And Then I Read: VOYAGE NORTH by Julia Jones

Cover illustration by Claudia Myatt

This is the seventh and I think final book of the Strong Winds series, which I’ve been enjoying for over ten years. Julia Jones was inspired by the books of Arthur Ransome about children sailing and having adventures, but her books are very much of their own time. They are more complex than Ransome’s stories, and they include topics he wouldn’t have considered appropriate for children, like social inequity issues, racism, crime, and international politics. My only complaint has been that there often isn’t enough sailing in the series, but this final one has plenty, even if some of it is motor driven. Plenty of action and excitement, too, and loose threads from the other books are sewn up nicely.

Donny Walker has been living on the Suffolk coast of northeast England with his deaf mother Skye, and they’ve made many friends there, but the biggest mystery in Donny’s life is the identity and career of his father, who he never knew. At the end of the sixth book, “Pebble,” Donny is offered a chance to learn about his father from someone who knew him, the Russian oligarch Aradky Ivanov, if he will join the former Russian Admiral on his super-yacht, MV Raisa as it flees the English coast with an illegal radioactive cargo, heading North toward Finland. Donny agrees, leaving everyone he knows behind, and he’s soon wondering if he made the right decision. Ivanov is badly wounded and in need of medical care, but because of their cargo, no port will allow them to land. On board it’s just Captain George, Donny, and the possibly dying Ivanov until three stowaways surface. They are Russian teenagers Tatiana and Vasily and German AWOL soldier Luther, who hid on the boat to escape authorities. They consider themselves eco-terrorists, and planned to take over Raisa, but things don’t work out for them, and soon they are conscripted into the crew, forced to help keep the ship going and all of them alive. When it finally reaches a port that will accept them in Finland, even more trouble is in store for everyone. In this suspenseful story, twists and turns abound. There are kidnappings, a damaged sunken submarine with friends of Ivanov on board, fierce storms, frantic escapes on sea and land, political intrigue, surprising heroics, and some hair-raising sailing. Donny Walker eventually finds out much more about his father and family than he ever expected.

Recommended, but start with the first book of the series, I’ll list links to all of them.

The Salt-Stained Book by Julia Jones

A Ravelled Flag by Julia Jones

Ghosting Home by Julia Jones

The Lion of Sole Bay by Julia Jones

Black Waters by Julia Jones

Pebble by Julia Jones

Voyage North by Julia Jones

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