I mentioned this release a few weeks ago and told you I was putting it to the top of my reading list. That’s because I read Alex Banks’ first MG book, Jump Boys, and was so impressed with the quality of the writing, editing, and formatting that I jumped at the chance to read this ARC. I liked it even more than Jump Boys!
The Swift had me from the start. I love history. I love fantasy. I love the Atlantic coast. And I love the nostalgia of the days of sail. This adventure included them all.
Peter’s life changes completely when his father dies at sea. Pete was supposed to be on that ship, but he skipped out for a hockey game. The guilt turns him sour and gnaws away at his relationships with his mother and his twin brother, Henry. Shortly afterward, Gramps, whom Pete idolizes, begins to slip away to the grip of Alzheimer’s. And then the bank calls up the loan on their house. With everything falling apart around him, Pete and Henry ransack the old attic for items to sell only to stumble upon a ship in a bottle and a family mystery that will transport them back three hundred years.
This is a fantastic adventure, a real kid-pleaser complete with pirates, treasure, battles, and more. I had a few minor complaints. I had trouble following all the short, common names of minor characters at the beginning (Bruce, Mike, Tom, Sam). But when I reread, they were all there and explained, so I guess that’s my own fault. Also, Pete’s self-pity started to grate on my nerves. (Just like a one of my own kids in a funk, right?) And finally, we meet Captain Sam, a big, jolly, happy-go-lucky sort, right in the middle of a naval battle, and there was just a little too much light-hearted laughter while facing eminent death and destruction. Perhaps without it the battle would be too heavy for kids, but I know I wouldn’t be cracking jokes.
See? All my complaints are minor. Now for the good stuff! The artistry of the prose and imagery…well, I’ll just show you…
“It made me feel weird, like a puny dingy out on the wide sea, to watch Mom’s body shake with silent tears.”
“Sometimes ya have to stop fighting the sails, Paedar, and just let them out. Let them out. Let them fill with wind. Then let the wind take ye whithersoever it will. Because sometimes lad, the wind is God’s own breath and it’ll take ye where He wants ye to go.”
“He put a tin whistle to his lips, and began to play a tune. It sounded like the wind through the sails on a frozen day at sea. Like the cries of the gulls that circled overhead on clear days.”
“The sails flapped to and fro, then the air just stopped. The sails drooped and hung like day old laundry hung out to dry.”
“I knew now just how stupid I’d been—love wasn’t limited, it didn’t get all used up if you gave it away. In fact, with how full my heart felt just then, I finally understood that the more you gave your love, the more you got in return.”
Beautiful, isn’t it? Did you notice how many of Banks’ word pictures actually enhance the setting? Or how cleverly she inserts positive messages in a tough situation? This is good stuff by a writer well-versed in the craft.