by Rashad Harrison
Publisher: Atria Books
Amazon | IndieBound | B
The Civil War is over, though for Jupiter Smith, a former slave and Union soldier, many battles still lie ahead. He returns to the plantation he worked on before the war in search of his woman, but rather finds his old master gone mad, haunting the ruins like a ghost. Out of pity for the now mentally ill Colonel, Jupiter strangles him and heads west to seek a new life in San Francisco.
When the Colonel’s son, Confederate soldier Archer Smith, arrives at home and finds his father murdered, he vows revenge upon Jupiter for all he has lost—following his former slave to the far reaches of the continent.
But things take a new turn as Archer’s desire for retribution is overwhelmed by his dependency on opium, and he ends up the target of a gang of “crimpers”…the very gang that Jupiter works for in San Francisco. When Jupiter fails in an attempt to save Archer, they both end up shanghaied aboard a ship headed on a dangerous mission and ruled by a merciless captain. Will the two Smiths work together to stay alive and return home, or will they become victims of the sea, the crew, and their mad captain?
I had absolutely no idea what to expect going into this book. In my head, I was comparing it to Alias Hook, which was probably much better for this book. Both books were about pirates and were very nautical, but I detested Alias Hook, and I quite liked this book.
I think it was in the writing that both captivated me and lost me. The writing was very pretty and just kind of flowed, but it was so easy that I zoned out quite a few times. I had to read and reread some pages as many as three times. This was possible just me being negligent in my reading, and sounding out the letters, not reading the words.
What I most loved about this book was the concept. I don't read much (or any, really) historical fiction, and I especially don't read ones set on a ship. It's not that I don't like historical fiction, it's just that I don't really find any that interest me. This one really got me since I have this weird thing about pirates, and, well, I LOVE THEM SO MUCH. This isn't exactly pirates, but it is set on a boat for a good part of it. This is the first book I have ever read that I feel like was written for me, concept-wise at least.
I really loved how this book was told. It had a third-person omniscient narrator, so you really got to understand what was going on with so many different characters. As much as I loved reading about Liberia, San Francisco, and "somewhere in the Pacific" all in three subsequent chapters, it was not always clear as to who you were reading about. Sometimes within a chapter the character that was being focused on would switch with very little warning. Other than the few times that I was unsure of who i was reading about, the narration technique was very well done and well thought out.
The characters were the shining stars in this book. They all met the end they deserved, which I appreciated so much, and overall the characters were very well crafted. It takes a lot for me to become truly attached to a character, but this book had me hooked. I, being a hopeless romantic when it comes to books, was rooting for the reunion of Jupiter and his wife, Sonya, the entire time. I didn't care what the obstacles were, whether they were one charming magician or two oceans and a continent, I just wanted them to be reunited. I have to say, even though it wasn't exactly explained in the fullest it could have been, I was not disappointed with the outcome.
The one character that I didn't feel like I understood what happened to him was Barrett. I loved the mad captain. He was a really good character, and I don't know if it did say in the last few chapters what became of him, or if I missed it (refer to paragraph two). I will probably try to reread the last few chapters just so I can know for sure what happened to him.
This book was a very slow burn. I don't think things started picking up until page seventy or so, and for a book that a little over 300 pages, thats pretty far into the book. I'm not saying that I didn't enjoy all the intricacies, but I just wish the plot would have happened a little faster.
My last point is going to be able the climax. Okay, I'm sorry, I should say anticlimax. After all of the build up throughout the book, I didn't feel like there was much of a climax. I guess I could see none tiny part of the book that could be considered a climax, but it wasn't that long or exciting to be completely frank.
Anyway, I really liked reading this book, it was EXTREMELY fun. I may pick up Rashad's other book sometime in the future, but I'm not sure when I will get around to it.
About Rashad Harrison
Rashad Harrison was the Jacob K. Javits Fellow in fiction at New York University. He is the author of the acclaimed novel Our Man in the Dark (2011) and The Abduction of Smith and Smith (2015). He and his family currently live in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Visit Rashad at his website, RashadHarrison.com, connect with him on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter.
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I received this book in exchange for an honest review, and honestly it would be more difficult to make a dishonest review than a truthful one.