Like Retribution Rails, The Girl from Everywhere takes place (mostly for this one) in the 19th century and has real history scattered around it. Apparently on December 1st, 1884, in Honolulu, Hawaii, fifty pirates arrived and looted not just their treasury but homes of wealthy citizens, making off with a value of 3 million dollars. I looked it up and the value back then made it worth in today’s value about 70 million. Only one newspaper reported this, and the article said instead of resistance, the locals threw down their weapons without firing a single shot. Maybe Heidi Heilig’s interpretation of this is 100% accurate, because these pirates disappeared without a trace. The difference is where Retribution Rails is a Western, this is, like Passenger, an adventure out on the water. Our hero is Nix, who travels frequently to 2016 but was born in 1868, in Honolulu, Hawaii. Not much is known of her mother, who died at birth, but her father, Slate, which is what Nix always prefers calling him by, is lingeringly heartbroken at her death. He is the ship captain of a boat called The Temptation, which does not just sail the oceans, but is able to travel across to different times and timelines. That’s why when Nix is in 2016, she’s 148 and cleansed as a waitress after a boat-ride. He manages to go to these different places and different times by having access to these special maps. And he’s tried to find one that will bring him back to the time of his wife’s death but for some reason it never works. Nix is kind of relieved because it’s possible if Slate alters history involving her, she could cease to exist. All that’s around to comfort her is a Persian thief named Kashmir always up for a joke and heist. And as a new heist comes that could be the key to the real thing, Nix has to decide whether to abandon ship, stop her dad, or go along with it because of her love for him.
Something kind of noteworthy is Nix being a blend of two different types of protagonists. This is a fantasy time-travel book and she does work for her father and everyone else, but amazing superpowers? Not that much. Unlike most main characters in fantasy books (we end finding out that Leia from Ember in the Ashes can turn invisible in the second book) Nix is more grounded, and that gave her a kind of contemporary feel that may appeal to readers who are jealous of superpowered kids.
This is a well-written book. The consistent discussions that always feel purposeful in some way keep it flowing like the sea and the descriptions feel accurate. None of it really pops, though. This is one of the tame things I was talking about. Hear some of these lines:
“There are some men in town who...who have...wronged him. He’s been at the edge for quite some time. It would not take much to push him over.”
“It isn’t heroic simply to do what’s right.”
“It was easier back then. Nowadays...I don’t know where I’d go without you.”
“Without me, you’d already be where you want to go, Captain.”
Or these descriptions:
“He began peeling the orange. The scent of citrus perfumed the air.”
“He found me a wooden pail with a brass handle; I’d be able to tie a rope to it and dip up fresh seawater whenever Swag needed it, which is what I did.”
Nothing’s wrong with all of this. It’s just easy to flip right through. There’s nothing at all challenging about digesting these words, making it both enjoyable and passable. Nothing makes it seem like the tricky and prickly dialogue of Captain Ahab. Its setup makes it possible for it to be as boring as a seasick voyage, but it’s hard to certainly call it boring when it’s easy to flip through with the occasional chase, or tough discussion, or trapped moment.
These two love interests, between Kashmir and Blake, are pretty much the only really notable characters, since Kash is both snobby and funny and fearless, and Blake is mannered and shy, something unusual for a lot of boys in literature.
Something noticeable is the blurb of the book talks about being able to go to fantasylands, like a mythic version of Africa, or the land from One Thousand and One Nights, but I didn’t notice any description explaining how that works and which ones they’ve visited. Nix and Kashmir end up visiting this gravesite of an emperor from centuries ago, and it’s unclear if this is fantasy or history from how it’s told.
In the end, this book is much better than the last two books in Kerstin Gier’s Ruby Red trilogy and miles better than the second book in the Passenger duology, Wayfarer. In other terms, it’s better than a lot of other time travel adventures I’ve read about, and it was fun devouring a 464-paged book as easy as this. Still, a lot of my favourite books have a bubbliness that I feel will inspire reluctant readers to start looking at the shelves more, and if this one would turn on those people...I don’t know.