Title: The Girl From Everywhere
Author: Heidi Heilig
Date Read: 01/02/2016 – 05/02/2016
(Thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review)
I’ve mentioned this book on the blog a few times recently, and now finally, here is my review. I really enjoyed this book, with its blend of history, fantasy and mythology, a setting we don’t see much of, and interesting characters. While there were a couple of issues that knocked half a star off for me, but overall it comes highly recommended.
Somewhere-around-sixteen-year-old Nix and her father, along with their motley crew, are time travelers. On board a tall ship called The Temptation, they travel to different times and places using maps drawn at the time. Nix’s father is only interested in finding one map, for Honolulu 1868, where he hopes to save Nix’s mother, who died giving birth. Nix is worried what might happen to her if her past is altered, and wants to learn to Navigate so she can leave the Temptation, but until then she has to continue helping her father with his crazy schemes, even one that could put their whole crew, as well as the Kingdom of Hawaii, at risk.
This book has a hugely diverse cast. Nix herself is half-Chinese, and the crew of their ship includes Kashmir, who is Persian (also a significant character), as well as another Chinese man and another woman who is both African and gay (her wife’s spirit also follows them around allegedly). In fact, even when they arrive in Hawaii, the majority of the characters are Chinese. So that was really great. The characters are all really well developed as well. Nix has a strong personality but that is coupled with guilt about wanting to get away from her dad. Kashmir is charming and fun.
The world-building is also fascinating. While most of it is simply historical, the local myths play a huge part. I’ve never heard any Hawaiian myths before so that was really interesting. There’s also the fact that the maps don’t just take Nix and her crew to the time and place the map was drawn. They also take them to a place where the beliefs of the map-maker are true. For example, if they have a map of ancient Athens drawn by someone who believed wholeheartedly in the Greek gods, then when they use this map, they will arrive in a version of Athens where there honestly is a parthenon of Gods atop Mount Olympus. I won’t give anything away about how this is used in the book, but it does involve not only Hawaiian mythology, but also Chinese, and weaves it into an actual, but little-known historical event. I didn’t actually know this until I read the author’s note at the end, and I had to give her props for the way she did this.
Now I guess I should go into the things I didn’t like so much. Firstly, the official blurb is a bit misleading. It makes out that Nix’s father threatening to strand Kashmir somewhere in time where Nix can never get back to him is a huge part of the plot. It’s really not; it maybe takes up 10-15% of the book, and there is other stuff going on at the same time. Other, much bigger stuff, which is much more important than a possible sort-of romance. On that note, the second thing that bugged is me is that there is a love triangle. There have definitely been worse love triangles in other YA books, and the two guys don’t act like entitled prats who deserve Nix’s love, but the presence of any love triangle in a YA book nowadays is enough to make me roll my eyes. And by the end of the book, they are all travelling together, which means there is definitely room for it to get annoying in the next book (the author has stated this is a duology). Thirdly, I did find it hard to follow some of the time travel stuff, especially as it started getting
wibbly-wobbly time-loopy at times. But for the most part, that wasn’t a huge problem.
This is quite a lot longer than my usual reviews, but I think I have covered pretty much everything. Now go forth and buy this book!