Nix has spent her entire life aboard her father’s ship, sailing across the centuries, across the world, across myth and imagination.
As long as her father has a map for it, he can sail to any time, any place, real or imagined: nineteenth-century China, the land from One Thousand and One Nights, a mythic version of Africa. Along the way they have found crewmates and friends, and even a disarming thief who could come to mean much more to Nix.
But the end to it all looms closer every day.
Her father is obsessed with obtaining the one map, 1868 Honolulu, that could take him back to his lost love, Nix’s mother. Even though getting it—and going there—could erase Nix’s very existence.
For the first time, Nix is entering unknown waters.
She could find herself, find her family, find her own fantastical ability, her own epic love.
Or she could disappear.
Imagine this: time-travelling pirates, love that transcends time, a heist, a subtle narrative on American imperialism, a diversity of characters, and a story set in 1884’s Oahu of the Hawaiian Islands. The Girl From Everywhere may be one of the most unique stories I have read. In this story, magic and fantasy meet mythology and history to create an intricate tale about a girl whose existence is in the hands of the Captain of the Temptation — who is also her father.
The story features a diverse cast of characters, with people from different parts of the world and different time periods. Nix is half-Chinese and half-presumably white on her father’s side, Kashmir is Persian, and the Temptation crewmates include a Chinese ex-monk, and Bee and her ghost-wife Ayen. Though I hoped that this would promise fascinating and compelling characters, there was a clear difference between the fascinating characters and the lacklustre ones. By the end, I found it difficult to grasp who they were, or what made them them. The exceptions were Bee (and Ayen!) and Slate who had mysterious yet compelling backstories, and complex personalities.
The Girl From Everywhere had one of the most complex father-daughter relationships that I have read to date. With Captain Slate’s obsession for the right map that will return him to his love, this places Nix in a precious of life or non-existence. Their love-resentment relationship causes all kinds of friction and tension, but there were also rare moments of loyalty and affection. I wish we got to see Slate and Nix together more, wish they were given a chance for their characters, stories, and relationship to be developed further.
When I was young, I learned to expect loss. Every time you slept, something disappeared. Whenever you woke up, someone else was gone. But . . . I also learned that every day, you created everything anew.
Of the many things in The Girl From Everywhere, what truly stands out is Heilig’s stunning and evocative prose. The writing was rich and wonderful, painting some of the most beautiful and colourful imagery that took my mind to a brighter place in the rainy days when I read this book. When Heilig built and rendered Nix’s world, I felt immersed – immersed in the flowers and fauna and township of Hawaii, Nix and her crew’s journeys, and the magical places that they ventured. Heilig’s descriptions of places were sublime, and the love for these places shone bright and true in the text.
A red bird flitted across our path, and the trees opened up into a clearing where flowers winked from the edges of the undergrowth. The sun warmed the grass beneath Pilikia’s hooves, but the air was quite cool and as soft as a kiss. In the distance, rushing water whispered about where it had been.
The Girl From Everywhere is a wondrous fabric of beautiful ideas. Most prominent is the theme of love and loss, explored through Slate’s sense of loss of his wife, Nix’s loss of her mother, a present father, and a life that she could have had. More so, one of its more profound questions that is continually asked is how far would the characters go for love, what would you be willing to sacrifice if you could have a second chance for love? The questions raised in the story were subtle, making the story inherently introspective and thoughtful thus requiring the reader to engage with the narrative.
The issue, however, was that the storytelling was the loose thread compared to the book’s other excellent elements, resulting in uneven pacing and significant moments that missed its mark. The beginning is an unfortunate casualty of the book’s inconsistent storytelling. Though a plethora of fascinating ideas, imagery, and dialogue are presented at the start of the story, its significance to the wider story is not explained until a few chapters later. The beginning was scattered and difficult to grasp, ultimately lacking that something that binds the story together, and unfortunately it severely hindered my enjoyment of the story.
Despite its flaws, The Girl From Everywhere is a unique adventure, interweaving a narrative about the losses too heavy to bear, the could have been‘s, and the blur of time and its constructs. It may not have that much time-travelling or adventuring as the premise may promise, but it’s nonetheless an enchanting, evocative story that is absolutely worth reading.
Book Name: The Girl From Everywhere
Book Series: The Girl From Everywhere #1
Author: Heidi Heilig
Publisher: Hot Key Books
I read this book for the Keep It Diverse book club! Though I have high praises for this book, unfortunately I didn’t enjoy it as much as I had liked — even so, I still highly recommend this book. It just wasn’t for me!
- Have you read The Girl From Everywhere? What did you think?
- Do you like books that have time-travelling? What are some of your fave books with time-travelling in them?
- How about pirates? (Do you like pirates?)