The inspiration for this story comes from the real Arranmore Island, off the west coast of Ireland, which was home to Catherine Doyle’s grandparents. Her family has had a long association with the sea and she has skilfully woven her own memories into the tale of Fionn and his grandfather. Doyle has also used her fantastic storytelling skills to help her as she struggled to come to terms with ‘the long goodbye’ of losing her own grandfather to Alzheimer’s disease.
Fionn and his older sister, Tara, are sent to stay with their grandfather for the summer on Arranmore Island as their mother is ill, still mourning their father who was lost at sea. Neither wants to be there or to spend time with each other and there is a wonderful dynamic between them with spot-on sniping and sibling rivalry resulting in cracking dialogue and repartee. Add to the mix an eccentric grandparent who is slowly losing his mind, a tragic family history, a pain in the butt (to Fionn at least) sister’s boyfriend, strange inhabitants and a magical island and the book is bursting with excitement.
Grandfather Malachy is the Storm Keeper, chosen once in a generation, and he makes candles to store all the memories of the island, each of which can be brought back by lighting that candle. The author has wrapped the classic battle of good versus evil in a wonderful magical tale where the history of this battle, of the family and, most importantly for Fionn, of his father, who died before he was born, are gradually revealed through the memories in the candles.
The magical setting beautifully complements the touching story of Fionn, struggling to be strong as his grandfather declines. He has to overcome his overpowering fear of the sea – the element which took his father – to save his sister. He is a truly reluctant hero.
The book is recommended for readers aged 9+ and I’m sure they’ll find it magical, exciting, scary, funny and moving – everything you could wish for in an adventure story.
Reviewed by Jan Kershaw
Rating out of 10: 9
Distributed by: Bloomsbury Australia
Released: August 2018