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Son of Fortune

Review

Son of Fortune

SON OF FORTUNE is a sequel to author Victoria McKernan’s first book, THE DEVIL’S PAINTBOX. From the blurb on the book jacket we know that Aiden has already nearly starved to death in Kansas, traveled the Oregon Trail and worked in a lumber camp. Other tidbits of his past are sprinkled throughout the text.

This story opens with Aiden on the run. He had accidentally killed a man named William Buck. Not much is said about Buck at this point except that he had ambushed a medical team and stolen some smallpox vaccine. But, this means that Aiden is now a wanted man. He needs to leave Seattle in a hurry, before he is apprehended and arrested.

He finds passage on a cargo ship headed to San Francisco to deliver a polar bear and her two cubs to a wealthy man for his private zoo. Aiden is offered free passage in exchange for helping the bears arrive at their destination alive and healthy. He keeps his end of the bargain and arrives in port ready to start a new life.

McKernan did extensive research in order to write this book, which you not only know from her Author’s Note but can see in the details of the narrative itself.

He must overcome many obstacles before he can even find a safe place to sleep and adequate food for his stomach. However, as the title implies, “fortune” seems to smile on him as he manages to secure the friendship of Christopher, the son of the wealthiest man in San Francisco, and wins the title to a ship in a high-stakes poker game. The ship is outfitted to haul guano, a very expensive and much-needed fertilizer, from mines off the coast of Peru. Together, Aiden and Christopher sail to Peru to find their own fortunes.

The road to riches might be paved with gold, but in this case, the gold is stinky and smelly, as guano is bird droppings. It might be very valuable and very expensive, but it is not a pleasant task to dig it from the ground, bag it up and load it on a ship. Fortunately, Aiden and Christopher don’t have to do the dirty work, but they do learn the dirty secret behind the production of guano. The truth changes Aiden forever.

McKernan did extensive research in order to write this book, which you not only know from her Author’s Note but can see in the details of the narrative itself.

McKernan also has a gift for description. Here is how she described Aiden’s seasickness: “Aiden felt like someone had turned his body inside out, scooped up his guts with a spoon, boiled his bones into jelly, sprinkled it all with poison and hung him out on the fence for coyote bait.” I call that rather descriptive writing, don’t you?

As mentioned, this book is the second in a series. I have not read the first one. I think this title does well as a stand-alone. There is a mention, on page 54, of several other things in Aiden’s history (besides those listed on the jacket blurb), but not much explanation is given for any of them. I got a pretty good sense of who Aiden was, but I wish there was more back-story given so I would know more of the why’s and wherefore’s of Aiden’s past, not just the what’s. But it’s a great story, none-the-less, and I highly recommend it.

Reviewed by Christine M. Irvin on December 17, 2013

Son of Fortune
by Victoria McKernan

  • Publication Date: November 12, 2013
  • Genres: Adventure, Historical Fiction
  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 0375864563
  • ISBN-13: 9780375864568