of Forsaken Island, featuring a dancer in a forest tangled in vines

About the Book

Title: Forsaken Island (The Dancing Realms #2)
Published: 2020
Series: The Dancing Realms
Swoonworthy Scale: 6

Cover Story: Clinging Vines
BFF Charm: Yay
Talky Talk: Be You Foreign?
Bonus Factors: Representation, Faith
Anti-Bonus Factors: Allegory Stew, Why Am I Not Crying?
Relationship Status: Bridge Book

Spoiler alert: This review contains spoilers for the previous volume in the series, Hidden Current.

Cover Story: Clinging Vines

The lush green forest in the background is just how Hinck describes the landscape of the new island Carya explores in this book. The vines wrapping around the dancer as she jumps are a subtle indication of what happens later.

The Deal:

In the last chapter of the previous book, the floating island of Meriel had just drifted close to another island for the first time in living memory. Protagonist Carya and her (as yet unacknowledged) love interest Brantley travel to the new island in hopes of bringing back food for their village, which is suffering from a famine. When they make contact with the people of the other island, however, they find that in spite of lush plant life and the generous hospitality of the locals, their destination is not what it seems. Children are neglected, emotional attachment is taboo, and the Maker, Carya’s God, says He has been forsaken. Can she figure out how to save both islands (and sort out her relationship with Brantley) before it’s too late?

BFF Charm: Yay

Yay BFF Charm

Carya has, and is still, going through a lot of character growth due to the adversity she’s lived through. At the end of the last book, antagonist Saltar River sliced her tendon to prevent her from ever dancing again. While the attempt failed, it did leave Carya with a limp, chronic pain, and persistent self-doubt that she struggles with throughout this book. Sometimes I wanted to shake her when she asked herself for the millionth time what Brantley saw in her, but at the same time, I was in awe of her compassion when she did things like giving her last healing salve to a stranger. She’s come a long way from the girl who was horrified by illness in Hidden Current. She’d be almost too selfless if it weren’t for some refreshingly human bursts of anger. (For the most likely cause of that anger, see below.)

Swoonworthy Scale: 6

Carya’s and Brantley’s relationship heats up steadily in this book and occasionally boils over. Some of their conflict is natural given their personalities – she’s a diplomat, he’s a warrior – but some of it felt contrived to me. I’ve read enough YA during the late 2000s (and since) to get very tired of this trope: your love interest treats you like crap, but it’s not their fault because supernatural forces are involved. To give Carya – and the Maker’s advice – credit, though, she walks a fine line between protecting herself and others and not giving up on the man she loves. As for Brantley, supernatural forces or not, he’s willing to take responsibility and make it up to her. They share some very sweet scenes together, and we get to learn about the courting customs of both islands, which I enjoyed.

Talky Talk: Be You Foreign?

The locals that Carya and Brantley encounter speak the same language, but with a different dialect. It sounds awkward, but that’s probably the intention, since Hinck was writing from Carya’s point of view as first-person narrator. It did throw me off a little, but the way they used certain words without explaining because it was common knowledge (What’s a “convening”?) effectively conveyed the feeling of struggling to understand a different culture.

Bonus Factor: Representation

A sign that reads Accessible Entry on a colorful brick wall

As an able-bodied person, I can’t judge, but Carya’s mobility issues seem very realistic to me: the practical details (walking stick, pain medication, stretching exercises, feeling the effects when she pushes too far) the effects on her mental health (frustration, questioning the Maker, emotional highs and lows) and the challenges to her relationship with Brantley (when to ask for help and when to assert her independence). 

“I’ll make you a deal (…) I’ll try not to be overprotective of your injuries if you’ll do the same for mine.”

Bonus Factor: Faith

Hands pressed together in prayer

Carya’s and Brantley’s thoughts about the Maker evolve throughout the novel. They start out with her as a believer and him as a skeptic, but instead of dismissing or trying to out-argue each other, they listen to each other’s point of view. He even encourages her in a faith he doesn’t quite share, because he knows it helps her, and when they’re separated, she trusts that the Maker will watch over him, skeptic or not. 

Anti-Bonus Factor: Allegory Stew

Colorful spilled paint and paint bottles on a white background

Hinck pushes her religious allegory further here than she did in the last book. The results are confusing, especially when a second deity/spirit/force of nature appears. Who is the “Gardener”? Did the Maker make him? Why does he do what he does? Are there more immortals out there, or just two?

Also, while Meriel is suffering from the logical consequences of bad weather and poor leadership, the social problems on the new island seem deliberately caricatured for Hinck to make her points about the modern world. The scientist tribe, for example, only speak to each other through “talking tools”, i. e. cans on strings, a fantasy equivalent of cell phones. And why would they all divide into tribes based on skill set and different-colored meteor showers?

Anti-Bonus Factor: Why Am I Not Crying?

A certain scene near the end was clearly meant to pull readers’ heartstrings, but it didn’t pull mine. Maybe it’s because the upcoming tragedy was set up to be even worse than it actually was, or maybe because it was just so random – why this? If Hinck really wanted to spice up the allegory stew, she could have used a different character. I never thought I’d say this, since I have an extremely low tolerance for pain in fiction as well as real life, but somehow this ending doesn’t accomplish what it set out to do.

Relationship Status: Bridge Book

Not my favorite of this series, but I still enjoyed it, if mostly for the Carya/Brantley scenes.

Literary Matchmaking

Hidden Current (The Dancing Realms #1)

Sharon Hinck’s Hidden Current is the prequel to this story.

These Broken Stars (Starbound #1)

These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner features another opposites-attract couple who team up to survive a mysterious forest.

Divergent (Divergent #1)

Divergent by Veronica Roth features another selfless heroine, warrior hero, and divided society that needs to be united.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received no compensation for this review. Forsaken Island is available now.

Regina Peters works in the video game industry, but her favourite imaginary worlds are on paper. She lives in Montreal, Canada, with her family.