“I don’t know whether I have minutes, or seconds, or even less. Desperately I tug at these unfamiliar clothes – the short dress and shiny jacket I wear have no pockets, but there’s a small bag dangling from my shoulder. When I fish inside, I can’t find a pen, but there’s a lipstick. Fingers trembling, I unscrew it and scrawl on a tattered poster on the wall of the alley. This is the message I must pass on, the one goal I have to remember after everything else is gone. KILL PAUL MARKOV.”
A Thousand Pieces of You centres on the discovery of alternate dimensions – where each dimension represents one set of possibilities – that everything that can happen does happen, in one dimension or another. Marguerite Caine, using a device invented by her physicist parents, jumps from one dimension to the next, taking over the body of her own self in each dimension – all in an effort to find vengeance and truth about the death of her father.
I didn’t know a lot about this book, going in – only that it involved alternate realities and has an absolutely gorgeous cover (yes, I did judge a book by its cover). As the story started to unfold, it held a lot of promise and I willingly drank it up, all until Marguerite landed in the second dimension and the pace of the book utterly halted. This became a pit of frustration until finally things started to pick up again and I actually found myself thinking, “just one more chapter” on more than one occasion. The ending was satisfying with the final unraveling of the mystery.
Other than the grand halt in the middle, I had three other major problems with this book: convenience, ethics, and suspension of disbelief. NB: Many many spoilers ahead! Please don’t continue reading until you’ve read the book yourself!
I found it constantly annoying how convenient a lot of the situations were – that Paul was her personal body guard in the historical Russia dimension (yet Theo was conveniently located in France) and that Azarenko just ‘had to’ leave during the ball, moments after taking away Paul’s Firebird. How one of the dimensions was historical Russia in the first place, because it seemed to be for the sole reason of Marguerite playing dress up, dancing with Lietenant Markov, and ‘falling in love with him’. And what were evil Theo’s reasons for taking the submersible at the end??! It was an accident waiting to happen, duh! And of course, the part that the whole story hinged on – how Marguerite was the target of the device made by Triad to transform her into the only person in their dimension who can travel into other dimensions for indefinable amounts of time without forgetting herself. The annoying part about it was that [evil] Theo had brought it to her parents house but Marguerite just so happened to be in the room with her sister when it ‘went off’… was it timed? Did [evil] Theo press a remote button? This could easily have been explained but it was not – just left as a seeming accident, which makes it appear way too convenient that she was even in the room when it went off.
With regards suspension of disbelief: Sure, I’ll believe that alternate dimensions exist. Sure, I’ll believe that her parents are physicists and have developed a device to travel to alternate dimensions. Sure, I’ll believe that one can travel into the body of their alternate self in said dimensions. But for her parents to conceive her as a child in a alternate universe where they aren’t even married (like the Russian royalty dimension) would mean that they would have had to have intercourse at the exact moment in time as they had in her universe. It’s basic biology – a unique sperm and unique egg meet in fertilisation to form one unique human being. I can believe in the futuristic London universe and the one that resembled her universe in basically all ways but was slightly ahead in the race to discovering inter-dimensional travel, but the other universes were too much of a stretch for me to believe that she existed in.
Now, as for ethics – Marguerite barely entertains the thought that her actions (in hindsight) may have been ethically wrong. She seemed to care only for herself and her own desires, disregarding the life of the alternate versions of herself that she was hijacking. She finnnally thinks “now I realise the villain might be me” but as she raises the topic of ethics with her family, they talk about the evil that Conley and Triad want to do and barely touch on the implications of hijacking a person’s life. My frustration reaches its epitome at this point because after this conversation, Triad is seen as basically the only villain and Marguerite hardly implicates herself any further or is filled with any sense of grief or remorse for the effect her actions had on the lives of her alternate self.
I would like to see Marguerite face the consequences of her actions in the sequel. For taking over people’s bodies and not caring what happened to them, for stealing princess Marguerite’s final time with Lieutenant Markov (not to mention that she slept with a Paul that she’d only known for two weeks yet was confused over which Paul she loved – how about the Paul she had for the past eighteen months?! And she was using princess Marguerite’s body to sleep with Lieutenant Markov! This whole plot point was wrong on so many levels); For announcing to Princess Marguerite’s father that he was her biological father not tsar Alexander; And lastly, does she not realise that it’s basically her fault that Lieutenant Markov died? Because if she’d just gone back to Moscow as directed, he would have gone with her and never gone into battle. Marguerite left confusion and destruction in her wake and hardly feels any remorse for it – only the way it affected her own life.
A difficulty I find with first-person stories is that by being sucked so fully into a character’s life by being in their mind, seeing things as they see them, when a character makes decisions that disagree with my own personal beliefs, I find myself struggling to accept what is going on and my desire to continue with them waivers. Because of this, I almost quit reading this book in the middle because of Marguerite’s complete disregard of ethics and her constant self-centredness. I sincerely hope she learns from it all by the second book, which yes, I will be reading – the first book left the story wide open and I neeeeed to know how things wrap up in the end!
Despite the two major issues I had with A Thousand Pieces of You, I really did enjoy it and would be interested in reading some more by Claudia Gray – but hopefully next time there will be a little less romance and a little more adventure.