While Kristin Cashore’s Jane, Unlimited came out some time ago, it only came across my desk recently. When I say, “some time ago” I mean 2017. I’m so late to this party that this is something of a retrospect. Still this quirky novel takes an engaging look at the power of books as well the multiverse itself.
Jane, an aimless teen who drops out of college after her guardian aunt disappears, works in a bookstore until a rich friend invites her to the family mansion for an extended stay. The family who lives there is eccentric, and the mansion holds many secrets, which leads Jane into something of a flexible narrative. The story splits into several options that each lead to a different genre: mystery, spy, horror, science fiction, and fantasy.
Unlike the classic Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books, these storylines don’t allow the reader to guide the story. Instead, Jane ends up pursuing the same girl even as she turns out to be a spy or if Jane travels to an alternate universe where she has ended up with a man she doesn’t love. The way Jane jumps between genres reveals how similar they actually are. The lines between sci-fi and fantasy might be obvious, but that fantasy is only a few changes away from an art theft is intriguing. It begs the eternal question, “what if” as many stories spread out from one.
While it provides an interesting thought experiment, the formulaic nature of these plots leaves some character development to be desired for Jane herself. Additionally, while it goes in five completely different directions, the story still manages to become predictable, though that’s not always a bad thing.
Three stars out of five.