In a foggy archipelago called the City of Islands, magic drifts on the air as songs. Twelve-year old Mara has always been fascinated by the spell-songs and dreams of becoming a great mage. Orphaned as a little girl, Mara was taken in by a bone-mage called Bindy. But when Bindy was killed by a rival, Mara lost both her home and her best chance to learn magic.
Now Mara is a servant for the powerful Lady of the Tides. She earns her keep by diving in the murky ocean, searching for magical treasures that might please the Lady. Mara still yearns to learn magic, but it’s hard for a poor, orphaned servant to dream when the path to becoming a mage is open to only an elite few.
Then one day, while diving for the Lady, Mara finds the skeletons of strange hybrid creatures: a lizard with wings, a horse with horns, and many more, the likes of which have not existed in the city for centuries. The entire trove of bones is humming with a powerful spell-song.
Mara is convinced the bones will earn her the opportunity to study magic. But rather than rewarding her discovery, the Lady gives Mara a challenge: to learn where the magical bones came from by sneaking into the Winter Blade, an island fortress ruled by the very same sorcerer who killed Bindy years ago.
What Mara finds will reveal chilling truths about her own past, as well as secrets about the history of her beloved city that are more dangerous--and magical--than she had ever imagined.
Anne Ursu, author of The Real Boy
"City of Islands is a richly imagined, thoroughly engrossing adventure featuring terrible secrets hiding in murky depths, power-hungry mages battling over ancient magic, and, best of all, one brave girl with the vision and heart to set things right. I loved this book."
"Wallace builds intrigue, layer by layer, page by page, until readers are glued to each word right up to the magnificent end. The captivating worldbuilding is supported by a sturdy third-person narrative that’s filled with people of various skin tones, personalities, and abilities who find a way to work together to right the wrongs of corruption. Inspiration and excitement from beginning to end."
"Magic in this gritty world is fueled by music, and Wallace brings it all to life with a sense of wonder. As Mara discovers the magic in herself, she faces betrayal, truths, and a journey that necessitates bravery.... This is an exciting adventure with dazzling characters, magic, mystery, and self-discovery."
Claire Fayers, author of The Voyage to Magical North
"A thrilling, magical adventure, full of surprises."
"Wallace’s world offers dreamlike imagery, a fresh concept, and a haunting atmosphere."
Sally Pla, author of The Someday Birds
"City of Islands churns with mystery and adventure, friendship and betrayal. I fell right under its singing-spell, and didn’t want to leave."
School Library Journal
"Wallace creates an intriguing world. Mara's skills as a swimmer and diver as well as a magic user make her an unusual, appealing protagonist. The racial and ethnic diversity within this seagoing nation, as well as its powerful female leaders and acceptance of same-gender marriages, make for a welcome reboot of the standard sword-and-sorcery setting. An adventurous story that will appeal to middle school fantasy readers."
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"This is a setting rich in mythology and secrets, and Wallace deftly balances world building with a twisting, surprising plot; the particulars of the specific types of magic and the backstories that supposedly led to them are especially intriguing."
MarcyKate Connolly, New York Times Bestselling author
“A unique, beautifully crafted adventure spun with just the right amounts of darkness and sparkle.”