REVIEW - SAVAGE ISLAND ***
5 friends sign up for the chance of a life-time competition to win 1 million pounds each – the task? Just complete some puzzles and find some geocaches on a secretive private island – how hard can that be? But the island holds sinister secrets, the competition is not all it appears and the other teams seem to be playing for much higher stakes…
Savage Island is the latest horror in the Red Eye YA Horror Series from Bryony Pearce. I would say this is less a horror story and more a psychological thriller although it does get a bit gory in places. The premise itself is great, as a geocacher myself the idea of finding something… unwelcome… in a box is intriguing and stuck with me after I had finished the book. The riddles and puzzles the group have to solve keep the story interesting and it’s paced nicely – with the stakes gradually getting higher and higher as the plot builds to a crescendo. The 5 characters are nicely written and well-rounded and the fact it’s written in the first person from the perspective of Ben helps to draw you into the story.
My main problem with the book was with the narrative itself – it seemed very disjointed at times and in several places I found myself turning back to see if I had missed a page or a paragraph. The story occasionally jumps around which is at odds to the rest of the writing style. For example, right at the beginning they are filling out the questionnaire to join the competition and then half-way through the scene you suddenly get the letter of acceptance with nothing to join the two. Later they go to fetch a geocache box without something important that they need to open it. They suddenly produce something they have created to work around the problem but nothing had been said about them making it or having the idea – it’s suddenly just there for them to use.
Although the use of flash-backs works well to establish backstory, it felt like they were thrown in randomly; they weren’t clearly defined and they confused the plot in places. They were needed as exposition to make the ending work but they weren’t particularly placed sympathetically in the present narrative. As I was reading an advance copy pdf of the book there were some formatting errors – including odd paragraph breaks, which may make this a little clearer but I didn’t feel this was solely a formatting problem.
Overall it’s a really good premise and a really interesting story. It’s easily comparable to novels like Lord of the Flies or The Hunger Games but it brings something new to the table in a modern day setting. There’s a good ending and it’s use of suspense and slow-raising stakes makes it interesting to read. My only criticisms are the odd use of flash-backs and occasional disjointed narrative but otherwise I recommend it. Thank you to NetGalley and Little Tiger Group for the chance to read and review Savage Island.