Peril on the Sea

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Overview

It is the summer of 1588 and a pair of unlikely shipmates is traveling on the Vixen, a privateer that will soon be drafted to join a flotilla of English ships bound for a fiery clash with the Spanish Armada. Seventeen-year-old Sherwin is aboard to repay a debt he owes the ship’s roguish captain, Brandon Fletcher. Sixteen-year-old Katharine is sailing with them in a desperate bid to save her noble family’s fortune. The fight will be harrowing and bloody, and the unfolding tumult will challenge the character of ...

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Peril on the Sea

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Overview

It is the summer of 1588 and a pair of unlikely shipmates is traveling on the Vixen, a privateer that will soon be drafted to join a flotilla of English ships bound for a fiery clash with the Spanish Armada. Seventeen-year-old Sherwin is aboard to repay a debt he owes the ship’s roguish captain, Brandon Fletcher. Sixteen-year-old Katharine is sailing with them in a desperate bid to save her noble family’s fortune. The fight will be harrowing and bloody, and the unfolding tumult will challenge the character of both Sherwin and Katharine, who are about to discover the deeper meaning of strife and of honor.

This fascinating tale affords an unusual view of one of the most important naval encounters in history, as a kindling romance between two young people takes place amidst a reluctant race to battle.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Cadnum brings his keen eye for historical fiction to the English defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. That battle provides the canvas upon which he paints a smaller story of 17-year-old Sherwin, who is thrust into adventure and romance when he agrees to record the exploits of Captain Fletcher, a fictional privateer and rival of Sir Francis Drake . . . Cadnum deftly sidesteps what can be the most frustrating aspect of naval adventures—the arcana of masts, sails, jibs, booms, and rigs—and instead focuses his attention on the excitement and intrigue of a major event in the history of naval warfare . . . This smooth read could provide a nice stepladder to Patrick O’Brian’s unrivaled Aubrey/Maturin series.”  —Booklist

“Cadnum’s prose is vivid and evocative, brilliantly re-creating life at sea in the Elizabethan era. From the opening scene, when Sherwin’s Patience sinks, to intrigues on land and sea, to engagement with the 100-ship Armada, the tale is expertly paced, the varied threads of the tale elegantly woven. There’s plenty here to appeal to a wide audience.”  —Kirkus Reviews

“Cadnum creates an exciting tale of the sea, dripping with historical drama and adventure. The Vixen is manned by a true cast of characters, including a ferocious pirate who is bested by a pig and a young boy who was once owned by a mountebank. Fletcher’s character is especially interesting, as the reader can never tell if the ship is headed for battle until the final chapters . . . History buffs will appreciate the insights into Queen Elizabeth’s reign, and it is a good book to recommend for middle school adventure fans.” —Voice of Youth Advocates

VOYA - Diane Colson
The sea around Great Britain is a dangerous place in 1588. The Spanish Armada is rumored to be fast approaching, and piracy is tolerated when it serves the purposes of the Queen. A young writer, Sherwin Morris, nearly drowns in the aftermath of one ship's destruction, only to find himself rescued by the crew of the Vixen, headed by the notorious pirate, Brandon Fletcher. When Fletcher's ship stops for repairs, Sherwin meets Katharine Westing, a young woman who is determined to save her father's estate from ruin. To this end, Katharine boards the Vixen with a promise of assistance from Fletcher. It quickly becomes clear, however, that Fletcher has his own plans for his ship. If the Vixen meets the great ships of the Spanish Armada at sea, it will mean certain bloodshed. Cadnum creates an exciting tale of the sea, dripping with historical drama and adventure. The Vixen is manned by a true cast of characters, including a ferocious pirate who is bested by a pig and a young boy who was once owned by a mountebank. Fletcher's character is especially interesting, as the reader can never tell if the ship is headed for battle until the final chapters. Although the subplot involving Katharine's misfortunes moves a bit slowly, her eventual presence on the ship creates a romantic element that balances nicely with the harrowing sea battles. History buffs will appreciate the insights into Queen Elizabeth's reign, and it is a good book to recommend for middle school adventure fans. Reviewer: Diane Colson
Kirkus Reviews
With one of the greatest naval battles of history looming in the background, 17-year-old Sherwin Morris is saved from a sinking ship and hauled aboard Brandon Fletcher's Vixen, where he agrees to write the narratives of Fletcher's piratical adventures and thereby bolster the sea captain's reputation. Fletcher has made a career of robbing any ship on the sea-Arab, Dutch, Spanish and even fellow English ships-and he's as notorious as Drake, Hawkins and Frobisher. When 16-year-old Katharine Westing comes aboard, having worked out a deal to save her family's name and fortune, the ship takes on a "courtly quality," as Sherwin and Katharine's romance offers a counterpoint to bloody sea battles and the menace of the Spanish Armada. Cadnum's prose is vivid and evocative, brilliantly re-creating life at sea in the Elizabethan era. From the opening scene, when Sherwin's Patience sinks, to intrigues on land and sea, to engagement with the 100-ship Armada, the tale is expertly paced, the varied threads of the tale elegantly woven. There's plenty here to appeal to a wide audience. (preface) (Historical fiction. 11 & up)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374358235
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 5/26/2009
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 807,108
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.78 (w) x 8.56 (h) x 0.92 (d)

Meet the Author

MICHAEL CADNUM has written many novels, including the medieval adventure The Book of the Lion, a National Book Award Finalist. He lives in Albany, California

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Read an Excerpt

1

SHERWIN MORRIS woke to the smell of .re. Heavy seas had been building all day, and now the merchant ship Patience was standing to, the ship set sideways against the wind and the sea swells that rocked her.

Sherwin could hear Captain Pierson on deck, the ordinarily good-humored ship’s master calling out, asking why the .re was still burning after the entire watch had been sent below to smother it.

Sherwin squeezed out of his narrow bunk, pulled on his doublet, thrust his cap onto his head, and joined the captain on deck. The night was thick with smoke, despite the strong wind that raked the ocean around them.

Recent hours had been troubling enough. The Patience had been dogged by an unfamiliar ship just visible on the horizon during the previous blustery day’s sail, an English ship, by all reckoning, but one unknown to the captain, and all day Sherwin had sensed increasing anxiety in the cargo ship’s crew.

But no one had anticipated this.

As soon as Sherwin saw the .ames licking through the grate over the cargo hold he felt sick. The Patience was three days out of Hamburg, the thriving German-speaking port. The ship was laden with wine, a notoriously .ammable cargo, but one that rarely caught .re, due to the skill of English coopers and the fact that there was usually enough briny leakage in the hold to discourage it.

Captain Pierson caught the look of concern in Sherwin’s eye, and he gave a nod. “Lend a hand there, Sherwin, if you will,” he said. The captain had agreed to train Sherwin—a youthful gentleman—in the .ne points of shipboard life, and in exchange Sherwin was going to pen a history of Captain Pierson’s voyages, with a publisher on Paternoster Row near Saint Paul’s already secured.

But his duties also included helping the crew, especially in an emergency. Sherwin joined the gathering of hands on deck, manning a pump to draw water out of the English Channel and down into the .ery hold. As the pump water spewed and guttered into the increasing blaze, Sherwin could sense the fear of death seize his shipmates, among them Risley, the ship’s cooper, with his hearty laugh silenced for the moment, and Wyman, the ship’s gunner, laboring beside Sherwin with a prayer to Lord Jesus.

The moment might have been the span of a few heartbeats, or it might have been a quarter of an hour.

Sherwin had no way of reckoning the passage of time.

And in a way he had no desire to. This was, after all, the sort of experience eighteen-year-old Sherwin had sought in signing on with the well-regarded merchant captain— that, and the chance to earn money and a portion of public notice with the adventure he was intending to publish.

There was, furthermore, a sense of companionship rooted in the effort to save the ship that captivated Sherwin. Ship’s boy and grizzled veteran alike, they all labored in a highly disciplined passion—more pumps brought into play, axes tearing at the decking, First Of.cer Timm calling out for the boatswain.

And then an explosion ripped the dark.

Excerpted from Peril on the Sea by Michael Cadnum.

Copyright © 2009 by Michael Cadnum.

Published in 2009 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction

is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or

medium must be secured from the Publisher.

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