Overview (Spoilers Abound):
A. Deborah Baker is the pen name for Seanan McGuire who first introduces Baker and The Up-and-Under in her Middlegame series. McGuire fully writes up Zib and Avery’s adventure in these children’s tales, which work as supplemental material to her previous series. That said, you do not have to read the Middlegame series to enjoy Along the Saltwise Sea, though I wonder if there are Easter Eggs or deeper insights that I’m missing out on.
One of my chief complaints about Over the Woodward Wall is that the ending seems to conclude at the end of a chapter instead of the book as a whole. Along the Saltwise Sea picks up right in stride where the subsequent chapter would have started. Though I would be remiss to not acknowledge what might be one of the longest and most detailed recaps to start out Along the Saltwise Sea. This recap is so detailed I actually checked that I wasn’t accidentally rereading the first book. The ending of this second installment of The Up-and-Under has a comparable feel where I found myself surprised when the book ended, fully expecting the story to continue. Really the first two books of The Up-and-Under definitely feel like part one and two of a single book, instead of separate novels.
Along the Saltwise Sea is everything and more you would hope for in a children’s book with many familiar themes borrowed from classics being woven together into a new adventure. Zib and Avery continue their quest to the Impossible City where they hope to find the Queen of Wands who can hopefully send them home. Unlike Over the Woodward Wall, there is no mention made of the parents, who we found to be quite distraught about their children’s disappearance. Instead, the children and their newfound friends continue traveling the Improbable Road, which proves to be just as unreliable as ever, and soon the four are off on a new, unexpected journey. Where the first book in the series focuses on the Crow Girl, this novel gives Niamh, the Drowned Girl more of a backstory. Their adventure takes them to the Saltwise Sea and to a cottage that seems too good to be true. By the next morning they find themselves indebted to the intimidating Pirate Captain Atlas where each of the party are pushed into situations that take them out of their comfort zone. With each new and uncomfortable situation the children find themselves, they leave a bit of their childhood behind. It soon becomes apparent that the Captain is hiding something or maybe someone. Can they solve the mystery before their time on the ship is over? Or perhaps more importantly, can the children somehow find their way back to the Improbable Road and their way home?