3 out of 4 stars
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Voyage of Pearl of the Seas by Ruth Finnegan is a beautiful coming-of-age story told in the tradition of folktale. Kate and Chris set off on a journey across the sea with the goal of sailing around the world. On their way, they encounter Odyssey-like obstacles and deal with evolving emotions toward one another. Before they can make it around the world, they arrive in the land of the King with Many Names, who teaches them many important lessons about life and themselves. The story is one of inner growth. Kate and Chris find themselves learning things they never knew and forging a bond to end all bonds in this mesmerizing tale of friendship and adventure.
Finnegan’s writing is stunning. I got swept away in the lilting quality of the prose. The use of rhyme and alliteration almost make this poetry. One of my favorite passages comes at the beginning of Chapter 4. It opens as follows: “A lone ship smaller, going, smallest, slipping stealing stillening sea-droppenly away.” The order of words is a journey in itself, and I found myself sliding along this line as if over a wave and into the ocean. For a lack of better way to describe it, Voyage of Pearl of the Seas offers a tactile reading experience.
Finnegan’s knowledge of classic literature and folktales shows. There are notes for her inspirations included at the end of the book, which added an interesting extra level of knowledge to this story. As she states, the notes are not necessary to understand the book, and I found this to be true. Some of the inspirations I understood before reading the notes. Others, I did not, but this in no way detracted from my reading experience.
As is true of many things, a best asset can also be a greatest downfall. While the writing is breathtaking, it is also heavy. There were places I felt bogged down in the words. As a result, I was forced to reread passages to reclaim the direction of the story before moving forward. There seems to be a general lack of punctuation. In many places, it is not necessarily incorrect grammar, but the running together of words made some sentences difficult to decipher. Similarly, more than one character’s dialogue appears in the same paragraph, and I had to double check who was speaking. There are no defined breaks between Kate’s thoughts, Chris’s thoughts, and the thoughts of a narrator. All of these things pulled me from the story at various points.
My favorite character is Holly, the dog who accompanies Kate and Chris on their voyage. Holly is smart and always willing to help—the perfect canine companion. During the journey, Holly falls overboard many times, never sustaining injuries. These accidents add humor and serve to bring Kate and Chris closer together. Holly also always seems to know what’s going on far better than her human counterparts. This alludes to the canine sixth sense and gives dogs the credit they are due for being such intelligent animals.
I rate Voyage of Pearl of the Seas 3 out of 4 stars. While the writing is gorgeous, there were just too many incidents where it was more confusing than lovely. This combined with a smattering of errors keep me from giving it a perfect 4. On the other hand, the prose is too enchanting to rate it 2 stars. I believe this book would be best enjoyed in audio format. With proper narration, the lyrical text would simply float off the page. I recommend this book for anyone interested in folktale or fairytale stories. It would also appeal to lovers of C. S. Lewis, as I was fondly reminded of the Chronicles of Narnia.
Voyage of Pearl of the Seas
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