Friday, 6 January 2012

Powder Monkey

By Paul Dowswell 
ISBN 9780747577218
I’m not usually attracted to boys’ adventure stories which is what the cover suggests this book is. However, I’d already read Paul Dowswell’s Ausländer and found it extremely useful for my Holocaust project as well as being very well written. Also, having lived for thirty years near Portsmouth I’ve developed a fascination for Nelson’s ship, the Victory. So, in the end, I couldn’t resist picking up Powder Monkey off the library shelf.
I wasn’t disappointed. Powder Monkey is also beautifully written. Main character Sam is totally convincing. We start to care about him just a few lines in. The story is told in Sam’s voice. We are right there with him all the way. There is also plenty of camaraderie amongst the men on the Miranda and in some ways the story is quite gentle. Yet there are plenty of spills and thrills and at any one point we are not sure what is going to happen next. And there are enough darker characters to bring  sufficient tension in.
I imagine this novel could appeal to a wide readership. It would be suitable for mature children at the end of primary school, ye there is enough adventure, blood and gore to suit older boys. Older girls may well fall in love with Sam or some of his friends and there is a hint of a love interest. There is enough fast-paced adventure for everyone.  
It is clear that Dowswell has been thorough in his research. Yet he does not overwhelm us with his knowledge. He simply creates a thoroughly believable world.