Starred Review, Booklist, December 1, 2013:
“…ultimately unforgettable …”
Son of Fortuneby Victoria McKernan
Aiden Lynch is a survivor—only 16 years old, he's seen himself through near-starvation on the Kansas prairie, a brutal journey on the Oregon trail, and backbreaking work in a lumber camp. Now he's reached the glittering city of San Francisco, and though his future is uncertain, promise lies ahead. Luck seems to favor him as he manages to stay one step ahead
Aiden Lynch is a survivor—only 16 years old, he's seen himself through near-starvation on the Kansas prairie, a brutal journey on the Oregon trail, and backbreaking work in a lumber camp. Now he's reached the glittering city of San Francisco, and though his future is uncertain, promise lies ahead. Luck seems to favor him as he manages to stay one step ahead of trouble, even in the city's notoriously dangerous Barbary Coast. And it is pure fortune that leads him to a wealthy family, and then the high-stakes poker game in which he wins a ship—fully outfitted and ready for trade. The trade he has inherited: importing guano, a highly potent fertilizer, from island mines in Peru.
But what he finds in Peru is a savage business—conditions at the mines are unthinkable, the workers forced into servitude. When Aiden becomes involved with a miner who claims to be a kidnapped Chinese nobleman, all his loyalties are called into question, and he's plunged into a dangerous game.
Starred Review, Booklist, December 1, 2013:
Gr 9 Up—In this sequel to The Devil's Paintbox (Knopf, 2009), 16-year-old Aiden's adventures continue as he flees the rough lumber camps of the Pacific Northwest to seek a new life in 1860s San Francisco. The action-packed novel opens with Aiden saving a young Swedish sailor from a shark attack and he befriends Christopher, the son of a wealthy businessman. When he wins a ship in a fateful card game, Aiden and his friends journey as business partners to an island off the coast of Peru for a shipment of guano, highly valuable bird droppings used as fertilizer. They discover the slave operation upon which the guano trade is built, and Aiden is morally torn between leaving immediately or making a fortune at the expense of others. Descriptions of the sailing life and the ecology of the island are particularly vivid and sometimes brutal. Add to the mix the story of a kidnapped Chinese nobleman, a tsunami, a stowaway, a murder, and an illicit interracial romance and you've got a gripping historical novel bordering on soap opera. It's easy to forget Aiden is a teenager as he intelligently grapples with one adult dilemma after another. He's a likable survivor, and teens craving a gritty saga with a hint of romance will not be disappointed.—Madeline J. Bryant, Los Angeles Public Library
Aiden's story takes up where it left off in The Devil's Paintbox (2009), with Aiden heading toward Seattle as he leaves the Northwest lumber country in the late 1860s. Nearly a man at 16, his journey becomes inextricably woven into those of two other young men. They are as unlike Aiden as they are each other, yet all want to make their fortunes. Fish is the son of a Swedish captain plying the coastal waters between Seattle and San Francisco, and Christopher Worthington, wealthy and bored, is the son of an influential financier. Together, they embark on a scheme to import guano from Peruvian mines, which involves them in a tangle of ethical quandaries that arise naturally from realistically depicted 19th-century conditions. As capable as he is impetuous, Aiden's essential goodness is never in doubt, but he does wrong, gradually learning to take responsibility for his actions and choices; he must struggle with his own prejudices and rise above them. The powerful narrative asks Aiden and readers to consider what may constitute slavery without actually using that label and the consequences of exploiting that servitude. A hint of romance blossoms into much more without detracting from these serious questions or slackening the brisk pace. Aiden's dilemmas are rooted in the time and yet move beyond it, creating a glimpse into the past that is relevant today. (Historical fiction. 12 & up)
- Random House Children's Books
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 5.60(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.30(d)
- Age Range:
- 12 - 17 Years
Meet the Author
VICTORIA MCKERNAN is the acclaimed author of The Devil's Paintbox and Shackleton's Stowaway, a historical novel for young adults about the 18-year-old stowaway on Ernest Shackleton's 1914 expedition to the South Pole. She has also written four novels for adults. She lives in Washington, D.C., with a dog, two cats, and one boa constrictor.
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