The Quest to the Uncharted Lands by Jaliegh Johnson, 352 pp, RL 4
The Quest to the Uncharted Lands is the third book in Jaleigh Johnson's World of Solace trilogy. It's rare that I have the time to read - and review - all three books in a trilogy. In fact, I can count on one hand the number of trilogies I have reviewed here, with a few more where I reviewed only the first book in the series. Johnson's trilogy stands out because each book is set in a different part of the world she created and each one features a new, strong girl character with different talents. In The Mark of the Dragonfly, thirteen-year-old orphan Piper Linny is living in Scrap Town Number Sixteen, which is as grim as it sounds. She risks her life scavenging debris from meteor storm, debris that brings artifacts from another strange world (that sounds much like ours...) to Solace. These artifacts are sold, often ending up at the Archivist's Stronghold, located in the neutral territory of Ortana, which is tucked between the warring kingdoms of Merrow and Dragonfly. The Secrets of Solace features Lina Winterbock, an apprentice in training struggling to fit in. Lina sees herself more as an "archivist explorer," spending all her free time winding her way through the tunnels, caves and other unexplored, overlooked areas of the Stronghold that hide artifacts beyond imagining. Her life is changed when the war between the kingdoms reaches the Stronghold.
In The Quest for the Uncharted Lands, the final book of the World of Solace trilogy we meet Stella Glass, a the daughter of healers, herself a healer in training. The war between the Dragonfly and Merrow kingdoms is over and the territories are united in their quest to explore the Uncharted Lands. Stella's parents have been selected to be part of the crew of the Iron Glory, the airship that will carry explorers over the Hiterian Mountains and into the unknown. Unwilling to be left behind, Stella crafts a plan to stowaway on the ship, quickly discovering that she is not the only stowaway. She meets a strange, glowing boy and is forced to trust him until a dangerous, faceless man threatens the safety of everyone on board the Iron Glory. Once again, Johnson does something that is rare in middle grade novels, especially fantasy, and has her young protagonist turn to adults for help.
To me, The Quest to the Uncharted Lands feels more like the second part of a trilogy, rather than an ending. And maybe it's not an ending? There is definitely more to be explored in the World of Solace. Aspects from the first two books that I loved, like geographical details and societal structures, were absent from The Quest to the Uncharted Lands, in part because most of the story takes place onboard the Iron Glory. Add to this the fact that Stella and Cyrus, the strange boy, are stowaways in hiding for most of the book, and the world of The Quest to the Uncharted Lands becomes even smaller. I will always be happy to return to the World of Solace, but for me, The Quest to the Uncharted Lands, while not a disappointment by any means, was not the satisfying finish that I had hoped for, especially coming after The Secrets of Solace, which I loved.
Source: Review Copy