Reviews for Islands of the Blessed

Booklist Reviews 2009 August #1
*Starred Review* The third volume of the fantasy series that began with The Sea of Trolls (2004) opens when a tornado (or perhaps Odin's Wild Hunt) destroys the village where Jack, now a young teen, lives. Then a revenge-seeking draugr appears, and Jack joins the town Bard and the mercurial shield maiden, Thorgil, to set things right. Their quest frames this exciting story, which contains a cast of lively, multifaceted characters: finfolks, berserkers, a terrifying hogboon, an albatross blown off course, and hobgoblins who fish with their toes. Farmer's richly imagined saga is filled with danger, action, delightful comedy, and sly jabs at contemporary issues, and she builds upon the series' strong foundation while exploring new themes and questions. Jack, a humble and appealing Everyman, continues his struggle to reconcile the colliding beliefs of the Druids, Norsemen, and Christians of his world, and he wonders about the fate of heroes: "Aren't there any tales about heroes who go home after slaying the monster and live happily ever after?" It is Jack, with his grounded humanity and his search for a moral path, who forms the heart of this memorable tale, but the entirety of Farmer's sweeping story will linger long after the intriguing conclusion. Copyright 2009 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2010 Spring
Apprentice bard Jack and shield maiden Thorgil (The Sea of Trolls, The Land of the Silver Apples) face a vengeful draugr (sea hag). Farmer mixes in Norse, Celtic, Scottish, Irish, and Pictish lore with British pagan and early Christian history. Fondness for the characters keeps readers happily navigating through the nonstop plot to a conclusion that is both ambiguous and satisfying. Copyright 2010 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2009 #5
At one point during this third adventure of apprentice bard Jack, shield maiden Thorgil, and their various companions -- this time on a quest to lay to rest a vengeful draugr (sea hag) -- an Orkney Island villager exclaims, "It's like living in a saga!" Actually, reading the book is akin to living in a half dozen simultaneous sagas, as Farmer once again sets forth a smorgasbord that mixes in a wealth of Norse, Celtic, Scottish, Irish, and Pictish lore as well as some British pagan and early Christian history. As with the previous books (The Sea of Trolls, rev. 11/04; The Land of the Silver Apples, rev. 7/07), it is readers' fondness for the characters that keeps us happily navigating through the muchness of material and nonstop plot. After sailing with Viking raiders, visiting Notland (home of the fin folk), settling the draugr problem (the how is likely to surprise readers), surviving a deadly storm, glimpsing Valhalla (not quite the paradise Thorgil has always thought), and rescuing bard Dragon Tongue's daughter Ethne from a plague-ridden monastery, Jack and Thorgil come to the end of their adventures. Farmer provides a conclusion that is both ambiguous and satisfying, but definitely all human -- the ideal culmination of this acclaimed fantasy trilogy. Copyright 2009 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2009 September #1
Jack, Thorgil and the Bard are off on a new quest in this immensely satisfying conclusion of the trilogy that began with The Sea of Trolls (2004) and continued in The Land of the Silver Apples (2007). This time it's not a kidnapping that sets the stage but a draugr, an undead spirit seeking revenge and threatening Jack's world. To stop her, the three head off to Notland, realm of the fin folk. It's a wondrous tale of hobgoblins, mermaids and sea hags, Saxons and Northmen, old gods and young bards, thoroughly steeping readers in Norse mythology. It's also a long, beautifully written tale, expertly weaving together several story lines and informing readers new to the series of crucial plot points from the previous volumes. Even the appendix is fun, offering additional information and a link to a site where a Celtic war trumpet can be heard. Readers may well suspect--and hope--that a new series of Jack's tales may be in the offing. (Fantasy. 10-14) Copyright Kirkus 2009 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2009 September #4

This final chapter of the trilogy begun in The Sea of Trolls gathers steam slowly, but has the same enchanting quirkiness of its predecessors. Jack, the apprentice bard, is now 14 and living with Thorgil, the surly shield maiden, and their mentor, the Bard, in his native village after the scarring experiences of their previous adventure. When a draugr, the undead spirit of a wronged mermaid, is roused by the village priest's mystical bell, her need for justice sends Jack and his friends beyond Saxon lands to Notland, the kingdom of the fin folk, as they seek a way to lay the draugr to rest. Farmer's prose flows easily and the nuggets of action are as lively and unexpected as ever. But Jack is confronting a knottier lesson than before: the mystery of how joy and sorrow intertwine. While the meditative pace this story's complexity calls for replaces the narrative drive of the earlier books, it brings other pleasures and creates a satisfying close for the series--if indeed this is the end. Ages 10-14. (Oct.)

[Page 65]. Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

School Library Journal Reviews 2009 October

Gr 5-9--This concluding volume of Farmer's trilogy opens with a storm that brings new adventures and challenges for apprentice bard Jack, who is now 14. A destructive, restless spirit has been drawn to his village by the presence of a magical bell, and Jack, his friend Thorgil, and the Bard set out on a journey to the magic Notland, home of the mermaids, in order to set the spirit to rest. As in the previous books, there are challenges and enemies aplenty, and readers will enjoy revisiting characters from those titles, including Jack's changeling sister. The conclusion brings the characters to a new understanding of their own pasts and strengths. Jack and Thorgil's often-rocky relationship gives humor and humanity to both characters, and the Bard continues to be enticingly magical. As always, Farmer excels at the details that bring a magical world to life, from food to smells to travel inconveniences, and her merfolk are inhuman and powerful. Readers who appreciate strong fantasy with mythic roots will find this an intriguing read.--Beth L. Meister, Milwaukee Jewish Day School, WI

[Page 126]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

VOYA Reviews 2009 December
Jack is back in this third volume of the Sea of Trolls trilogy, still learning how to be a bard with his friend/annoyance Thorgil still being a Northlander--rude, inconsiderate and obnoxious. A draugr,or an evil spirit, has attacked Jack's countryside, and he and the bard must calm the beast. The book is filled with hobgoons, mermaids, trolls, Northern wild men, dwarves, and spirits. Thorgil is still looking for acceptance from her people, because she is not a true shield warrior with a wounded hand. The twist ending seems forced, but it will satisfy younger readers What this reviewer loved about the first two books in the series does not come through in this volume. The intertwined tales of Christianity, Saxons, and Picts are still there but not as vividly or well drawn. Some dialogue stands out as stilted--would Jack really cry, "Oh, my dear! My love!" when Thorgil might be hurt? An appendix and list of sources is included. Nevertheless, if the first two books were a hit, then readers will be clamoring for the conclusion.--Sarah Hill 3Q 3P M Copyright 2009 Voya Reviews.