An 1830s American scientific voyage to the Amazon goes terribly wrong.
Only half of the men who went ashore for provisions before the book’s outset return to the ship, the Polaris, anchored off the coast of Brazil. Afterward some remaining sailors seek to eliminate a sick crew member, and the resulting argument leads to violent mutiny. The successful mutineers, strangely, abandon ship while also attempting to blow it up—leaving behind a handful of the youngest, lowest-ranked, mostly white kids, who save it, overcoming class and racial distinctions to work together. Cabin boy Owen, captain’s nephew, takes charge. Botanist’s assistant Henry’s highly intelligent but knows nothing about sailing. Thacher’s rumored to be from a fine Boston family whose reversal of fortune has led to his being sold into servitude; powder monkey Aaron’s said to be half Pequot (the other half unspoken but presumably white). Manny and Mario, the olive-skinned “Spanish brothers,” are good sailors with a secret. The kids must keep the ship from sinking before they can reach land and safety. There’s also something lurking belowdecks—strange noises and a disturbing, sweet smell lead them to speculate about a haunting. What’s actually there is much worse than a ghost. The salty sailing details and the drama of keeping afloat in the face of damaging storms and winds is just as heart-pounding as the struggle for survival against the threat already onboard.
An exciting blend of nautical adventure and monstrous horror. (Historical horror. 9-15)