Series: The Girl from Everywhere #1
Published by Greenwillow Books on February 16th 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy
Nix has spent her entire life aboard her father’s ship, sailing across the centuries, across the world, across myth and imagination.
As long as her father has a map for it, he can sail to any time, any place, real or imagined: nineteenth-century China, the land from One Thousand and One Nights, a mythic version of Africa. Along the way they have found crewmates and friends, and even a disarming thief who could come to mean much more to Nix.
But the end to it all looms closer every day.
Her father is obsessed with obtaining the one map, 1868 Honolulu, that could take him back to his lost love, Nix’s mother. Even though getting it—and going there—could erase Nix’s very existence.
For the first time, Nix is entering unknown waters.
She could find herself, find her family, find her own fantastical ability, her own epic love.
Or she could disappear.
The blurb of The Girl from Everywhere whispered sweet promises of adventure, navigation-based magic, and the flair of Victorian Hawaii. Unfortunately, only the latter was delivered properly.
The adventure was as absent as my excitement with the plot boring me to tears. The magic system of time travelling was barely explained, which is a technique I used in math tests, too: To avoid making mistakes, I didn’t solve the equation at all, see?
Well, thank God for Kashmir because this charming thief sort of “saved the day” (if 2 stars can be considered a save, that is). Although, I have to admit, if you need boys to pull up a rating, the book really missed its mark by a huge margin.
Let’s clear up a few things before I start my rant: Was this book burdened with the difficult task of impressing me after the epic And I Darken? Yes. Am I easily bored in the face of tedious plot build-ups? Also yes. But nonetheless, do I usually give a book, especially a debut, a fair chance in spite of complaints? Absolutely. I had read with care until the 50% mark and speed-read and half-skimmed from then on because I do not consider my patience an expendable resource.
The book showed potential, that much was obvious: The marvellous settings, a crew of diverse outcasts, the inclusion of Hawaiian folklore, a touch of colonialization, and, of course, Kashmir (my little cinnamon roll). Heilig’s enthusiasm for history and her own culture was palpable, as the story itself was inspired by a real-event pirate heist. An eye-catching bonus were the black-and-white maps included before every chapter in a new time. Time travelling with a pirate ship (anyone getting any Pirates of the Caribbean: At Wit’s End vibes yet?) by using maps of other eras or mythical worlds was a compelling idea, much preferred to good ol’ portals, but – as with most other aspects of this book – it was the execution that failed me in the end.
Here’s a list of things that went wrong:
♆ The first thing that struck me as mediocre about The Girl from Everywhere was the prose. With debuts, I usually turn a blind eye to faults in the writing, but Heilig’s writing style was ponderous, even tedious, especially after And I Darken.
♆ The female lead, Nix, was a cardboard character with whom I could not connect on any level. Heilig merely scratched at the surface of the half-Chinese heroine’s personality and background, which was extremely disappointing. Characters are like the sails of a ship, in a way, as the story cannot advance without them. The captain was an interesting character as were the members of his crew, a scrawny cook and an African tribal woman (who also happens to be gay). Kashmir was by far my favourite character with his turbulent past as a street urchin in ancient Persia, his honey-soaked charm and his cocky retorts.
♆ To my own horror, Heilig introduced an unnecessary second love interest, which was just as ‘cardboardy’ as Nix herself, and voilà: We have a love triangle.
♆ With this ship already struggling to stay afloat, the utterly uneventful plot – save for a few scenes – blew a few additional holes into the ship and finally sunk it to the bottom of the ocean.
♆ And last but not least, the captain’s unwillingness to tutor Nix in Navigation (this particular form of time travel) must be the lamest excuse ever for not having to elaborate on a magic system. I think we can all agree on the fact that explaining the magic system (or simply any system at all) is the ABC to writing a good, convincing fantasy.
At the very least, the book didn’t end with a cliffhanger, which leaves me with the option of not having to continue this series without losing a good night’s sleep over it. By the looks of it, the sequel will be a love-infested goose chase, so I think I’ll pass.
In spite of its potential to be a marvellous read, this magnificent ship ran ashore with a bland female lead, tedious writing, an unnecessary love triangle, and a plot that couldn’t keep me hooked for a second.
(Credits to Heidi Heilig for the visual material.)