The Girl From Everywhere, by Heidi Heilig

Where would you go if all you needed was a map to get there? Nix knows exactly where she would go, but has a hard time believing she’ll ever have the opportunity. Tied to her father’s consuming search for one specific map, Nix can only collect fantastical creatures and fairy tale wonders along with a prodigious knowledge of history, while always knowing that every person she’ll meet will eventually be left behind.

Everyone leaves eventually, Nix’s father says, which could be felt as a little on the nose, considering he’s been leading his crew on a wild goose chase for Nyx’s entire life, but Heilig’s measured drawing of Captain Slate’s character instead adds to the pathos of Nix’s constant emotional reserve. Nix may have worlds of possibility open before her, but what she lacks is an anchor, a deep connection to a place. She attempts to find this anchor in the people who have been a part of her life for many years, but nothing can take the place of a real home—time and place.

Tales of resourceful orphans abound, but what sets The Girl from Everywhere apart are the cunning ways Heilig approaches going home, with time travel paradoxes and the concept of the mapmaker’s intentions controlling the world’s realities, as well as Nix’s found family—think a more diverse and interesting version of Pan’s Lost Boys, people who have made their way aboard Slate’s ship from real and fairy tale worlds of the past—good people with haunting experiences of their own who look after Nix but whose characterization doesn’t push too far into the surrogate parent role that many orphan stories rely upon.

Readers who love a good time travel yarn will find the twists and turns of The Girl from Everywhere compelling and entertaining. Those who enjoy character-driven stories with a strong sense of self will love Nyx’s slow, delicious journey through fear and bitterness to confidence and a powerful ability to accept people for who they are. Anyone who ever wanted a fairy tale to come true will appreciate the many journeys Nyx has made and her vast store of treasures and lore.

Advertisements

The House of the Four Winds, by Mercedes Lackey

The House of the Four Winds is the firstin new fantasy series called The Dozen Daughters.  Being the story of Princess Clarice of Swansgaard, who goes
forth to seek her fortune because her parents’ kingdom is destined to pass to
her infant brother, thirteenth of thirteen children and sole heir, The House of the Four Winds is the
epitome of low adventure fantasy. 
The setting is an alternate version of Earth, the magic is blend of
alchemy and sorcery called thaumaturgy; the men are men and the women are
women, except when a radiantly beautiful princess decides to masquerade as a
young man in order to seek adventure on a ship bound for the new world.  Clarice makes a striking figure as a
woman or a man, and is determined to see the world and find a place in it.

As
the rules of adventure fantasy dictate, The
House of the Four Winds
is a love story first and foremost, with dashes of
danger, magic, and adventure sprinkled in.  The writing is solid, with no obvious plot holes—as we’d
expect from a veteran writer like Lackey—and the narrative connects all the
necessary dots.  For readers who
enjoy this type of fantasy story, much like Pullman’s His Dark Materials
trilogy in the ways it partakes of real history and geography but with a
fantasy twist, it is a satisfying read. 
The characters, though many of them are obvious types, react in
realistic ways to their circumstances and the narrative builds just enough
mystery at the beginning to create the desired moment of reveal towards the
end. 

 While
being a swashbuckling romance that requires the reader to suspend disbelief a
bit, the novel avoids some pitfalls of the genre by not over-privileging the
male gaze, especially when talking about Clarice and how she fits in on the
ship as Clarence.  It may become a
little frustrating for readers expecting an adventure story with a woman
protagonist when Clarice starts moping about lovelorn and considers giving up
her plans for a vocation upon realizing she’s in love with one of her
shipmates.  The gender-bending part
of the plot may also prove frustrating for readers who are gender non-binary or
familiar with current experiences of trans and non-binary people and the
politics of passing as one gender or another.  Clarice is miraculously able to start out as a beautiful
eighteen-year-old princess, transform into a teenage boy well enough to fool
everyone she encounters, and then change back into a stunningly beautiful woman
and have everyone accept her, quite a feat for someone who lives in such a
patriarchal culture that a princess can’t even ascend to the throne in her own
country.

 The House of the Four Winds would be
enjoyed by readers who liked previous works of Mercedes Lackey and other
authors like her, such as Robert Jordan, Lois McMaster Bujold, and Anne
McCaffrey.  It would also be
enjoyable to romance readers of the adventurous (narrative) sort.  Pack it on your next trip to the beach
for a few enjoyable hours.