Swift clipper ships, bloodthirsty pirates and a devious Dowager Empress of China make for a vigorous historical adventure from the protean Stewart (Pomp and Circumstance, 1991). In 1851, 12-year-old Justin Savage, the adored illegitimate son of aging American shipping tycoon Nathaniel Savage, sets sail for China as a cabin boy on one of his father's clipper ships. Before the voyage is over, Justin will survive a plot to kill him by his jealous half-brother, Sylvaner; fall in love with Samantha Aspinall, a missionary's daughter; and be falsely accused of murder and put in chains. When Chinese pirates attack the ship, taking the passengers prisoner, Justin is chosen as a ""toy"" by their leader, the legendary female pirate Chang-mei. Before he reaches 17, Justin has married Chang-mei, fathered a daughter and become a pirate himself-specializing in plundering Sylvaner's ships. Impressed by the ""barbarian's"" unorthodox military talents, the Chinese Viceroy decides to send him to study at the British military academy of Sandhurst. In England, Justin reunites with a now-married Samantha, but the two are separated once again when Sylvaner arrives, determined to see Justin hanged for piracy. Forced to flee England, Justin takes refuge in Italy with Garibaldi's revolutionaries, eventually returning to China for further daring escapades. Stewart's customary storytelling flair doesn't flag in this rousing tale, which revels in melodramatic excess but bolsters it with lots of sturdy-and colorful-period detail. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/01/1999 Release date: 03/01/1999 Genre: Fiction
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