Book Title: The Secrets of Islayne
Is the book a standalone? Yes
Author: Kari Lynn West
Genre: YA Fantasy
Published: June 30, 2017
A boy who can restore forgotten moments from the past unearths a secret that threatens his entire future.
For centuries, the island of Islayne has given certain residents the ability to revive other people’s memories. These gifted individuals are known as luminators, and sixteen-year-old Ronan Saunders desperately desires to join their illustrious ranks. As he struggles against the prejudice of the old, powerful families who have an iron grip on the trade, Ronan falls under the tutelage of a reclusive luminator, rumored to be insane.
Just when his long-desired future is within reach, Ronan and his three friends discover a deadly secret on the island. As they delve deeper into the mystery, what they find forces them to question their loyalties, doubt long-held beliefs, and wrestle with the dire consequences of revealing the truth. Ronan finds himself torn between everything he loves and the only future he’s ever wanted. The entire fate of the lumination trade hangs in the balance of his decision.
Memories are sacred. Memories are sacred. Memories are sacred. The words kept flitting around his mind like insistent flies—inconsequential, but no less annoying—as he steered the small motorboat toward the mouth of the cave. That mantra was the foundational tenet of lumination; it had no place on his nighttime journey. Luminators lived to bring memories back from the brink of extinction. Never to push them over the edge. It was unthinkable; it was impossible.
More fool them.
The boat coasted up to the shore. It was dark, but he’d come prepared. He retrieved the book, flashlight, and battery-powered standing lamps and carried them deep into the cave. He wound his way through seemingly endless passageways, hearing only the fall of his footsteps and the far-away drip of water on stone. Finally, he turned the last sharp corner of the twisting tunnel and stepped into a large cavern. The flashlight cast a narrow beam of light, pale and weak, into the dark expanse, as if at any moment it could be swallowed up by shadow. During the day, the chamber was beautiful. There was no daylight now.
He walked to a long, high bench in the middle of the stone floor and placed one lamp on either side. He took a moment to gaze down at the book in his hands and trace the strange markings on the leather cover. Even though Classical Gaelic wasn’t something they taught at the Academy, he’d slowly deciphered the text. For years, he struggled against the power of those translated words; it didn’t matter in the end though. In an instant, desperation and grief brought a vicious clarity to his life, and the knowledge burrowed deep within him blossomed into something vital and beautiful. Why should he serve the cause of memories when they’d only ever brought him despair? Better to break them to his will.
He glanced down at his watch. For a moment, Elise’s smiling face rose up in his memory. He recalled her barely contained excitement as she placed the watch in his hands, eager to see his reaction to the birthday present. He pushed the thought firmly away. This wasn’t the time.
They would be here any moment. He waited, relishing the perfect stillness all around him. It wouldn’t last much longer. Soon enough, screams would drive out the silence.
- What are the top three reasons why readers should consider reading The Secrets of Islayne this summer?
Oh man that’s a tough one! Because it’s my story, I happen to like quite a few features of The Secrets of Islayne. ☺ I’ll try to narrow it down to my three favorite elements:
- The magic: Long before I’d figured out any other part of this story, I knew I wanted to explore the idea of bringing someone’s memories back to life. I see memories as being such a vital part of a person’s humanity, so I was fascinated by the idea of a kind of magic that augments a human being’s recollection of their life.
- The friendships: Though Ronan is the main character, his three friends, Eli, Cassie, and Adele all factor heavily into this story. I’m fascinated by the idea of close-knit friends experiencing adventures together (one of the many reasons why I love Harry Potter and Buffy the Vampire Slayer). I loved exploring how these characters joked together, challenged one another, and stood by each other throughout their shared journey.
- The mystery: The novel is called The Secrets of Islayne, after all. Personally, I love some good intrigue. If you’re anything like me, I think you’ll really enjoy finding out what secrets this story holds, and why they’ll have such massive repercussions on Ronan and his friends.
- The Secrets of Islaynetells the story of Ronan Saunders’ transformative summer. Would you mind sharing a little about him? Also, if you could give him any advice what would you say?
Ronan Saunders wants to be a luminator more than anything in his life, but some on the island of Islayne are doing whatever they can to keep that from happening. He finally gets the chance to pursue his dream, but he stumbles upon a mystery that will force him to choose between the most important pieces of his life.
He’s single-minded, loyal to his friends, quick-witted, perplexed by a certain female character’s opinion of him, and deeply rooted to his home.
I would tell him to trust his instincts, not overthink it, and to not be so focused on the future that he misses out on the present.
- One of my favorite aspects of The Secrets of Islayne was the fact that it was told in several different POVs – Ronan, Eli, Cassie, Adele, and even Ben and Alister. What inspired you to incorporate all their voices? Which POV was the easiest to write? The hardest?
I wrote the story that way because that’s my favorite way to read stories. I like to get in the heads of as many characters as possible. Believe it or not, Cassie’s father, Alister, was the point of view that was easiest to write, though I feel very different than him. Ronan’s mentor, Ben, was the hardest voice to embody. It took a long time to figure out how his mind worked.
- The Secrets of Islaynedives into the world of luminators, something I haven’t seen done much in the YA books I’ve read. What inspired you to take on this type of supernatural power?
Years before I started writing this story, I watched a news story about a woman who could remember each moment of her life as clearly as if it had just happened to her. For months after I saw that news feature, I couldn’t stop thinking about what it would be like to remember your life that clearly. The concept was utterly fascinating to me (in part because I have a terrible memory). That was the starting point of my idea of luminators having the ability to revive others’ memories.
- How did the title The Secrets of Islayne come to be?
Originally, I’d titled the story The Luminator’s Choice. But that felt like a mouthful, and it didn’t communicate the themes of adventure and discovery. My husband would often remark on how the island plays such a central role in the story. So I decided to give Ronan’s home some credit as well as give the readers a taste of the mystery. Viola! The Secrets of Islayne.
- What’s one your favorite scene or line fromThe Secrets of Islayne? No spoilers please!
I love this piece of dialogue when Eli is talking about his parents. I think it captures both his wit and the tension between him and his relatives:
“Then it’s a good thing they sleep like the dead,” Eli said. “I think it’s the weight of ten generations of polite backstabbing and pretension. Must be bloody exhausting for them to carry that around all the time.”
- I loved the setting in this book! How did you go about creating it? Did it present any challenges?
I originally set this story on another made-up island in the Caribbean. While I was writing one of the early drafts, I watched a fantastic BBC series called Broadchurch set in a small town in the UK. With a rising sense of dread, I kept thinking about how much better-suited that kind of setting was for my novel than what I had planned. Eventually, I gave into my inner creative tyrant, scrapped most of that early draft, and transplanted what remained to a small made-up island off the coast of Scotland. It was very loosely based on the Outer Hebrides, so I did a lot of research, saved hundreds of pictures to my desktop, and dreamed of going to visit in-person (hopefully one day I will!). It was a lot of work to change the setting that far into the writing process, but it also made so much of the story fall into place (yet another way Islayne played a central role in the novel).
- List three fun facts about yourself.
This is hard because I’m used to including “I’m writing a novel” to this kind of list, but obviously you already know that…
- I do a lot of YouTube yoga
- I’m from a massive family with six siblings.
- I love stress-relieving coloring books.
- What’s up next for you book wise?
I’ve had a lot of people ask me about writing a sequel to The Secrets of Islayne. As much as I love that world and those characters, I’ve had a totally different story ruminating in my mind for a while now, so I’m going to tackle that one next.
It’s a little too early in the creative process for me to divulge many details about my next novel, but I will tell you that in this one, my main character is a girl. The novel is set in a real city in the US, but there will still be some magical elements and lots of fun.
- Is there anything else you would like to add?
Thanks so much to all my early readers who’ve shared their excitement for The Secrets of Islayne! And thank you, Lauren, for having me on your blog and for spreading the YA fantasy love ☺
Kari Lynn West writes contemporary YA fantasy—normally while drinking far too much coffee. She likes to create character-driven stories that are set in the real world with a twist, weaving fantastical elements into everyday life. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and two daughters.