Five years ago, Tenjat and his sister Eflet escaped the island of Ita into the nagainfested waters of Hell to outrun the vicious Handlers who were hunting their family down as traitors. They washed up on the shores of the island of Gunaji—which, like all islands in Hell, rests on the back of a massive turtle—but now the small farm Tenjat has cultivated there over the years is failing, and he decides to join Gunaji’s Handlers, much to Eflet’s disappointment. His training reveals secrets behind Gunaji’s existence that he’s only guessed at, but Eflet insists those secrets are only half the truth; she’s proven right when the island is attacked and Tenjat must strike a deal with creatures he thought were his mortal enemies in order to save Gunaji. An informative author’s note points toward Mayan mythology and culture as the foundational inspiration for the setting, along with elements of Hinduism and early Mesopotamian culture, and the resulting mosaic of a world is fascinating in its intricacy. The turtle-eat-turtle island structure calls up Philip Reeve’s predatory mobile cities (in Mortal Engines, BCCB 3/04, etc.), but the revelations behind the source of Hell and Deep Hell add a spiritual element not often explored in YA literature. Well-developed characters match the complex setting: both Tenjat and Eflet are refreshingly flawed, often fumbling toward understanding and repeating mistakes as they adjust to new information. Everyman Tenjat in particular offers a nice alternative to the superiority of the “chosen one” trope. Fantasy and speculative fiction fans are the obvious audience here, but readers of historical fiction or those interested in a more anthropological take on the battle between good and evil may find this to their liking as well.
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Hutchins, M. K.. Drift. Tu, 2014. [400p] Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-62014-145-8 $19.95 E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-62014-146-5 $9.99 Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 7-10.
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