The Castaways (Curse of the Jolly Stone Trilogy) Review

The Castaways (Curse of the Jolly Stone Trilogy)
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We come upon Tom Tin and his companions 11 days after leaving the islands of the cannibals. Not a true sailor, Tom is the son of one and is steering a ramshackle steamboat west in hopes of being rescued by a British ship and taken home to England. He plans to right the wrongs done to his family by the money-hungry Mr. Goodfellow, who got him and his father, Captain Redman Tin, into this mess. When you owe Goodfellow money, your life becomes a living hell.
Tom views the world as a river of fate, full of both good and bad luck. Maybe if he hadn't gotten his hands on the wretched Jolly Stone diamond in England, none of this would have happened. Tom thinks debtor's prison, murder, prison ships, creatures and cannibals are all because of the Jolly Stone curse. He thought it would solve everything for his family, but one nightmare after another has cluttered his river of fate until he doesn't know if he has the wherewithal to make it right. However, his father's last words roll over and over in his mind while he listens to the "chant of the steam engine, the chuckatee-chickadee, chuckatee-chickadee that shook every plank and nail."
"Do what's right by me, Tom. Do the handsome thing." Redman Tin's voice whispered in his son's ears. But Tom doesn't have any idea what the right or handsome thing might be. He only knows that he has to get back to London, pass the Jolly Stone on and end the curse. Mr. Goodfellow is the perfect person to hand the blasted thing over to.
Joining Tom are fellow boy-convicts who have been with him since the prison ship, the Lachesis, left England bound for the Australian penal colonies. Benjamin Penny, Gaskin Boggis, Walter Weedle and blind boy William Midgely follow Tom, sometimes begrudgingly, as he tries to get them home. As rapscallions often do, they constantly fight, argue and complain.
Superstitions about the sea add poison to the mix. When they come upon an abandoned ship, they think it is the Flying Dutchman, which sails the seas of its own accord and gathers up dead sailors. They have to board the lonely vessel because their own rickety steamboat is sinking. This provides another twist in Tom's fateful river when he gets tangled even deeper in the sordid affairs of Mr. Goodfellow.
Turning the pages of THE CASTAWAYS --- the final book in the Curse of the Jolly Stone trilogy --- is irresistible as every chapter ends on a curious note. Tension builds like a slow-burning ember in the first half, and then the story tumbles head first into one adventure, surprise turn and scare after another. Iain Lawrence's skillful use of simile and metaphor helps story images come alive with colorful language, and young sailors will enjoy the genuine use of nautical terms. Time-period phrases like "toad licker," "nob," "smasher," "lumps" and "toff" add a brilliant flair of authenticity to the escapades.
--- Reviewed by Joy Held

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ADRIFT AT SEA, Tom Tin and his four convict companions are only too glad when they come upon a deserted ship. The boys clamber aboard, not knowing whether they've been saved or set on a course toward doom. But after rescuing two men stranded on a melting iceberg, Tom begins to suspect that these unsavory sailors are dangerous castaways from this very vessel. The more Tom questions the men, the more they dislike him. So, when Tom overhears them plotting to get rid of him, he knows they mean it. But the other boys don't feel threatened - at least not until the sailors attempt to sell them as slaves, a decision that ends with death for some . . . and with Tom sailing the ship home to England.Soon Tom discovers that he has to cast away every ill-intentioned companion from his voyage home before he can truly be free.

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