In case you didn’t know, I really really like Irish culture. A good chunk of my ancestry is Scottish-Irish. The music is incredible. The language is beautiful. But I think one of the things that makes me love it the most is the sense of belonging that is always, whether overtly or subtly, present in stories or songs or art or the language itself. The sense of home. The sense of this is my place and these are my people. You become homesick for something you’ve never experienced.
The book The Stormkeeper’s Island by Catherine Doyle is a perfect example.
I picked up this book from the library the other day after my sister pointed it out. I expected it to be one of those contemporary-fantasy books that I’ve read before and kinda hated, where they just take the same Arthurian legends and slap ’em on to some poor generic Good Boy But With Sass And Everyone Hates Him character and call it a day.
I was extremely pleasantly surprised to find that this was not so.
To start off, we meet our protagonist Fionn, and when we meet him he’s sick as a dog and terrified of the ocean. Which I can certainly relate to. We also meet his older sister Tara, who seems to be a bit of a jerk. And we are introduced to the fact that they are going to stay with their grandpa on an island called Arranmore, their mom is not doing great, and Fionn does NOT want to spend the summer on this island.
Pretty standard stuff.
Then we get some more information when they actually get to the grandpa’s house. We find out that Fionn’s parents used to live on this island before his dad died. We meet Tara’s ‘boyfriend’, a jerky dudebro who seems to hate Fionn for no reasonable reason.
And we meet the candles.
His grandpa’s house is full of candles.
Candles with really weird names.
From there things start popping off.
So it turns out that the candles are made of weather and time. Sounds weird, yeah, but so very cool. So when you burn a candle, you sort of time travel to when that weather happened. A specific storm, a time when the tide was unusually low, a rainbow, anything like that. They’re memories, recorded by Fionn’s grandpa, the Stormkeeper.
So Fionn starts discovering things about Arranmore and his own family’s past, using the candles to travel to different ‘layers’ of Arranmore’s history. Things of course go horribly wrong because Fionn messes up big time and is able to be seen when he time travels. He finds out about this huge secret and the reason that guy hates him and finds out that he is actually somewhat of a big deal, and not necessarily in a good way.
I can’t tell you much more about the plot without spoiling, but there is definitely more
So, Fionn. I love him. He’s your average eleven year old, likes playing Minecraft and Mario Kart, fights with his sister and loves his mom. He’s a little on the snarky side. And he longs for the belonging that everyone else seems to feel. He’s easy to relate to without being a generic ‘everyman’. His dialogue is perfect for him and feels so natural that you get the sneaking suspicious that the author based him off someone she knew.
All of the dialogue is really natural, actually. That might be one of my favorite things about this book. For me, a book is a good book if when the characters speak you can actually believe what they’re saying. Like the grandpa. He’s the perfect mixture of friendly, mysterious, lovable, sassy, and sad.
(Also reading the dialogue and imagining their accents is just fantastic, makes me happy, moving on)
Weather is, of course, a massive part of The Stormkeeper’s Island, and the descriptions and characterization of it are just -chef’s kiss-. You can practically smell the sea and feel the wind at your back and round your ears.
I got so into this book that when I had to stop reading to do some laundry I was actually dizzy from getting yanked back into reality.
It ends on a mega cliffhanger too, and there’s three more books, so I need to figure out how to get my hands on those as soon as possible.
So yes, read The Stormkeeper’s Island and you will also experience happyfeels and yearning for the sea even though you may be as terrified of it as I am.
See you next week!