The Treacherous Seas: A Perilous Journey of Danger & Mayhem, Book 2

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
The Treacherous Seas:  A Perilous Journey of Danger & Mayhem, Book 2 Book Poster Image
Tween heroes fight discrimination, monsters in fun sequel.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Although set in an alternative version of the late 1800s, The Treacherous Seas includes quite a few real-life characters (like Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, journalist Nellie Bly, and future explorer Roald Amundsen), and references to the works of Jules Verne and other authors of the era. Plus there's a lot of detail about stops along the way in the voyage, from Barbados (where we learn about Tuk bands) and Antarctica (where things get a bit more imaginative). Author Christopher Healy includes an appendix explaining the reality behind such important story elements as the prey-sliming hagfish and hydrofoils (which, it turns out, Bell really invented).

Positive Messages

Strong messages of friendship, family, courage, kindness, and determination. Also a general celebration of inventiveness and creativity. Various characters deal with discrimination: Emmett because he's Chinese, Molly and her mom because they're female.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Twelve-year-old Molly and Emmett sometimes have a rocky relationship, but there's no breaking their strong friendship -- or the newfound family bonds they share with her inventor mom, Cassandra, and Robot, the automaton with a mind of his own. Torn between conflicting duties to keep her daughter safe and to be true to her calling as an inventor, Cassandra struggles, but she and Molly always have each other's back. Annoying, socially clueless cabin boy Roald turns out to have some redeeming qualities. Plenty of evil and villainous characters don't.

Violence & Scariness

Not all characters survive this adventure. One dies from a fall off a precipice, only to have his corpse become part of another scene; another is devoured by a sea monster. On the other hand, a number of characters (villainous and otherwise) who are believed to be dead turn out to be otherwise. In the past, Emmett's father has been lost at sea and Molly's father has died; the villain has killed quite a few of his henchmen along the way. Several scenes involve tearing fish apart, and otherwise hacking and slashing at creatures. At various times characters are involved in hand-to-hand combat, and find themselves captured and imprisoned.

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Treacherous Seas is the second installment in a planned trilogy called A Perilous Journey of Danger & Mayhem, by Christopher Healy (The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom). Set in an alternative version of the 1800s, it follows two tween friends who, fresh from saving New York in Book 1, quickly find themselves with a new set of problems -- one that soon has them on a Victorian-era hydrofoil, headed to Antarctica in hot pursuit of the villain who killed Emmett's father and, regrettably, got away at the end of the previous installment. Along the way, there are plenty of perils (sea monsters, explosions, pirates, your run-of-the-mill bad guys, gaping holes in the earth, etc.), laughs, plot twists, and exotic adventures. Healy's storytelling is fast-moving, often hilarious, and very relatable as characters deal with family conflicts, friends who hide things from each other, and one setback after another. Not all the characters who start this tale alive stay that way, but not everyone who's deceased seems to stay that way either. And there are strong messages of friendship, family, diversity, and being true to yourself while also being there for your loved ones.

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What's the story?

In the wake of previous events, 12-year-old Emmett Lee and Molly Pepper are looking forward to peace, quiet, and Molly's inventor mom, Cassandra, finally getting the credit she deserves for her work. But it's 1883 in a slightly alternative New York, so that's not going to happen. Instead, the two pals are soon caught up in a frantic race on THE TREACHEROUS SEAS to catch escaped arch-villain Ambrose Rector, who's up to even more no good than before and doesn't mind grand-scale murder and mayhem if that's what it takes. Cassandra, the Mothers of Invention (a society of scorned female inventors), their robot friend, and kind strangers help out along the way, but will it be enough? Not if Rector gets his way.

Is it any good?

Alexander Graham Bell finds unlikely allies against a supervillain in this thrilling tale full of wacky Victorian technology, sea monsters, pirates, and exotic adventure. Tweens Molly and Emmett and Molly's much-uncredited inventor mom find their world-saving work in Book 1 left a lot of problems unsolved. Now, they've taken to The Treacherous Seas in pursuit of Ambrose Rector, who's still at large, still in pursuit of a superweapon, and still perfectly willing to betray, imprison, murder, or whatever it takes to get it. Author Christopher Healy offers irresistible characters, vocabulary-enhancing language, heartstring-tugging situations, and plenty of hilarious moments, as here, when our heroes, making a stop in Barbados en route to Antarctica, get unexpected assistance from the daughter of a local bandleader:

"'I can help you,' Cecelia said, her voice somewhere between concerned and thrilled. 'Wait here.' She ran back to her house. Molly figured she'd gone home to change out of her donkey costume, but she returned three minutes later wearing it. Although she now also had two drums slung around her neck.

"'I'm sorry, how does this help?' Emmett asked.

"'Distraction!' Cecelia said. 'Do they not use distraction to accomplish sneaky business in New York?'"

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about inventors, and stories about them. How does The Treacherous Seas compare with other adventures involving imaginative devices, technology breakthroughs, and the people who make them possible? Are there any inventors or inventions that really appeal to you?

  • A lot of steampunk fiction is based on the premise that electricity didn't get developed as it did in our world, so people found other ways to get the job done -- or went without. Is there some technology you take for granted today that would cause your life to be really different if it hadn't been invented?

  • Characters in The Treacherous Seas often find themselves getting disrespected or treated badly because they're Asian (Emmett), female (Molly, Cassandra, and the Mothers of Invention), or, sometimes, just a kid. Or a robot. Do you think they'd have an easier time today?

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