Mirage (Above World)
Written by Jenn Reese
In book two of the Above World series, Aluna, the sea-dwelling Kampaii, and her three genetically modified friends race across the desert to the great city of Mirage to warn the half-human, half-horse Equians about Karl Strand’s plans of domination and destruction. But they arrive too late. Strand’s evil clone, a human woman named Scorch, has already formed an alliance with their leader, High Khan Onggur, and has convinced him to join Strand’s army. With Aluna’s Equian friend, Dash, sentenced to death for breaking his exile, the stakes are high for these four futuristic friends, including Hoku, the tech-loving Kampaii, and bird-girl, Calli. The only way to restore Above World order is to defeat Scorch at the upcoming Thunder Trials, an Olympic-like competition. The fiercest warrior of the group, Aluna, secretly worries about her legs; they are slowly fusing into a fishtail, and she fears she is running out of time.
Reese creates a richly imagined dystopian world with unusual names and vocabulary words that will enhance comprehension skills for those ten and older. Treachery, martial arts sequences, and the introduction of more unique characters (particularly the snake-people) should hold the interest of fifth graders who have invested their time in the first book. For new readers, though, like myself, I would not start with book two! This is a true sequel, not a stand-alone, and I found myself spending too much time playing catch-up – sorting out the characters, their customs and codes of honor, and deciphering references to the first book. Perhaps this is why, in the end, I felt emotionally detached to the characters and to the story itself.