The Marauders’ Island by Tristan J. Tarwater is a coming of age tale around a teenage mage. Just when Azria is supposed to become a fully fledged, certified mage of Miz, bureaucracy throws a wrench in and to top it off her estranged mother, seafarer/ pirate queen Apzana, comes to see Azria to take her on an adventure. Well, a serious mission to unsink a sunken island to the displeasure of the villanous mage who sunk it in the first place.
The book shines where the setting is concerned. The world-building of Miz, its culture, and magical system is detailed and I love that. The open sea and island are described so visually, you’ll feel the sand between your toes and want to drink the coconut wine. Makes for a perfect escapism read.
One of my favorite aspects of the book was the mother-daughter relationship at the heart of it. So much of the literature I used to read or had to read in uni was all about destructive friendships, dysfunctional relationships etc between women and I’m so happy that especially women writers of color give me not necessarily uncomplicated but always rewarding representations of women’s relationships, be they romantic, filial or epic friendships. The quest to raise the island also becomes a journey of reconnecting and healing for Azria and Apzana and suffice it to say that it is immensely satisfying to see a WOC mother-daughter duo kicking ass.
Also absolutely fantastic was the matter-of-fact diversity of the characters. They are all Black and other people of Color and all over the LGBTQIA+ spectrum. Especially the ragtag crew was such a diverse bunch, bisexuality, transwomen, polyamorous relationships, you name it. And the glorious point of the story was still their adventure not the supposed drama of being non-normative.
This is the first book in the Hen and Chick series and I’m so excited for book 2. Hopefully we’ll get to know Apzana’s crew better and I can’t wait to see how Azria’s journey continues.
So why should you read it? Let me throw around some keywords: Cause magic! Women of Color pirates! Swashbuckling! Adventure! Treasure! And I bet some of you would like to escape the cold to a tropical island. I’m getting a hardcopy of this one for future rereads, but the kindle version is on sale at $1 at the moment if you need to budget.
Just a heads-up, this might be YA fantasy, but I think would be suitable for middle graders as well.
Disclaimer: I was given a free e-copy of this book by the author, but never fear I remain my opinionated self.