City of Thirst, by Carrie Ryan and John Parke Davis (Little Brown October 2015), is the sequel to 2014's The Map to Everywhere (here's my review of that one). At the end of that book, Marrill returned to the ordinary world after wild adventures on the Pirate Stream of magic with a group of ship-board comrades that included the best friend she's ever made, a boy named Fin who is cursed with being utterly forgettable (Marrill is the only person Fin's ever met who can remember him from minute to minute). Back in our world, Marrill's been left in the care of an older girl, Remy, while her mother undergoes treatments for cancer. Marrill doesn't expect any more magic in her life, but then the Pirate Stream touches her life again, and she and Remy are swept away into adventure back on board the same ship, the Enterprising Kraken.
Warnings have come of the imminent approach of the Iron Tide, an the Enterprising Kraken sets out to sail the Pirate Stream and find out what exactly the Iron Tide is, and how it can be stopped. The journey takes them into old stories of the Sand Salt King and a truly fantastical city that exists in a bubble of its own time. At the heart of the city is the long-lost wish machine; Marrill could wish for her mother's recovery, Fin, increasingly dispirited by never being remembered, could wish to be normal. Or they could wish the Iron Tide away, saving not just the Pirate Stream and all the lands it touches but our own world as well.
Except there are problems; an old enemy is close to making the wish-machine his own, and the Sand Salt King, who set events in motion, is a terrible threat in his own right. And even if the wish issue were resolved, there's the problem of escaping the un-escapable City of Thirst....
This is the sort of story where one (if one is me) comes up for air periodically to think "my goodness, this is wildly imaginative and incredibly invented" followed quickly by "I hope I am understanding what the heck is happening." So if is fun reading, although of course the really great wildly inventive fantasies (one in thousand) are so great that one never thinks to come up for air at all. But if "wildly inventive" is what you like in middle grade fantasy, with lots of adventure and fascinating magical happenings and characters, City of Thirst and its predecessor will be right up your alley.
Some thoughtful depth is given by the predicament of Fin, who is dealing more directly with the downside of his forgettable-ness than he was in the first book. His friendship with Marrill is tested, and he evokes just tons of sympathy from the reader. Marrill's own predicaments of saving her mother vs. saving the world, and going home vs being a loyal friend, pale in comparison although they are of course still valid concerns.
Short answer--not exactly to my taste at the moment, but a cracking good read that's lots of fun with a sprinkle of heart tugging. I liked it more than I did the first book, perhaps because this one is mostly on dry land, which I tend to prefer....things at sea tend to be more episodic, and I like settling down into a nice city of extraordinary oddness much more! That being said, I am committed to the next journey of the Enterprising Kraken even if it does take place at sea (mostly for Fin's sake)!
disclaimer: review copy greatfully received from the publisher at Kidlitcon 2015.