Book Review: The Storm Keeper’s Island


The Storm Keeper’s Island

Written by Catherine Doyle

320 pages

Published by Bloomsbury UK

Publication date: 12th July 2018

Summary (from Goodreads):

‘Magical in every way’ EOIN COLFER
‘Funny, dark and blazingly beautiful’ KIRAN MILLWOOD HARGRAVE
‘So magical and wild that it’s like being swept away by the sea’ KATHERINE RUNDELL

Fionn Boyle and his older sister Tara have been sent to stay with their grandfather on the remote island of Arranmore for the summer. Though Fionn has never met his grandfather before – an eccentric old man who lives in a tiny cottage filled to the brim with candles – he knows he comes from a long line of brave lifeboat men, who wear the sea behind their eyes.

Fionn is scared of the sea. He has no interest in adventure or shipwrecks or the restless wind that rustles through the island, as though in search of something. But an old magic is stirring deep inside the layers of Arranmore, and it is calling out to Fionn. A dark storm is coming, through time and over sea, the same storm that took his father twelve years ago. To protect his family, Fionn must embrace his destiny as the Storm Keeper’s heir and face the fear that has haunted him for as long as he can remember.

Fionn waited for the island to appear. The one she used to tell them about when he was younger, her eyes glassy with some faraway look. Sometimes the island was a beautiful place. Sometimes it was a sad, unforgiving place that held nothing beyond the memory of his father, long ago lost to the sea. All Fionn ever knew for sure was that Arranmore haunted her, and he could never figure out whether that was mostly a good thing or mostly a bad thing. Only that places can be just as important as people. That they can have the same power over you if you let them.

This book was absolute perfection from the first word to the last. It is brimful of magic, mythology and family and I loved every minute of it.

First impressions: I spotted this on Netgalley and clicked request because I am always on the look out for fantasy set in Ireland. My country is bursting at the seams with folklore, so I am surprised that there aren’t more books out there drawing on this. I love the cover now, but it wasn’t an immediate favourite. I have also been stung by a few books on Netgalley which sound amazing so I went in cautiously…only to be completely blown away! (I started reading this on the way to the airport to pick up my fiance – needless to say he received a very quick hello and an apology that I wouldn’t be speaking to him much on the journey back because my book was so good! Luckily, he is also a bookworm so he understood!)

Here are five reasons why you should read this book:

  • Fantasy, set in Ireland = sign me up! I grew up immersed in folklore, legend and tales of ‘the wee folk’ and the culture of storytelling is so strong in my country so I am excited to see a middle-grade fantasy set here.
  • It is set in the Aran Islands – when most people think of Ireland they already think of it as an island, but often don’t think of the hundreds of tiny islands around the main one, some inhabited by humans and others only by seabird colonies. I think island cultures often have specific cultures or traditions which separate them from the ‘mainland’ so it is great to see some of these less well-known stories coming to light.
  • I love fantasy and this story has layers of folklore, fantasy and magical realism – all accepted as part of every day life by the islanders!
  • I have a soft spot for eccentric old people, both in real-life and in stories. People have so many stories stuffed inside them, old people more than most, so I love taking the time to hear these stories and share in their knowledge. Fionn’s grandfather is a fantastic character who wields a lot of power, but is also beginning to suffer from some of the vagaries of old age.
  • The story reminds me of the long summer holidays that seemed to stretch on forever when I was a kid. We used to spend every summer on the beach, climbing hills, in the sea – in a way, getting closer to the roots of the stories we were raised on. I like how Fionn and Tara are coming away from the city and doing the same.
  • The sea is almost a character in its own right in this story. Having grown up next to and surrounded by the sea, this really resonated with me. The sea can be playful but also dangerous, calm or raging.

The characters in this book get under your skin from the word go – FionnΒ  who is endearingly awkward, his sister Tara who quite enjoys being an annoying older sibling, his mum who is straining to make ends meet in the city, yet wants her children to experience the magical place where she grew up. Fionn and Tara’s father who is present in their memories, if not in reality. And, my favourite, Fionn’s grandfather, the Storm-keeper, carrying the weight of many memories and a heavy responsibility.

I have tried so many times to write this review in an eloquent way, but words fail me because I just love so much about this book. Simply put, you need to reed it now!

(Intrigued? Read the first three chapters now! Or check out my Q+A with the author)

There are forces at work here that I don’t fully understand yet. The island is restless. There are reports of other layers peeking through, things appearing and then disappearing. The tides are keeping their own rhythm. The weather is as unpredictable as ever, the birds even more so.

It’s never this bad. Even before a storm.

If it happened once on Arranmore Island, it can happen again.

As long as there is someone to remember you, you are never truly gone, and neither is your story. That is the wonderful thing about Arranmore. It never forgets.

What I liked: Everything! EVERYTHING! This was exactly what I wanted to read at exactly the right time and I am so happy that there is going to be more books in the series. Absolutely magical! I will be reading this to my class next year and I’m so excited to hear their reaction.

Even better if: I need the rest of the series now!

How you could use it in your classroom: This would make a fantastic recommendation for any 8+ readers who want a bit more magic in their lives. This book touches on a lot of things, including sibling relationships, elderly grandparents and dementia, losing a parent, local mythology and folklore. The language is also lyrical. You could happily work with this text for an entire term, getting more out of it every day.

(Thank you to Netgalley and Bloomsbury for my e-ARC)

While you’re here, why not read some more reviews of great fantasy books out there: The Cruel Prince, The Hazel Wood, Lancelot, Gilded Cage

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Thanks for reading!

27 Comments Add yours

  1. Katie K says:

    Awesome book πŸ“– review!! Sounds like a great read πŸ˜€
    -Katie K 🌸

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Katie K says:

    Awesome πŸ‘ book πŸ“– review!!! Sounds like a great read, I will be sure to check it out ❀️
    -Katie k 🌸

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you enjoyed the review and hope you love the book! I sometimes find it tricky to write a review for a book I loved so much!


  3. Sarah says:

    This sounds like such a wonderful book and just the kind I would love to read! I’m adding it to my TBR. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great to hear! I hope you enjoy it. It was just a perfect book at the perfect time for me πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, glad you enjoyed it and hope you love the book!


  4. This sounds like a great read! Your review makes me realize it’s been a long time since I read any middle grade fiction set in Ireland. I spent a few months in Ireland back in 2013 and visit the Aran islands – it would be fun to read a fantasy set in area I’ve actually been to.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There isn’ t as much fantasy fiction set in Ireland as there should be, considering the history, legends and culture of storytelling. The Aran islands are beautiful! I would very highly recommend this book πŸ™‚


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