Title: Orion Poe and the Lost Explorer
Written by Will Summerhouse
Published by Shake-a-leg-Press, May 19th, 2014
Themes: adventure, exploration, steampunk, Arctic, 19th century history, Sir John Franklin
1st Award announced last Saturday at Book Expo America by Amazon Createspace.
If you read what Mr. Lumpkin wrote in the newspaper about my adventure at the top of the world, you only got half the story. I don’t know why but he left out some of the best parts like how I got chased all over the place, and shot at, and knocked out, and almost eaten.
Eleven-year old Orion Poe lives on the Maine coast with his crusty grampa. The tale begins the night of an ornery hurricane when Orion saves the life of a wounded storm survivor. After outwitting some strangers from a tall ship bent on destroying the man Orion has just saved, an old dispatch box ends up in Orion’s possession, containing a mysterious map of one Sir John Franklin, a nineteenth century Arctic Explorer whose expedition ships disappeared in 1847 in the Canadian Arctic (historical fact). This all sets the scene for Orion finding himself shortly thereafter on a bus from Bangor to Halifax, where he boards the Sea Leopard on a scientific expedition led by Professor Meriweather, an old friend of Grampa’s, to discover what truly happened to the lost explorer Franklin.
The novel’s main ACTION takes place on a remote island within the Arctic Circle, where the explorers discover the hidden community of New London, which has been in existence for about 150 years. The world most definitely has an anachronistic quasi-Victorian alternate history feel, from the language to the names and the structure of the society. It is a world run by a stereotypical bad guy who gets his comeuppance at the end and inhabited by many endearing larger than life characters such as the good Doctor Little, the Flimps (the King of this urchin gang definitely has a temperate Fagin-feel about him), young Rosie, Peerless the spineless betrayer and the courthouse warden etc.
The thirty-six chapters race with action packed adventure. Orion and his co-explorers face some wild challenges – ice caves, bearwolves, imprisonment, starvation, frozen seas, musket fire, underground rivers, sea battles and more. Be warned, there are a fair amount of dead bodies by the end of the story, from both camps. In this heart-pumping adventure, good inevitably triumphs. And Orion continually finds just the resourceful solution to pull him and others out of their confounded conundrums!
Why I like this Book:
This is a story for those that love the classic adventure story of smuggling, pirates, islands, rebellions, undiscovered regions, forts, spies, feuds, nature at its most brutal and lots of fights; the stuff of old-fashioned adventure yarns. The pacing is terrific and the short chapters with gritty titles (The Threepenny Heist, or How I Almost got eaten) and page-turning plot twists render it an excellent middle grade read. I enjoyed the mix of fantasy and historical speculation and felt Summerhouse did a wonderful job of 19th century Londinian vernacular. The hostility of the ice environment and the possibility of an isolated island community make a great setting for a story laced with troubles, enemies, secrets, bravery, cunning and betrayal. Told in the first person, Orion has a very distinct narrative voice, which carries the story with humor, perception and connectivity between the Maine world and the world discovered by the explorers. Occasionally Orion seems to find clever solutions too readily, but because the conflict is ever-present, the stakes always high, and it seems in keeping with his character and the tone of the tale, this didn’t detract from the story for me.
This is a barnacle-busting, intense adventure story for children who enjoy the thrill of Jules Vernesque explorative journeys! I look forward to any sequels.