Book Review: The Commodore’s Daughter by Jamie Brazil

6 Jan

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**This review is based on a NetGalley e-reader copy of the book, which I received for free in exchange for an honest review.

Jennifer Perry does not want to get married. When her arranged marriage is announced, she runs away and decides to hide where no one will look for her–onboard her father’s ship. But things take a surprising turn when the ship launches, and suddenly Jennifer gets what she wished for and is traveling the world. When her father almost discovers that she’s stolen away, she jumps ship off the coast of Japan. But the Japanese kill all foreigners, and her golden hair and blue eyes are likely to give her away. With the help of a Japanese family, she steals away… only to discover that there are far greater dangers, not only for herself, but for her father, the Emperor, and the Empire.

This is a relatively short book and easy to read–I’d say more Middle Grade level than YA. I knocked it out in a few hours. It was an exciting story and kept me turning pages.

The plot is solid and intriguing. A girl in the 1800s with the wherewithal to strike out against her family and steal away on a ship. She’s quite good at being a stole away too, keeping hidden in her father’s own cabin for a journey from America to Japan, learning how to survive on food scraps while her father is off on his duties and taking advantage of his library. She learned as she went, lending some realism to the thing. After all, a practically noble girl isn’t going to know exactly what to do in such a situation, is she?

Japan isn’t your typical setting for a historical YA novel, either. Usually you see England, England, maybe France or Spain, England, Italy, England. So this was refreshing, and I loved the way the Japanese language was interwoven through the book, rather than just seeing “they said something in their language I didn’t understand” or something similar. Again, it was refreshing. I can see that some people might have complaints about it, but I thought the translations were worked in relatively well (there is a Japanese dictionary at the back of the book, but having read the e-book, it was impossible to click through to it and back with any kind of regularity).

The main characters were quite likable–Jenny with her determination, curiosity, and ability to adapt. Keiko with her honor, loyalty, and sense of adventure. Ryu with his murky past. That said, Jenny frustrated me a little with her “I don’t ever want to get married” attitude at the beginning and her sudden change of heart the moment she sees the first boy her age. Okay, so she wasn’t like “I want to marry you” but she did quite like him. And here I was thinking I’d found a YA book that avoided romance altogether. It was the inconsistency in her character in that respect that bothered me the most.

The entire plot moves rather quickly, and I think it could have been slowed down to allow for further character development, more time spent with Jenny before the engagement perhaps. More time with the details and nuances that historical fiction needs to be great.

The author asked for criticisms and suggestions at the end of the book, so here is my appraisal. The plot was interesting and kept me turning pages, and for that I would love to see another historical fiction novel from them. However, as far as historical fiction goes, I have read far better. The characters’ dialogue was far too modern, and I was not enveloped in that sense of place and time that I should be when reading historical fiction. Aside from the clothes, and the arranged marriage, these people could have been walking around in 2013. I don’t think that historical fiction is by any means easy, and I think you have to study a lot of good historical fiction writers and keep practicing to get it right. A few authors who consistently get it right, in my opinion, are Patricia C. Wrede, Jackie French, and Ann Turnbull. I’d recommend reading some of their books and figuring out what they do to make the reader feel like they’re standing in the 17th, 18th, or 19th centuries with the characters.

However, I would read another historical fiction novel from this author just to see what kind of twists and turns they put on the genre next.

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3 Responses to “Book Review: The Commodore’s Daughter by Jamie Brazil”

  1. Michelle Proulx January 6, 2014 at 3:55 pm #

    Very interesting review! I can see how a historical speaking in a modern way would get frustrating … I’ve read a few historical fictions where that was the case, and it definitely got on my nerves, despite how good the stories were. But it sounds like the author has a lot of potential! And I do love stories set in Japan — it’s just a very cool country in general. So perhaps I shall give this a read 🙂

    • inkhearted January 6, 2014 at 10:32 pm #

      It’s definitely worth a read! Such an interesting concept. I really enjoyed that–it was just the modern dialogue that really got on my nerves!

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