Impossible to Put Down
By Ellen Stokes
Brookbriar, 343 pages
Gray Lyken has been in exile since her birth – hidden away by her uncle Wyndlyn to prevent her having any claim to his throne. One night, though, she is taken from her home by a mysterious man named Isaac and returned to Aurum. There, she is thrust into the middle of a conspiracy to overturn Wyndlyn and put his daughter, Silver, on the throne in his place. As Gray learns more about the kingdom and her own past, she finds that it is hard to know who to trust or what to believe in. With the land in danger from its own king as well as from the threat of invasion by Ebon, a neighboring country with evil practices, Gray must find her courage to stand up for her family, herself and her country.
The Isolated is a fantasy novel by author Ellen Stokes that grips the reader in the first sentence and doesn’t let go until the last. She successfully builds an atmosphere that is almost tangible to the reader. Initially, the story is in an exiled land that is cold, dark and barren and then is nicely contrasted with a city that is colorful and light and bursting with life. The book is written from Gray’s point of view and both she and the reader are kept in the dark about details of the political situation and, most particularly, what role she will play in events. This can be a frustrating technique in stories at times but works well in this novel as the reader shares Gray’s feelings about the lack of information and makes her a more engaging character. The overall political story is an intriguing backdrop against Gray’s more personal story of family and betrayal. Throughout the book, the external landscape or situation successfully mirrors Gray’s internal feelings and turmoil. This is seen at the beginning of the book, when the change from isolated land to city is a template for Gray’s initial disorientation and confusion. Later on, her sense of doom, suspicion and fear fall against the conditions of increasing threats from both inside the kingdom and out.
The characters are all well-written and complex – both Isaac’s silent presence and Silver’s otherworldliness are a nice contrast to Gray. On the whole, the book is well-written and highly entertaining. This is truly a compelling novel that is nearly impossible to put down once it is started. This is a novel that fans of fantasy will definitely want to read.