“Book Review: The Illustrated Boatman’s Daughter”
Reviewed by Chika Anene
A wonderfully illustrated YA adventure packed with action, assassins, and female heroism
Sixteen-year-old Salima is known in her hometown as the “Boatman’s Daughter.” During the day, she helps her father oversee his ship and makes sure that the operations are running smoothly. But Salima is looking for more out of her every day, perpetually dreaming of a fulfilling life away from the docks and away from the life she’s always been leading.
When an opportunity to leave arises in the form of a shipping agent position, Salima is quick to grab it. While on the job, she becomes one of the most respected and spoken about shipping agents on staff due to her intelligence, courage, and sharp mouth. As a protagonist, she’s a real treat to follow around.
But people are starting to talk. Soon after arriving, Salima stands up for an unjustly treated laborer, and her name reaches the tongues of people far and wide. She quickly rises to a favorable position, and her opinion is highly sought after by foreign dignitaries. As you might expect, this does not sit well with some people. And soon after, a plot is put in place to have her removed permanently.
In a genre often teeming with male heroes, it is refreshing to read about a female
character displaying the sort of bravery that Salima does in this novel. She is a protagonist unafraid to speak her mind or go up against people known to have more power than herself. She is constantly working to protect those who are being treated unfairly in an unjust system.
The Illustrated Boatman’s Daughter is made even more enjoyable by how Salima relates to and deals with the other characters in the book, especially her friend Emilie. This relationship gives us something tangible and emotional to pay attention to, offering us an additional layer of enjoyment to an already intriguing plot line.
I am a happy reader after finishing The Illustrated Boatman’s Daughter. It works on a number of levels, but it isn’t without its flaws, too. For example, I found myself struggling to keep tabs on all the terms and characters introduced in the story. At times, it feels like we don’t need quite as much information or names as we end up getting, especially since the strongest characters—Salima, her dog, Emilie, and Emilie’s mother—are all effective enough for us to leave the rest behind.
This novel does a great job of mixing humor with the gloom. As a historical novel, it’s essential for us to explore what is happening during the time, and Durwood does a fine job of capturing authentic moments—both funny and not—while tackling difficult and important subjects like slave labor.
Perhaps what makes The Illustrated Boatman’s Daughter stand out most is the brilliant artwork peppered throughout the book. The breathtaking illustrations add depth to an already engaging story, making it enjoyable for a number of audiences—Young Adult and Adult alike—through this vivid adventure.
Category: Young adult adventure
Paperback: 150 pages
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