The Floating Island, by Elizabeth Haydon, was published in 2006 by Starscape.
Charles Magnus Ven Polypheme—known as Ven—is the youngest son of a long line of famous shipwrights. He dreams not of building ships, but of sailing them to far-off lands where magic thrives. Ven gets his chance when he is chosen to direct the Inspection of his family’s latest ship—and sets sail on the journey of a lifetime. Attacked by fire pirates, lost at sea, and near death, Ven is rescued by a passing ship on its way to the island of Serendair. Thankful to be alive, little does Ven know that the pirate attack—and his subsequent rescue—may not have been an accident. Shadowy figures are hunting for the famed Floating Island, the only source of the mystical Water of Life. They think Ven can lead them to this treasure and will stop at nothing to get it—even murder.
The thing that most upset me about The Floating Island was that there’s a dragon on the cover of the book, but there’s no dragon in the book. Publishers, you can’t taunt me with a dragon and then not give me a dragon! Why would you do such a cruel thing? On the same note, don’t taunt me with Brett Helquist illustrations and then only give me one single picture!
More seriously, The Floating Island is pretty good. It’s much more horror/mystery than it is straight fantasy, and some parts of it actually reminded me of Jonathan Stroud’s Lockwood & Co. Some of the plot points had me a little disgruntled and I didn’t really enjoy the “they’re good guys; no, they’re bad guys; no they’re good guys” back and forth that was going on, but despite its predictability the plot moved along quite well.
The worldbuilding was good, too, and although I’m not really that big of a fan of the “the author is going to pretend that he/she ‘restored the documents’” layout of a book, I thought it worked well here. However, the ping-ponging between journal entries in first person and Ven’s narrative in third person was a little jarring at points, and I’m confused as to why the journals even had to be there in the first place (they seem entirely unnecessary to the storytelling to me and are simply a part of the “author restored the documents” shtick).
Overall, though, The Floating Island is a pretty good fantasy—and it stands out a little more for the horror/mystery aspect of it. I’m not fond of it, and I don’t find it particularly memorable, but it was good enough that I may pick up the next book…if I can finally get that dragon they promised me on the cover of this book.
Recommended Age Range: 12+
Warnings: The horror is pretty tame, so no worries there.
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade
At the very bottom of the cave was a small pond filled with moving silver water, surrounded only by glowing moss. Ven thought back to the conch shell and realized that this was where the crown of the shell would be. Oliver was crouched over it, looking down into the water.
“This spring is fed by ice deep below,” he said softly. “Ice left over from the earliest days of the world.” He reached into his vest pocket and pulled out a small flask, carved from what look liked crystal. He pulled out the stopper and poured a thin stream of blue water into the moss, then dipped the flask into the silver spring. He drew it back quickly, stoppered it again, then put the flask back in his pocket, rubbing his hands together to warm them up.