In my time writing this blog, I have been lucky enough to meet a lot of great new people. I’ve been introduced to some fantastic writers and been given opportunities to read some amazing books. One of the greatest of these new connections has been with Alexis Marie Chute. Back in January 2018, I was given the chance to help reveal the cover of her first novel, Above the Star. Since then, I’ve had the chance to read every book in the series and loved each of them. The final book in the trilogy, Inside the Sun, came out in April. Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic caused disruption to the book tour. When Alexis Marie rearranged the tour to be a virtual one, I jumped at the chance to become one of the stops. I sometimes feel a bit uncomfortable recommending books to people because I think it’s quite a personal thing. Our tastes are all so different and I don’t ever like forcing my opinions on people. But, I’m incredibly passionate about this trilogy. If you’re looking for something to start up during quarantine, The 8th Island Trilogy could definitely be the one for you.
What’s it about?
The 8th Island Trilogy is a YA fantasy series that follows three members of the Wellsley family after they find themselves in a new world. When frumpy senior citizen Archie goes in search of his missing son in the Spanish Canary Islands, he accidentally finds himself transported to the magical island of Jarr-Wya. Unfortunately, his daughter-in-law, Tessa, and granddaughter, Ella, end up there with him. Once there, the trio ends up on a mission to find a cure for 14-year-old Ella’s cancer. But just what does the cure have to do with mystical Star that is causing a huge rift on the island?
The family encounter the different races that live on Jarr-Wya. This includes the stone-wielding Bangols, the fiery Olearons, and the evil Millia sands. All three of which are battling each other for dominance. Over the course of the trilogy, the Wellsely family have to overcome great obstacles and find their inner strength coming through. Plenty of family secrets are uncovered and each of them must come face-to-face with their greatest fear. But, as they soon realise, their love for each other is strong enough to push them on no matter what they have to face.
Who should read it?
This is the perfect trilogy for any reader. It doesn’t matter if you’re typically into fantasy fiction. I’ll be honest, most YA fantasy just doesn’t interest me. The ones I’ve read are massively clichéd. To the extent that some of them just feel like parody novels. Then there’s the fact that so many writers take YA to mean simple. I hate writers who talk down to teenager readers, so I was pleasantly surprised when I read the first book.
It’s an epic trilogy that will delight any fantasy lover. Alexis Marie Chute reminds me of writers like Neil Gaiman. She is wonderful at world-building and isn’t afraid to bring plenty of darkness into her books. The world of Jarr-Wya is brilliant and the races that we meet are so interesting. You’ll enjoy hearing their histories and mythology.
And it doesn’t matter if you prefer action-driven novels or character studies. There is something here for everyone. You really get to know the main three over the trilogy and will see plenty of development. But none of that distracts from the action. There are plenty of battles and villains to fight. There’s magic to get to grips with and plenty of epic journeys to undertake.
Why should you read it?
Far from being clichéd, these books are original, exciting, and beautifully written. Whether it’s her experience as an artist or just an innate ability, Alexis Marie’s description is really immersive. She also has such a great understanding of people. All of the characters really leap off the page. They have their flaws but are ultimately good people. They feel more realistic than a lot of characters you find in fantasy fiction. There are no Mary Janes here, just a group of people who slowly discover they have a strength they didn’t know they had. They must overcome their fears and force themselves to be brave. It’s an inspirational narrative that slowly builds.
It’s a series of books with several great twists and turns. The first novel leaves you feeling quite sure of what’s going to happen and then you’ll find that not everything is as it seems. It’s the kind of story that always keeps you guessing and constantly surprises you. It also contains genuine peril. As the trilogy goes on, Ella gets weaker and her cancer starts to take over. The stakes are continually rising and the outcome looks bleak. When the fate of all world becomes linked to Ella’s illness, it becomes more and more apparent that there won’t be a happy ending after all.
This trilogy is full of fantastic themes that elevate it beyond a basic YA fantasy trilogy. Yes, there is the almost obligatory love triangle to contend with but it’s connected to deeper themes. It’s about shared history, family, and loyalty. This trilogy is reminiscent of the Star Wars franchise in that it’s really the story of one family. The series presents itself as a fantasy trilogy but it’s a family drama. These books ask the question “how far will people go to protect their family?” At its heart, this is the story of two parents and a grandfather who will go as far as they need to save their sick daughter. At the same time, Ella will do whatever it takes to make sure her family stay safe. Even if that means she has to sacrifice herself.
Familial love is what drives this narrative forwards. The family relationships displayed here are all recognisable to everyone. Tessa and Ella are close but they have typical mother/daughter conflicts. Ella sees Tessa as overbearing and Tessa can’t help but see Ella as a child. Ella is close to her grandfather but his relationship with his daughter-in-law is more complicated. There is definitely love there but also difficulties. This is a family that replicates real-life. We all know that families fight and get frustrated with each other. Yet, we’d all agree that we’d lay down our lives to save them. Alexis Marie certainly gets this across.
Just as she understands families, she is a writer who understands women. Understandably, I enjoy novels that place strong females at its centre. This is a novel full of great females. There is often a misunderstanding of the phrase “strong female characters” and writers just take it to mean physical strength. This is nonsense. We don’t simply want muscle-women but we need fully developed female characters. Women who have some depth to them and are allowed to grow across the novel. Alexis Maries gets this. Her female characters are complex. Yes, they show physical and mental strength as well but they stand out in the novel. We learn about what makes them tick and we come to care for them.
Tessa and Ella, in particular, are the type of heroines that we need more of. They don’t suddenly become mighty warriors but they use the gifts they have. Tessa uses her medical knowledge to care for the wounded and she can lead people. She takes control of situations and isn’t afraid to tell great leaders when they’re wrong. Following in her mother’s footsteps, Ella uses her talents to get things done. Her cancer means that she can’t speak but she communicates with her artwork. Ella sees things that other people miss and she takes the people she meets at face value. She never judges anyone and is willing to give everyone a chance. They’re brilliantly written characters and show great inner strength.
I could go on and on about these books because they’re jam-packed with greatness. Hopefully, I’ve proved my love for them. This trilogy is exciting, original, charming, and scary. It has everything that any reader is looking for: great writing, strong characters, vivid world-building, and all-round entertainment. It’s the perfect thing to indulge in during quarantine. We’re all looking for somewhere to escape to and Jarr-Wya really is the perfect destination. I know that I will continue to read all of Alexis Marie Chute’s future books regardless of what they’re about but I do hope this isn’t the last we’ve seen of this world. I can’t wait to go back.
Books in the trilogy
Find my individual reviews of each of the books using the links below:
Book 1: Above the Star
Book 2: Below the Moon
Book 3: Inside the Sun
About the Author
Alexis Marie Chute is an award-winning author, visual artist, curator, filmmaker, and public speaker based in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. She has three living children, a husband, and no pets (her husband is allergic to everything non-human so she chose him over four-legged friends).
Find out more about the 8th Island Trilogy at Alexis’ website.
You can connect with Alexis Marie Chute over plenty of social media channels:
Facebook: Alexis Marie Chute, Art, Photograph and Creative Writing
LinkedIn: Alexis Marie Chute
GoodReads: Alexis Marie Chute
BookBub: Alexis Marie Chute