Dream Island
by Josie Litton, historical (2002)
Bantam, $5.99, ISBN 0-553-58389-1

HyperJosiemia is back. Now that Bantam has hyped her to the point that she is the biggest Josie since that Pussycats girl - or so Bantam would love to believe - Josie Litton actually takes some time to write a story that isn't as painfully derivative as her blah debut books.

Dream Island isn't a medieval, even if that castle on the lovely cover suggests it to be. It's set in 1811 Europe. The Dream Island in question is the island of Akora, which may or may not be a principality (I don't really get that part, to be honest) but is sure one beautiful place to visit. The scenery, the fresh air, the beautiful grasses - aah.

I tell you, with this book, the author at least proves that she is something. That reader who agonized over the mysterious identity of Josie Litton only to go "WTF? Maura Seger - who?" will be assured that Ms Litton can write. If she decides to roll up her tent and heads off to greener pastures, the BBC Travel Network can sure use a travel writer of Ms Litton's amazing descriptive ability.

I want to visit Akora. I want to relive Akora. Oh, to be an Akoran!

The plot? Uh, let me try to remember. Ah yes, heroine Lady Joanna Hawkforte's brother Royce is missing. He was last heard visiting Akora. Now, our heroine needs to go to Akora herself to seek poor brother out. The sole Akoran dude in England - Lord Alex Darcourt, who is the Prince of Akora and also a titled lord of England (hence my confusion as to whether Akora is an independent nation) - is a prejudiced fool who doesn't mind screwing English - or xenos - women but he'd be damned if he let any xenos pigs to his fair island.

But Joanna dresses up as a boy (oh blimey rolls-eyes-upwards-sighie) and sneaks up and stows away in Alex's ship as he sails back home. Hello, Akora.

And hello, Akora, I say. From hereon, Joanna and Alex rarely spend time together, and when they do, she's always either in trouble or he is lording over her in some lecture about the Superiority of Akoran Culture. Sort of like having an affair with a college professor, I guess. (No, I'm not speaking from personal experience, I mean, have you seen my old college professors? One daddy figure is enough for me, thanks.)

We have the cast of future Ms Litton's books escorting Joanna around. The hills are alive, the grasses are green and glossy, the people are so open and friendly, the air is so fresh, and oh, I hear Atlantis calling me. What a lovely place. Ms Litton has outdone herself creating an island complete with volcanoes and geographical notations. I can imagine the island kingdom in my mind, and it sure beats boring Hawaii or anything the Travel Channel can offer on my TV.

I have no problems with Joanna. I have no problems with the political intrigue thing towards the end. Alex, however, puzzles me. His chauvinistic attitude is inconsistent with the personality of the women in his family and in his country. They sure aren't the submissive dolls he claimed they are. Likewise, he seems to be the only bigoted anti-xenos guy in the whole place. How does he end up like that, anyway? And since his prejudices form a great deal of the conflict separating him from making perfect Akoran babies with Joanna, he comes off as a plot device that doesn't really fit in.

But who cares? And who cares whether or not Ms Litton can write (after this book, I say she can sure write something that isn't tired or predictable, and she can do it very well too). I'm more impressed with Akora. I want to visit Akora. I want to build a Burger King in Akora and petition Bill Gates to introduce T1 lines there so that I can emigrate there too.

Yeah, yeah, pretty good story. But seriously, Akora's the place to be, people. For once I'm hearing Julie Andrews' annoying warbles about living hills and singing fat nuns in my head and I'm actually happy instead of screaming for sleeping pills to end the pain. BBC Travel Channel, get a hold of Ms Litton's agent, quick, before she changes her mind and churns out another derivative Viking-innocent-English-girlie rubbish. We need more Dream Islands.

Rating: 89

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