First off, I loved this book and to be honest, who wouldn’t with time travelling pirate ships, authentic maps (both within the story and pictures on the page), and a mix of real-life and mythical history rolled into one? I couldn’t really get into to it to begin with but I think that’s my fault as the reader (I haven’t read in a very long time what with uni and it took me a while to find my stride with this book) but once the first couple of chapters were out the way I couldn’t put it down. Within the story you’ll find modern items like instant coffee and mobile phones in eras where neither existed. It’s fascinating to read how Heidi Heilig creates these moments between different eras and people.
The characters are well defined, each having their own unique talent, flaws and looks. Nix has her own concerns about travelling to her father’s destination. Slate, the captain, and Nix’s father, struggles with addiction both drug related and obsessing with a certain map for a certain time. Kashmir is a kind hearted thief, who stole my heart straight away. And there are others, the cattle herding woman with bells on her ankles who talks to the ghost of her dead wife, the chef who used to be a monk, the boy who sees beauty in everything, especially within Nix, the girl whose father plans on destroying the kingdom of Hawaii for the map he desperately seeks. The characters are amazing, each little tid-bit that Nix allows us of their past fascinated me. How did this rag-tag group of misfits from different eras find their way to this time-travelling pirate ship and become it’s crew and Nix’s family?
The character development is strong as Nix’s father is horrendously selfish, addicted to opium and intent on finding a map to find the era of his lost love – a place where Nix can’t exist. He becomes fixated on this, forcing Nix to work with him despite the inevitable outcome. As time goes on and they fight for the map he needs, he realises the love he has for his daughter, the strength she possesses and he makes the decision between keeping Nix by his side or finding the woman he once loved. His character arc and development is the most profound, with Nix coming up close behind. She realises what she is worth as she explores the paradise she would have grown up in, meeting the woman who cared for her mother, the son of the man who holds Slate’s map as a weapon and she plans and fights on Slate’s behalf, planning all the while her escape from the Temptation, wanting nothing more than to Navigate herself.
The complexity of the story, the drawing from history and mythical stories gives this novel the well-rounded, satisfactory read it needs. Using the history of Hawaii, Heidi Heilig’s native land, for the back drop and describing the paradise at that moment in history was all I needed to continue reading. I have never been to Hawaii nor do I know any of it’s history, and now I do and I loved it. The descriptions of the vegetation and villages, the houses and the harbour within this historic time were beautiful and I recommend any who loves history, or mythology to read this novel, because you won’t regret it.
At times during the novel, I was a tad confused as to what was happening. I knew the premise and understood the motives but didn’t understand who these high standing people where. Blake’s father, Mr Hart needed to recover his debts to the League, but who are the League? And why did they need Slate and his crew to do their bidding for them, just because they could hold the map over their heads? Despite these slight confusions the story flowed out of the page for me, I loved the descriptions of the houses, the meetings between the two companies and Nix’s thoughts and feelings throughout. Add Joss and her “opium den” where Slate and Nix’s mother met, where Nix goes and finds this woman and bargains with her for information and maps, a woman who claims she can see the future and tells Nix hers and creates more confusion for poor Nixie, and you’ve got yourself a brilliant description of the highs and lows of every paradise.
I would say this novel is about the relationship between father and daughter, and the need for both of them to get what they want. Slate’s selfishness and drug addiction pushed Nix away to hope that someday she might escape the ship and navigate her own. But as they become closer to finding the map, their relationship both deteriorates and then becomes stronger. Slate realises Nix is a person and deserves the right to remain as such, and has to deal with losing either her or his lost love and the thing he’s been fighting for several years. Nix helps her father no matter what, but when he threatens her best friend and potential romantic interest, she realises what he has become. She promises one more navigation, one more map and then she leaves. By the end, Slate is holding his daughter so tightly she can’t breath and instead of leaving the Temptation, the Temptation leaves Hawaii, with both Nix and Slate on board, leaving behind the paradise they both love.
The romance in this novel is gentle and doesn’t over take the real story arc. Nix finds two men she could potentially love, kissing both and struggling with her feelings for them. But she doesn’t let it cloud her judgement, or her plans for the future, only inviting Kashmir with her when she leaves. It was nice to see how the relationship between the crew members was so strong, Kashmir laughing and joking and being handsome and Nix indulging him when necessary. It’s clear which man you’re supposed to route for, but in all honestly it doesn’t really matter because this is not a love story, the romance just adds to the complex emotions and helps define Nix’s character development. When she meets Blake, the son of the man who has Slate’s map, she is shown the island paradise she always wanted to see and Blake tells her of the secret history behind it. He clearly loves her and even implies marriage, something Nix had to consider carefully: leave the Temptation, which she has always wanted and live in her native land, indulging in the paradise but be tied down and married and never sail again or leave him behind, sail the Temptation away, almost certainly never to return to Blake or that era in Hawaii. The decisions she makes for her feelings pushes her character arc, but doesn’t take over or become the sole purpose of her intent, which I thought was extremely clever. Too many times have YA novels been devoted to the love story, creating weak characters and poor decisions.
In short, if you love history, myths and legends, time-travel and island paradises, mixed with the fraught relationships between parent and child, maps of different lands and easy romance, this is the novel for you. The cover art is beautiful and it matches the story inside. I love reading, especially stories like this and I know this one will stay with me for a long time. It also makes me want to write a novel like this, something that makes people think, that gets people to learn things and understand certain eras. Hopefully one day I will.