Cobb’s 14th book comes complete with pirates, mysterious messages and a magic ring.
While the highly coveted Ring of Hope has extraordinary powers (it can immediately transport its owner out of harm’s way if there’s imminent danger), it also imposes a tremendous burden because not only does the owner become a target of covetous bad guys, but so does his or her family. But the ring itself decides who can work its magic and it will only bond with someone it deems “worthy.” When Ardin Delham, the ring’s last owner, dies, his wife passes the ring on to Paul, the younger and kinder-hearted of her two sons, because unlike her eldest, Charles, she feels Paul can “handle the power and responsibility.” Fast-forward to Capt. Darfous Warner, who hires the dubious and sure-footed Antonio Trovol to deliver a bottle containing a secret message to Capt. Paul Delham. Antonio in turn hires his goofy nephew Marcus to help him with the job. Next up we meet Peter, a young boy who has a talking pet monkey named Monk and lives a double life; a quiet one with his family and the other life as second mate for Capt. Paul in a world with both good and evil pirates. As the story quickly bounces along, it also grows increasingly complex as more characters are introduced into the myriad of plots and subplots and more mysterious messages are added to the mix. Some younger readers will most likely find the story, with its ancillary characters, secret identities and story-within-a-story format, too complicated to hold their attention, but the book’s slapstick appeal might provide some compensation for the confusion. The characters are rich and beautifully rendered, and the story is sprinkled with humor. One character is a retired pirate ship surgeon who makes his living designing and making women’s shoes. Much of the dialogue—especially between Peter and Monk and Antonio and Marcus—is delightfully silly. An index of characters would greatly aid any reader. Charming, simple black-and-white line drawings head up each chapter.
Complicated hijinks don’t quite sink this spirited swashbuckling tale of mystery and magic.