Wednesday, March 4, 2015

A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray

Marguerite Caine is the daughter of two brilliant scientists; Dr. Sophia Kovalenka, a physicist and Dr. Henry Caine, an oceanographer, physicist and mathematician. Dr. Kovalenka has been working on multidimensional universes and theorized that it should be possible to interact with them. Marguerite's father became interested in her work and they eventually became research partners and married. Marguerite and her sister, Josie, are the result of that union.

After twenty-four years of research, her parents were ready to try traveling between dimensions after their work demonstrating the existence of alternate dimensions had been replicated.They began working on building a device that would enable energy to travel between dimensions and since consciousness is a form of energy, theoretically this meant that people would be able to travel to other dimensions. The device to enable multidimensional travel needed to be made out of specific materials which move easier than other forms of matter and "anchor the consciousness of the traveler". Eventually Henry and Sophia made a device, which they named "Firebird" that seemed like it would work.

However, one of Marguerite's parent's trusted research assistants, Paul Markov, is suspected of murdering her father and has fled into another dimension with the only working Firebird. Theo Beck, their other research assistant,  is determined to recover the device and to stop Paul. To do so he has assembled two working Firebird devices from old prototypes which will enable him to pursue Paul who is leaving traces as he travels through different dimensions. Despite Theo's objections, Marguerite is determined to be involved and they both travel to the dimension where Paul has fled.

The first dimension Marguerite lands in finds her in London, England. Computers appear to have been invented much earlier and are more advanced. When she is contacted by Theo via computer, she learns that he is in Boston at MIT. It appears that Theo has experienced some sort of confusion, a side effect of dimensional travel and one that Marguerite has not had yet. Marguerite discovers that in this dimension her entire family was killed in an hovercraft accident years ago and that she is living with her father's sister, her Aunt Susannah. She also learns that Paul Markov is a research assistant at the University of Cambridge.

Marguerite finds her way to Aunt Susannah's posh apartment. The Marguerite in this dimension doesn't read, is a partier and dresses in designer labels. When she gets in trouble at a party, Theo rescues her and takes her back to Aunt Susannah's apartment. However Theo has problems, first blanking out in this dimension and needing a "reminder" to wake his consciousness and then he shoots up with a strange green liquid later on. This causes Marguerite to realize she may not be able to count on Theo to help her.

After recovering Theo tells Marguerite that they need to find Wyatt Conley head of Triad Corporation which has been financing Marguerite's parent's research. Triad is one of the world's biggest tech companies and Conley is to speak at a convention in London. Marguerite remembers that Paul was increasingly suspicious of Triad, especially after a machine used for measuring something called "dimensional resonance", which had been in Marguerite's family's home, overloaded, shocking Marguerite but otherwise not harming her. During the months before his disappearance she remembers him being very paranoid.

Theo and Marguerite confront Paul at the convention but when Theo gets carted off by security, Marguerite is taken by Paul onto the Tube. In the subway car he is shocked to learn of her father's death and tells Marguerite he would never hurt her father. Paul tells Marguerite that Theo must take her home and then abruptly jumps to another dimension.

Marguerite follows him only to find herself in a dimension where she is the daughter of His Imperial Highness Tsar Alexander V of Russia. As Marguerite enters into the body of the Marguerite in this dimension, she is walking down red velvet carpeted stairs and she falls, breaking a pearl necklace and the Firebird. In this dimension, Marguerite's mother is dead, her father Henry Caine is tutor to the royal children, and she has an older brother Vladimir and a younger sister, Katya and brother, Peter. Paul who has jumped ahead of her into this dimension, is the dashing Lieutenant Paul Markov, assigned to protect the Imperial Princess Marguerite.

At first Paul remembers who he is and as he's escorting Marguerite to her rooms, he warns her that Wyatt Conley is dangerous and that she needs to go home. However, Marguerite shows him the broken Firebird which he says can be fixed but before that happens, Paul loses his own Firebird when Colonel Azarenko takes it from him. Even worse, Paul's consciousness begins to fade inside this dimension's Lieutenant Markov. Marguerite does not know where Theo has landed in this dimension until she eventually receives a letter from him indicating that he is in France.

In this dimension, Marguerite falls in love with Lieutenant Markov and discovers that her father had an affair with the Tsar's wife, Sophia Kovalenka and that he is her father. Marguerite recognizes her father's brilliant mind and decides to ask him to put the Firebird back together. When the royal family decides to travel to Moscow via train, they are ambushed by the Tsar's brother, Grand Duke Sergei, who is intent upon killing the Romanov family and seizing power. This results in Marguerite and Lieutenant Paul Markov fleeing the train and spending an intimate night together. During this time Marguerite decides to reveal to Paul who she is, in the hopes that he can help her retrieve the Firebird and get her own device repaired.

The attack on the train leads to a civil war. Marguerite insists that Paul take her to the royal war camp which he does and there she also tells her biological father, Henry, her true identity in the hope that he can reconstruct the Firebird. Eventually her father does repair the device and Marguerite jumps to the next dimension, shortly after Lieutenant Markov has died and the fate of Paul from her dimension unknown.

Because her Firebird is set to follow Paul to whatever dimension he jumps, Marguerite reasons he is alive in this dimension that is very much like home. Marguerite finds her parents both alive and that they have been awarded a Nobel Prize indicating that they must have made their discoveries several years earlier. Marguerite learns that in this dimension, Paul is being sought by the police for stealing her parents data. When Theo shows up, he continues to press her to not believe in what Paul tells her. At dinner with her parents, Theo tells her that Triad wants to not only send energy but matter as well to different dimensions. The proof that matter can be sent is the presence of the Firebird in each alternate reality. Her father states that Conley's agenda is more sinister, involving spying on other dimensions and to take over the bodies of other people in alternate realities. Because they cannot stop Triad, they have managed to get Theo into Triad as an intern. This position allows Theo to take Marguerite into Triad's headquarters to see Lab Eleven where he works. However a series of desperate texts from Paul warn Marguerite to leave the building immediately. Marguerite manages to do this and meet up with Paul.  In this dimension, Paul reveals what is really going on and the danger Marguerite is in.


A Thousand Pieces of You is the first in the Firebird series by Gray with the second book, Ten Thousand Skies Above You, due out November 3, 2015. This first novel weaves an intriguing story involving the sci fi element of dimensional travel with a romantic relationship between Marguerite and Paul. The interesting premise which forms the basis for the entire series - traveling through alternate dimensions - is the prime strength of this novel.

The story is told in first person narration by Marguerite, a strong, vibrant protagonist. The novel starts out with Marguerite believing Paul is responsible for her father's death and that she must kill him to exact revenge. While this is a great hook to draw the reader into the story, (Marguerite writes "Kill Paul Markov" in lipstick on a wall) the decision to kill him seems a little over the top despite the fact that he's wiped their research data, killed her father and stolen the Firebird. Even Marguerite recognizes that such an action is problematic. wouldn't killing him in another dimension kill two people, one of whom lives in that other dimension but who is innocent? Marguerite does understand this when she says "It hasn't escaped my attention that the Paul I need to destroy is currently a passenger in the body of another Paul Markov entirely. Although right now it seems to me that anybody as evil as Paul would be evil in every single dimension, I don't know that for sure. So it's not as simple as finding him and...shooting him..." Wouldn't Marguerite's mission be to bring him back to his home dimension to face murder charges?

Gray does a good job of creating and maintaining suspense throughout the story and readers will probably clue into the fact that Paul might not be the person Marguerite needs to be worried about. Eventually all the lose ends are tied together through revelations by various characters. Unlike Paul or Theo, Marguerite retains her ability to function in the different realities because of the Accident with the machine that was placed in her home by Triad. It is this ability to retain her memories and her consciousness that Wyatt Conley of Triad hopes to utilize. His intent is to use Marguerite to control her parents - the inventors of dimensional travel, and thus control the technology in as many alternate realities as possible. In this way he can keep the technology to himself. Paul believes that the Wyatt Conley from the dimension which developed the technology earlier and in which Marguerite's parents won a Nobel Prize, has been visiting their home dimension for some time and may have even been in collusion with that Conley. All this is eventually revealed to Marguerite by Paul so that she understands the danger she is in.

At first it appears that there will be a love triangle between Marguerite, Paul and Theo but that is gradually resolved as the novel moves along. Marguerite's time in the alternate reality set in Russia is quite lengthy and it is in this dimension that Gray diverges from the storyline to develop the romance between Marguerite and Paul.While this development slows the novel, the relationship between Paul and Marguerite does further the plot because Paul holds vital information about her father's murder and the motive behind what really happened.

At times the novel does suffer from poor editing - for example when Marguerite spends almost an entire page discussing homeschooling. But overall readers will enjoy this story which offers the opportunity to consider what it might be like to travel to other dimensions (if they do in fact exist) along with a touch of romance. The beautiful cover art by Craig Shields will certainly entice readers to at least open the cover and check out the first few pages.

Claudia Gray is the pseudonym of New Orleans based writer Amy Vincent. She is also the author of the Spellcaster and Evernight series.

Book Details:
A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray
New York: HarperTEEN     2014
357 pp.

No comments: