author website indicates that The Voyage of Lucy P. Simmons is the first in a trilogy of middle grade fantasy novels. The book takes place in the early 1900s in northeastern U.S., right along the Atlantic coast. The cover artwork is lovely and the synopsis really piqued my interest. It promises an enchanted flute, a magical mist in a mystical family home and a tragic disaster that orphans Lucy and sets her at odds against her greedy uncle and others who would steal away her heritage.
The language of the book is beautifully formed and very poetic at times while still being simple and easily accessible to the middle grade audience. The descriptions of settings, actions and motivations were all wrapped inside wonderfully articulated language that touched the senses and made for a vivid and engaging read.
The story jumps right into the action with the tragic death of Lucy's parents and continues to keep a steady pace throughout the entire book. I really loved the way the tragedy was handled and especially the disorientation, denial and grief that followed as Lucy found herself trying to recover and make sense of her life. The horrible situation into which Lucy is tossed felt a little trite and overused at first but quickly took on a fresh, imaginative turn that allowed it to be compelling even if it was a story I felt like I'd heard before (that story being: child becomes orphan, forced to bow to whims of overbearing greedy adult who just wants the family estate/money/etc).
I really enjoyed the introduction of the various magical and mystical elements in the story. I loved the concept of the possibility of a true Siren from mythology. I was intrigued and curious as to how and why the Siren was involved and kept turning page after page to try and understand the magical mist that seemed to bring the house to life in ways meant to help Lucy stay safe and progress towards some goal she did not even understand. I loved the suggestion of a family Curse potentially having something to do with the water.
In addition to the magical elements, I really enjoyed the mundane natural elements of the story. I love that the quirky little dog is named Mr. Puggsley. Just such a fun and funny name. I liked the interactions between Lucy and the housekeeper Addie. I really enjoyed the descriptive elements of the setting along the Atlantic coast and turn of the century America. I also liked the subplot that occurs later in the story when Lucy meets another group of children who aren't orphans but are separated from their family for another tragic reason different from Lucy's.
There are a lot of things to really like about this book and the way it is written. In fact, probably my biggest complaint about this book is that there are TOO MANY things going on. The story moves at a quick pace as Lucy whirls through her life trying to make sense of the recent tragedy and figure out a way to ensure her future isn't entirely destroyed by her uncle. As her life seems to be spinning out of control, we are introduced to mystery after mystery. Who is the mysterious Siren? What is the family curse? Where does the magic of the house come from? Is Marni magic; psychic; something else entirely? I felt like the book introduced a ton of interesting and compelling ideas, fleshed them out to a degree, but then left most of the questions unresolved. As mentioned on the author's website, this is intended as part of a trilogy so I can accept that we'll (hopefully) get answers in the next book. However, I read this book unaware that it was going to be part of a series, so the lack of resolution to so many questions caught me rather unprepared and left me a little unsettled.
As to the concept of this being a trilogy, I suspect the entire trilogy will use the overarching title "The Voyage of Lucy" since honestly this first book did not involve any real "voyage" at all. The farthest any of our characters travelled was across the little bay, hardly a trip to be called a "voyage" (though I suppose it could be granted with some poetic license). At the same time, Lucy definitely makes a definite Journey of maturation and self discovery. She's a young girl and behaves impetuously and immaturely at times but she is also learning, growing and coming to her own as an admirable, strong, decisive and powerful protagonist.
Overall this is a fun story with a lot going for it. The magic, whimsy and adventure should appeal to younger readers while the intricacies and depth of the mysteries should keep older readers interested. I do see a little risk in leaving so much unresolved. While it will certainly drive readers to a sequel, it may leave some less satisfied with the initial offering. Still, the climactic ending of this book is exciting, surprising and a lot of fun and offers a good degree of wonder and satisfaction in spite of the many questions it leaves hanging. I for one am definitely looking forward to the sequel and I'm going to be pushing this book on my kids next.
3.5 out of 5 stars
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