Malva has always been high-spirited. So when her parents, king and queen of Galnicia, try to force her into an arranged marriage, she decides she has no choice but to run away. Little does she realize that her quest for independence will endanger many lives. Meanwhile, Orpheus, desperate to live down the reputation of his pirate father, takes to the seas in Galnicia’s navy. In spite of his noble intentions, he soon finds himself an accomplice in Princess Malva’s escape, desperately fighting to save his skeletal crew from natural and not-so-natural disasters. As they draw closer to the end of the “Known World”, they are tested by forces that seem determined to prevent them from ever returning home.
Anne-Laure Bondoux demonstrates great skill in weaving a suspenseful, intricate story of love and adventure. Each character in the book must face his greatest fear and conquer his worst fault. Although Malva is selfish and rash, thinking little of the consequences of her actions, she does in the end regret her decision to abandon her home and family and spends the rest of her life doing good works. Before this happens, though, Malva, Orpheus and their companions gradually lose hope as their ship drifts further away from civilization. A thirteen year old crew member feels compelled to jump to his death in order to prove his courage and save his shipmates. In the end, no one is truly happy. I finished the book with a sinking feeling in my stomach, for the book had an overall tone of futility.
Jennifer Minicus is a mother and teacher currently living in Ridgewood, NJ.