Monday, June 1, 2020

Review and Interview: Inside the Sun by Alexis Marie Chute

The 8th Island Trilogy, Book Three
by Alexis Marie Chute
Young Adult Fantasy
384 pages

All worlds are dying, and it’s up to one broken and dysfunctional family from Earth—the Wellsleys—to save the day.

Cancer-ridden Ella celebrates her fifteenth birthday beneath an enchanted mountain, but it is what lies even farther below—the mysterious Star in the sea—that demands she grow up quickly. While Ella grapples with the sacrifice she must make and the lies she is forced to tell, her mother, Tessa, is hell-bent on protecting her.

Through bizarre encounters, love-sick Tessa realizes that she is not the lonely orphan she believes. Her husband, Arden, and father-in-law, Archie, are not the only ones with magical bloodlines. This revelation changes everything.

As Archie chooses to embody his unexpected ancestry, he learns that leading the charge in the ultimate battle against evil won’t be as easy as he thought. He’ll need his family—and the strange allies he has gained—by his side to give Ella enough time to set things right.

Can they defeat the unstoppable Millia sands—and another unexpected foe—before everything they hold dear is destroyed? Or will their adventure tear them apart for good? The finale to The 8th Island Trilogy will hold you spellbound until the final page, and long after.


Note: This is the third and last book in the series and does not do well as a standalone, since the tale and characters build on events from the other books.

In some ways, this book reminds me of A Wrinkle in Time as fourteen/fifteen-year-old Ella and her family try to defeat an evil, which is trying to take over the universe and has the objects needed to unlock doors to various worlds. Along the way, she learns to know a variety of imaginative creatures and predicaments, builds friendships and inspires the reader in her own way. Her family also plays a key role as they do anything they can to find a cure for her and support her in all ways.

 Ella is a strong heroine, but not in the physical sense. She suffers from cancer and hits this book a little bit worn from the continual pain and fight. Thanks to an earlier event, which has impeded her voice (and not in a way you could simply guess), she uses sign-language and art to portray her thoughts. These illustrations are included in the book, which not only give a lovely, extra glance into Ella but also gain bonus points because...well, even older audiences appreciate illustrations.

Unlike strong heroines in many young adult books, Ella doesn't go on her journey alone. She might have the ability to stop the evil, but it's not something she can do on her own. Some support is in the small things, while from others, it is much more direct. But this is important also because Ella is fighting her own, inner-battles, which threaten to overtake her at times. All of this makes her easy to root for and keeps the tension and emotions high.

This series is written in several POVs. While Ella is in first person, the others are written a little more detached in third. I'm not a huge fan of this form of writing, but it isn't enough to make me dislike a book or mark it down. Although, I do find that it kept Tessa and the other characters an arm's length away in comparison to Ella. And in this tale, Tessa's story is not one to be overlooked as she drives a strong sub-plot.

Tessa learns quite a bit about does the rest of Ella's these pages. Not only that, but she's involved in a bit of a love triangle between her husband and another man. While interesting, I found this end a bit pulled out at times. But then, this book (like the others) does switch between fast and slow gear. For an action girl like me, who enjoys character depth but not when it draws out, some of these scenes had me skipping a paragraph or two. And there were tiny moments, where I wanted to put the book aside and do something else for a bit.

Still, this is a wonderful ending to an interesting series and wraps up almost everything nicely and that while keeping the emotions and tension high. Ella and her family are hard not to fever for as they hit the final scenes. I found this a lovely novel, especially for the lower end of the young adult audience. Fans of science fiction, with characters who dig in, and story-telling, which does hold action but draws back every now and then to catch its breath for a calmer pause, are sure to enjoy this one. And beware because the plot is quite original and takes very unexpected twists.

A few questions for Alexis Marie Chute!

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I always knew I was destined to be an artist of many forms. When I was in elementary school, I set up an art studio in my family’s basement and painted and wrote. It was all romantic notions of writing and artmaking, but it was innate and natural for me from as young as I can remember. I began writing my first novel while I was in junior high school. I still vividly remember that story.
What was the inspiration for The 8th Island trilogy?
I am inspired by the idea of resiliency. I’ve witnessed it in others and myself. It’s the desire to get out of bed every morning and live, no matter what we have been through. That ‘what’ for me was the death of one of my children. That event taught me to be strong and brave. It taught me to fight. That is what The 8th Island Trilogy is all about: how far will we go to protect those we love? To the end of the world—and beyond to other worlds as well? It is book series about love and courage, even when we do not feel courageous.
What sort of surprises await us in book three, Inside the Sun?
The characters in the story are full of secrets. Some of them do not realize the power that lies dormant inside of them. The mystery of the 8th island came to fruition in book two—Below the Moon—but that is only the beginning. There are many adventurous plot twists and character epiphanies in Inside the Sun. The ending is truly universal and yet deeply personal. I can’t wait for readers to experience the conclusion. Inside the Sun—the whole trilogy—makes us feel, reminds us that we are alive and that we are all connected. Beyond that, I can say no more!!
How has your writing life and launching Inside the Sun changed in light of the COVID-19 pandemic?
Everything has changed. First, there is the stress that is causing me to write more poetry than any other form of writing. I find poetry wonderful to express abstract feelings, to seek to unearth how I’m coping (or not), to capture the essence of my present experience.
I’m also blogging much more than I ever have. I am posting about Authors Helping Authors and ways people can help their indie author friends, for example. I’ve even been writing creative curriculum I can use when teaching my kids. That’s never something I had imagined myself doing. This is a time where we must support each other however we can.
Launching Inside the Sun has been a new ballgame. I love meeting with readers in person, so I’m finding other creative and meaningful ways to connect. I do feel that The 8th Island trilogy is perfectly timed for the COVID-19 pandemic. The story is about people coming together to fight for what they believe, finding the bravery they need inside themselves in hard times. It’s a story I’m sure we can all relate to, and one that will inspire us in our own challenging times.
What advice do you have for aspiring young novelists?
Time deadlines work wonders for getting words on paper. I wrote the first draft of Above the Star, book one in The 8th Island Trilogy, during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). The goal with NaNoWriMo is to pen a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. Since then I have learned to be disciplined on my own, but that was a great start.
My other advice is to separate the creative writing stage from editing. Write first, edit later. Plus, never feel like you are not ready to write the book that is burning inside of you. You’ll never be ready, so start now, get it done, and continue to write. Writing is a journey and a passion. Always learn and grow.

And here she is...

Alexis Marie Chute is an award-winning author, artist, photographer, art curator, filmmaker, and public speaker. She has received over 40 noteworthy distinctions for her visual and literary work.
Chute’s bestselling memoir, Expecting Sunshine: A Journey of Grief, Healing and Pregnancy After Loss, was a top Kirkus title of 2017 and received other literary distinctions. The memoir is accompanied by a feature documentary film which has screened internationally.
Her award-winning, bestselling fantasy series,The 8th Island Trilogy, includes Above the StarBelow the Moon, and, most recently, Inside the Sun. 

Find out more about Alexis Marie Chute...
Twitter: @_Alexis_Marie
Facebook: Alexis Marie Chute, Art, Photograph and Creative Writing
Instagram: @alexismariechute
YouTube: AlexisMarieChute
LinkedIn: Alexis Marie Chute
Pinterest: AlexisMarieArt

Other important links:
General Alexis Marie Chute website
Alexis Marie Chute on Bookbub

No comments: