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Isles of the Forsaken Paperback – 9 Aug 2011

4.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Paperback: 312 pages
  • Publisher: ChiZine Publications (9 Aug. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1926851366
  • ISBN-13: 978-1926851365
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.5 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,840,356 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

CAROLYN IVES GILMAN is a Nebula and Hugo Award-nominated writer of science fiction and fantasy. Her novels include "Halfway Human" and the two-volume novel "Isles of the Forsaken" and "Ison of the Isles". Her short fiction appears in many "Best of the Year" collections and has been translated into seven languages. She lives in Washington, D.C., and works for the National Museum of the American Indian.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This was an interesting read with some intriguing complexity to the characters and a slow but engaging plot. I was a little uncomfortable with the Great White Savior set up though. And it is a set up, to come about in the next book, but by the end of Isles of the Forsaken I was a bit squinked out with Nathaway's position. However, up to that point I'd found him pleasantly complex. He was naive and short sighted. He truly believed he was bringing a gift of the rule of law to the islanders and was completely blind to the destruction in his wake, because he simply couldn't see that the cultures, beliefs and practices of peoples other than his own had value and place. He wasn't malicious in any way, just utterly ethnocentric.

Then we have Harg, the reluctant hero. I have to admit the reluctant hero is one of my favorite tropes, which made Harg my favorite character. And he too has some complexity of character. An outsider among his own people and ready for a peaceful period in his life, he instead becomes the leader of a rebellion of the very people who largely deny him, while laying claim to his cause.

This tendency of people to greedily grasp at something that would happily be given if not demanded is a theme we see with Spaeth too. She's desperate to give of herself for the people, but no one will stop demanding from her long enough to let her gift herself instead. It's an interesting conundrum. The same actions make her a slave in one scenario and a savior in another. And she's so young and innocent that she has trouble navigating this confusing terrain.

I admit I'm always sensitive to representations of women in novels. It's hard for me to look at them as individual characters in individual novels and not as one more in a collective of female characters.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x97948f0c) out of 5 stars 6 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x97f09a2c) out of 5 stars Exciting anthropological science fiction 28 Sept. 2011
By Dianne Kraft - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Let me begin by admitting that I have been waiting for quite some time for Ms. Gilman to come up with a second novel; I loved "Halfway Human." Isles of the Forsaken is going in a quite a different direction than her previous book, but it's a direction to which I'm happy to follow her. It has compelling characters, a fascinating world (close to us in many ways, but different in many also) and while I am not through yet, I find myself thinking of the book when we have to be apart. Evocative and excellent writing. For those who like Mary Doria Russell and/or Ursula K. Leguin, I highly recommend this book.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x97c068b8) out of 5 stars Complex novel of awesomness 22 Aug. 2011
By Eleanor Skinner - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Usually fantasy or scifi novels about colonial situations only include 2 peoples. Laurie J Marks' Fire Logic includes a representative of a third, slaughtered people, who may have relatives offstage. I can't think of another fantasy novel that has 4 peoples pushed together in excited interaction. Nathaway is an Inning, whose people have just defeated Rothmur in war, and goes to the chain of islands to teach the natives about Inning law and to outlaw bandhota, the ritual healing ceremony. The people of the North Chain are Tornas, dark-skinned people with different features than the Adainas of the South Chain. The Inning have been using the Tornas to govern and exploiting Adaina-Torna resentment to keep them divided, similar to what the British did with different tribes in their African colonies. Harg, the captain of the Native Navy that won the war for the Innings, is the only Adaina officer in the fleet - until he leaves for home. He finds Tornas constructing a lead smeltery on his island, Yora, while his 3rd parent, the Lashnura healer Goth, has disappeared, leaving only Spaeth, the girl Goth created for a lover.

Spaeth, although a Lashnura, has never performed bandhota, which creates bindings of love that trap the healer into what is possibly slavery. She spends her days wandering the island, missing Goth, and talking with panther-shaped Ridwit, a god of the Mundua spirits and ancient enemy of the Lashnuras. Spaeth is the only Lashnura he respects - unless he thinks he can use her. The Mundua and the Ashwins are the spirit forces of disorder, over whose war our world is delicately perched while the Lashnuras heal to create balance. Then Spaeth meets Nathaway, scion of the most famous family in the Inning land, and shatters his orderly world. When Nathaway is presumed dead, Harg is charged with his murder and propelled with Spaeth to flee Yora and venture up the chain to the island of Thimish, where the pirates and a small rebellion are sitting with fire in their hearts, and to Tornabay the capital, where Tiath, called the iron woman, sits as governor and jockeys for power with Nathaway's admiral brother. Where the volcano sits with the fire spirits in its heart. And where Goth, the religious figure known as the Heir of Gilgen, has been forcibly removed from his long exile on Yora to be a pawn in the admiral's and the governor's games.

Can the islands be a free nation? An equal province? Which islands? Will the spirits of disorder break free? Factions in the rebellion quarrel and Joffrey the triple agent negotiates for the supposedly united Governor Tiarch and Admiral Talley with Harg while Nathaway and Spaeth explore the real world under our world and Goth slowly dies without his bandhotai whom he's given healing to. This will not end until at least the to-be-coming sequel, Ison of the Isles. I didn't know there wasn't going to be an ending until a few pages beforehand....needless to say, the stopping point is a bit dramatic. Although most everyone is out of immediate danger.

I want the sequel now! I love this book. Gilman has improved in a stellar fashion since her Tiptree Award-nominated debut novel Halfway Human. And I liked that one...
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9827db1c) out of 5 stars I'm so glad I took a chance on this one! 15 July 2013
By Sneaky Burrito - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I enjoy taking chances on books by authors I've heard nothing about. Isles of the Forsaken by Carolyn Ives Gilman was one such book.

It took me awhile to read this book, although I *wish* I could have read it faster, I just suffered from lack of time. Overall, my impression is quite favorable.

I found the main characters (Harg, Nathaway, and Spaeth) to be mostly sympathetic, although there is something I still don't get about Spaeth and I hope we hear more about her in future books. (I'm not quite sure what it is I don't get about her, but it may be because she is a magically-created person, instead of having been born and raised in the normal way, and she's of a minor, almost mythical race, so in a way, she is meant to be alien, and she does seem alien a lot of the time.)

The main conflict of this book is of a colonial uprising against an empire. Harg represents the natives; he was in the navy of the empire, though a separate "native" section. He retires and hopes to go home and be done with the Innings (the imperial power) but he's drawn back into the conflict. Unless I'm completely missing the mark though, Harg lusts after many inaccessible women -- Calpe, who is married, Spaeth, who is also an inappropriate target -- when one who wants to be with him -- Tway -- is right under his nose. Nathaway is the youngest son of a family that holds several powerful positions in the empire -- his father is an important judge and his brother runs the navy. He's also a failed law student, though he believes the law is important. He represents imperial power at first, but as he spends time among the native islanders, he becomes drawn into events (sometimes he's manipulated) and starts to change.

Further complicating factors are that there are two races of islanders (Torna and Adaina), not just one. Most of the rebellion forces we see are Adaina, and there has always been some conflict between the Torna and the Adaina peoples. It seems to me that members of the Torna race are more often collaborating with the Innings, to the detriment of the Adaina. It was sometimes difficult for me to remember which characters were Torna, although it was easy to understand the differences between the two peoples.

I mentioned earlier that Spaeth was a member of a minor race, the Lashnura. She was created by another Lashnura, Goth, who is imprisoned and thus unable to be a major force throughout most of this book. The Lashnura are really the only ones who exhibit anything that could be called a magical power; through rites involving blood, they heal or remove the pain from others (this appears to be psychological as well as physical). They have a need to do this; if they don't, a blackness that begins at their fingers travels up their arms and will eventually kill them. They also seem to take some kind of joy in it. Others tend to want to use them selfishly, which is perhaps not surprising.

Spaeth struggles with this; when Goth was around, he performed all of these functions for the locals. When he's gone, the people start demanding it of Spaeth, and she is resistant for a long time. It seems to be mostly Adainas who interact with the Lashnura in this way. Meanwhile, the Innings, who have an empire of laws, do not support the practice. Most of this particular conflict happens early on, between Spaeth and Nathaway, but larger events in the world (and changes in Nathaway) push this element of the plot to the side relatively early on. It's not dropped, exactly, and it's not bad that it's pushed aside, I'm just stating a fact.

Side note: I get a little confused by "dhota" and "bandhota" and all the terms related to Lashnura blood rites. I can follow it enough to have a general idea of what's going on. And I suppose it's good that the reader is not beaten over the head with repeated explanations of these concepts, as I do hate it when that occurs in other books. I think if I keep reading this series, I'll eventually have it straightened out.

There are gods, or forces like gods, in Isles of the Forsaken, two sets of opposing groups, one of which seems generally beneficent and one which seems more maleficent, although there is a sense that the motivations of these groups are not human, and I expect to see more development of concepts surrounding them in the sequel(s). I do like the idea of these forces or groups of forces instead of artificially-created gods, which to me are much less believable and much less enjoyable to read about. (Made-up religions usually end up having concepts from Christianity or some other religion renamed and repurposed and are not particularly original. So I'm glad Gilman stays away from that.)

Gilman is a historian and I think she brings that experience to bear in creating the world of this novel. Apparently she knows quite a lot about the Lewis and Clark expedition, has even written a book on it. The level of technology in Gilman's world includes guns, which is fine if it's done right (Gilman does it right, I think). Her descriptions of forts and tactics to take them make sense, seem as if these events could've happened in real life. So this is one case when research was done -- or facts were just already known -- and it makes the world much more cohesive and believable.

I like Gilman's writing style; she's good at sneaking in a lot of little details that make the world believable and the reading experience much more pleasurable.

All-in-all, I thought this was a great book and I'd recommend it to most fantasy readers out there.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x985388ac) out of 5 stars One of my favorite authors 21 Jun. 2013
By Yarnaddiction - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have loved Carolyn Ives Gilman since I read "Halfway Human" in 1998. Unfortunately she is not a prolific writer. Perhaps the real world and her career don't allow for it. That said I really enjoyed this book. It was completely different from the afore mentioned "Halfway Human" and more in the style of "Arkfall". I don't do a synopsis of a book since that is already provided but I will say that as a long time SF reader I heartily recommend this book. Do yourself a tremendous favor and discover Carolyn Ives Gilman. She is an amazing story teller.
By Sadie Forsythe - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This was an interesting read with some intriguing complexity to the characters and a slow but engaging plot. I was a little uncomfortable with the Great White Savior set up though. And it is a set up, to come about in the next book, but by the end of Isles of the Forsaken I was a bit squinked out with Nathaway's position. However, up to that point I'd found him pleasantly complex. He was naive and short sighted. He truly believed he was bringing a gift of the rule of law to the islanders and was completely blind to the destruction in his wake, because he simply couldn't see that the cultures, beliefs and practices of peoples other than his own had value and place. He wasn't malicious in any way, just utterly ethnocentric.

Then we have Harg, the reluctant hero. I have to admit the reluctant hero is one of my favorite tropes, which made Harg my favorite character. And he too has some complexity of character. An outsider among his own people and ready for a peaceful period in his life, he instead becomes the leader of a rebellion of the very people who largely deny him, while laying claim to his cause.

This tendency of people to greedily grasp at something that would happily be given if not demanded is a theme we see with Spaeth too. She's desperate to give of herself for the people, but no one will stop demanding from her long enough to let her gift herself instead. It's an interesting conundrum. The same actions make her a slave in one scenario and a savior in another. And she's so young and innocent that she has trouble navigating this confusing terrain.

I admit I'm always sensitive to representations of women in novels. It's hard for me to look at them as individual characters in individual novels and not as one more in a collective of female characters. But the wide-eyed, beautiful, innocent, overly sexual creature of femaleness (created for a man's entertainment) felt very cliched to me. The impression only got worse when she was constantly protected from herself by the men around her and her will was eventually subjugated to a man while she was unconscious (which she woke up thrilled about, of course).

I'll be reading book two to see where the rebellion goes. Honestly, there is a political rebellion underway here, but the whole book is about rebellion. Everyone is rebelling in their own way and that subtle, undercurrent of frisson is what's kept me going even through the weird dream-like scenes and slow passages that pepper this otherwise interesting book.

Note: borrowed from library
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