Disclaimer: I received a free review copy of this book at ALA Annual 2014. All quotes are based on an uncorrected text.
“Every form of art is another way of seeing the world. Another perspective, another window. And science –that’s the most spectacular window of all. You can see the entire universe from there.”
Marguerite Caine is the daughter of two brilliant scientists, inventors of the Firebird device, which enables travel into parallel dimensions. However, this powerful invention begets an unthinkable crime when one of the graduate assistants who helped her parents create the Firebird murders her father, and escapes into a parallel dimension, far from the reach of the law. Unable to rest while her father’s killer escapes justice, Marguerite teams up with Theo, her parents’ other graduate assistant, and uses a Firebird prototype to give chase, dogging Paul’s heels as he skips through neighbouring dimensions. The only artist in a family of scientists, Marguerite is nevertheless determined to master inter-dimensional travel, and find out why Paul betrayed her and her family.
On page one, Marguerite states her mission: “KILL PAUL MARKOV,” and the action and adventure takes off from this dramatic start. Although inter-dimensional travel is undoubtedly science fiction, what Claudia Gray has created here is a genre-bending work that refuses to be pinned down. Each successive dimension represents a unique variation on Marguerite’s home world, as Gray shows off her dexterity with multiple genres, from contemporary, to science fiction, to historical, to romance—adventure is the only constant. The first alternate dimension is a futuristic London that emphasizes technology, yet Gray effortlessly shifts to a historical vibe when the second world Marguerite lands in depicts a still-Tsarist Russia in a universe that has not yet experienced the Industrial Revolution. Yet another parallel world returns to the science fiction vibe, but takes it in an environmental direction, envisaging a world in which accelerated global warming has submerged many of the land masses. These well-realized alternate realities form the backdrop of Marguerite’s quest.
Gray does not spend much time on the math or physics behind the Firebird; the reader is placed in Marguerite’s non-scientist shoes, focused on the practical implications of the device, rather the science that makes it possible. Marguerite can only use the Firebird to project her conscious into other dimensions in which she was born and is still alive, where she inhabits the body of her other selves. Otherwise, however, the rules of inter-dimensional travel are largely theoretical and untested, and every choice runs the risk of unexpected consequences, making for a high stakes story. Although Gray eliminates the usual problem of encountering the other self in these universes by only projecting the consciousness, inhabiting the lives of the other selves presents its own unique set of problems. Each jump is an ethical dilemma for Marguerite, who questions the morality of invading the lives and hijacking the choices of her alternate selves in pursuit of Paul. Equally problematic is the fact that the man she plans to kill is inhabiting the body of an innocent, alternate version of himself, who will be caught in the crossfire of Marguerite’s revenge. And of course, multiple universes mean multiple versions of Marguerite’s love interest, creating one of the twistiest love triangles in YA.
Despite some thorny issues and a general lack of love for love triangles, the romance proves intriguing, with ample room for both the relationship and the story to develop in the next two projected volumes in this new series.
Also by Claudia Gray: