The Voyage South
"Astreya isn’t like the other boys in his remote fishing village. When Astreya leaves home, his widowed mother gives him his father’s knife, a riddling notebook, and a bracelet with a mysterious and powerful green stone. He sails south with an adventurous fishing boat skipper, hoping that in the world beyond, he can find out who his father was, what the three enigmatic gifts mean, and whether there is any value to the looks, skills and talents that have set him apart from everyone he has ever known.
They voyage to a village where all the inhabitants have met a grisly end, and fearing this may be the work of the legendary sailors cursed to sail forever, they dare the open ocean. A storm blows them to a land unlike their own, where Astreya is betrayed by his shipmate and abandoned by his skipper. Escaping slavery, he makes his way to The Castle, where he believes he can learn more about his father’s gifts."
Having read my share of young adult fantasy books, I have found out that they can either be really good or really bad. I can only imagine that it must be hard for an author to envision what young adults like to read about and write it in such a manner that it appeals to them. In most cases the “bad” books are over the top in displaying magic, fights and other scenes. I read an small excerpt of The Voyage South and I did not know what to expect, but I must say that I was pleasantly surprised after only a few pages. I will add this book to my list of great young adult fantasy. The Voyage South features a new take on the coming of age story, combining it with adventure and unexpected events on sea as well as land.
The Voyage South is unique by itself, its storyline could almost have been set in our world. Being a fantasy novel that features magic, there are however no aspects that make it not of this world. The story is easy to read and understand and what I found ingenious about the chapter divisions were a small sentences which explained what would happen in the following chapter, like: Chapter one: In which Astreya fights with Yan and Alana passes on a gift. This small introduction gave an extra dimension to the chapter, it was not a spoiler at all, but made each chapter come to “life”. The plot line was not evident at all until the end of the book and this did not bother me too much since each chapter was an adventure in its own right. In the big picture you can guess what Astreya is looking for and what Hamilton intends with The Voyage South. In the ending chapters Hamilton slowly starts unravelling the history of the characters, this was done in such a way that you really start to wondering how the story continues with Astreya in the books that follow and what adventures he may find himself in.
Another plus of the Voyage South is the “coming” of age of Astreya. In the prologue the events of his early life are told and this is continued in the chapters that follow. However, normal coming of age stories most often feature kitchen scullions that grow to be great army leaders/magicians/kings. Astreya is just a plain everyday boy, only his father was not of the village where his mother was from, but a Man of the Sea, a “stranger” or “foreigner”. Hamilton introduces bullying which further highlights Astreya different heritage. The bullying of Astreya and plainness of his character (I think that Astreya just want to be accepted by his peers and be as the other children are) makes his character believable and approachable. The ending is left open and really urges the reader to continue onto its sequel. I did hope for an epilogue or last chapter that would feature the return of Molly to the village of Teenmouth (the ship in which Astreya made his first voyage), and those who have read the book will understand why. But it made me want to pick-up the second book even faster.