Middle Grade Review: Avalina Jones and the Eye of the Storm (Lori Adams)
About This Book:
Avalina Jones, the Last Heir of the infamous pirate Davy Jones, has never heard of Sea Magic, flying dinghies, Pirate Heir schoolships, phantom islands, undead pirates, or creatures called Half Ones. And she has never understood her strange connection to water. But when a beautiful woman arrives in a swirling waterspout, Avalina's life explodes with more adventures than she can possibly imagine. She takes her rightful place aboard a giant Pirate Heir schoolship teeming with Heirs of the world's most nefarious pirates.
Raised as a Landlubber, Avalina quickly realizes bizarre and danger are normal aboard Pirate Heir schoolships-food fights back, school supplies giggle or explode in your face. And not everyone can be trusted.
When Avalina is accused of a terrible crime, she must prove her innocence or risk being banished from the schoolship forever-and this in the middle of a crucial Treasure Hunt!
Avalina races to unlock secrets of the ship, and makes a dangerous discovery that threatens everyone aboard. With the help of her new friends Charlie, Pippa, and Bummy, Avalina draws closer to the truth, unaware that a deeper, darker fate awaits.
*Review Contributed by Mark Buxton, Staff Reviewer*
Avalina’s been living in an orphanage since the age of four but later discovers she’s the daughter of magical pirates. Both parents have died, and now Avalina is retrieved and taken into the world of pirate Heirs. Magical pirates may sound strange, but their world is similar to most stories with unusual and amazing events and characters. The pirates don’t go around casting spells, although some have unique abilities, life on the pirate ship school is full of magic. Below the deck, readers will find a world of caves, beaches, and classrooms that are magically enhanced to reflect the mood and needs of the ship. The setting underneath the ship’s deck is clearly larger than the size of the ship itself.
Avalina lived most of her life as a Landlubber, so she’s not readily accepted by many of the other pirate students and Heirs. Plus, she may, or may not, have the family curse, and she’s rejected by the bullying Renegades, the house of pirates she was assigned to. Luckily, she’s accepted by her new friends in the Buccaneers. She has a natural connection to water (she can breathe underwater), so she wonders if it might be evidence of the curse. In addition, the ghost of a treacherous, dead pirate captain has sworn to kill every last relative of Davy Jones, and Avalina is the last one still living. The threat of his attack looms throughout the entire book.
Rather than writing two separate books, the author divided the book into two parts. The first half deals with Avalina’s efforts to graduate from Pog to Shellback, and problems and characters complicate things for her. She’s blamed for everything that goes wrong due to thoughts about her curse, and she’s charged with a serious crime that could expel her from living among the pirate Heirs. Avalina recognizes one teacher is not as nice as she seems, and this teacher seems out to get Avalina. She’s the one who accuses Avalina of the crime. The second half of the book sees the crew in a contest with three other pirate ship schools to decode a treasure map and retrieve the long-lost booty. Avalina is a key member of a select group trying to figure out the clues, even though the prejudices against her continue. Mysteries thrive as the plot progresses, and several surprises spring up as the events near their climax.
What didn’t work as well:
The Renegades are presented as antagonists in Avalina’s life, but they come off as more annoying than actual threats. They tease her whenever possible, and some skirmishes arise during the course of events. They especially enjoy when the teacher mentioned earlier punishes Avalina, usually unfairly. The Renegades aren’t as evil as they could have been, but maybe that’s due to a pirate code of loyalty. Treating other pirates dishonorably is something most of the characters avoid, lest they be kicked off the ship.
The final verdict:
Magical adventure on the high seas! The story can be compared to other books where characters discover an unknown world of magic or fantasy. The addition of pirates creates some interesting and unique twists, and the story feels fresh despite its similarities to other middle-grade books. Overall, lovers of speculative fiction will enjoy this book and will anxiously yearn for the sequel once it's published.
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