Iain Lawrence, Author . Delacorte $17.99 (208p) ISBN 978-0-385-90109-3

One of the darkest yet most engrossing of Lawrence's (the High Seas Trilogy) adventure novels, this tale set in 19th-century England and inspired by actual events sheds light on the sordid conditions of a prison ship for boys convicted of crimes. Action moves at a fast clip. Within the first 30 pages of the novel, 14-year-old Tom loses his father to debtors' prison, discovers a diamond half-buried in the riverbed, survives near strangulation by a man who wants his treasure and stumbles upon the corpse of a boy who could pass as his identical twin. Readers (and Tom) hardly have a chance to catch their breath before the unfortunate teen is mistaken for the deceased ruffian and dragged off to serve a seven-year term "beyond the seas" on the Lachesis . The author vividly conjures Tom's fear, dismay and physical pain aboard the vessel as he witnesses and personally experiences numerous atrocities, including near starvation, bondage and bullying by both guards and other inmates. Knowing the odds for survival are against him, Tom desperately searches for a means to escape the ship. The book, aimed at those mature and strong-stomached enough to endure Tom's horrors, powerfully draws readers into another time and place, and gripping Dickensian coincidences abound. The ending offers a glimmer of hope for down-trodden Tom and also leaves a door open for a sequel. Ages 10-up. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 04/04/2005
Release date: 04/01/2005
Genre: Children's
Mass Market Paperbound - 198 pages - 978-0-440-41932-7
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-1-4193-6709-0
Prebound-Sewn - 978-0-7569-6901-1
Open Ebook - 118 pages - 978-0-307-51819-4
Hardcover - 208 pages - 978-0-385-73087-7
Hardcover - 295 pages - 978-0-7862-7911-1
Compact Disc - 978-1-4193-6714-4
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