Hi all, time for something a little different – but not too different!
I was very kindly given a copy of Journey to Rainbow Island to review. It’s a book by Christie Hsiao that has also been turned into a game that you can play on Facebook, Android or iPhone for free.
So, I’ve not done a book review in a long time so here goes!
Journey to Rainbow Island is a Fantasy Story aimed at kids that are probably 6-10, so I’m not exactly the target audience, but I’ll try my best here!
Rainbow Island is a land of peace, love and harmony. There lives a girl called Yu-Ning with her friends, teachers and magical creatures.
One day, an evil warlock summons a dragon to attack Rainbow Island and steal the precious crystals that give Rainbow Island its rainbow. During this time, Yu-Ning’s best friend Romeo is captured. Yu-Ning learns that it is her destiny to save him and slay the dragon. She sets off on an adventure to do just that.
Before going into the plot – I’d like to mention that this book is illustrated, and the illustrations are really nice and suit the book really well. There’s usually one for each main character or major event. Have a look at the Character Page here for some of the illustrations of the characters that appear.
One of my favourite characters is Suparna – based on the mythical bird also known as Sparna or Garuda. Why? He’s a massive Rainbow Bird, and that’s pretty cool.
And well, I’ve played Shin Megami Tensei games before, and Suparna/Sparna/Garuda is often seen in those games.
Anyway, the actual book. I usually quite enjoy books set in Fantasy universes with dragons and stuff, even if they are for a younger audience (heck, one of my favourite book series is Finn Family Moomintroll which is usually in the 7-9 year-old section at Waterstones).
This book however, although it was not out-right bad, I can’t really call it more than “OK”.
The message throughout the book is “love will show the way, all problems can be solved if you believe” which is a lovely message. It is laid on rather thick. However, Yu-Ning’s love and belief is so strong and unwavering that you never felt that she was in any true danger. I’m not saying I wanted harm to come to her, just maybe I would have liked a solution to a problem to be more than “I will get everyone here to believe in the light inside them to overcome the darkness!”. I would have liked to be left wondering, even for a short time.
The plot works very much like the plot of an old game (and even some current games). I could easily imagine controlling Yu-Ning from a top-down perspective, talking to people in a village, finding out what objective is (for example: find Balthazar) and then go to the place and solve the problem (the lift to see Balthazar is out of order) and it would be rather cool. I imagine a fun little game could be made on RPG Maker that follows this story.
I’m afraid that the plots of many of these kind of games – although they’re fine, they’re predictable. And although we might not be able to guess where Yu-Ning may journey to, it’s pretty obvious that when she gets there she will wipe out the injustice being done, and move on.
The writing itself is not bad. The descriptions of the environments and characters are quite vivid, and they do bring Rainbow Island and all the other locations to life. Even some of my favourite authors struggle with describing a character or location in a way that most people’s vision of them is consistent. However, I was never really able to identify with or fall in love with any particular character. I felt they lacked a certain depth for me to really care. Non of them were unlikable-but-supposed-to-be-likable which is a good thing! You’d be surprised at the amount of characters (especially in games) that I’m supposed to feel deeply for, or are supposed to be endearing, but really they’re just annoying. Thankfully, the author avoided that!
Overall – I accept that I’m not really the target audience here, so it probably did dampen my views of this book. I found the plot and characters to be mediocre, but the writing and illustrations to be quite good. It’s made quite clear at the end (I won’t spoil it) that there is ever potential for a sequel – I honestly think it would be well delivered as a game that focuses on solving puzzles.