If you are ready for an astonishing adventure aboard a pirate ship, chasing legends of magic and monsters up into the frozen north, start reading The Voyage to Magical North, by Claire Fayers, and come aboard the Onion for plenty of thrills and chills! Twelve year old Brine Seaborne, found drifting in a boat as a child with no memory of her past, and now a grumpy wizard’s servant, and Peter, the wizard’s apprentice, had not planned to be part of this adventure…but it found them nonetheless. And now that they’ve been captured by pirates, they must put aside their history of dislike for each other and find gifts and strengths they never knew they had, as they sail the Onion on a quest to see if the seemingly impossible story of the Magical North is in fact real.
It is a journey full of challenges, the most menacing one being an evil, horribly powerful magician who was thought to be dead, but who has recently turned up, just as alive and evil as ever. Without his knowledge and power, the Onion will never make it…but he can’t be trusted, and has an evil agenda of his own. Peter’s magic is small and untrained, but it will have to be enough to stop him. Brine too has her part to play, dragged somewhat unwillingly along as the captain of the Onion, Cassie O’Pea, a legend in her own right (and now my favorite fictional female pirate captain), sails them northward.
Along the way they encounter harrowing magical perils and strange islands, including one that is entirely a library; there are monsters, including the most terrifying seabirds I have ever met (these are truly the stuff of nightmares, hypnotizing their prey to jump into the freezing water so that they can be consumed, beak bite by beak bite), and of course there’s the evil magician, who when he turns against the Onion’s crew, is a formidable foe indeed. But courage, and a bit of luck, and a lot of magic, save the day. With a promise of dragon-filled adventures to come as Brine and Peter set out to find the home Brine can’t remember, young readers (and me as well) will eagerly await the next chapter of their story!
There are nice touches of humor, too. For instance, the Onion was supposed to have been named the Orion, after a legendary hero, now a constellation…and when the original ship Orion, one that belonged to the first explorer to find magical north, appears in the magical northern ice, its ship’s boat is called the Celestial Shallot, which tickled me greatly.
With memorable characters, extraordinary adventures, and a world that will stay in the reader’s mind long after the book is closed, The Voyage to Magical North is one of the best middle grade fantasy books of the year so far, and one that is perfect summer reading! Especially since so much of it takes place in the freezing north—I myself like to read about people being cold when it’s a hot summer day in real life (although be warned, seafood fans: it’s not a good one to read if you plan on going out to eat octopus afterward…).
The Voyage to Magical North is on shelves now!