So after a few moments, the thin, twiggy creature from the rocks went carefully toward land. It stayed in the shallows extracting breath from the water, and it began to remember.
First it thought: There was a plan.
Then: There was a girl who had stopped it.
And last: There is always another way.
—Rise of the Jumbies, by Tracey Baptiste
Things have calmed down for Corinne La Mer after the events of The Jumbies, though life certainly isn’t the same. She knows that she’s half-jumbie, for one thing—and so does everyone else, which means that a lot of people are now treating her with some amount of nervousness and suspicion. And when an earthquake hits the island and children start disappearing, in some cases, that suspicion turns to outright hostility.
Corinne knows she’s got the best chance of finding the missing children and bringing them back, so she makes a deal with Mama D’Leau, a powerful water jumbie. She knows that her end of the deal will be borderline-impossible to carry out, and she knows that Mama D’Leau’s word is suspect, but… she has to try anyway.
You can certainly read Rise of the Jumbies without reading The Jumbies first—Baptiste gives enough information for new readers to catch up—but I’d suggest picking the first book up anyway. For one thing, it’s flat-out great: a smart, spooky, action-packed, emotionally satisfying adventure starring three-dimensional characters written with depth, nuance, warmth, and humor. But beyond that, it’s a profound pleasure to see the larger arc of the character development, relationships, and growth over the course of the two books—and that very much includes Corinne’s relationship with her aunt Severine, the antagonist. While, again, this book does work as a stand-alone, I’m very much hoping for a third installment, especially on that front.
Beyond all of the strengths that it shares with its predecessor—and it very definitely shares all of those strengths—Rise of the Jumbies is an especial stand out in the honest, layered way that it talks about family. It shows how the family you choose can be just as strong as the family you are born into:
“She is not really our mother,” Addie said.
“She chose you.” Bouki glaced at Hugo. “It’s the same thing. So, will you help us?”
It talks about how sometimes family connections can be harmful and toxic:
“All families are connected, Corinne. It’s true. We don’t get to choose who we share blood with. But we do get to choose how we are with each other. It’s like your plants. You prune the pieces that are withering, and you encourage the ones that will bear fruit. That’s how love works. We can feel the ones we love when they enter a room even before we look up. Those are the connections we encourage.”
And it’s honest about the fact that making connections to other people can be a source of strength and joy, but can also result in hardship and pain:
Sometimes family is a choice you make, she said. And other times they are a burden you bear. It’s a gamble. Sometimes it works out.
And sometimes it doesn’t.
Baptiste works in a thread about the Transatlantic Slave Trade that grapples head-on with the horror and pain it caused—and, in ways both literal and metaphorical, she shows how it continues to affect people to this day. She looks at the consequences that come out of a wall being built out of fear. And she looks at how religious and folkloric beliefs shift and change and evolve with distance, whether that distance is measured in miles or years.
In addition to running a library in rural Maine, Leila Roy blogs at Bookshelves of Doom and The Backlist, is currently serving on the Amelia Bloomer Project committee, is a contributor at Book Riot, hangs out on Twitter a lot—possibly too much—and watches a shocking amount of television. Her cat is a murderer.