Mirage, by Jenn Reese is a fantasy middle grade published by Candlewick Press, and the sequel to last year's Above World.
Alana, Hoku, Dash, and Calli are on their way into the desert to find the Equians, and hopefully gain their aid in fighting Karl Strand. They are too late, and one of Strand's clones has taken a role of influence among the horse people. The leader of the Equians is asking all horse tribes to join en force with Strand. Any tribe that refuses to join him by the time of the Thunder Trials will be destroyed.
Our four young heroes go to live with Dash's former tribe as prisoners. Once there they come up with a wild plan to win the Thunder Trials and unite the Tribes under a new ruler.
I'm really enjoying this series. The whole premise of an after Earth with genetically changed beings suited to different environments is cool. Above World took us into the ocean and the world of the Kampii and also into the Sky with the Avians. Now we get to visit the hot desert and learn about the horse people.
All four heroes have their own problems, upon which the author does a great job expanding. Alana is growing her fish tail, and in the dessert that could mean death. Reese expands Alana's world by introducing the serpent people, who survive in the dessert with a snake bottom half. Hoku's story entwines with Alana's as he learns more about mechanics and engineering, and he constructs a sling to help Alana move in the dry environment.
Dash returns to his people to face certain death, having been exiled previously for helping the serpent people. His character is full of honor and doesn't flinch at returning as long as it will help the people of Earth defeat Strand. His character is bold and true. The Avian Calli has a smaller role to play in this book, but the author does use her to the book's advantage.
Though the sequel involves a different environment than the first book, there are strong characters and vivid scenes. 4 stars.