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Before I begin this review, please allow me to drool over the physical beauty that is this book. The cover, the endpapers, and the beautiful butterfly illustrations at the start of each chapter – it is a delight for the eyes, and that is even before you begin to read the text! Reader, you cannot say we’re not spoiled.
Born on an island that is to become the world’s largest leprosy colony, Amihan lives with her sick mother. Friends and neighbours are a combination of Touched and Untouched, but that is of no consequence for Ami, as it is all she knows – and regardless, she loves the island and those who live on it. As she dreams of butterflies visiting her garden, her quiet life is shattered upon the arrival of Mr Zamora, a government representative, set on implimenting new government rules which result in Ami and other Untouched children being relocated to a neighbouring island; banished from their families to an orphanage. Upon their arrival at the orphanage, the group of children are met with varying levels of hostility from most, apart from one particular girl – Mari, a girl whose name means butterflies. Together with her new friend, Ami must battle the odds and return to her home island, desperate to be reunited with her mother.
As with Hargrave’s previous book (the ever wonderful The Girl of Ink and Stars), I was incredibly pleased to discover that a key part of the story’s warmth lies in the friendship born between Ami and Mari, and the strength they bring to each other. The book is so beautifully written, with a lyrical charm that makes me want to instantly go back to the first page and discover it all over again. As delicate as butterfly wings, but with the strength of love and friendship, this book is a gem that should not be missed, and I cannot wait for what next beauty Hargrave will dream up.