Busy school days don’t leave me with much time to read and relax, so when my boys have a break, one of the advantages is that I have a little more time to read. Recently I was offered a copy of a middle-school novel called Journey to Rainbow Island, the first novel from author Christie Hsaio, and as a lover of fantasy fiction, I decided to see what it was like.
With a beautiful island, a mysterious young heroine, plenty of magic and a dark dragon, this book had all the elements of fantasy that I normally love. I expected a somewhat simplistic plot as the book’s suggested reading age is 8-12 years. But even a few chapters in, I had a feeling the suggested age wasn’t terribly accurate. The plot is certainly basic enough for younger readers, but the language is so flowery that I can’t really imagine it holding a child’s interest for long.
The storyline had all the elements of success in my opinion, but the needlessly descriptive writing caused the book to fall flat and the hyperbole that filled the book’s pages also led to some rather unexpected and easily avoidable errors. If there’s one thing that quickly pulls me out of a story, it’s a mistake in spelling or grammar. It’s the reason editors are so important and coming across more than one error while reading was unpleasant and ruined what flow the story did have.
The storyline was interesting and a desire to know what happened next kept me reading, but overall this book left me underwhelmed and the characters simply didn’t ring true. The heroine Yu-ning inspired some amazing changes in the world as she journeyed to save her beloved Rainbow Island home and her best friend, and there were parts of the story that I did find engaging. Overall though, this book simply lacked that certain believable magic that makes a fantasy story one I want to read over and over again.
As the book is too sophisticated in its language for its recommended age range, I could see it possibly being an appealing choice for an adult to read to an older school-aged girl. While the novel starts out fairly neutral, it quickly begins to incorporate some strong religious elements as the plot develops that certainly won’t suit everyone and that I actually found quite odd for this type of fantasy novel.
The repetitious themes and underdeveloped characters in this book really impacted my enjoyment of it and it’s not one I’d recommend to any true lover of fantasy fiction. But if you happen to have a copy of Journey to Rainbow Island and want to do some reading with your child, you may want to give it a try and see what you think.