A hard but hopeful and poetic story of love in wartime
What we go through, the context in which we read stories informs the way we experience them. Reading this book while there’s a war raging a few hours from here, with families finding refuge in the village I live in and becoming part of our lives, gave it another level of poignancy. Would I have loved this story as much had I read it when it came out last summer? To some extent, yes, probably, but it hit very close to home right now.
Jalob Baleine and her father escaped their island when she was a child and a volcano destroyed everything. At twenty-three, the young Skarle joins the medics to help the Ansar refugees under attack from the Mainlanders. Corail Esplash is a gifted violinist with no filter and a tendency to lie to hide her insecurity. According to folklore, Skarle and Ansar are kin and meant to be together, Dolphins and Sea Lions, and fate bring Jalob and Corail together.
Strangely enough, even if I’m usually very character-driven, what I liked best, in this case, is the writing. Jalob’s constant self-deprecation and Corail’s sharp tongue made it a little difficult for me to love them as people. I like them as a couple, however, I like that they’re meant to be, I like the legends and the inevitability.
I, Volcano is the kind of story that I think of as the book equivalent of UFOs. It should have left me drowning in despair, struggling to keep reading, and, instead, I felt inspired. It’s a hard read, a story of war and love trying to emerge even as the world seems to be ending. It reads like folktales and poetry. It is very much worth the effort but choose your moment. 4.5⭐️