Secret Water

Our rating: ****

The Swallows and Amazons return for another imaginative adventure! This time the Swallows’ youngest sister Bridget comes along on an exploring and mapping expedition as the children are “marooned” by their parents on the islands of Secret Water. However, mapmaking is threatened by war when the Eels, a “savage tribe” of four other children camping on one of the other islands, want the islands to themselves and attempt to drive the Swallows and Amazons away.

Let’s deal with my one problem with this book first. The “savage tribe” of Eels imaginatively goes the whole nine yards into playing savages, including a pretend human sacrifice to the Great Eel and a very un-pretend blood brotherhood ritual. Anybody with a sense of humor will find these parts funny, but some might consider them a bad influence. I’m in the former camp, so with that out of the way, let me tell you what I like about Secret Water.

It’s a charming, witty, exciting story full of lots of imagination and humor. Adventure? Plenty. Marooned explorers, unexplored islands, attacks from savages, and thrilling escapes. There’s something here for everybody, and you can’t help but wish that you were inside this story.

Drowned Wednesday

Our rating: ****

Wednesday dawns and Author Penhaligon is facing his next task: finding and claiming the next part of the Will and the Third Key. But this isn’t any easier than Monday and Tuesday were. Lady Wednesday herself, rumor has it, has been transformed into a monstrous, all-devouring whale. And the terrible and powerful pirate-sorceror Feverfew is set on capturing and killing Arthur. Falling in with the unusual crew of the salvaging ship The Moth, Arthur faces high adventure on the Border Sea, risking much to complete his quest. Lives are at stake.

Drowned Wednesday is fairly consistent with the first two books of the series, while still keeping the adventures fresh and unique. A good blend of humor and peril, with both old characters and new. I can’t say that it’s an exceptionally remarkable story, but I found it imaginative and enjoyable nonetheless, and I intend to follow it up promptly with the fourth book, Sir Thursday.

To Have And To Hold

Our rating: ****

Captain Ralph Percy of Colonial Jamestown has been a soldier and bachelor for many, many years. At the urging of his friend, John Rolfe, he decides to consider the idea of marriage, provided God directs him that way. God does so and Capt. Percy marries a beautiful, yet mysterious newcomer to the colony. Little does he know that she has fled to the New World to escape a forced marriage and that trouble will pursue her across the sea. With Indians turning on the settlers, an angry king in England, and a cold, distant wife, Ralph must seriously consider the vow he made, and at all odds, protect the lady he has promised to have and to hold.

This is one of those “hard to put in a nutshell” books. The plot is so well executed, with so many twist and turns, the poor reviewer has to stick to the bare bones and leave the rest to the reader’s imagination. I, for one, found this Vision Forum revision to be well worth reading. It has action, adventure, a little intrigue, a nice kind of romance, and above all a focus on God that is truly refreshing. For more sensitive readers, be aware that they do mention some unpleasant things about how the Indians occasionally kill their victims. But be encouraged that I, the easy to be upset one, made it through. It’s handled very tactfully.

Peter Duck

Our rating: ****

The Swallows and Amazons, along with Captain Flint (the Amazons’ Uncle Jim) are preparing for a holiday in a small schooner, the Wild Cat. When they hire Peter Duck as an extra sailor, things begin to happen. The notorious Black Jake and his ship Viper begin following their every move. Why? Peter Duck was witness to a treasure burial many years ago and word has gotten to Black Jake. Captain Flint thinks a go at treasure would be a good vacation, so off they sail into an adventure.

Peter Duck is meant to be a story made up by the Swallows and Amazons during a winter holiday. However, this is never explained, so the book could be as real as you want it to be. Here we have a rollicking good time hunting for treasure, fighting pirates, and sailing on the open sea. I thought the story dragged a little at the beginning, but once Arthur Ransome hit his stride, I was carried along and reading at a furious rate. Guaranteed to make you wish you were sailing!


Our rating: ***½

John, Susan, Titty, and Roger return to the lake with high hopes. But everything seems to go wrong. Nancy and Peggy have a very prim and proper great-aunt with them, so they can hardly get out to play. Then the Swallow wrecks and must be sent off to Rio to be fixed. However, the explorers find a hidden little valley and decide to move in.

I didn’t like this book as much as the first one. There isn’t as much boating what with the Swallow wrecked, and it isn’t quite the same without Nancy and Peggy there all the time. Also, Titty performs some kind of magic to make the great-aunt go away, which I didn’t think needed to be in there. But setting these things aside, it can still be an enjoyable read. I just didn’t like it as much as the first one, Swallows and Amazons.