There’s a hint of Joan Aiken’s books in this one. At least, it reminded me a little of The Wolves of Willoughby Chase. Lucy’s very nice parents are drowned under odd circumstances in the first chapter, and her home is soon commandeered by her greedy aunt and uncle. The unpleasant pair is determined to squelch Lucy in every way they can.
Then an old woman with silver hair stands on the beach and sends her magic Lucy’s way. Imagine her surprise when the woman later shows up posing as the mistress of an exclusive boarding school—just what Lucy’s aunt and uncle want. But the truth is very different, as are Lucy’s fellow fugitives.
Meanwhile, Lucy’s aunt and uncle plot to steal her inheritance, mostly the house. But they are in for a few surprises when Lucy and her new friends show up to try to stop them. Maybe when all’s said and done, Lucy will go in search of her true guardian, her intrepid world explorer aunt. (That’s looking like the plot in Book 2!) But is her family really cursed?
This cheery little adventure might make you picture Polly Peerless tied to the railroad tracks as Dick Dastardly twirls his mustache. Yet Lucy and her friends are not one-dimensional characters, even if the aunt and uncle are. Two other characters you’ll like are a little dog named Mr. Pugsley and a maid called Addie. You will not like the man Lucy has named the Brute, however.
The book begins in New England in 1906 with the ringing of a bell, but it’s no ordinary bell:
There it was again—the sound of the ship’s bell. Though there was no ship, and no wind, it clanged, echoing across the rocks and out over Simmons Point. Addie stepped through the front door onto the veranda, where I sat snuggled in one of the oak rockers facing out to sea. Buried in my book, I hummed a scrap of the old sea chantey Father had taught me. “A la de dah dah, a la dee dah dee…” “There ‘tis—that accursed bell,” Addie exclaimed….
The magic in this book doesn't overwhelm the story. The author sneaks in bits and pieces of magic in just the right way: the mysterious bell, a strangely helpful mist, and the surprising, enchanting conclusion. The Voyage of Lucy P. Simmons is an altogether satisfying book for the back-to-school crowd.
Note: This MG novel will come out on October 2. I received a review copy from the publisher.