Pirates! Bullies! Murder and mayhem! Family secrets! Seventeenth-century England to Cape Verde and the Caribbean! But no ending.
Debut novelist Eames commits a cardinal sin by ending his story without a resolution. It opens well, however, with our hero and a bully and a fistful of horse manure. Said hero is Kitto, 12 years old, clubfooted, about to discover that his last name is different from what he thought, that his deceased mother had a dark and complicated past and that his uncle is a pirate. Kitto’s father, a cooper, is murdered, and Kitto kills his attacker, then is off to sail with his uncle after his stepmother and adored little brother are kidnapped. The characters are not so much developed as moved like chess pieces: hidden treasure, scary tattoos, a treacherous friend with a pet monkey, a rescued slave, a climactic ship-to-ship battle with circling sharks. Things are dropped in: an intricately inlaid dagger that belonged to Kitto’s mother; his Quaker stepmother’s premonition of what might be magic in him; adult sailors following a 12-year-olds’ orders. Sometimes the language is clunky or awkward. It does, however, draw readers in, at least until the last pages, where Kitto lands after his clubfoot is bitten off by one of those sharks, and his companions are about to cauterize it.
Then what? Readers who plummet off this cliff will hope there are no sharks circling below. (glossary) (Adventure. 8-12)