THE CAPTIVE

This brilliant first volume in a projected sequence begins when Julian Escobar, an idealistic 16-year-old seminarian in early 16th-century Spain, is part bullied, part lured by the promise of savage souls and a future Bishopric, to accompany imperious young Don Luis to the nobleman's New World island. Almost there, the party stops at another island, where Julian becomes sympathetic with the natives he hopes to convert. There too, his wavering moral character seems to grow firmer in resistance to Don Luis' abusive treatment and planned enslavement of the Indians. Then, after a shipwreck, Julian and Don Luis' horse make it to a seemingly deserted island. In time a young girl appears, attracted by the horse, and teaches Julian her peoples' language, customs, and abhorrent (to him) religion—as he postpones plans to teach her of Christ. He never meets the island's other inhabitants; but at last he is visited by a Spanish dwarf, survivor of a previous shipwreck, who forces Julian to choose between death at the hands of barbaric natives and glory as their god Kukulcan (a Mayan version of the Aztec Quetzalcoatl), who had promised to return as a tall, blond youth. We leave Julian, arrayed as the god, surveying his newly acquired domain—sickened by the human sacrifices being made in his honor, but stirred moments later by visions of empire. And O'Dell leaves readers impatient for further developments. It is a measure of his seriousness and his skill that the suspense focuses not on events, which have so far been swift and stunning, inevitable and unexpected, or on the artfully foreshadowed intrigue, confrontations, and dangers that are sure to follow, but on Julian's moral choices and on what he will make of his false, exalted position.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 1980

ISBN: 0395278112

Page Count: -

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1980

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And the dream that becomes the plane Dragonwings lifts this into a world where truth and imagination are one.

DRAGONWINGS

From the Golden Mountain Chronicles series

In the beginning, all is strangeness to Moon Shadow as he leaves the Middle Kingdom to join his father in the Land of the Golden Mountain. . . only to end up in the Tang people's quarter of San Francisco where the drunken "demons" often beat up Tang men and his uncle Black Dog, an opium smoker and a crook, keeps the family all too involved with the brotherhoods.

Later, Moon Shadow actually makes friends with a red-faced demon, the doughty Mrs. Whitlaw, and lives in the demon part of town until the earthquake comes. But this is mostly the story of Moon Shadow's devotion to his dreamer father, who is given the name Windrider by the Dragon King himself in a vision and who fulfills his destiny by building, at enormous sacrifice, a twelve horsepower airplane similar to the one the Wrights had flown only a few years before. Windrider (based loosely on an actual Chinese-American aviator) is a fascinating figure who believes deeply in the old myths and is entranced by the new magic of electricity, motor cars and aeronautics. Other elements, such as Moon Shadow's rapprochement with Mrs. Whit. law—he learns to drink a disgusting substance called cow's milk, she rethinks her old ideas about dragons—depend more on familiar tensions and humorous accommodations. Even so, this is a realm of exprience almost unknown to us demons.

And the dream that becomes the plane Dragonwings lifts this into a world where truth and imagination are one.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1975

ISBN: 978-0-06-440085-5

Page Count: 286

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: Oct. 24, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1975

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Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful.

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SALT TO THE SEA

January 1945: as Russians advance through East Prussia, four teens’ lives converge in hopes of escape.

Returning to the successful formula of her highly lauded debut, Between Shades of Gray (2011), Sepetys combines research (described in extensive backmatter) with well-crafted fiction to bring to life another little-known story: the sinking (from Soviet torpedoes) of the German ship Wilhelm Gustloff. Told in four alternating voices—Lithuanian nurse Joana, Polish Emilia, Prussian forger Florian, and German soldier Alfred—with often contemporary cadences, this stints on neither history nor fiction. The three sympathetic refugees and their motley companions (especially an orphaned boy and an elderly shoemaker) make it clear that while the Gustloff was a German ship full of German civilians and soldiers during World War II, its sinking was still a tragedy. Only Alfred, stationed on the Gustloff, lacks sympathy; almost a caricature, he is self-delusional, unlikable, a Hitler worshiper. As a vehicle for exposition, however, and a reminder of Germany’s role in the war, he serves an invaluable purpose that almost makes up for the mustache-twirling quality of his petty villainy. The inevitability of the ending (including the loss of several characters) doesn’t change its poignancy, and the short chapters and slowly revealed back stories for each character guarantee the pages keep turning.

Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful. (author’s note, research and sources, maps) (Historical fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-16030-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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