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DRAGONS IN THE WATERS by Madeleine L'Engle


by Madeleine L'Engle

Pub Date: April 15th, 1976
ISBN: 0312674422
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

The O'Keefe family from Arm of the Starfish (1965) are on hand to join Simon Bolivar Renier and his spooky Cousin Phair on a freighter voyage from Savannah to Venezuela which looks at the outset a bit like L'Engle's version of Ship of Fools. The O'Keefe kids haven't outgrown their arrogance--Poly is given to bragging about her family's doctorates real and potential, and excuses Simon's eavesdropping because this is the end of the century when "Things are falling apart. The center doesn't hold." But there's little time for metaphysical wrangles as we are introduced to the Orion's passengers and crew, while Simon survives several attempts on his life and Cousin Phair is murdered. We also learn that Simon's illustrious ancestor is viewed as a messiah and/or traitor (the contradiction is never really smoothed out) by the Quiztano Indians, an idyllically primitive Venezuelan tribe with unusual healing powers. In the rush of new developments--even Canon Tallis, the high church James Bond, makes an appearance later on--one can be immune to the lure of the Quiztanos or even unimpressed by the murder mystery's solution and still be well entertained. Of all L'Engle's novels, we find this the most satisfying, perhaps because it doesn't demand to be taken with such deadly seriousness. Deduct ten points at the beginning for self-importance and enjoy the rest for a lark.