Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Review: A Song for the Stars by Ilima Todd

My rating: 5 stars / It was amazing


Inspired by a true story

Hawaiian Islands, 1779

As the second daughter of a royal chief, Maile will be permitted to marry for love. Her fiancé is the best navigator in Hawaiʻi, and he taught her everything he knows—how to feel the ocean, observe the winds, read the stars, and how to love.

But when sailors from a strange place called England arrive on her island, a misunderstanding ends in battle, and Maile is suddenly widowed before she is wed.

Finding herself in the middle of the battle and fearing for her life, Maile takes John Harbottle, the wounded man who killed her fiancé, prisoner, and though originally intending to let him die, she reluctantly heals him. And in the process, she discovers the man she thought was her enemy might be her ally instead.

John has been Captain James Cook’s translator for three voyages across the Pacific. He is kind and clearly fascinated with her homeland and her people—and Maile herself. But guilt continues to drive a wedge between them: John’s guilt over the death he caused, and Maile’s guilt over the truth about what triggered the deadly battle—a secret she’s kept hidden from everyone on the island.

When Maile is tasked with teaching John how to navigate using the stars so he can sail back to England, they must also navigate the challenges of being from very different cultures. In doing so, they might also find the peace that comes when two hearts become one.

My Review

I loved the way the two perspectives of Maile and John were shared in this book- both in first person perspective, with Maile telling the story and John's through journal entries. Sometimes letters or journals in storytelling makes me hesitant, but the author used it very successfully here, with John's emotions coming out clearly, his sense of wonder over the fascinating culture, his struggles vulnerabilities. Maile has tones of Disney's Moana with her independence, love of the ocean, and loyalty to her people. The historical story has darker themes however, with culture clash, misunderstanding, war, death, and grief. I thought the author did such a good job balancing the strong elements of the book and weaving them together- character development, interesting history and culture of the Hawaiian people, action with the battle scenes, and significant moments between Maile and John. They are both working through the devastation of loss, but Maile especially is confused and overwhelmed as she grieves her fiancé, heals and protects John, defends her father, worries over her people and the future, and experiences kindness from John. I liked seeing the lighter moments between them when they make each other laugh and some playfulness come out. John coming to know the ocean in the special way that Maile does is profound to him and deepens their connection. Their romance is so sweet and genuine and heartfelt. I appreciated the lovely storytelling that made this book stand out and it's one I highly recommend! 

(I received a complimentary copy of the book; all opinions in this review are my own)

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