Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews



Jenn Reese
Fiction  Series
For ages 12 and up
Candlewick Press, 2013   ISBN: 978-0763654184

Not long ago Aluna had a quiet life living in the ocean in the Coral Kampii settlement. She spent her time secretly honing her fighting skills, and like so many other young people of her age, she was looking forward to her coming of age ceremony.

  Then Aluna found out that the breathing shells that she and all her people depended on to breathe underwater were failing. Refusing to ignore the problem, Aluna decided to go to the Above World where she hoped to find out why the tech the Coral Kampii depended on were failing. What she found out was that the tech was controlled by Karl Strand, the leader of the Upgraders who wants to rule over all the different species including the Coral Kampii, the Deepfell, the Aviars, and the Equians. Helped by an Avian girl called Calli, an Equian boy called Dash, and her friend Hoku, Aluna was able to defeat  two of Karl Strand’s Upgrader clones who were threatening the wellbeing of the Coral Kampii, Deepfell people, and the Aviars. Now she and her three friends are traveling to Mirage, an Equian city in the desert. Aluna hopes that she will get there before the Upgraders have a chance to do anything to encourage or force the Equian High Khan to join their cause.

   As soon as they get to Mirage it is clear that they are too late. When they are brought into the presence of the High Khan (as prisoners) they find out that Scorch, a third Karl Strand clone, is there. She has already persuaded High Khan Onggur to support Karl Strand’s cause, and she insists that Calli and Aluna are hers, to do with as she wishes.

   Luckily for the young people, Tayan, a member of Dash’s Shining Moon herd, is present and she insists that Dash and his companions belong to her herd. Dash was exiled by the Shining Moon herd and was told that if he returned to the desert he would be executed. Now the Shining Moon herd has the right to decide his fate, and the fates of his companions, as they see fit. Since this is herd law, the High Khan and Scorch cannot prevent Tayan from taking the four young people to her herd.

  The Jigh Khan agrees that the Shining Moon herd can do what they wish with Dash, but they must bring Aluna, Hoku, and Calli to the Thunder Trials in a few weeks time. The Thunder Trials are a series of contests, and the Equian herd who wins the most trials has the best chance of surviving. This year the stakes are higher than usual. If the High Khan wins the coveted Sun Disc again and retains his High Khan status then he will insist that all the herds pledge their support to him and his ally, Karl Strand. The herds who refuse to join him will be destroyed.

  After another journey across the desert, Aluna, Hoku, Calli, and Dash arrive at the camp of the Shining Moon herd. Dash is immediately taken prisoner, but the other young people are treated with kindness. Though Khan Arasen, the leader of the Shining Moon herd, allows the visitors to tell him their story and he hears about what Karl Strand has been doing, he still decides that he will follow the High Khan’s orders. If he does not win the contest at the Thunder Trials and the High Khan does, he will pledge his support to the High Khan and join him in battle on Karl Strand’s behalf. He also decides that he and his people have no right to the lives of Aluna, Hoku, and Calli and that they are free to do as they wish, though he asks them to attend the Thunder Trials so that his daughter Tayan does not lose face.

   Though there seems no way to save Dash’s life and to stop the Equians from joining Karl Strand, Aluna and her friends do not give up. They are told that they cannot compete in the Thunder Trials, but perhaps there is something else they can do to influence the outcome of the Trials. There must be something they can do.

   In this second Above World title Jenn Reese has created a rich and fascinating story. She takes us deep into the desert world of the Equian people, a world where honor and tradition is so highly regarded that sometimes good sense, compassion, and a need for self-preservation is ignored. Perhaps the most interesting element in this book is the way in which Aluna grows as a character. She learns to trust more, and she comes to understand that a true friends is a priceless gift, a gift that should be treasured and guarded. She and her friends discover that they share a special bond, one that is so strong that they are a family of sorts. It does not matter that they grew up in different worlds and that they have different beliefs and abilities. All that matters is that they stand together as one. Together they can face the challenges that exist in their changing world.