Snow Island: Chronicles of a Wererabbit was written by M.Y. Zeman and is due for release later this month. It is the third instalment of the series, following after Snowball: Chronicles of a Wererabbit (2015) and Snow Bunny: Chronicles of a Wererabbit (2016). Although Zeman does try to bring new readers up to speed with her early chapters, I’d advise reading these books in order if you want to have a full grasp on what’s going on.
Snow and her family are on holiday in Florida when a fortune teller gives her a terrible prediction. Not only do the fates say that she isn’t going to remain happily with Josh, but her very existence has caused a ripple in causality. As John cheated death by saving her as a baby, now someone close to her is sure to lose their own to compensate.
Although shaken by this, Snow is forced to quickly push it to the back of her mind as Josh begins to recover some of his lost memories. His dreams lead them to a mysterious island which has been converted into a macabre holiday resort by persons unknown. On the island, all manner of extinct and mythological creatures roam free. Unfortunately, they are only there to provide sport for big game hunters.
Snow and her family know that they need to do something to shut the resort down, however it will not be easy. Not only are the hunters armed, but many of the creatures are savage and will devour them on sight. It will be the most dangerous mission that Snow has ever undertaken and could certainly be the one to prove the fortune teller’s prediction right…
While the previous instalments of the series were quite slow burning, Snow Island is a lot faster to find its feet. After only a few chapters, Snow and her family (John, Edgar, Josh, David and Charlene) set off to the island. From this point on, the novel is incredibly fast paced and filled with action. The island in question, as you may have gathered from the blurb, takes the form of a cross between Jurassic Park and The Most Dangerous Game. Really, it’s a place where the possibilities are endless and Zeman’s biggest strength is the creative way in which she utilises this.
While mythological creatures have been referenced in the series before, this is the first time that Snow has met anything beyond vampires and werewolves first hand. Throughout the story, she meets many beautiful monsters. These range from favourites like unicorns, to more unusual gaffs like dropbears, to creatures of Zeman’s own creation (my favourite being the terrifying efeet). This setting really is the book’s strongest aspect as it allows for a lot of exciting sequences, and kept me turning the pages to see what would happen next. If you’re a fan of fantastic beasts, this is certainly a novel for you.
Snow Island also focused on a couple of serious themes. Its main message is one that has been touched upon in earlier books, concerning our shared responsibility to protect endangered species. In particular, the novel looks at the evils of big game hunting and poaching animals for parts, as well as the weak arguments that people use to justify these things. I feel I should probably note here that the novel doesn’t sugar coat these themes at all. In fact, this book is rather brutal in places when it shows hunters destroying beautiful creatures just to take trophies. On the flip side many of these hunters also meet their ends in equally grizzly ways, often finding themselves taken down by the creatures that they are trying to slay.
Because of how graphic these scenes can be, I’m really not sure who to suggest as a target audience for these books any more. Over the course of this series, the novels have become steadily more mature and I think it now has reached a stage where some parts may be distressing to younger readers. Added to this are a few instances of swearing, some scenes of a mildly sexual nature, and references that are likely to go over the heads of pre-teens (including The Scarlet Letter and Dante’s Inferno). If you’re intending to buy this for a young teen, you might want to flip through it yourself first.
However, as much as I enjoyed the story, I will admit that it had a few problems. My main one is something to be levelled to the series as a whole. We’re now three books in and the overall plot still hasn’t gotten off the ground. I criticised Snow Bunny for not doing enough to develop Victoria’s grand plan, but this book is no better. Victoria doesn’t even appear in this story in person, and discussions about her motivation are pure conjecture on behalf of the heroes.
The fact that this book is mainly filler also rapidly became apparent as the climax neared. The events on the island don’t resolve themselves in anyway. While it all builds towards what is happening in the high security half of the complex, this is never resolved within the story and the book ends on a very abrupt cliff-hanger, breaking off without any sense of finality. Personally, I did find this to be weak. It made the story feel incomplete in itself and added little to the bigger picture.
There are also some errors within the text that I found jarring. As I was reading from an advance copy, I hope that these are resolved before the book is published. However, I found a few instances where the wrong word was used in context, and other times where the book just presented information that was just wrong. There were repeated references to a pterodactyl as being a bird (even the park’s AI made this mistake), to leopard seals being as large as orcas, and (on one occasion) to a character being unable to breath due to the fact that their “oesophagus” was being crushed. While young readers may not be able to pick out these things, it doesn’t excuse them from being there at all.
Yet the cast are all still very strong. Snow still shines as a protagonist, being both strong will and independent without seeming superhuman, and her relationship with Josh seems to be growing at a natural rate. I was also pleased to see that David got a bit more development this time around. While he’s always been a secondary character, this time we learned more about how being unable to shift affects him, as well as how he came to be travelling with Charlene.
My only real disappointment with the characters was the lack of John and Edgar. While both are present for the adventure, they really don’t have much to do in this novel. This is a personal thing but it made me sad. As I’ve mentioned in previous books, they are by far my favourite characters in the series and I would have liked to have seen them take a bigger role on the island. Here’s hoping that they appear more in the next novel!
So, all in all, I felt that this was the weakest novel in the series so far. However, it certainly wasn’t a bad read. The setting was very creative, the book was fast-paced and easy to read, and there were some great character moments. I really hope that the next book does more to advance the overall plot and look forward to reviewing it when it’s released next year.
Snow Island: Chronicles of a Wererabbit is due for release on 14th April and is currently available to pre-order from Amazon.co.uk