With a world in flux, a teenage girl looks for answers from quarreling deities in this YA fantasy sequel.
Book I of the Waterwight series takes place a few years after The Event, a cataclysmic natural disaster that left strange effects in its wake, such as people and animals changing forms. Celeste Araia Nolan, about 14, discovers that she can fly; with help from often dreamlike figures (like Orville, a talking, winged Francophone frog), she saves a village of children. In Book II, moments after healing a toxic ocean, Celeste finds herself transformed into a dove. Two black ravens escort her into the clouds and to the old and tired god Odin, who wants her help to investigate what’s happening below and report back. Meanwhile, stragglers—some human, some distinctly odd—join the villagers, whose transformations and special powers are fluctuating. They face a new danger, according to Noor, a giant dragonfly, thanks to a dispute between Odin and his brother Kumugwe, the sea god. Events converge underwater when Celeste visits Kumugwe after escaping from Odin. She hopes to find her real parents. So do two sisters with a complicated history (one was rescued and raised by Kumugwe) who go in search of their scientist parents and their undersea lab. A great wrong must be righted in this hunt for the truth. McHargue (Hunt for Red Meat, 2017, etc.) again effectively offers images from dreamscape and myth in this intriguing follow-up novel. Though there are some standard YA tropes—post-apocalypse; teenage girl with special powers—the author goes beyond the expected with her original, striking characters. Merts, for example, has three heads atop a two-armed body; speaks only in haiku; and moves through the trees via hair braided into a long, prehensile whip. The plot is fast-moving, with action, danger, emotion, and moral choices; beneath all of this is a subtle environmental message embodied in the two scientists’ meddling with nature. Given her complicated narratives, McHargue could have helped readers with a prefatory summary of Book I, although she does provide backstory in the exposition.
Imaginative characters that powerfully tap into myth.