I am not a fan of boats. Not big ones, not small ones. I'm not one to watch movies about boats. But I was in the mood for a good old-fashioned adventure story, and nothing but a novel of the high seas would suffice. I've been meaning to read this book ever since I started working at the library. The cover art reminds me of a Robert Louis Stevenson novel. Indeed, since the story is set in 1799, it could be a Stevenson novel. But it was the jacket copy that really sealed the deal.
There was once a village bred by evil. On the barren coast of Cornwall, England, lived a community who prayed for shipwrecks, a community who lured storm-tossed ships to crash upon the sharp rocks of their shore. They fed and clothed themselves with the loot salvaged from the wreckage; dead sailors' tools and trinkets became decorations for their homes. Most never questioned their murderous way of life.And what follows is indeed a harrowing tale, with all manner of buckles swashed.
Then, upon that pirates' shore crashed the ship The Isle of Skye. And the youngest of its crew members, 14-year-old John Spencer, survived the wreck. But would he escape the wreckers? This is his harrowing tale.
Okay, so most of the action actually takes place on land. But the first chapter, describing the shipwreck, is a ripping yarn indeed, even if I didn't really understand what was going on. Lawrence clearly did his research, and the chapter is full of words like jib and topsail and etc etc. Even if I couldn't picture exactly what he was on about (and didn't want to stop every sentence to look up the nautical vocab), I pictured something from Master and Commander or the like, and I found myself caught right up in the story. I was surprised to find out that this book was published in 1998, because it reads like an old-fashioned adventure novel. It is pure action from one page to the next. John's father survives the wreck but is held captive by Stubbs, a creepy old legless dude, in some sort of cellar, and if John can't save his father in time, he'll drown when the tide comes in.
I'm not going to say more about the story because I don't want to spoil the ending (although it is fairly predictable in the manner of most genre fiction). However, I thoroughly enjoyed this story. It was quite the page turner, and I am more determined than ever to visit Cornwall some day. I just hope I don't encounter the ghosts of drowned sailors.