Eva Nine is lonely. She is also special, according to her Robot ‘mother’, Muthr, but she longs to find someone who is the same as her, a human child and she longs to find out what it is like in the outside world. When her underground home, Sanctuary is attacked by the hunter, Besteel, Eva has her wish – though now she is fleeing for her life in the company of the Caerulean, Rovender and the giant water bear, Otto. The world she finds outside is beyond her imagination – indeed, even her Omnipod, cannot classify any of the species – walking trees, water bears, sand-snipers among others. Eva is determined to try to find out more about her origins and the source of the picture she treasures; the picture she calls her WondLa. The journey proves to be full of incident, weird creatures and danger – Besteel is still pursuing her. Nor is it without tragedy. And the end brings a real surprise… the adventure is going to continue.
This is a very long book – possibly too long – and certainly demands stamina and good reading skills. While the publisher states it is aimed at readers aged 10+, it would also be accessible to a younger audience. It is a quest story with little subtlety of character or incident but it will be familiar to a generation brought up on Star Wars and children’s television. Indeed the world inhabited by Eva bears a strong resemblance to that of Luke Skywalker with its mixture of high technology and outlandish life forms. The language (American English throughout) is ponderous, peppered with the standard and often clichéd vocabulary of fantasy – orb, cerulean blue, gibbous, interspersed with computer-speak – that is designed to create atmosphere and a sense of otherness. Adding to the text are DiTerlizzi’s illustrations and ornate page decorations. The blurb also promises the possibility of Augmented Reality through which maps in the book can be shown in three dimensions on a computer; a gimmick which might, indeed, catch the interest of the young. It is also the first book in what is clearly seen as an ongoing adventure as Eva Nine searches for the truth about her parents and background. While it is not great literature, this is an attractively produced title that could be recommended to those 8-year-olds who have become confident readers and need more substantial fare than the titles usually aimed at them.