Review copy provided by Tor.
I love portal fantasy. Drop somebody through from our world to a different world, and I’m pretty much with you. Cheesy, corny, whatever other State Fair food adjective you like: sure, whatever, don’t care, I’m there. Add to that the fact that I’ve read and enjoyed Dellamonica’s work before, and I was on board for this book from the start.
Which is a good thing, because I will warn you: I found the start pretty rocky. Compared to the rest of the book, the prose is a bit choppy, and I took awhile to care about the character we were actually spending time with (as opposed to the mentioned backstory characters, who seemed frankly more interesting–and did show up later). Sophie’s transportation to the alternate world lands her in the water, and that level of disorientation is difficult to show–especially when you’re trying to throw preceding backstory at the reader. I recommend perseverance, because things improve swiftly.
The premise: Sophie loves her adoptive family like crazy, but she’s still curious about her birth family. When she goes looking, things get wild very very quickly. There’s an angry birth mother who wants nothing to do with her, there’s an aunt who’s slightly more reasonable, there are people attacking the aunt, there’s transit to a watery world of ships and weird magic tech and different species of bug and bird and sea critter, with variable languages and national customs…and the variable languages and national customs matter. A lot. If you’ve ever complained about books where it was raining on such-and-such an entire planet, Dellamonica has your back.
And when you get a whole new birth family, fighting with itself and from more than one culture, you get a whole new set of enemies, free of charge, home grown just for you! Sophie at least gets to go home and get some of her gear and her (adopted) brother Bram to help her out, but mostly she wins through by her wits and her mindset, and the said mindset involves things like collecting and observing evidence. So really, I’m very glad I kept on through the first chapter, because that’s catnip for me. I hope there’s more. I hope there’s lots more. There’s room for it.