I received a digital advance reader’s copy (ARC) of A Million to One by Adiba Jaigirdar. Since this version is just a proof and not the final version, I won’t quote directly and will keep my comments general.
In A Million to One, Josefa is a street thief. Violet is an actress. Hinnah is an acrobat. Emilie is an artist. The only thing they have in common is that they all live in the same boarding house. Josefa sees potential in all of them to be a team, though, and so convinces the other three to help her with her next goal—to steal the Rubaiyat, a priceless jewel-encrusted book, and make a fortune. As it turns out, this book is being taken across the sea to America, giving the girls an opportunity to pull off the heist. So they board the ship, a magnificent new ocean liner called the Titanic…
I read Jaigirdar’s debut novel, The Henna Wars, a couple years ago, and quite enjoyed it, so I was excited to see that she has this historical fiction coming out!
Overall, I liked all four of the main characters. It took me a while to get straight who was who, because a lot of information about their backstories was introduced rapidly in the first few chapters, but once I got the hang of it, it was fine. However, I didn’t entirely feel that they were all given enough depth of personality, because there was only so much time to devote to their development amidst the plot. For example, Violet’s initial dislike of Emilie didn’t feel that believable, as we were mostly told rather than shown that she didn’t trust her. And then it was resolved rather quickly, so it didn’t feel like it mattered much.
Beyond that, though, I thought the idea of a heist on the Titanic was a great one. It was interesting to see through the eyes of these girls, who are outsiders in the high society of many of this ship’s passengers, navigate this setting. In fact, I wanted even more exploration of what it was like to sail on it, because so much of the storyline involved avoiding most people on the ship. We didn’t get to see as much of what it was like to be there as I wanted; I was expecting more infiltration of the rich society than we got.
I also thought the sinking would take up more of the story than it did. I know that in real life, it all did go down (ooh, pun not intended…) quite quickly, but in this book it seemed to take way fewer chapters than expected. And again, I wanted to be slightly more immersed in this famous event than I was, probably due to this pacing issue. Still, the fear and tragedy that occurs that night is palpable, and Jaigirdar can write some decently suspenseful action.
In the end, A Million to One is not fantastic, but certainly not bad. There are some decent characters, even if their development is a little shallow. But I liked the relationships between all four, and the romantic subplot is sweet. There’s a fair amount of Titanic history, and some engaging action toward the end. The ending isn’t my favorite, but overall, I still liked this.
A Million to One will be published on December 13th, 2022!