Liberty Frye and the Sails of Fate
by J.L. McCreedy
(to be published May 2, 2016)
Back in 2013, quite by chance, I happened to come across a children’s/YA book entitled Liberty Frye and the Witches of Hessen. I wrote a review of it for my blog which I also published on Amazon. As I felt the story left a door ajar for sequels, I have actually been checking for that a few times. So when recently I received a surprise email from the author, offering me to read an advanced review copy of the second book, I was of course happy to accept! (The request was based only on the author having read my previous review. I don’t know her personally.)
Just like the first book, I find Liberty Frye and the Sails of Fate to be a pacy, inventive and well written children's fantasy story – also enjoyable for adults like myself, who might recognize references to various other books within that and related genres.
My guess is that The Sails of Fate could also be read as a stand-alone story; but it does refer back to characters, events, objects and ideas from the first book. And I think it now also hints strongly to letting the series continue to become at least a trilogy.
In the first book, Liberty Frye and the Witches of Hessen, Libby's parents took her on a trip to Germany to visit her mum's family there; leading to the rather unnerving discovery that her favourite book, a collection of fairy tales by the famous Brothers Grimm, turned out to be more closely related to reality than she had ever suspected.
Some characters from the first book that reappear in the second are Libby's pet goose Buttercup; her friend Ginny; her dad’s Uncle Frank (inventor of various fantastic machines, including a robot by name of Esmerelda); and an old friend and contemporary of Frank's who used to be a pilot back in World War II. Other ingredients we recognize from the first book are a special tree and its fruit; and a mysterious amulet.
As implied by the title, The Sails of Fate involves a sea voyage. The book starts out with Libby's family (safely back home in the US after the adventures in Germany; and now also officially including Ginny as Libby's foster sister) taking her on an outing for her 11th birthday. Libby herself is in a rather contrary birthday mood - connected to her finding out in Germany that she is supposed to have inherited supernatural powers, but still not feeling at all in control of that.
The goal for the birthday party turns out to be the seaside (Biloxi Bay, Mississippi), where a large sailboat by name of Liberté is found waiting; with Uncle Frank and his old friend aboard, ready to take the girls on a tour around the bay (while Libby's mum and dad go to buy some things for a picnic).
Aboard the ship, uniquely refurbished by Uncle Frank, he also has another birthday surprise in store for Libby – a special invention, that he has been working on for a long time, and now wants to put to a test in honour of her birthday.
What Frank has forgotten to take into account, though, is the unpredictability of what might happen if you accidentally happen to add magic to a scientific experiment...
While some connections from the first book seemed to grow clearer for me in this one, other threads now seemed to be teasingly left dangling at the end instead. However, as the series seems to be meant to continue, I suppose it may all still be neatly tied up in the end! So I shall reserve judgement on that point for now (and will be looking forward to the third instalment).
For the most part, I think the author manages to keep a good flow throughout the book, with a good balance between elements like suspense, depth, unexpected turns of events, and comic relief. I also like the way she describes Libby's struggle with coming to terms with her magical powers; reflecting the general struggle of growing up and getting to know oneself that we all go through, while learning how best to make use of whatever powers and possibilities we have, in the circumstances where fate happens to take us.
Teaser quote: ”I've been so caught up in what I'm supposed to do or be, that I haven't paid attention to what I already can do, to what's already open to me.”
I’ll be publishing this review also on Amazon and Goodreads,
with a 4-star rating.
Linking this post to