Emilie and the Sky World by Martha Wells (Strange Chemistry, US release March 4, 2014; UK release March 6, 2014)
This is a sequel to Emilie and the Hollow World. Emilie has family problems and runs away from her aunt and uncle, and then finds employment and adventure with the Marlendes as they travel the aether in an airship, exploring the currents and the ways they could lead to alternate realities.
In this volume they end up in another world, a jagged, mishmash landscape that looks like it was formed from pieces of other places. They encounter a couple of different types of beings, one friendly and helpful and the other one not. The magicians in the crew get taken over by the bad aliens, who invade their bodies. This results in some adventures to keep everyone safe and to return everyone to their own universe, and members of a previously lost airship crew are discovered. Emilie discovers that a family member is a stowaway on the Marlendes’ airship, and with the help of Emilie’s plant-person ally Hyacinth, some ladder and rope stunts and harrowing mid-air transfers, almost everyone gets back eventually.
At first the story appears to be a “run-away-and-join-the-airship-crew” story, but due to the complex universe and multiple alien species found, it becomes more of a space adventure.
Emilie and the female scientists who employ her are not your typical females for this genre; they are self-reliant women who can and do defend themselves, and Emilie shows herself to be mature and quite a capable airship crew member.
This is an exciting, fast-paced adventure story with original characters and interesting steampunk technology. The tech is a tool for exploring, but the plot revolves around the characters, as it should. This is a good read for any age and either sex, and hopefully we will soon see further volumes of Emilie’s adventures.
The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare by M.G. Buehrlen (Strange Chemistry, US release March 4, 2014; UK release March 6, 2014)
This is the story of a teenage girl from Annapolis, Maryland, Alex Wayfare, who has had strange visions periodically thoughout her 17 years. She has two little sisters, one of whom has leukemia. Her parents are researchers at an institute for medical research.
Alex is a techie who likes to fix everything she can get her hands on, including her Dad’s old Mustang. This makes her a very odd girl and her school days consist of getting bullied and teased plus an occasional disagreement with her teachers, particularly the history teacher.
After a bad experience at school she runs off and hides in an abandoned auto repair shop to wait until the school day ends. She finds a message to her on a flyer on the wall which directs her to meet Porter at a restaurant in the historic district. Porter gives her an explanation of why she has accurate visions of historical events, but his explanation at this and at subsequent meetings just makes her more confused. Eventually Porter takes her to Limbo, what she knows as the black place before visions, and she is finally able to understand where her visions come from.
She asks Porter about some people mentioned in one of her visions, but he won’t explain. She gets upset and triggers a vision to the past right before she was born, and she resolves several mysteries while in the vision but she still doesn’t know where her soul-mate Blue is in her current time. They set up a meeting time during winter break, but this volume leaves her arriving in Chicago with Porter and seeing the fountain where she is to meet Blue, but we don’t know if he is there because that’s the end.
Alex is an interesting character and her visions give some quite shocking views of historical periods. The history seems well researched and her supporting characters add a great deal to the vision sequences. Obviously, there will be more adventures since we have been left on a cliffhanger. It will be interesting to see how long Alex can continue her adventures without the bad guys discovering her name. Having her soul-mate in the present day would help too, because they both have memory issues when in a vision.
Having a character with multiple lives is not a new concept, but the way this is set up is different, with bad scientists behind it and a unique explanation given about limbo. Also, other multiple-life characters don’t have as many lives as Alex, because hers go back into the B.C. era. This is an interesting adventure story which is fast-moving and entertaining, so it should grab the attention of teen readers. Although the main character is female, since she is a tomboy her main peer issues have to do with her geekiness and not her sex, so boys should be able to relate too. There are also plenty of male supporting characters including Blue who show up in many scenes. Because much of the book does not take place in a high school, there are still plenty of things to interest adult readers. The mystery of what is going on, how Alex got the way she is, and who is really the bad guy will interest everyone, even those adults who aren’t interested in a tale of modern high school.