Nick McIver, book 1
Pages: 434 pages
Finished: July 16, 2010
First Published: Sept. 1, 2009
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Genre: adventure, historical fiction
"Hard a'lee, me boys!" shouted Nick McIver over the wind, "or be smashed to smithereens in the jaws of Gravestone Rock!"
Acquired: Borrowed a copy from my local library.
Reason for Reading: I have the second book, but thought I had better read the first book, well ... first. I read this aloud to my son, as he loves seafaring adventures.
Set in 1939, just before war is declared, on the smallest of the Channel Islands. Nick's father is lighthouse keeper and a secret spy for politician Winston Churchill reporting back any German U-Boat activity in the Channel waters. A strange man called Billy Blood kidnaps Nick's dog Jipper and thus starts a seafaring adventure that will cross time. Billy Blood is a pirate of Admiral Lord Nelson's time and not only has he taken Nick's dog, he has also kidnapped Lord Hawke's two children. Lord Hawke, Nick and his friend Gunner go back in time with a time machine device of Hawke's which Blood just happens to have the only other existing one. While there they must help Nelson's fleet out of a dangerous situation that only Nick can guide them through. Meanwhile, back at home, Nick's younger sister, Kate, has been left with Commander Hobbes to take some vital information about a special U-Boat to England unbeknownst that said U-Boat is hot on their trail.
Rip-roaring adventure from beginning to end in the fashion of "Treasure Island" and in the same vein the illustrations are a handful of full-page drawings as one would find illustrative plates in an old copy of "Treasure Island". A gripping story with Nick certainly in the lead as main character. He is an independent twelve-year-old, though respectful to his parents, who was born with the sea in his blood. He spends as much time as possible out in his boat sailing the waters in good and bad weather, even mapping a route through a dangerous coral reef into a cove. His hero is Admiral Lord Nelson and he thinks of him every time he starts to feel discouraged in life. His sister, Kate, is only seven and maintains her position well, despite being cute and funny she is smart as a tack and manages to save the situation at the last minute many times.
We both loved this book. The story is engaging and the shared time between the two time periods is very exciting. The chapters alternate with one set of characters in 1805 then back to the present with the Nazis in 1939. All of the main characters are likable and each has a sense of humour which adds a light tone in between the action scenes. The story is realistic and the battles scenes in 1805 are not for the very young or sensitive as battle wounds are described in full, and blood and violence are shown in their proper place in war, though never unnecessarily or gratuitously. The pirates, and well most adults, do use a small amount of language using the British curse words bloody/bleeding frequently and taking the Lord's name in vain quite often. Since I was reading aloud, I was able to say the words about half the time as they applied, something really was bloody in the battle and I spoke the Lord's name in a way that the character was now calling upon Him rather than swearing, the other half of the time I edited it out. But these are two small complaints in a book aimed at this age group.
I just love finding books that are definitely aimed at boys, there are of course many girls who enjoy this type of action and they have the character of Kate to identify with, but I appreciate when the male/female characters are brother/sister thus eliminating the awkward love angle or the even more annoying battle of the sexes angle. Kate and Nick are especially a nice team as they are loving family members, far enough apart in age that Nick is Kate's parent-in-absentia figure and Kate adores her big brother.
A wonderful book with family values, adventure, really bad guys (pirates and Nazis) and an edge of your seat action set in exciting historical times. Looking forward to Book 2 in the series.