I really enjoyed the first two books in this series, so I was excited to get a chance to dive back into the lives of Walt and Leia as they make their way across the water to a new world. This book, like its predecessors, has a distinctly anthropological feel to it, highlighting clashing religions, cultures, and customs.
In the previous books, we see two distinctly different religions war with one another as their entire way of life is brought into question. This book continues to highlight the growing pains of this union and the fanatical, rebellious groups which rise up because of it. I really appreciated the fact that not all the rebel groups were violent. Each group had its own, distinct way of dealing with the challenge to its faith: isolation, vandalism, immersion in community service—this is how I imagine this situation would play out in the real world, and all these little details really bring the story and its characters to life.
In their travels to the World Across the Waters, Leia and Walt begin to realize that the problems they are having at home are not isolated. The World Across the Waters has its own issues, also revolving around the augmentation and abuse of religious power to manipulate the masses. The real gold in this trip to another city, however, lies in the reaction Leia and Walt have religiously to the new world. In Tresco, Jesus is portrayed as a kind of devil. In the World Across the Waters, Jesus is the savior. With this in mind, Leia and Walt are still able to open their hearts and their minds to the people, and grow from the experience.
"…They’re just paper," I say fiercely. "They should be guidelines for people who use their common sense and feel what’s right deep inside. Without heart, soul, and passion, a holy book will just be a dead husk."
Walt and Leia begin to mesh together not only the religions of Tresco but the religions of the new world while simultaneously acknowledging that no place or religion is ever perfect. The power of religious texts lies in how people use the knowledge to shape the world around them.
The only aspect of this portion of the story that I didn’t care for was the forced chemistry between Walt and Leia. I am not sure if it was just too cheesy for me, but the dialogue and interactions between these two characters did not feel realistic to me at all. Luckily, their romance is a very small part of the overall book, so while it did frustrate me a bit at times it did not in any way retract from my overall enjoyment of the story.
Walt and Leia are not the only romantic leads in this story, however. Romance develops at home on Tresco as well, and unlike the Leia/Walt chemistry, the interactions between these two characters are sweet, real, and honest. Their attraction to one another develops over time in a shy, unexpected manner. They come together in a time of rebellion and uncertainty, looking for comfort and answers.
"Why is life so difficult?" I sob.
"I don’t know. But I do know it’s more bearable if you’re not alone."
This is where one of the main themes of the book really shines. Life is hard, and complicated, and no one ever really knows what they are doing. We guess, all of us, at everything, and sometimes we guess wrong. Sometimes we put our faith in the wrong things or the wrong people, but the good thing is that we have those around us to support us and help us through it.
Overall, this was another fantastic addition to “The Island” series. Minkman continues the anthropological and religious focus introduced in the previous two books in the series, but takes it to a whole new level. As her characters expand their world beyond the shores of Tresco, they also expand their understanding of humanity, a higher power, and one another. If you enjoy realistic dystopian fiction with an anthropological and religious focus, you should really pick this series up.