Quill & Quire
With her new novel, Toronto writer Lynne Kositsky has delivered an action-packed adventure that doesn’t let up from its opening scene. When Noah Vaile, a runaway, is kidnapped from the streets of 17th-century Bristol and conscripted to serve William Thatcher on a voyage to Virginia, his life can’t help but change.
Over the following 200 pages, Vaile, rechristened Robin Starveling, faces shipboard intrigue, a hurricane, a shipwreck, and a search for treasure on the Isle of Devils, guided by mysterious emblems Thatcher keeps in his sea chest. The novel, which is drawn (broadly) from William Strachey’s 1625 A True Reportory of the Wracke and Redemption of Sir Thomas Gates, Knight (the work that inspired Shakespeare’s The Tempest), speeds along at a breakneck pace, building cliffhanger upon cliffhanger.
Unfortunately, a series of incidents does not a story make, nor does it result in a particularly satisfying novel. Minerva’s Voyage lacks even rudimentary character development, and as a result, the book is peopled with types rather than individuals. The cabin boy Peter Fence, who becomes Starveling’s friend, is little more than a moralistic foil for the rugged main character. Thatcher, meanwhile, lacks a moustache to twirl villainously, but makes up for this with his constant scratching.
Despite the incessant perils faced by Starveling, the novel lacks suspense. Because of this, a glib certitude descends upon the events: of course Starveling will find the treasure, but ultimately, it’s difficult to care.
"The book's greatest strength comes from the delightful character of Robin Starveling, someone whom the reader quickly befriends as he humorously battles against his own wickedness and the abuse of his disgusting employer. It is easy to team up with Robin and Fence as the line of good and evil clearly divides the boys from the murderers Scratcher and Proule whose lust for treasure endangered the entire ship. Boys and girls alike will be quickly drawn into the adventure as they puzzle out the clues to the treasure along with Fence and Starveling."
"With her new novel, Toronto writer Lynne Kositsky has delivered an action-packed adventure that doesn't let up from its opening scene. The novel...speeds along at a breakneck pace, building cliffhanger upon cliffhanger."
"The setting on both the sip and the tropical island are stunning. Readers will gasp with horror at conditions on the ship, tremble at the storm scenes and thrill to the tension around the solving of the puzzle. The pace of the plot is relentless and this book is impossible to put down."
Robin Starveling, aka Noah Vaile, is scooped off the streets of seventeenth-century Bristol, England, and dragged onboard a ship bound for Virginia by the murderous William Thatcher, who needs a servant with no past and no future to aid him in a nefarious plot to steal gold. Starveling fits the bill perfectly since he lives nowhere and has no parents. Aboard the ship, Starveling makes friends with a young cabin boy, Peter Fence.
Together the two boys suffer through a frightening hurricane and are shipwrecked on the mysterious Isle of Devils. They solve the ciphers embedded in emblems found in Thatcher’s sea chest, which has washed up with the wreck, then make their way through gloomy forests and tortuous labyrinths to a cave on the shore that houses a wizard-like old man. Beset by danger and villainy on every side, they finally discover the old man’s identity and unearth a treasure that is much rarer and finer than gold.