In this illustrated debut novel, Walford spins a mischievous yarn full of boys’ adventure, suspense, pirates, lost treasure, island exploits and what some might consider far too many snakes.
James Barrington “J.B.” Hunter is the oldest of five African-American brothers. His younger brothers—Blake, Joshua, and twins Bernie and Jeffrey—are, to varying degrees, smart, funny and hyper. When their father, professor Hunter, receives what looks to be a real treasure chest, the wheels are set in motion for an unexpected trip to Jamaica, bringing the boys face to face with some of the more mysterious skeletons in the family closet. The brothers also uncover clues pointing to a hidden treasure on the island; unfortunately, though, they aren’t the only ones seeking the legendary Sacred Arrows. The Supreme Order of Danaos, a dark, ancient secret society, will stop at nothing to get them. The story hops along at a good pace, although it tends to play second fiddle to the characters’ back stories. However, while the history is engaging, it is rarely integrated smoothly into the narrative, coming across more often than not as an interruption. The connections among the characters and their histories are spot-on. The boys’ reactions, for example, to discovering that their ancestor was a pirate and a hero are both heartwarming and entertaining. African heritage, which is central to the story, is integrated into the narrative with skill and care. And while the prose is occasionally awkward or hyperbolic—“Mende ardently answered their questions as he frantically evaded the snake”—it fits with the exuberance expressed by J.B. and his brothers. Finally, the design of the book is fantastic, with appealing black-and-white illustrations starting each chapter.
A bold tale with a diverse cast of characters and a solid story, well-suited to younger readers and fans of pirates, African history and lost treasure.