The Island of the Blessed Review

Another book off the Winter Reading List. This review is the first in a three-part Sea-of-Trolls-and-all-companion-books review set. Enjoy.

The Islands of the Blessed 

By Nancy Farmer



Now ladies and gents, right off the bat I must say that Nancy Farmer is usually an excellent writer and that the first book in this series, the Sea of Trolls, is honest-to-God literary gold. It’s absolutely wonderful. However, it seems that nothing that amazing can spawn a good sequel.

 This point has been proved many different times. Take for example, the Pirates of the Caribbean series. The first was excellent. The second and third take a while to get used to and are alright in their own ways, but are nothing near as good as the first one. Furthermore, they seem to go off on their on own and draw little support from the first movie. Which is a clear indicator to me that if they don’t need the first movie to make sense, the original gold doesn’t need them.

The Sea of Trolls books are like this. The first was unique and good and the second and third cannot do it justice.

The Islands of the Blessed, the third book in the series continues the story of Jack and Thorgil. However, it doesn’t really continue any plot. Jack find his village ravaged by a draugr, a wandering spirit looking for revenge. He and the Bard set of with Thorgil and their Northmen friends to help that spirit find justice. Along the way, they get involved in many mini quests and have some adventures and then the book ends.

Does that summary make you want to read the book? Does it inspire you at all? Honestly, I cannot write a better summary for this book because that one is the whole plot in a nutshell and there really wasn’t much more to it.

The biggest problem I had with the plot was that it followed a very loose storyline and things kept distracting the adventurers. These distractions didn’t really seem to contribute to the story and later on, I was left wondering why they took place at all. Also, frequent taking on of side quest made the mission they were trying to accomplish seem less dire. Say for instance you have to go the hospital because you are dying. Along the way you stop to help an old lady clean her house and find a dog, and then when you’ve finished getting to the hospital you realize you weren’t dying after all.

 Doesn’t that make going to the hospital in the first place seem pointless? And doesn’t the journey you took to get there sound uninteresting? Well, that’s what the plot was like. It simply lacked drama.

Well, perhaps the plot didn’t lack drama so much as the writing did. Whenever big things happened, there seemed to be a paucity of rich description. Take for example Tolkien’s description of Gandalf’s disappearance in the Fellowship of the Ring. He excellently weaves the scene in the mind, describing how the Balrog cracks his whips and curls it around the wizard’s knees and how Gandalf is then pulled to the edge of the bridge. He gives the memorable line, “Fly you fools,” and then vanishes.

That is a scene that will linger in the mind even after the book is done. However, in the Island of the Blessed, when certain main characters are, ahem, moving on, Jack struggles against his captors to stop it from happening, but it continues to happen and Jack stops struggling. Then he stands there. The moving on finishes happening and then Jack decides to struggle again.

Not that dramatic, right?

There was little emotion, I guess you could say, put into these high tension scenes. The buildup wasn’t as powerful as it could be. Now, I know that some writers can’t write that kind of thing, but I know Nancy Farmer can. When certain characters in the Sea of Trolls die, there is much description and drama and emotion put into the scene. Thorgil cries, Jack laments, but still the adventure must continue and they struggle to go on.

The writing itself wasn’t bad. There were sometimes when I felt like Farmer was using the same phrase over and over again, and some of the descriptions and people weren’t as rich as I remember them being in her other books.It felt almost like she as writing for a younger audience here than she was in the Sea of Trolls. However, the writing is quite digestible and much better than some other books I’ve read recently.

The ending of the book was…strange. I half hated/ half loved the last sentence. I like what she did there, but at the same time wish she hadn’t. The last chapter– well it seemed to convenient. Jack and Thorgil end up somewhere strange (don’t want to give anything away) and there wasn’t really mention of this place before and the possibility of them going there wasn’t foreshadowed at all. It made sense, sure, but it didn’t seem that well set up. Kind of like taking the easy way out with an ending.

I can’t really say if there was a better way to end the book though. In many ways it was fitting and made sense, but it wasn’t the kind of umph-filled final statement ending that I was hoping for.

Overall, I can’t say I was disappointed in this book, mainly because I didn’t have high expectations based on what I experience in the second book. So I was neither let down nor elated. This book is average at best and not nearly as good as the Sea of Trolls or some of Nancy Farmer’s other work, like the expertly crafted House of the Scorpion.

However, if you really want closure on the story and can handle reading sequels that aren’t that good, I would say go for it. I wouldn’t say that this book made the first seem worse at all. It certainly didn’t ruin it for me. Honestly, I guess it didn’t do anything for me. This book just kinds of floats out there; like shapeless clouds, it is nice but nothing special.

Amazon link :)

Ri’s Rating:


2.5/ 5

0. Couldn’t get past chapter one for fear of wanting to kill myself. Book induced suicide…

1: Yuck. Ew. Below Average. Probably didn’t even read the middle and skipped to the end.

2. Ok. Would’ve been better if I’d written the ending and everything else.

3. Not bad at all. Very enjoyable. Quite nice. Recommendable.

4. My kind of book. Near ideal, but something was a little off (annoying names, bad ending, that sort of thing).

5. WOW. Makes me wonder why people watch T.V when this is out there. Really liked it. Don’t expect to see this often.

6 and above. What I want my book to be.

Leave a comment


  1. Gina

     /  January 10, 2010

    I really liked your review. I agree with almost everything you said; I had the same opinion about how the third book just kind of floated there. I was expecting something a bit less anticlimactic to happen with Jack and Thorgil’s relationship at the end, but I guess I’m kind of glad Farmer didn’t take it all the way there… I liked Thorgil a lot better in the first book. The second-to-last chapter was by far my favorite; I just wish the rest of the book contained that kind of emotion. It was definitely readable, and had some interesting cultural stuff, but I guess I was left a bit empty after reading it.

  2. No offense, but I disagree with almost everything that you said. I personally find the book emotional, I loved all the side quests, as they were like many adventures in one book. The book left me wanting more so bad, I’ve just spent the last hour searching if she is going to make a sequel, when I found this review. I’d give it a 5/5 and I think it was way better than the first one.

    • Ri

       /  March 15, 2012

      None taken! I think it’s great when people disagree; it makes the reviews more reliable because you get more opinions. Thanks for commenting, and if you liked Farmer’s works, definitely read her House of the Scorpion book. Another fun adventure like this one, is Cry of the Icemark. Have fun reading!

  3. Pizza

     /  October 8, 2012

    Ri, sorry but………i thought that the third book was amazing!!! I think that the Islands of the Blessed was an amazing finish. I came here promised a good summary that i need to look off of to help me with a project and you just trashed Mrs. Farmer. Nancy’s series was amazing and i hope you will realize that one day. Sorry if i sound mad or i offended you but Mrs. Nancy Farmer is amazing and a wonderful author!!!!!!!

    • Ri

       /  October 9, 2012

      The thing is, I completely agree with you– I think Nancy Farmer is a truly amazing author. I love her writing; I just didn’t like this book. I suppose I just had very high expectations based on how excellent the Sea of Trolls was and I feel like this novel did not do justice to what I know her talent is. Thank you for commenting– I’m very glad you shared your opinion, even if it was very different from mine :)


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