A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
As with the other books in this series, Island of Fire presents great opportunities to discuss effective problem-solving strategies. Characters work together to decipher mysterious clues and discover creative solutions in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. Even the youngest members come up with important observations that help get the team back on track in essential moments.
Accept leadership when it's thrust upon you, never shirk responsibility, do your best, look to your friends for help, never give up working toward solutions to help your community. Girls, as well as boys can be heroes, and even the youngest, smallest members of the group have important contributions to make.
Positive Role Models
Alex is a lot like Harry Potter: Even though he bumbles about at times, he has a special quality, and has been selected as a leader among his peers. Alex is humble in the face of the power that has been thrust upon him. He's honest, kind-hearted, brave, and just basically a good, creative person who emerges as a strong leader in spite of his self-doubts. His friends, both boys and girls, are also good and kind people and, besides being loyal to one another, they are brave and work hard for the good of the community.
Violence & Scariness
Much of the violence is threatened rather than described, none of it's graphic or gratuitous, and all of it's done by the evil people. A couple of kids are punched and kicked, a couple are trapped on Warbler Island, where they endure the "excruciating" implantation of a necklace of thorns and are temporarily blinded, other people are enslaved, tied up in closets, and/or sent off to the "Ancient's Sector," to their deaths. Prisoners are threatened with death, though none actually are killed. When Alex and his friends fight the Quillean soldiers, they use magical "components" (weapons) that put them out of action temporarily but do not kill.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Hand-holding, the brush of a cheek, an innocent kiss or two indicate an awakening interest between a few of the characters. Comment is made on the warm and funny way it makes them feel. In the previous book, Island of Silence, Lani and Alex were developing a relationship. In Island of Fire, he dreams of how nice it felt when she touched his arm. Now though, when Sky takes his hand, he "almost forgets to breathe." Alex is beginning to have feelings for Sky, while Lani and Sam, both captured, begin to rely on each other, and are becoming a couple. How that's going to work out is part of the mystery, and will most likely be part of the next book.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Island of Silence is the third book in the Unwanteds series, following Island of Silence, and will only make sense if kids have read the first two books. However, middle grade readers who have been waiting for it will not be disappointed. Like the earlier books, this one is packed with adventure, challenges, unexpected twists and turns, and a plethora of strong, heroic characters, both male and female. Creativity, community, and courage are valued; pettiness and rigid control in the face of fear aren't. The gently developing complexity in relationships between a couple of the main characters seems honest and real. A few frightening images, like dark caves and the orange-eyed creatures, add a sprinking of terror. And there's some violence: A couple of kids are punched and kicked, a couple endure the implantation of a necklace of thorns and are temporarily blinded, other people are enslaved, tied up in closets, and/or sent off to the "Ancient's Sector," to their deaths, and Alex and his friends fight the Quillean soldiers with magic.
Is It Any Good?
Readers may find Island of Fire a bit different from the previous books in the series: a little less magical, with more emphasis on the frustrating obstacles that follow one after another. But, what may be lost in magical fantasy is gained in breathless adventure. Kids will love following Alex, Sky, Sean, Lani, Sam, and the other Unwanteds as they form a strong team, unafraid of tackling each challenge and working together with the magical creatures of Artime to fight the evil forces, rescue their friends, and rebuild their community. And they will appreciate the message, common to each book in this series, that creative, democratic community is a healthier place than one that exerts a tight control over its people and rules through fear and enforced silence.
Anyone who was hoping that this book would be the final solution to Artime's problems may be disappointed that it ends with another cliff-hanging episode. Other fans will be celebrating, knowing they'll soon be reaching for Book 4.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.