Note: spoilers for The Girl From Everywhere
This is the fifth book I needed to complete a bingo for #AsianLitBingo, for the Mixed Asian MC square.
Nix Song, the main character, is a Hapa (a Hawaiian term for someone with mixed heritage) teen unlike any other – that is, she was raised at sea outside of her native time as the first mate on Temptation. Her father is a Navigator, able to travel to any land, imaginary or real, at any time – as long as he has the right map. Nix had never known her mother, who died giving birth to her, and all of her life the only father she’s known is one consumed with grief. The Ship Beyond Time is the second book in a duology; in the first book, Nix’s father is obsessed with finding the right map that would bring him to a moment before her mother dies, so that he could save her. Nix fears that the act of saving her mother would erase her from existence, and braces herself for it – but when they do find a way to 1884 Honolulu, Nix’s mother have disappeared, and the crew of Temptation ends up getting mixed up in a plot that would be a prelude to the American’s conquest of Hawaii.
In The Girl From Everywhere, Nix learns more of her past, and looks into her possible futures. She falls for Kashmir, a new addition to Temptation from the magical lands of A Thousand and One Nights, even as she tries to imagine a life with Blake, who wants to protect the Kingdom of Hawaii at all costs. In The Ship Beyond Time, Nix – now a Navigator herself – has accepted the fact that she loves Kashmir despite the fact that she had sworn never to become like her father (who was destroyed by her mother’s loss). So when she hears that she is fated to lose the person she loved at sea, Nix decides to do what her father couldn’t, and learn to change the future.
Enter Donald Crowhurst, a fraud who turned himself into the king of a mythical city. He reaches for Nix, telling her that he knows how to change fate, and would share his knowledge in exchange for her help. When Nix visits him at Ker-Ys, she finds that it’s not quite the utopian city she knew of, its beauty mixed with an air of dread and danger. While I still don’t know if I believe in the idea of fate or destiny IRL (probably not), from a storytelling perspective I have very firm views on the matter: the moment you know your future, it can’t be changed. This book never truly answers the question of whether or not fate can be changed, but I do get the feeling of inevitability, and how any changes would only come out of loopholes in vague “prophecies”, which is an idea I can definitely get behind.
I really like the few moments when Blake tries to find out how Navigation works, prompting Nix’s theories – I prefer the idea of alternate universes and being able to travel between various possibilities, rather than the simple answer, “it’s magic”. I love Nix, and I like that in the first book especially, she observes all the ways that it’s different for her to be traveling in time, because she isn’t white, and is therefore treated differently depending on where/when she happens to be. I wish Nix could’ve had female friends. There are little things that I’m a bit bothered by (like the introduction of a particular historical figure and how his character is treated in this book) and there are a lot of things I wanted to see more of, or expanded on, but you know what? Heidi Heilig’s writing is good enough that most of the time all I want to do is turn the page and see what happens next.