Jenn Reese
Candlewick, 2013

Wow. This is one of those second-book-in-a-series that assumes you have read the first-in-the-series and can keep up! With very little preamble, we are immediately plunged back into the world of Aluna and her best friend Hoku, both Kampii, and their friends Calli (who has wings) and Dash, an Equian. If those descriptions means nothing to you, read no further. Just go read Above World quickly so you can catch up!

The four friends attempt again to thwart the nefarious Karl Strand and one of his clones in this fast-paced book. Trying desperately to arrive at Mirage (an aptly named desert city in the middle of Equian country), the friends find their plans constantly shifting and changing–much like the terrain they are crossing. As the book progresses with rapidly advancing plot, they meet new friends and form new alliances. We meet the Serpenti–a race of people adapted to live as snakes do. We understand more of Dash’s personal history as well as that of another “failed” Equian, Tal. We watch Aluna struggle to admit her need for and dependence on her friends, and we watch a gripping showdown in which the ending is brilliantly done. I love it when an author doesn’t give us the expected ending! Aluna “grows up” a bit in this book as she suffers the side effects of the pill she swallowed at the end of the last book–the pill the Kampii swallow to generate their trademark tale.

I’ll confess that I didn’t find the writing style as distinguished in this book as in Above World. Still, for fans of Above World, this is a fun sequel to be sure. Similar thought-provoking discussions will result, as well: what makes us human? When is too much tech, well, too much? What assumptions do we make about others based simply on appearances or quickly formed judgements from one action? When does our pride get in the way of a true friendship (either with people we already know or with those we’ve pre-maturely judged)? When is tradition important and when should it alter to fit the new times we’re living in?

Clearly we are headed for more in this series; Karl Strand is still out there, and Aluna and her band are stronger than ever!

Recommended for middle grades, especially those who enjoy fantasy/sci-fi! Look for Mirage in book stores this week, and hopefully on library shelves soon, too!

Cover image from netgalley; ARC of book thanks to netgalley as well!