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Voyage of Plunder

Voyage of Plunder

by Michele Torrey

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Daniel Markham loved his father’s mysterious friends, visiting in the dead of night but always gone by morning. He never imagined they could be pirates. But when the Markhams’ merchant vessel is plundered by the pirate ship Tempest Galley and his father shot dead in an act of revenge, Daniel can’t deny the truth. And now, orphaned and alone, Daniel


Daniel Markham loved his father’s mysterious friends, visiting in the dead of night but always gone by morning. He never imagined they could be pirates. But when the Markhams’ merchant vessel is plundered by the pirate ship Tempest Galley and his father shot dead in an act of revenge, Daniel can’t deny the truth. And now, orphaned and alone, Daniel is trapped and faced with a choice: Join the crew or die.

Unprepared for the temptations of pirate life and for the captain’s inexplicable kindness toward him, Daniel knows only one thing for certain: One false step on a pirate ship could be deadly, and he’ll do anything to stay alive.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Daniel Markham is moving to Jamaica because his father wants to get away from the merchant business-or might it be from a certain pirate, Josiah Black? While traveling, Daniel's ship is pillaged by Black's Tempest Galley, and Robert Markham is murdered. Black takes Daniel under his protection, forcing him to partake in piracy. Eventually Daniel learns that Black is his real father who was a commissioned privateer for the governor of Boston (Daniel's grandfather, who did not approve of his daughter's choice of husband). Black was branded pirate, and his love was quickly married to Robert Markham. Daniel finds that he cannot reconcile this new lifestyle, so he sneaks away. Daniel is caught, tried for piracy, and sentenced to hang, before Black rescues Daniel by turning himself over on condition of Daniel's release. This gritty and realistic novel has swashbuckling adventure on the high seas, with a protagonist who must make difficult life-changing decisions and who possesses a strong "right-and-wrong" mentality. With an authentic feel of historical accuracy, the story is somewhat gruesome at times, with the murder of Robert Markham, battles at sea, Daniel trying to push back in the innards of an injured man, and an enemy cutting off two of Daniel's fingers while torturing him about buried treasure. Its reading level is fifth grade and up; however, because of the graphic occurrences of violence, more mature readers or those thirteen years or older would be the audience for this book. The glossary explains nautical and pirate terms. VOYA CODES: 3Q 3P M J (Readable without serious defects; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to9). 2005, Knopf, 192p.; Glossary. Further Reading., and PLB Ages 11 to 15.
—Karen Sykeny
Children's Literature
From the first line of this well-researched pirate tale, "There are few men in this world who can say they have seen their father die twice," the reader is pulled into the fast-paced and exciting story of Daniel Markham and his life among the pirates. Daniel is ostensibly kidnapped by the pirates, so as he joins them in their raids and riotous ways he continues to try to believe he is doing what he does for noble and altruistic reasons. When he is captured and tried for piracy, however, he comes to see that he has actually made many compromises along the way. Based upon the lives of real pirates, and the actual laws and mores that existed about piracy during the early 1700s, this book combines an exciting tale with much factual information. The swashbuckling—literally—story contains enough murder, mayhem and treasure to satisfy the most avid pirate fan, but it also contains an interesting underlying theme about what makes for right behavior. Daniel struggles with the morality of what he is doing even as the action continues to move quickly along. Thoughtful readers will have much to consider about deeper issues involving right and wrong even as they enjoy the suspenseful plot. The book contains many new terms and authentic pirate language, and author notes at the end give background information and explanations for the more puzzling historical parts of the story. A glossary and an extensive bibliography are also included. 2005, Alfred A. Knopf, Ages 9 to 12.
—Sheryl O'Sullivan
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-The opening sentence, "There are few men in this world who can say they have seen their father die twice," sets the mood for this fast-paced sea adventure. Life for 14-year-old Daniel Markham changed the minute his father remarried. Mysterious friends no longer visit the house, especially Josiah Black. When his stepmother becomes pregnant, his father decides to move the family from Boston to Jamaica. On the voyage, pirates raid their merchant ship, and Daniel's father is killed by Josiah Black, leader of the murderous group. Forced into a life of piracy, the teen must battle with his principles while fighting to stay alive and avoid the temptations of a pirate's life. The startling discovery that Josiah is his biological father convinces him to escape but he makes a wrong decision that leads to his arrest. On trial for piracy, murder, and robbery, Daniel is sentenced to hang. He is saved by the pirate, who gives his life for his son. Throughout the story, Daniel develops a greater understanding of himself and his relationship with Josiah. The high-quality writing style, the strong cast of characters, and the twisting conclusion are sure to captivate readers.-Christine McGinty, Newark Public Library, NY Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Tucking in a very long subtitle and unobtrusive dashes of moralism for period flavor, Torrey sends a sullen 17th-century lad through an often-brutal coming-of-age adventure aboard a pirate ship. Impressed into the crew of the Tempest Galley after witnessing his merchant father's bloody execution, Matthew is determined to bring the pirates and their captain, Josiah Black, to justice. Ahead of him, though, lies a long, attitude-changing voyage from the mid-Atlantic to the Red Sea, along with vicious battles, treachery, massive quantities of gleaming treasure and reversals of fortune-leading up to some well-telegraphed, but to Matthew, at least, stunning family revelations and a heroic final sacrifice. As the huge appended bibliography attests, Torrey has done her homework, drawing expertly from actual history and contemporary accounts for credible re-creations of life aboard a pirate ship of the time, as well as in various landlocked settings, and creating a vivid backdrop for an absorbing tale whose narrator ultimately wins past both physical and mental torture to a bruised, hard-won peace. (author's afterword not seen) (Fiction. 12-15)

Product Details

Random House Childrens Books
Publication date:
Chronicles of Courage (Knopf Library) Series
Product dimensions:
6.36(w) x 8.92(h) x 0.76(d)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Read an Excerpt

There are few men in this world who can say they have seen their father die twice. God's truth, I might be the only one.
Mine is not a pretty tale, but it begs telling nonetheless. It begins when I was three years old, after my mother died.
When the men started coming to our home . . .
They slipped in and out like ghosts, shadows dancing from wall to wall. They talked in low whispers with my father. If the weather was warm, I would lie in my bed and listen to the whispers. For me, it was a comforting sound, like the water in Boston Harbor as it caresses the shore. But if the weather was cold, wintry, I would cry when left alone, my tears turning to ice, the heat from the warming pan long gone. One of the men would scoop me up, blankets and all, and carry me to sit before the roaring fire.
My favorite was Josiah Black. Ofttimes he sat me on his lap as I alternately turned my gaze from Josiah to the fire and back to Josiah again, pulling my blanket close. Josiah was tall. His skin was pale, his nose strong and sharp, his hair black and shining as a crow's feathers. His eyes were like wells of ink, and he smelled of tobacco and rum. It fast became my favorite smell.
On these nights, my father would finally say, "Do you not think Daniel should go to bed? 'Tis past the midnight hour."
Puffing contentedly on his long pipe, Josiah would reply, "There will be time for sleep later. Let the boy stay."
When I was seven years old, too big to be sitting on anyone's lap, Josiah Black took me to a hanging. I'd never seen a pirate hanged before.
There were three of them. I knew they were evil men--wicked to the core, doomed, for I'd heard it at the meetinghouse the Sunday last. I clenched Josiah's hand and watched the pirates kick the empty air, wondering if they could already see the gaping jaws of hell and the everlasting lake of fire.
When finally they hung still, and after I was done staring, I tugged on Josiah's hand. "I'm hungry."
But he seemed not to remember I was there, instead staring at the bodies that spun slowly on their ropes. His grip on my hand was like iron, his face hard.
We stood there a long time before Josiah said, "Come, Daniel, my boy," and we went home to a meal of codfish chowder, bread, cheese, quince tarts, and ale. Josiah watched me as I ate, saying to my father, "Hanging brings out the hunger in Daniel."
There were other men besides Josiah, of course, men who stirred the shadows, whispering among themselves, sometimes peering anxiously out the window at a gathering storm. But by morning, like as not, none remained except myself, my father, and our few servants. The walls were silent. The men were gone. We were alone again.
The air outside my coverlet was often freezing. After my father would awaken me, he'd press me to his bosom, tickle my nose, and tell me to rise and shine like a good lad. Then I would race to the kitchen hearth to sit in the chair at the chimney side, my feet scorched by the snapping fire, my front sizzling, my back shivering. And I would open my hand to inspect a trinket one of the men had given me the night before. A carved piece of ivory. A fancy coin. A tooth of gold. A pearl. A child's ring.
I had many such treasures.
Somehow I believed life would carry on so. That although the years would pass, nothing would change--the nights always filled with whispers, with ghosts, the mornings filled with treasure.
But all things change.

It began at the meetinghouse one Sunday in the form of a woman named Faith. The year was 1694, and I was twelve years of age. Faith was just a few years older than me. Sixteen, I think. On this day, I sat with the other boys on the gallery stairs. It was November, and I could see my breath. My hands and feet had frozen into lumps. But I dared not stamp my feet nor rub my hands together. If I did, I could be sure of a sharp rap on the head from the watchful deacon, whose duty it was to rap boys on the head. So I just breathed hard and watched the clouds of breath from all of us boys, like fog in the harbor.
My father sat by himself in a pew. The pews were of the hardest wood, straight-backed, meant for keeping one awake. They were divided into squares, and my father had the best pew square in the meetinghouse, directly before the pulpit. The Seating Committee had assigned it to him because he was a goodly man, the wealthiest, and had once been married to the governor's daughter. My father's name was Robert Markham, and he was a merchant. On that Sunday he wore a powdered periwig, its voluminous curls lending my balding father both warmth and dignity.
(Just that morning, while we were getting ready for Sunday meeting, my father had called for me; he had misplaced his spectacles and needed help finding them. After a bit of searching, I found them tucked in the curls of his periwig! We shared a hearty laugh, and I warmed despite the frosty air. "Ah, Daniel," my father had finally gasped, his eyes sparkling with tears of laughter as he drew me into a fatherly embrace, "whatever would I do without you?")
Now, at the meetinghouse, at the start of the sermon's second hour, the commotion began. If it could be called a commotion. A cough, weak and delicate, coming from the women's section. It was Faith Grey. (No one can leave during meeting, not unless one is dying. And so Faith coughed.) Heads turned. The minister frowned. The sermon paused, started, paused. I was relieved by such an interruption. I rubbed my hands and stamped my feet and the deacon didn't notice, so upset was he by all the head turning.
Then Faith stopped coughing. But even though she stopped, one head kept turning--my father's. Every few seconds he turned to look at her, not seeming to care that the minister frowned and the sermon faltered once again. I could tell by the sinking of my heart that things were about to change. And they did.
A year later, Faith Grey and Robert Markham were married, and Faith moved into our house. Immediately the men stopped coming. There were no more whispers, no more treasures, no more Josiah Black.
I hated Faith.

From the Hardcover edition.

Meet the Author

Michele Torrey is the author of several works of nautical fiction, including To the Edge of the World and Voyage of Ice, the first book in the Chronicles of Courage series. She lives in Auburn, Washington.

From the Hardcover edition.

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