Son of Fortune by Victoria McKernan (2013)

Aiden had never seen the open ocean and knew little about ships, but he did know the ones in Seattle always needed men. There was a gold rush in British Columbia, and it was common for whole crews to desert in Seattle to chase their fortunes. He also knew to be careful. Seattle and Portland had been notorious for shanghaiing — men were fed knockout potions in saloons and dropped through trapdoors only to wake with throbbing heads, far out to sea with the roll of the ocean beneath them, forced into service as deckhands on their way to China (p 4).

Son of FortuneAiden Lynch continues to struggle for food, shelter and understanding in Son of Fortune, a continuation of the bildungsroman begun in The Devil’s Paintbox

Bruised and exhausted, Aiden must flee Seattle after murdering a would-be thief. He gains passage to San Francisco on a lumber ship hauling a polar bear and her two cubs. Aidan’s job is to kill a seal and so provide for the nursing mother bear. In the process, he gains solid friends if not a love for the sea.

No longer a stranger to the slings and arrows of harsh Nature and cruel Man, Aiden navigates 1866 San Francisco warily, finding success despite setbacks and with help from unlikely corners. After aiding Christopher, a wealthy but drunk young man, Aiden gains entry into one of the most affluent houses in the city as a tutor.

But his fortune takes a sharp turn, again, when he wins a ship in a card game. With a good captain and a license to haul guano (nutrient-rich bird droppings), Aiden and Christopher throw their lots together and make for Peru. What they find is so devastating that neither will return unscathed.

McKernan delivers an exemplary sequel, taking readers on an immersive journey through the textures, aromas, fears, and possibilities of the 1860’s west coast with deft writing and a story the flows naturally and effortlessly. Highly recommended.

Library copy | 978-0375864568 | $16.99 | Ages 16+

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