Eliza Grayling, born in Sydney when the colony itself was still an infant, has lived there all her thirty-two years. Too tall, too stern—too old, now—for marriage, she looks out for her reclusive father, Joshua, and wonders about his past. There is a shadow there: an old enmity.
When Joshua Grayling is offered the chance for a reckoning with his nemesis, Eliza is horrified. It involves a sea voyage with an uncertain, probably violent, outcome. Insanity for an elderly blind man, let alone a drunkard.
Unable to dissuade her father from his mad fixation, Eliza begins to understand she may be forced to go with him. Then she sees the vessel they will be sailing on. And in that instant, the voyage of the Moonbird becomes Eliza’s mission too.
The Burning Island is the second novel in a planned trilogy of books, the first being Preservation. The story is set 33 years after Preservation and follows the outspoken and stern Eliza Grayling as she sets out on a journey with her father, former Lieutenant Joshua Grayling, to find out the mysterious circumstances behind a now-historic shipwreck and seek revenge on the man that stole Joshua’s life away those many years ago.
The story, being based in some fact, is a dark look on Australia’s history and the relationship between the Europeans and the Indigenous people. We meet some very flawed and confronting characters that really set the tone for the novel.
Mostly taking place aboard the ship, the Moonbird, this is when we really learn about the characters and their motivations. With Eliza’s father, Joshua, having been followed by the shadows of his past for over 30 years, or to the many Sealers on the Furneaux Islands and their Tyereelore wives, there are plenty of characters each with something to hide. The relationship between Joshua and his nemesis Mister Figge is reminiscent of classic revenge stories and has an almost nostalgic feeling as you follow Joshua’s journey to bringing justice to the man that has ruined his life.
Irresistible prose, unforgettable characters and magnificent, epic storytelling: The Burning Island delivers everything readers have come to expect from Jock Serong. It may be his most moving, compelling novel yet.
A story of revenge, family, and reflection, The Burning Island is a standout Australian historical novel with a compelling premise. Beautiful prose and some very intriguing characters really showcase Jock Serong’s exceptional talent. I’m not usually a big historical fiction reader but this has definitely set the bar and I can’t wait to read the last book in the series!