The Keeper of Isis Light (by Monica Hughes) = 4/5
The Keeper of Isis Light (KIL) introduces readers to Olwen, an orphaned teenage girl who has been raised by the Guardian in solitude on the remote, colonial outpost planet Isis. She loves to explore the planet, reveling in climbing mountains and playing with her pet hairy dragon, Hobbit. On her tenth birthday (sixteenth, in Earth years), Olwen’s life is upended by the arrival of a ship carrying colonists from overcrowded Earth who have come to settle on Isis.
Olwen must suddenly adjust to sharing Isis with an additional 80 people, and they must adjust to her, the willful child of two long-dead explorers with a passion for Isis’s high-altitude planetary wilds and massive wildlife. I don’t want to spoiler the major plot reveals, but KIL is essentially a story of finding oneself and loss of innocence as Olwen encounters prejudices, starts questioning her very identity, and must essentially mature from child to adult overnight in order to properly satisfy her new responsibilities as the Keeper of Isis Light. Olwen manages her emotions and assumes these responsibilities, but she also knows better than to bury emotions and let them fester. She is headstrong and caring, and embraces the differences that set her apart from the colonists rather than attempting to re-make herself to conform to their expectations.
I still find KIL to be a beautiful read with excellent world-building and an engaging protagonist. There are a couple points where the narrative shifts from being third-person limited and focused on Olwen to some of the colonists and their interactions with her. I found the execution of these shifts a bit disorienting, but overall, the story worked for me. I would recommend KIL to anyone looking for a quick, character-driven story who doesn’t mind a science fiction setting.
TL;DR: KIL’s takeaway message is that it’s okay to be different and quirky–embrace who you are, stand up for what you believe in, and do your own thing.
Review originally written 6 July 2017