Wednesday 13 July 2016


Book review: The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

I don't often read children's novels nowadays, unless I'm hit by a bout of nostalgia and seek out a childhood favourite (I'm currently rereading: A Series of Unfortunate Events, soon to be followed by Harry Potter). It's not that I don't enjoy them, on contrary, but more so that they aren't on my radar anymore since my younger siblings have hit their teens. And that is a shame, as there are still many fantastic children's books being published, case in point the stunning The Girl of Ink and Stars. This is a future classic, I'm sure.

The young protagonist in this fantastical tale is Isabella, the daughter of a cartographer living on the Isle of Joya. Ruled by the Governor the island is split in two; the part where Isabella lives with her da and the Forgotten Territories. Despite the seemingly inexplicable cruelty of the Governor, Isabella is best friends with his daughter Lupe as they go to school together.

One day a girl goes missing from their class and is found in the Forgotten Territories; murdered by the savages who live there. Despite an outcry from his people the Governor doesn't do anything about this. But when Lupe runs off into the Forgotten Territories to show Isabella that she is nothing like her father, the Governor finally gathers his troops and follows her.

Isabella, worried about her best friend, hides among the Governor's people as their navigator. Dressed up like a boy she shows bravery beyond her years for her friend and her father, and along the way she has the adventure of a lifetime.

The Girl of Ink and Stars is a magical and innovative story, filled with wondrous elements and a world not like any other I've come across in a book before. A brave girl protagonist is still enough of a rarity in children's fiction that when it does occur, a novel really stands out for it and this one certainly does. And for Isabella to be a cartographer, and the book to be filled with gorgeous drawings of maps and stars, added to its beauty. This is a novel not only stunning in words, but in pictures too.

Legend has it that the Isle of Joya was once a floating island and there is a mystical tale of a girl named Arintha and a fire demon, which is one of Isabella's favourite stories. Throughout her journey in the Forgotten Territories Isabella shows such selflessness and courage that she becomes just as inspirational as Arintha. I loved that this novel highlighted how brave and strong a young girl can be and I hope it inspires many young girls and boys reading the book that they can be courageous adventurers too, just like Isabella.

This is a novel filled to the brim with magical adventures. Doused in the same inventive world-building and storytelling as myths and legends, it was an endlessly exciting discovery all while weaving in important subjects such as friendship, family and kick-ass female heroines. Wrapped in a fantasy package it's easy to think that this is completely separate from the world we know and live in, but actually many of the themes are very relatable for children; be brave, follow your passion, and don't worry about being different.

The Girl of Ink and Stars is unlike anything else I've read and I love it for it. It's different, just like Isabella, and a real beauty – inside and out. 

Many thanks to the publisher for a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.

The Girl of Ink and Stars is published by Chicken House and you can buy the novel from Foyles or your own preferred retailer.

Connect with the author


Twitter: @Kiran_MH


  1. What an absolutely gorgeous book - I'll definitely seek it out.

    1. Isn't it just? This is the proof cover but the actual book is pretty gorgeous too (as are the pages within, covered in sprinklings of stars and maps).


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