City of Islands by Kali Wallace
Summary: In a foggy archipelago called the City of Islands, magic drifts on the air as songs. Twelve-year-old Mara has always been fascinated by the spell-songs and dreams of becoming a great mage. Orphaned as a little girl, Mara was taken in by a bone-mage called Bindy. But when Bindy was killed by a rival, Mara lost both her home and her best chance to learn magic. Now Mara is a servant for the powerful Lady of the Tides. She earns her keep by diving in the murky ocean, searching for magical treasures that might please the Lady. Mara still yearns to learn magic, but it’s hard for a poor, orphaned servant to dream when the path to becoming a mage is open to only an elite few. Then one day, while diving for the Lady, Mara finds the skeletons of strange hybrid creatures: a lizard with wings, a horse with horns, and many more, the likes of which have not existed in the city for centuries. The entire trove of bones is humming with a powerful spell-song. Mara is convinced the bones will earn her the opportunity to study magic. But rather than rewarding her discovery, the Lady gives Mara a challenge: to learn where the magical bones came from by sneaking into the Winter Blade, an island fortress ruled by the very same sorcerer who killed Bindy years ago. What Mara finds will reveal chilling truths about her own past, as well as secrets about the history of her beloved city that are more dangerous–and magical–than she had ever imagined.
Kali Wallace creates a stunning and unusual world in this fantasy that is at once bound up in myth and legend and grounded in the gritty reality of fish markets and hardscrabble village life. Mara is a brave, determined, and ultimately thoughtful heroine who both yearns for and fears magic, and is willing to ask difficult questions about the responsibilities that come with power. The people that she cares about – loyal Fish Hook, caring Izzy, even the stately and distant Lady of the Tides – are fully drawn characters, some with their own surprisingly motivations. Underlying each of Mara’s discoveries is the yearning for family and grief for the loss of her parents and Bindy, the bone mage who took her in as a child. In uncovering secrets about the long-gone founders of the City of Islands, she also uncovers parts of her own past she might have preferred to stay hidden, and must come to understand a new definition of family.
CITY OF ISLANDS is out now.