In Khya’s world, every breath is a battle.
On the isolated desert island of Shiara, dying young is inevitable. The clan comes before self, and protecting her home means Khya is a warrior above all else.
But when following the clan and obeying their leaders could cost her brother his life, Khya’s home becomes a deadly trap. The only person who can help is Tessen, her lifelong rival and the boy who challenges her at every turn. The council she hoped to join has betrayed her, and their secrets, hundreds of years deep, reach around a world she’s never seen.
To save her brother’s life and her island home, her only choice is to trust Tessen, turn against her clan, and go on the run—a betrayal and a death sentence.
Starred Kirkus Review
"Readers won’t be able to put this book down, as the excitement begins from the first page and only grows from there. Cameron expertly blends worldbuilding and intriguing characters with page-turning action scenes and a story that builds in tension and complexity. The novel’s commitment to diversity adds new dimensions to the story, as the cast is entirely nonwhite, and the clan recognizes nonbinary gender identities and complex sexual orientations. The lexicon of unique terms and concepts may be intimidating to some readers, but the vocabulary adds fantastic texture to the world without distracting from the plot. This is rare gem of a book that has a lot to offer readers, including magic, action, and intrigue on the edge of a knife.
A fresh, original series starter, bolstered by a dynamic protagonist and a welcome sense of depth."
Erica Cameron's ISLAND OF EXILES is a remarkable achievement: a fantasy world so richly imagined, so finely detailed, and so strikingly original, even the most incredible elements feel totally real. The energy of the desosa will tingle along your skin as you race through this amazing book, and at journey's end, you'll long for the sequel so you can immerse yourself once more in the mysteries of Itagami!
—Joshua David Bellin, author of the Survival Colony series
I was consumed by the savage mysteries of Cameron's harsh and haunting fantasy world. A story of love and loss as searing as the desert heat."
—Diana Peterfreund, author of For Darkness Shows the Stars
A beautifully wrought fantasy filled with magic, rebellion, and romance, plus a strong, butt-kicking heroine to root for!
—Lea Nolan, USA Today Bestselling author of Conjure, Allure, and Illusion
Harrowing and heartfelt. The intricately-realized world of ISLAND OF EXILES crackles with harsh magic and gripping suspense.
—Alex Kahler, author of The Immortal Circus series
ISLAND OF EXILES has everything I've been looking for in a fantasy--powerful characters, magical powers that make me itch with envy, and a spoken language that is as intrinsic to the story as it is beautiful.
—Amber Lough, author of The Fire Wish and The Blind Wish
Island of Exiles is imaginative, bold, and as electrifying as a Shiara storm.
—Lori Lee, author of Gates of Thread and Stone and The Infinite
5 stars: "I got the chance to read an early version of this book, and it absolutely blew me away! I can't wait for the release date so I can reread it - and so I can have other people to fangirl with!!"
— Brett Jonas, BrettJonas.com
4 stars: "Island of Exiles is a rich and epic fantasy, incredibly detailed with superb world building. I am picky about what fantasy novels I read, but this one far surpassed all my expectations and I am now eagerly awaiting book two in the series."
— Madison, Madison's Library
5 stars: "The story is engaging and satisfying with high adventure, subtle yet steamy romance, and beautiful, diverse relationships. Key to this book are the well-developed characters. They give you a glimpse into this world so different from ours by feeling the beats of the story alongside the characters and learning about their society and place in it. Altogether, it's really good read."
— Hannah Brauning, Goodreads Reviewer
4 stars: "The author didn't just create a place, or a group of people, she created a whole world, complete with customs, language, traditions, and so much more. It's basically the definition of rich world building."
— Shannon, It Starts at Midnight
5 stars: "Island Of Exiles is most definitely already one of my reading highlights in 2017! I can recommend this book to everyone, who enjoys a thrilling story with heaps of action, great characters and a touch of a teasing love story between the lines."
— Jenny, Book Treasures Between Wallabies and Palm Trees
4 stars: "The way that Erica Cameron creates a world that takes you away from the one you are in and makes you feel like you are a part of the one she is writing about is quite an accomplishment. I have never felt so involved in a story while reading before."
— Melanie, Goodreads Reviewer
I breathe the briny air and try to consider the options objectively. As objectively as I ever can when my brother is involved.
Yorri was the first person to tell me that one day I’d be kaigo, just like our blood-parents, serving the Miriseh and earning high honors in Ryogo. I’d flicked him on the shoulder and said “Of course I will be,” but his faith had been what convinced me I was right.
Yorri gets so excited he stumbles over his own words when he’s explaining how he solved some new, impossible puzzle. He devotes himself with frightening fervor to anything that ensnares his arrow-quick mind, but sometimes needs reminding that the rest of the world exists.
Forget objectivity. It’s worth the risk.
I am going to keep him safe, just like I always have.
“You’re going to be late for the vigil if you stand here staring into nothing for much longer, Khya.”
I tense, keeping my eyes on the angry, dark, blue white-capped waves. I’d heard the footsteps approaching, but several people had come and gone already and left me alone.
Tessen, however, never was able to keep his thoughts inside his head.
“I won’t be late.” I answer without looking at him until he moves into my peripheral vision.
He leans against the wall to the left of me, his forearms crossed on the ledge and his head tilted up. With his arms folded on the ledge and his body held slightly away from the wall, I can make out the lines of muscle under layers of cloth, all of it hard-earned—though I probably won’t ever admit that to him. I don’t look directly at him, but I turn my head enough to get a better look at his face.
He’s taller than me, so looking down on him like this is strange. Seeing him without the hood and atakafu we always wear on duty is stranger. I don’t think I’ve seen his whole face since he became nyshin over a year ago.
His thick eyebrows sit low over his deep-set eyes and the line of his nose is straight, because somehow he was always quick enough in training to avoid all but the most glancing blows to his face. The setting sun highlights the red in his terra-cotta skin and makes his oddly pale eyes flash. Usually they’re limestone gray, but now they’re paler than ever and gleaming almost as bright as the sunlight off the ocean.
“Shouldn’t you be off training? Or guarding something?” I ask before he speaks.
“I am.” He smirks at me. “I’m guarding the mad nyshin girl who’s decided to perch on the walls and imitate a mykyn bird.”
“I’m not planning on attempting flight.” I wave my hand at him, trying to brush him off. “You can go, Nyshin-ten.”
His lips purse; I hide a smile. It was delightful discovering exactly how annoyed he got when I called him by his class and rank instead of his name. The flash of aggravation disappears quickly, replaced by his more usual sardonic smile. “Should I guess what has you lost in your own head the night of a vigil?”
“No. I don’t have that much time.”
“Then I won’t guess. Only your brother puts that look on your face.”
I look at him, expecting to see mockery in his eyes. There isn’t any. He looks almost…serious?
“You’re worried about his herynshi. Unless he’s in trouble again? It’s been a while. He’s overdue.”
“It’s been a while because he doesn’t have to deal with people who point out his every mistake anymore. Like you.” Gritting my teeth, I bend to brace my hand on the ledge and jump down to where Tessen stands. At six feet, he’s only an inch or two taller than me. Our eyes are nearly level when I square off against him. “You’re one of the reasons he ever got in trouble in the first place.”
“And you spent years trying to make him invisible.” Tessen’s lips thin, and the muscles in his jaw clench for a moment. “Even before you found your wards, you shielded him from everything. What he can do now that you’re not there to monitor his every move should be all the proof you need.”
“He would have died if I hadn’t protected him.” Nothing will ever convince me it was wrong to keep him alive. “You can’t seriously be suggesting I should have let that happen?”
“No, that isn’t— You don’t even know what he’s capable of! How long has it been since you’ve seen him fight? It’s been—” He steps back, his lips pressed tight and his hands held away from his weapons. “Bellows, Khya. I didn’t come here to fight with you. This isn’t how this was supposed to go.”
I blink. “What?” Tessen backing away from an argument? This has to be a trick. “How what was supposed to go?”
He shakes his head, a small smile quirking up the corners of his mouth. “I only came to ask if you’d dance with me tonight at the celebration.”
He can’t be serious…but there’s not a single sign that he isn’t being sincere.
I drop my gaze to hide the confusion that has to show on my face. My focus catches on the pendant gleaming against the undyed cloth of his tunic—a two-inch iron disc etched with crossed zeeka swords. Blood and rot, I hate seeing that around his neck. The zeeka is the symbol of the kaigo; the pendant is a symbol of their students.
Tessen is wearing the kaigo-sei pendant that should have been mine.
Out of the whole clan, the Miriseh and the kaigo only choose one nyshin-ten per year. His blood-mother, Neeva, is on the kaigo council. Being named a kaigo-sei isn’t a guarantee of advancement, but it is a sign that the leaders of the clan are keeping an eye on you. The kaigo-sei are given extra training and have to face additional tests of magic, skill, and leadership. Not every nyshin named a kaigo-sei student becomes a council member, but no one who isn’t a kaigo-sei will ever become one. I can still earn one—and I will, sooner rather than later—but it seems like they’re already grooming Tessen to take Kaigo Neeva’s place one day.
Rot take him, it was supposed to be me.
Swallowing the fruitless envy building in my chest, I raise my eyes to meet Tessen’s again. “I don’t make promises I don’t intend to keep.”
“But that’s not a no, so I’ll ask again tonight.” He smiles, inclines his head, and then walks away whistling. I hate that sound, and I’m almost positive he knows that.
Itagamin Glossary of Terms
Ahdo – Second class of the island
Ahkiyu – A longbow
Ahuri – A fruit of the desert cactus that is eaten and used to make wine
Anto – The style of dagger used on Shiara
Atakafu – headscarf word in Itagami as protection from the desert winds
Bikyo-ko – the armory and the barracks for the two councils within Itagami
Byka – A caffeinated bean given to those on long missions to help them stay awake
Denhitra – Clan that lives in the southern mountain range on Shiara
Desosa – The ambient elemental energy of the world
Doseiku – An Itagamin clan member under sixteen who hasn't faced the herynshi yet
Ebet – The sex designation for those neither male nor female
Gasuren – A sugar-like sweetener extracted from the desert plant of the same name
Gensu – A woman's monthly menstruation
Herynshi – The trial undergone by all Itagamin citizens the moon of their sixteenth birthday
Imaku – The black island off the northern coast of Shiara
Isagysu – A formal greeting of respect and deference
Kaigo – The council that serves directly under the Miriseh
Kaigo-sei – The candidates chosen from the nyshin as potential future kaigo councilmembers
Kamidi – A large lizard with venomous spit
Khai – A relationship chosen specifically to produce children
Kujuko – The empty realm between our world and the afterlife
Kyiwa – The run of mountains and cliffs that border the eastern coast of Shiara
Miriseh – The immortals who lead Itagami
Mykyn – A large bird with sharp teeth and vicious claws
Niora – A mountain lion
Nyska – One of the tallest shrubs on the island, which bears pods that can be dried and used to make grain; the plant itself is also used to make cloth, bowstrings, paper, and other useful items
Nyshin – The highest class of citizens within Itagami
Patsu – A lacrosse-like game played on teams with an iron pole that is bladed on one end
Pira – Vicious, sharp-toothed fish
Ryogo – The mainland where Varan and the others came from
Sagen sy Itagami – The easternmost city that is built into the largest mesa on the island; the name literally translates to “desert plateau of the northern gods”
Saishigi – The last rites for citizens of Sagen sy Itagami
Shiara – What those from Itagami call the island itself
Suesutu – The pass southwest of Itagami between the larger of the Kyiwa Mountains
Sukhai – A bondmate/lover
Sumai – A deep bond/partnership/love; can be anywhere between entirely platonic or very sexual
Suraki – A weapon with a blade on one end, a weighted, sometimes spiked ball on the other, and a four-foot chain connecting the two
Surnat – A date-like fruit that grows on low bushes on the island
Teegra – A large, scaled cat
Tokiansu – The fighter's dance
Tsimo – Westernmost clan on Shiara
Tudo – A long, curved, narrow sword
Ushimo – Someone who is asexual or falls on the asexual spectrum
Yonin – Lowest class of Itagami
Yajitu – A flat iron recurved bow with slicing blades affixed to the exterior surface
Yugadai – The system of khai bonds the Rohko have used to enhance the strength of their clan
Zeeka – A slightly curved short sword with a narrow blade
Zekiyu – A short bow
Zon – A district or zone within Itagami
Ranks of Sagen sy Itagami
Highest rank listed first
Magic of Sagen sy Itagami
Soyiji Mages – Elemental Manipulation
Ishiji – Stone Mage – Ability to reform, lighten, move, and meld stone
Ryiji – Earth Mage – Affinity for plants and soil that helps these plants grow in the desert
Kyshiji – Water Mage – Ability to find, clean, and sometimes manipulate water
Myiji – Weather Mage – Extremely rare ability that can manipulate wind and detect or, sometimes, call up storms
Desosa Mages – Energy Manipulation
Dyuniji – Kinetic Mage – Ability to use their own kinetic energy, or sometimes someone else’s (for example, blows landed during battle) to augment their own strength
Zoikyo – Augmenter – Ability to boost other people's powers by funneling desosa to them
Hishingu – Healer – Ability to use the desosa to heal themselves and others
Sykina – Ability to use their own energy and the universal desosa to shield themselves from other magic
Fykina – Ability to shield themselves and others from both magic and the physical world
Kasaiji – Fire Mage – Ability to use the desosa to create sparks and/or fire
Ratoiji – Lightning Mage – Ability to use the desosa to create lightning
Okajin Mages – Enhanced Humanity
Kyneeda – Enhanced strength, stamina, and endurance
Ryacho – Enhanced speed and ability
Kynacho – Enhanced speed, ability, strength, stamina, and endurance
Uniku – Enhancement of a single sense, usually either vision or hearing
Oraku – Enhancement of three senses: sight, smell, and hearing
Basaku – Enhancement of all senses, plus the ability to sense magic, and, rarely, the impact emotions have on the desosa
Shinte-kina Mages – Psychic Abilities
Rikinhisu – Telekinesis – Ability to move objects or people without touching them
Rusosa – Mental Manipulation – An uncommon ability to create, among other things, illusions in other people’s minds
Akuringu – Scrying – Ability to use a reflective surface to see across great distances or, rarely, a short period of time into the past or future
Curbing curiosities, an interview on Bibliobibuli YA
An interview with Heather Eagar on My Trending Stories
An interview on Adventures in YA Publishing
Series secrets on YA Series Insiders
Romance, Sexuality, and Fantasy - an essay on Fresh Fiction
Five Reasons to Read Island of Exiles on Fine Print
A Multi-part Review of Island of Exiles by Alexa on Verbosity Reviews