Catherine Doyle’s stunning middle-grade debut, an evocative tale of ancient magic and family bonds, for fans of Beyond the Bright Sea
About the Author
Catherine Doyle grew up beside the Atlantic Ocean in the west of Ireland. Her love of reading began with great Irish myths and legends, and fostered in her an ambition to one day write her own. The Storm Keeper's Island is her debut middle-grade novel and was inspired by her real-life ancestral home of Arranmore Island (where her grandparents grew up), and the adventures of her many sea-faring ancestors. After living in Dublin City for two years, Catherine is now based in Galway but spends a lot of her time in the US and London.
Read an Excerpt
THE SLEEPING ISLAND
Fionn Boyle sat hunched on a plastic chair with his arms tucked into his sides and his chin tucked into his chest, and tried not to be sick all over his shoes.
The ferry groaned. Fionn couldn't help noti cing the rust around its edges, the flaking blue paint, how the horn sounded like a dying cow. He tried not to imagine how much seawa ter he would have to swallow to drown from the inside out. Tara wasn't watch ing him just then but Fionn knew sisters could smell fear. If he hurled his lunch up, he'd never hear the end of it.
To make matters even more grim, Fionn was wedged between two natter ing old ladies, and his phone was useless in his pocket. No cover age. Not even one bar. Sometimes the old ladies would stop and chew on a secret like it was too big to swallow. Sometimes Fionn could feel their gazes prick ling on the side of his face, like they were waiting for him to join in. Mostly the waves roared and drowned out all of it.
That was the worst of all: the ocean right under neath him. In his most grue some night mares, it would suck him up and gulp him down and he would wake suddenly, dripping in sweat.
The sea air burned in his lungs and stung his cheeks as he watched the main land fade away, first to a green smudge on a gray horizon, and then to nothing at all.
Already, Fionn missed the Dublin smog, the clang of road work, and the half-finished tram tracks cutting up the city and fling ing tour ists from foot paths. He never thought about whether he liked it or not — the nois i ness of a city constantly in motion — only that it was famil iar, and to Fionn famili ar ity meant home.
This was anything but famil iar.
Tara stood at the bow of the ship, her feet planted on the rail ings like she was about to launch herself into the ocean. Her dark hair whipped through the air, loose and tangled, like ropes. She turned, search ing the cluster of passen gers for him. "Come here, Fionny! Look at these waves! They're huge!"
Fionn shook his head. The ferry bobbed and his stomach went with it — up and down — until the contents of his lunch started to climb up his throat.
"Don't be such a baby!" Tara taunted.
Fionn and his sister were close in age. Fionn could even remem ber a time when they felt almost like friends. He supposed they'd had some thing in common until the day she turned thir teen and he stayed eleven, and suddenly she was much too wise and too clever to hang around and play video games with him anymore.
I'm mature now, Fionny. My interests have changed.
Fionn didn't know how Tara meas ured matur ity but he was the one cooking dinner for the three of them most even ings, while Tara pawed Nutella out of the jar like Winnie-the-Pooh and shrieked the walls down any time she saw a spider.
Tara smirked over her shoulder and then stepped higher on the boat rail ings, peering over the waves, until it looked like she was going to dive in, just to show him she could. Fionn thought it might be nice if she tipped over, and drowned a little. Not enough to die, just enough so that a fish could come along and eat the part of her brain that caused her person al ity to be so terrible.
He went back to staring at the blurry horizon — a fixed point to help with the sick ness. His mother said it would help with the motion of the boat. That was the last thing she told him before their goodbye back in Dublin, when her eyes were clear and her smile was sad. Then all of a sudden they were in their neigh bor's car, Fionn's nose pressed up against the window, as they trundled across the country and left her behind.
Fionn waited for the island to appear. The one she used to tell them about when he was younger, her eyes glassy with some faraway look. Sometimes the island was a beau ti ful place. Sometimes it was a sad, unfor giv ing place that held nothing beyond the memory of his father, long ago lost to the sea. All Fionn ever knew for sure was that Arranmore haunted her, and he could never figure out whether that was mostly a good thing or mostly a bad thing. Only that places can be just as import ant as people. That they can have the same power over you if you let them.
Tara left her perch at the front of the ferry, skipped across the deck, and bent down until they were almost nose-to-nose. "Do you have to look so depressed about all this?"
Fionn didn't like the way his sister threw the word around like that. Depressed. Like it was a color he was wearing. Like it was some thing you could be, and then not be, by choice. Besides, it was easy for her to be excited about this. She had visited the island last summer and had somehow managed to make friends.
"I don't want to go," he grumbled. "I'm not going to pretend I do."
"You never want to go anywhere," Tara pointed out. "All you do is sit inside and play video games that you're bad at anyway. You're so boring."
Fionn wanted to say he wished he could stay behind with their mother, that he could sit beside her even when it felt like she couldn't see him. He wanted to say he wasn't bad at video games; that he was, in fact, excellent.
Instead, he said, "Shut up."
Tara slid a Mars bar from her pocket — the result of a gas-station shop ping spree on the way to the ferry, old Mrs. Waters snap ping open her floral purse full of coins, smiling at them with her toothy grin. Get whatever you want, my loves.
She took a bite, her words soupy from half-chewed caramel. "It's an adven ture, Fionny." She glanced from side to side, then dropped her voice. "This place is magical. Just wait and see."
"You only think it's magical because you met a boy last year," said Fionn with deep, abiding disgust.
Tara shook her head. "No, actu ally, I think it's magical because there are secrets on the island."
Fionn tried to waft the smell of chocol ate away from his nose. "What kind of secrets?"
"Can't tell you!" she said, eyes gleam ing with triumph.
Fionn sighed. "I can't believe I'm going to be stuck with you all summer."
"Well, I wouldn't worry because I obvi ously won't be spend ing any time with you." She wrinkled her nose, her freckles hunch ing together. "You can hang out with Grandad."
"I already like him better than you," said Fionn quickly.
"You don't even know him yet."
Fionn opened his fist to reveal his crumpled-up ferry ticket. "I like this piece of paper better than you."
Tara bran dished her Mars bar at his nose. "You're so imma ture."
"I am not." Fionn waited for her to look the other way and then threw the piece of paper at her. He watched it tangle in the ends of her hair and felt a little better then. Across the bay, a seagull dipped and swirled, its wing skimming the waves. It released a savage cry, and as if called to atten tion, the island rose to meet them.
Pockets of dark green grass bubbled up out of the sea, climb ing into hills that rolled over each other. Gravel roads weaved them selves between old build ings that hunched side by side along the pier, where the sand was dull and brassy. The place looked oddly deser ted; it was as if the entire island was fast asleep.
It was exactly how Fionn imagined it: a forgot ten smudge on the edge of the world. The perfect place for his soul to come to die.
Tara flounced back to her perch and Fionn felt himself deflate, like a giant balloon. He watched the faraway blurs on the island turn into people, shops, houses and cars, and too many fishing boats to count. He tried to picture his mother here, in this strange place, wander ing along the pier, ducking into the corner shop for bread or milk. Or even stand ing on the shore, looking out at the ocean, with her arms pulled around her. He couldn't imagine it, no matter how hard he tried.
When the ferry had finally groaned its way into port, Tara bounded on to the island without so much as a backward glance. Fionn hovered on the edge of the pier, his spine stiff as a rod. Something was wrong. The ground was vibrat ing under neath him, the slight est tremor rattling against his soles as though his foot steps were far heavier than they really were. The breeze rolled back ward and twisted around him, pushing his hair into his eyes and his breath back into his lungs, until he had the most absurd sensa tion that the island was opening its arms and envel op ing him.
Fionn searched the jagged lines of the head land. In the distance, at the edge of the bay, where briars and ferns tussled on a low, sloping cliff, a cottage poked out of the wilder ness. The smoke from its chimney curled into the evening air like a finger.
The wind pushed him across the pier. The smoke kept rising and twist ing, gray against the sun-blush sky.
It was beck on ing him.
Fionn could almost hear the whis per ing in his ears: a voice he had never heard before, a voice thrum ming deep in his blood and in his bones. A voice he was trying very hard to ignore.
"Come here," it was saying. "Come home."CHAPTER 2
THE CANDLEMAKER'S COTTAGE
Malachy Boyle's house was breath ing; Fionn was almost sure of it. It was rising and falling behind the tangled briars, peeking out at them every so often. The smoke was still curling into the sky, but there was no sign of Fionn's grand father.
"Hurry up," Tara grunted. Her suit case was spit ting rocks at Fionn as she hauled it up the narrow road. "I want to get there some time this century!"
"Does he not know we're coming?" Fionn was half watch ing the road and half watch ing the house up ahead. "Shouldn't he have met us down at the pier?"
"He's old," said Tara.
"Can he not walk?"
"Do you want him to carry you, like a baby?" The determ ined thu-thunk of her suit case punc tu ated her words. "Or can you not climb a hill by your self?"
"I'm not by myself, am I?" Fionn snapped. "I'm with Lucifer herself."
"Shut up," Tara hissed.
"I just think it's rude," Fionn mumbled. "We're supposed to be his guests. And we don't even know where to go."
"I know where to go. I've been here before, only last time I didn't have you slowing me down."
Fionn rolled his eyes. They had been delayed by almost five minutes when a bee landed on Tara's shoulder. It chased her around the head land, and she went shriek ing and hopping, like it was some great big grizzly bear.
"Lead on then, Columbus," he said, stomp ing up after her.
Fionn didn't think his expect a tions could possibly get any lower. And yet.
The cottage was small and squat, wedged deep into the earth, and swamped in a mess of trees and thorns. The edges of stone work peeked out in parts, where the white paint was peeling. The roof was made of slates, but around the edges, some had chipped and fallen into cracked gutters. The windows were cloudy with dirt and the sills were stuffed with head less flowers, their stems bending over into the garden like they were search ing for their lost petals.
It was an explo sion of chaos and color, and Fionn hated every inch of it. He wanted to be back in Dublin with his mother, in their cramped apartment, listen ing to their upstairs neigh bors pretend they weren't harbor ing a secret pit bull terrier and decid ing what takeout to order.
They passed an old letter box, inscribed with faded Irish: Tír na nÓg.
The Land of Youth.
Ironic, thought Fionn. And then he made a mental note to double-check what the word "ironic" actu ally meant before he said it out loud in front of Tara.
The gate let out a low whine as he closed it behind them.
"It's grim, isn't it?" Tara didn't bother to whisper despite the fact they were now stand ing in what some people might call a "garden", but which seemed to Fionn more like a salad. "And inside is just as depress ing."
Depressing. That word again.
Fionn did a slow-motion turn. "Why would anyone choose to live here?"
"Well, I suppose this is the only place that would have me."
Fionn stopped turning. The blood vessels in his cheeks burst open.
His grand father was stand ing at the entrance to his cottage. He was a giant of a thing — tall and narrow with a shiny bald head, a large face and a nose to fit it. It was the same nose Fionn had been cursing in reflec tions for as long as he could remem ber. An over sized pair of round, horn-rimmed glasses sat along the tip, making his eyes seem bigger and wider than they really were. His arms and his legs were impossibly long, but still somehow dwarfed in an over sized tweed suit. He looked like he was all dressed up to go some where, only he'd been all dressed up for fifty years and now the suit was falling apart on him.
His grand father threw his head back, opened his mouth until Fionn could see all his teeth — the graying and the white — and laughed. And laughed and laughed and laughed, until Fionn imagined his laughter was sweep ing around him in a tornado, the winds of it playing his heart like a fiddle.
And then Fionn was laugh ing too. It was awkward and forced, but if he laughed then he wouldn't have time to think about how this didn't feel so much like an adventure but a prison, or how his mother had been left behind inside a face less build ing in Dublin surroun ded by profes sionaltype people wearing expens ive sweaters and fancy spectacles. He laughed to keep these thoughts from turning into some thing sad and ugly that looked and sounded very much like crying.
Fionn would not cry in front of Tara.
This was not going to be a crying sort of vacation.
Even if it wasn't really a vacation at all.
When the laughter sputtered out, his grand father took one long, linger ing look at him. "Well then," he said, dipping his chin. "At last we meet."
He stooped under neath the low doorframe and beckoned them inside, his finger crooked like the plume of smoke that had led them up the cliffside.
Tara charged up the path, tossing an insult over her shoulder. "Congrats, Fionny. You've finally found someone as weird as you."
"Watch out for that bee!" The weight on Fionn's heart shifted as Tara yelped and danced her way into the cottage.
Fionn shut the door and nearly toppled into a coatrack, where hats and umbrel las hung like props, all covered in a thick layer of dust.
"Oh," he said, staring wide-eyed at the shelves that stretched floor-to-ceiling around the small living room, continu ing into the kitchen, which was visible through a wooden archway.
Every inch of space in the already cramped cottage belonged to a shelf, and all the shelves were filled with candles.
Each one was labeled in swirl ing calli graphy. Autumn Showers and Summer Rain huddled between Foggy Easter and White Christmas, while others like Unexpected Tornado at Josie's 12th Birthday Party or Sean McCauley's Runaway Kite were oddly specific. There were labels whittled right down to the briefest window of time, like Flaming Sunrise, February 1997 or Tangerine Twilight, August 2009, and some were vague Irish words like Suaimhneas, which meant "Peace", or Saoirse, which meant "Freedom."
One candle simply read Fadó Fadó — "Long, long ago." That could be anything. It could mean the Ice Age, or the Bronze Age, or that time in Ireland when all the monks were dood ling manu scripts and hiding in big round towers for some reason Fionn couldn't remember.
Fionn's atten tion was drawn to Angry Skies Over Aphort Beach, a candle that looked as if it had been carved from a raging storm. It was dark gray around the base, the clouds gath er ing in climb ing swirls, until the wax bubbled around the edges, fading into a deep violet. A streak of silver light ning zigzagged through the middle, and the longer Fionn stared at it, the more it seemed like it might leap off the shelf and crackle in the air around him.
"You'll be having tea then," said his grand father. It wasn't a ques tion but it brought relief to Fionn. Some things were the same every where in Ireland.
Tara retreated to a corner of the living room, search ing for a phone charger in her bag, the way a dying man would scour the desert for water.
Fionn ducked under a beam and wandered into the hallway, where the house tapered off into three more rooms and the walls seemed to bend inward, as though they wanted to tell him a secret. There were candles here too. Some were tiny — the size of his baby finger. Some were rainbow-colored, and others had grass growing out of them. There were oddly shaped ones too — like rain drops and umbrel las and little moons pocked with craters. There were clouds so round and fluffy Fionn had to poke them to make sure they were made of wax and not vapor.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Storm Keeper's Island"
Copyright © 2018 Catherine Doyle.
Excerpted by permission of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.