Long ago, the founders, aquatic beings with blue-green scales and powerful magic, raised stone from the sea and sang the City of Islands into being. But when the founders disappeared, the most powerful of their song-spells vanished with them. Now, although many of the songs are still remembered, the most ancient and complex have been lost to time.
Mara has always dreamed of mastering spell-songs and learning to become a mage. But after the death of not just her parents, but also of the mage Bindy, who took her in after they died, that dream seems unlikely. Instead, the Lady of the Tides employs her to dive in the ocean around the City of Islands to find artifacts from the time of the founders. She rarely discovers anything of interest, but her earnings are enough to keep her from the streets.
One day, Mara discovers a deposit of bones on the ocean floor which seem to be left over from the time of the founders and sing with spell-song. And when she shows them to the Lady of the Tides, it seems that they can be traced back to one person—the same mage who killed Bindy two years before.
As Mara delves deeper into secrets which someone powerful has done quite a lot to hide, she finds herself caught up in something much bigger than just the mysterious bones. And she might be the only one who knows enough to stop the mastermind behind it before it’s too late.
City of Islands was an engrossing book. Kali Wallace expertly wielded the details of the world and the spell-songs, creating a setting which felt absolutely real, and an unusual type of magic which is now one of my favorites. Mara was a heroine with her own desires and personality, and the plot surprised me at every turn, two things I always love in a story. The whole book felt completely unique, to the point that when I tried to come up with a similar book, I couldn’t! I would highly recommend City of Islands to lovers of multilayered worlds and complex plots ages ten and up.