The Firebird trilogy is based on the premise that even the smallest of choices will eventually amplify to create hugely differing parallel realities. Rather unfortunately, this is reflected in the books themselves, where issues that are minor irritants in the first book eventually expand to become hugely grating by the last instalment.
This is particularly glaring because the young adult trilogy actually has a fascinating premise with much potential for world-building and character exploration.
A Million Worlds With You concludes the tale that began in A Thousand Pieces Of You, where Marguerite Caine discovers that her physicist parents have invented the Firebird, a device that lets people travel into parallel dimensions – specifically, the device lets people leap into the bodies of versions of themselves that exist in those dimensions. The Triad Corporation headed by Wyatt Conley, however, is desperate to take control of this technology, to carry out an evil plan that could annihilate hundreds of these parallel universes. And Marguerite is the only one who might be able to stop it. But along the way, she also has to contend with her relationships with Paul Markov and Theo Beck.
Concluding a trilogy that has set up thousands of dimensions with just as many variations of its characters is no small feat, and author Claudia Gray does do it justice.
As in the first two books (the second was Ten Thousand Skies Above You), her visualisation of the various universes are inventive and enjoyable; one of the books’ highlights is the sense of curiosity and anticipation Gray creates in the reader when Marguerite jumps to a new universe. It is equally interesting to read how different versions of the characters have evolved in each dimension to the point of sometimes being almost unrecognisable.
One such character is positioned as Marguerite’s main antagonist: a version of herself from a different universe. Dubbed “Wicked” by the “main” Marguerite, this version has been completely twisted by her life experiences and works for Triad.
But where it would have been interesting to explore this dichotomy, Gray is much more concerned with the thing that has weighed the Firebird trilogy down from book one: Marguerite and Paul’s love story.
Paul is, in fact, a very likeable character, but Marguerite’s constant insecurity over their relationship goes beyond tiresome – particularly when there are larger concerns, such as the complete destruction of several universes, to deal with. Mostly, it feels like their relationship has not matured at all, despite everything they’ve been through together.
Take, for instance, the fact that Paul has just survived having his consciousness splintered. Marguerite acknowledges that this has changed him as a person and makes it difficult for him to remain in a relationship with her; and yet, she insists on agonising over his every action instead of giving him the time he needs to recover.
Meanwhile, Theo, who was the most interesting person in the story because of his shades of grey, is relegated to a secondary position. The moments when he or his alternate versions do get the spotlight, though, are some of this book’s best. Gray deserves credit for bringing his story arc – he was initially positioned as a rival for Marguerite’s affections – to a mature and realistic end.
The biggest issue with A Million Worlds With You is that it does not bring much that is new to the story.The plot feels more like an extension of events from the first two books, and large parts of it only hold because of Gray’s ability to create engaging new worlds. Neither Conley nor Wicked are given enough space to truly develop as the bad guys, and so when the book ends, it all feels rather anti-climatic.
Perhaps Gray’s main aim with the Firebird trilogy was to tell a love story, in which case she has succeeded. But Gray’s story has so many more possibilities, it is difficult not to long for all the universes left unexplored.
A Million Worlds With You (Firebird #3)
Author: Claudia Gray
Publisher: HarperTeen, young adult sci-fi