“Against a brilliant fireworks display of glittering diamond dust, the Lucy P. Simmons carried us off together on what I knew would be a most spectacular voyage.”
The preceding sentence may sound as if it could be the opening sentence of a middle grade fantasy novel called The Voyage of Lucy P. Simmons, but it is instead the closing sentence of a book that begins with tragedy and ends with to be continued, my least favorite ending. I even like ambiguous endings better than tbc endings—at least with ambiguous I get to think up my own ending without fear that I will someday be contradicted or proved wrong by the author’s official sequel.
The tragedy at the beginning is the death of Lucy’s parents. Lucy lives in Maine, 1906, and she and her parents are involved in a boating accident. Lucy is the only survivor. Now her Uncle Victor and Aunt Margaret have become her temporary guardians, and Uncle Victor is out to get Lucy’s inheritance, her father’s house and her fortune. If Lucy can only find her other surviving relative, Aunt Pru, she knows that Uncle Victor’s evil plans will be thwarted. And it seems that the house itself is helping Lucy as she tries to fight, in a ladylike early twentieth century manner, against her uncle.
The magic in this book is odd– a magical mist that appears to point out important items when necessary and a magical flute that belonged to Lucy’s father. The flute sort plays by itself when danger is near, but the warning is too late and too inconsistent to do much good. I could never identify with Lucy too well. She is alternately headstrong and foolish, then restrained and unable to decide to do anything. I wanted her to try to tell people about what Uncle Victor was doing. Or run away. Or scream. Or something.
Then, when Lucy’s rescuer comes, we are unsure as whether to trust the mysterious Marni or not. It is implied that Marni is a sea witch, but I was never sure whether sea witches in this story are good and helpful or whether we’re being set up for a betrayal in part two. And so at the end of the book the main characters sail off for Australia (yes, from Maine), leaving Uncle Vic–and Lucy’s old life–behind.
“Then as we sailed out toward the open sea, I vowed never to look back again.”
This melodrama mixed with magic just didn’t work for me. I felt unsettled and dissatisfied as skimmed toward the non-end of the story. If you’re willing to invest in a prequel to a voyage to Australia, then you may get a different vibe out of the whole novel. Good luck to you, matey.