Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews



Phoebe North
Fiction  Series
For ages 13 and up
Simon and Schuster, 2013   ISBN: 978-1442459533

Five hundred years ago a fleet of space ships left Earth. The blue and green planet was going to be hit by an asteroid, an asteroid so big that humans would not survive. Each ship set off for a distant planet, a planet that, it was hoped, would be suitable for colonization. One of these ships was the Asherah and now, centuries later, the ship has almost reached its destination.

Terra has never left the Asherah. The ship has been her whole life, and since the death of her mother when she was twelve, Terra’s life has been grim. Her father cannot seem to relate to Terra at all, except to shout at her and criticize her at every turn;  Terra is not dutiful or biddable enough; she will let down the family name; she will dishonor her mother’s memory. Terra’s father’s complaints never end, and so Terra takes refuge inside herself and in the pictures that she draws in a sketchbook.

One evening Terra is walking home from work in the dark when she witnesses the murder of Benjamin Jacobi, the ship’s principal librarian. Ben was a nice man who was friends with Terra’s mother. Terra sees the whole appalling scene unfold before her eyes and she sees the captain’s daughter kill the librarian right there in front of Van, Ben’s student.

Later Terra finds out that Benjamin Jacobi was a member of an organization that is opposed to the way in which the Council oppresses the people on the ship. The Council decides what jobs people should do; they decide when they should marry and reproduce. They even decide when the seasons should be changed. They say that they are making these decisions for the good of all, but sometimes it is hard to believe that this is still true. Some on board the Asherah are tired of this control and they want more freedom. What worries them the most is that they fear that the Council will continue to control the colonists, even when they get to the Zehava, the planet they are heading for.

Terra’s father believes in following the rules to the letter, but his dead wife, and now Terra, thinks differently. After the death of Benjamin Jacobi, Terra tells Koen, her father’s student, what she saw that night, and he takes her to see Van, who is the leader of one of the of the rebel cells. Van is willing to let Terra join the rebel cause, but she has to do her part. All he wants from her is for her to get him some pieces of foxglove from the stores at her workplace. Terra is training to be a botanist and therefore is in a position to get her hands on some of the plant.

Koen and Terra start to become close and Terra knows that her father hopes that they will choose to marry. After Terra turns sixteen, Koen asks her to be his wife and she agrees. She likes Koen and respects him, but he is standoffish and Terra begins to think that he is keeping something from her, something vital. She tells herself that Koen would be a good husband, but she cannot help feeling attracted to another young man, the young man who will, one day, replace the ship’s captain.

Then Terra finds out what foxglove is, that it is a poison, and she begins to think that perhaps she does not want to join the rebels after all. They, like the Council, are dangerous. They, like the Council, want to control the people on board the Asherah. They, like the Council, are willing to kill the people who get in their way.

Readers are going to quickly get caught up in Terra’s story, which gets darker and more disturbing as the narrative unfolds. What seems like a peaceful society turns out to be rife with power-hungry individuals who will stop at nothing to get what they want. Terra, and people like her, are pulled along, not knowing how their story is going to end. All they do know is that they want to be allowed to live the life that their ancestors dreamed of on a new home planet.