In the first book of Wolverton's fantasy trilogy, the hero embarks on a gripping high-seas adventure packed with action, magic, and folklore spanning East and West.
It’s the Age of Discovery, and 12-year-old Bren Owen is yearning for adventure. Unfortunately, he’s trapped in the city of his birth on the Britannia coast by the destiny his father has deemed for him: that Bren follow in his footsteps as a mapmaker. Bren’s attempts to stow away on ships bound for exotic lands are continuously foiled until a dying man gifts him with a talisman called a paiza that becomes his bargaining chip. Encoded with a secret map to the site of Marco Polo’s lost treasure, the paiza is just what Adm. Bowman, master of the Albatross, wants and hence becomes Bren’s ticket aboard the flagship of the Dutch Bicycle and Tulip Co. Onboard, Bren meets a Chinese girl named Mouse with the power to talk with animals, and together they crack the code and overcome unrelenting obstacles. After surviving a pirate attack, a mutiny, and, finally, being cast overboard, they find their way to an island long vanished from any map only to realize that their journey doesn’t end there. Wolverton deftly draws parallels between Western astrology and Chinese mythology and cleverly weaves fiction and legend into history.
Fast-paced and entertaining, this fine trilogy opener will keep both fantasy and historical-fiction buffs turning the pages. (maps) (Historical fantasy. 9-14)