The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig
Nix Song lives on a tall ship with her father and small band of fiercely loyal crew, refugees from time. Captain Slate is able to ‘navigate’ the ship through time to any where, but only if he has a true and dated map – and each map only works once. He is searching for one such to take him back to Honolulu before his wife died giving birth to Nix. Nix, now sixteen, worries that she will be winked out of existence if they manage to return. Slate thinks he has found a map, it’s how to get hold of it that’s the problem.
The novel begins:
It was the kind of August day that hinted at monsoons, and the year was 1774, though not for very much longer. I was in the crowded bazaar of a nearly historical version of Calcutta, where my father had abandoned me.
He hadn’t abandoned me for good – not yet. He’d only gone back to the ship to make ready for the next leg of the journey: twentieth-century New York City. It was at our final destination, however, where he hoped to unmake the mistakes of his past.
Mistakes like me, perhaps. (p1)
Note the words ‘nearly historical’ in the quote above. The embellishments on old maps from myth and legend become real for our time-travellers – if Slate can picture it from the map, it is there when they travel. By consequence, they have many magical treasures on their ship, souvenirs, bought or pilfered, items useful or valuable, pets too.
Next stop, New York, where they’ll have to keep their wits about them, as always, and they’d have to be careful not to attract the attention of the Coastguard, who would be attracted to the Temptation and its cargo of Bengal tigers(!) like magnets.
She was a striking caravel, her black hull copper clad below the waterline to keep out worms (and worse, depending what waters we travelled). She rode on a keel fashioned from what looked like the rib of a leviathan, carved with labyrinthine runes from stem to stern, and at the prow, a red-haired mermaid bared her breasts to calm the sea. (p21)
They’re there, back in Slate’s native time to buy a map being auctioned at Christie’s. Slate believes this is the one, but despite having the right date, it takes them to the wrong time in Honolulu and involves them in the biggest adventure of their lives so far. Nix will discover first love too, but the course of action that they get caught up in while negotiating for ‘the’ map could jeopardise everything.
The Temptation’s crew are a motley bunch of refugees from time. There’s enigmatic African mate Bee, who wears a bell on her ankle, Rotgut the ship’s cook, and Kashmir – a young man from the historical Middle East who is Nix’s best friend. Kash is a splendid character, cheeky and resourceful (reminding me of Aladdin). Slate, by contrast with the happy-go-lucky crew, is a man overwhelmed by his lost love, succumbing to the lure of opium to battle his demons.
This is a superb and imaginative adventure novel for teens upwards. Alongside the derring-do, swashing and buckling, it has just the right amount of romance, a smidgeon of mythology, the lush island paradise of Oahu in 1884 and that wonderful ship, but above all it’s about family ties and friendship.
If I was to pitch this story to you, I’d describe it as ‘The Time Bandits do Hawaii’. I very much doubt that young debut author Heidi Heilig, who grew up in Hawaii, was born when Terry Gilliam’s film, Time Bandits, was released back in 1981, but if you enjoyed that film, you’ll love this novel. (9/10)
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Source: Publisher – Thank you.
Heidi Heilig, The Girl from Everywhere (Hot Key, March 2016) Paperback original, 368 pages.