Ship of Fire

Overview

In a stunning retelling based on actual events, Ship of Fire depicts Sir Francis Drake's most famous act of daring, the raid on the Spanish port of Cadiz. When Thomas Spyre, a seventeen-year-old surgeon's apprentice is offered the chance to sail on the Elizabeth Bonaventure, Sir Francis Drake's flagship, he never dreams that his master's death in a freak accident will leave him as the ship's only doctor. Thomas is determined to prove himself as a surgeon, but now he must also ...

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Overview

In a stunning retelling based on actual events, Ship of Fire depicts Sir Francis Drake's most famous act of daring, the raid on the Spanish port of Cadiz. When Thomas Spyre, a seventeen-year-old surgeon's apprentice is offered the chance to sail on the Elizabeth Bonaventure, Sir Francis Drake's flagship, he never dreams that his master's death in a freak accident will leave him as the ship's only doctor. Thomas is determined to prove himself as a surgeon, but now he must also face battle, when Drake himself enlists him in combat.

In 1587, sailing to Spain on board Sir Francis Drake's ship "Elizabeth Bonaventure," seventeen-year-old surgeon's apprentice Thomas Spyre finds that, with the sudden death of his master, he must take over as ship's surgeon and prove his skill not only as a doctor but also as a fighter when he is enlisted by Drake to face battle.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
The year is 1587, and young Thomas Spyre finds himself in a most enviable position. Already apprenticed to Master William, a fine man and excellent surgeon, he is asked to come along on Sir Francis Drake's daring voyage to plunder the Spanish coast. There is a catch, however: the queen's supporters don't trust Drake to turn over all the loot, so Thomas and his William, must take oaths to serve as Admiralty spies. When William is killed in an accident, Thomas finds himself the sole medical relief for the ship's crew. Cadnum has a wonderful way of seamlessly invoking historical details in the most natural manner. Describing life along the Thames, Thomas remarks, "The current was calmer here, the city a haphazard collection of candlelit windows and half-closed shutters, a scattering of cheerful lamps and embers as the smiths and brewers banked their fires, and through wide-flung shutters we could see wealthy folk lighting tapers to see their way up stairwells, their quaking shadows preceding them. The bank was marbled where slaughterhouses poured fat and blood down their gutters, and the heavy current foamed yellow where a brewery gushed dregs." Sixteenth century England roars to life in the first half of the book. Violence and adventure on the high seas inhabit the latter half. Put the halves together and you have a rip-roaring historical adventure. 2003, Viking/Penguin, Ages 10 to 14.
— Christopher Moning
KLIATT
Seventeen-year-old Thomas Spyre, a surgeon's apprentice in London, anticipates rare adventure when he and his master are asked to serve on a voyage with the famous sea captain Sir Francis Drake. The year is 1587, and Drake is off to raid the Spanish port of Cadiz to gain glory and, even more important, riches for the queen. Naturally, Thomas gets much more than he had expected in the way of adventure. His master is accidentally killed, and despite Thomas's inexperience he must take over as ship's surgeon and steel himself to perform amputations. He also has to wield a sword when the skirmishing in the port grows fierce, and fight for his life when a ship set afire is launched at Drake's vessel as a weapon by the desperate Spanish defenders. Cadnum, author of In a Dark Wood, The Book of the Lion, The Leopard Sword, and other novels for YAs, writes dark, authentic-feeling historical tales. We learn myriad intriguing details about clothing, food, manners, weapons, and medical practices of the time while thrilling to the brutal battle scenes, as Thomas, tested by his trials, comes of age aboard ship. This violent and often exciting tale set on the high seas makes the past come to life. The cover, featuring a painting of a ship on fire, will draw readers like moths to a flame. KLIATT Codes: JS; Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2003, Penguin Putnam, Viking, 190p.,
— Paula Rohrlick
VOYA
When the fortunes of young Thomas Spyre and his master, William, a respected doctor in Elizabethan London, are devastated in gambling at the Bear Garden, the two are, through a stroke of chance, accepted to serve on a voyage with Sir Francis Drake to sack the Spanish harbor at Cadiz. After William is killed in a shipboard accident, Thomas becomes the ship's surgeon-a job for which he feels unprepared and untrained. He vows to do his best, though, and rises to the job with the help of well-educated philosopher and writer Sir Robert Garr. Thomas earns Drake's respect when he removes a splinter from the great man's infected thumb. He witnesses acts of piracy and bravery as Drake attacks ships and claims their cargos for England and Queen Elizabeth. Thomas is dismayed to realize that Drake is little more than a pirate and that the attack on the Spanish port is an act of unprovoked mayhem. Thomas's narration vividly portrays sixteenth-century life in London and onboard Drake's ship. The descriptions of the bear-baiting, the methods and tools of the medical world, the operations of a fighting ship, the practices of war, and the savagery and bravery evidenced by his shipmates bring the reader quickly into the story and into Thomas's life. Although brief compared to Cadnum's other titles, this book is a page-turner that gives the reader an action-packed story and a history lesson as well as questions to ponder about war and the meaning of life. VOYA CODES: 5Q 3P J S (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Will appeal with pushing; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2003, Viking, 208p., Ages 12 to 18.
—Rosemary Moran
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up-Thomas, 17, is a surgeon's apprentice with a master who is prone to gambling away their money. When the surgeon on Sir Francis Drake's flagship suddenly dies, his master, William, seizes the opportunity to set sail and escape his financial difficulties. Shortly after William and Thomas swear their loyalty to the crown, Thomas discovers that the medical crew has the added responsibility of spying on the Admiral himself, who is suspected of embezzling from the spoils of victory. When Drake learns that he and Thomas hail from the same region, he befriends the boy, and goes so far as to promote him to ship's surgeon when William dies, despite his lack of experience. It is easy to relate to Thomas's earnestness and innocence as he fights alongside the other sailors as they attack ships on the open seas, cares for his patients, and attempts to learn Drake's true nature. He also must decide if a life at sea is his true calling. Brimming with historical detail and ambience, this fast-paced maritime adventure will surely please devotees of the genre.-Karen T. Bilton, Somerset County Library, Bridgewater, NJ Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780670899074
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 9/15/2003
  • Pages: 208
  • Age range: 12 - 15 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.76 (w) x 8.52 (h) x 0.79 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Cadnum is the award-winning author of more than a dozen books for adults and young adults, including the contemporary novels Rundown, Heat, and Edge (all Viking) and the historical novel In a Dark Wood (Orchard/Puffin). Michael Cadnum lives in Albany, California.

copyright © 2000 by Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers. All rights reserved.

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