by Mackenzi Lee
464 pages, YA
Katherine Tegen Books (Harper Collins), 2018
When I heard someone mention the title of this book, I hoped it might be nonfiction. You know, a tell-all about famous women pirates.
But I was delightfully surprised to find it an adventure tale spun in the eighteenth century starring a young woman who desperately wants to become a doctor. That is SO not socially acceptable for her family’s station, besides which no hospital (or physician) will accept her as a student.
Plus there’s her name, Felicity Montague: a star-crossed name if ever there was. And this intriguing first line: “I have just taken an overly large bite of iced bun when Callum slices his finger off.” We learn that Felicity works in the bakery that Callum owns. And he’s a bit distracted as they wash the dishes, which is how he ends up slicing the tip of his finger off. Felicity, who has been reading medical treatises for so long, is now faced with an actual medical emergency.
And not to put too much of a damper on her relationship with the baker, she reveals that “with a chunk of his finger missing, Callum is the most interesting he has ever been to me.” Then we dive into Felicity’s mind. She is thinking about the 27 bones four tendon, three nerves, two arteries, and other aspects of hand anatomy. Callum, on the other hand, would like Felicity as his wife. She could do worse than marry a baker, he posits…
We know she’s going to leave before she knows it. She’s got a brother in London. Surely he’ll take her in. Before long, Felicity is up to her eyeballs in intrigue. My favorite part is where she runs off to join a pirate expedition to protect sea monsters – a far cry from applying to medical studies. But science is science.
The writing is fun to read! For example: “…traveling with Johanna and Sim will be like trying to wrangle kittens into the bath…” This is the kind of writing that leaves the sting of sea salt on your face and your hair tangled in knots by the wind.
And then – there’s Back Matter. As many of you know, I love back matter, and Mackenzi Lee does not disappoint (though I will point out the distinct lack of end notes). She talks about women characters in historical fiction and then addresses the aspirations of her three women characters. And she shares stories of real-life women in history who inspired each of them. And so we learn about women in medicine, scientist, and piracy in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
Review copy discovered @ my library.