Winnie Winters is whisked off to another world where her new friend, Lunen, is honing his warrior skills for a battle with the Masked Emperor.
In Al-Sheikh’s (Wandering Djinn, 2010) YA action/fantasy, the 22-year-old heroine inhabits a complex world with three moons. Each moon bestows special powers over its particular “ethnic” group: Red, Blue or Gold. She meets the young warrior, Lunen. Lunen is a Triblood—he possesses magic strengths from all realms but has to learn the skill of combining his powers to defeat the evil Masked Emperor. In the airship Freewind, they blow about the three realms as pirates fighting for hire. Soon, Winnie battles fearsome thura-beasts, armies and medieval-style bad guys. She and Lunen kill and maim like Vikings of old, using spears, fireballs, wind shears and pickaxes. Then they race back to the Freewind to recover from their wounds. Outsider Winnie immediately takes to this bloody mayhem. She dives into the sea to rescue the sky-lynx and comes face to face with a monster made of a writhing blob of tentacles. Armed with frozen discs, Lunen slices off ghastly tentacles, leaving “chunks of ice poking out of the injured, scaly flesh.” Al-Sheikh describes each battle with skillful, graphic detail. Winnie’s character, however, remains thinly drawn. We never really feel her fears or understand her supposedly timid nature, so her fascination with “being strong” doesn’t engage. The dialogue between Winnie and Lunen often comprises sarcastic “screams” as they are engaging the enemy or casual asides afterward. Winnie doesn’t long for her real home or truly wonder about how she’ll return. Nevertheless, Al-Sheikh deftly portrays the battles, tactics and imaginative weapons involved. The three-moon world is both interesting and carefully conceived. The book cover reflects this attention to detail, as does the interior font, the sturdy paper and the images of the phases of the moon at the head of each chapter.
An action-based fantasy full of imaginative, albeit emotionally flat, characters with extraordinary powers.