Island of Legends: The Unwanteds, Book 4

Book review by
Patricia Tauzer, Common Sense Media
Island of Legends: The Unwanteds, Book 4 Book Poster Image
Moral dilemmas abound in thrilling, imaginative sequel.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

As in the previous books in The Unwanteds series, Book 4 offers plenty of opportunity for discussion about the best strategy to use in problematic situations. Those situations range from specific conflicts in the book to broader moral dilemmas most kids face at this age regarding friendship, responsibility, and what's right. Also, Artimeans learn a lot by telling stories, especially about each other and the past; this might encourage readers to do the same.

 

Positive Messages

Being open, honest, and brave enough to think creatively, take chances, and act in the best interest of your friends and community makes the world a better place. It may make life scary and confusing at times, but in the end it works best. And, in places like Artime, even the smallest creature has something of value to offer. Florence gives a great speech to Alex about trust and making sacrifices for each other. Alex is learning that a wise man sacrifices speed for accuracy. People, such as the Quillens, who are driven by fear, tend to close up their worlds, often giving up their power along with their independence. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

People who live in Artime, the open world where everyone is valued, are good-hearted, brave, loyal, and hardworking. Alex and his friends, both male and female leaders of Artime, are a cooperative group who do their best to watch out for the others and keep their world safe and open. They are brave, thoughtful, creative, forgiving, and generous, and, though they do struggle and make mistakes, they learn and move on. 

Violence

Boulders smash heads, knives are drawn, people are injured during war, a dog bites one character, another character suffers burns, and a monster's tail is sliced off and his eye socket gouged, but no one dies, and violence is part of unavoidable conflict. 

Sex

Relationships between Alex and Sky, Lani and Sam, and Florence and Titan are becoming more romantic. Mostly this is shown through glances, hand-holding, an innocent kiss or two, and a lot of heart-pounding. Alex is having trouble keeping his feelings for Sky from distracting him from his role as Mage; he's grappling with how he'll deal with that, and Sky is trying to understand. Lani and Sam fight a lot but then grin at each other as they walk into the darkness holding hands. 

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Island of Legends is the fourth book in Lisa McMann's highly acclaimed The Unwanteds series and should be read in sequence. As with the three previous ones, this story is a heart-pounding adventure, full of imaginative challenges and solutions, and peopled with complex characters that grapple with important moral dilemmas. Conflict, magic, fantasy, romance, imagination, loyalty, self-doubt, danger, and evil are effectively balanced, and characters grow and change as they take on leadership roles and friendships deepen. Conflict between warring worlds (a basic good-vs.-evil story line) is part of each book, but violence is never gratuitous. Boulders smash heads, knives are drawn, people are injured during war, and a monster's eye socket is gouged, but no one dies, and the violence is part of unavoidable conflict. There's an innocent kiss or two, hand-holding, and a lot of heart-pounding. Happily for fans, the series continues.

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What's the story?

Just getting his feet under him as Mage of Artime, Alex (and his friends) face challenges on all sides. Forces from Warbler Island attack, exotic sea monsters nearly doom their attempt to rescue Sky and Crow's mother, and they're swept over the edge of the world by forces they've never encountered before. All the while Alex questions his abilities, feels distracted by his blossoming romance with Sky, and struggles with how to balance the demands of leadership and his personal feelings. At the same time, his scheming brother Aaron is regaining power in Quill and rebuilding that evil world, as well as discovering that he may have some untapped power that will make him even more dangerous. How will Alex and his crew ever find their way back to Artime, and what will they find there when they return? 

Is it any good?

Author Lisa McMann has a definite knack for writing for this age group. Her use of language is excellent, and her story is compelling. Both believable and unbelievable, the action is fast-paced, the dilemmas are imaginative, and  the solutions border on fantastic. The characters -- even the flying statues -- are complicated enough to seem real; the good guys have weaknesses, the bad guys a glimmer of strength. Lessons about the importance of loyalty, compassion, creativity, and self-acceptance weave subtly throughout.

This series is among the best recent middle-grade fantasy series, and Book 4 is as strong as the first three. A suspenseful ending will leave most readers clamoring for Book 5. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what makes this series so exciting. For example, each of The Unwanteds books leaves off just as a new adventure is looming on the horizon. How does that compare with other series you've read? How does author Lisa McMann make sure you remember what's happened in the past? 

  • Alex and Aaron definitely have different ideas of what it means to be a leader. Which one would you rather follow? Why does Alex seem so unsure of himself? Why does he seem so distracted at times, and how does that affect his leadership? Do you think that makes him stronger or weaker as a leader? 

  • In this book, magic is used to bring statues to life. What do you think that adds to the story? 

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