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Voyage of the Damned Sets Sail for Murder and Mayhem - Review


Image courtesy of Penguin Michael Joseph


Frances White’s debut novel Voyage of the Damned sails any reader into uncharted territories, blending a murder mystery with a brilliantly created fantasy world. Set sail aboard the emperor's majestic vessel on a seemingly celebratory twelve-day pilgrimage to the sacred Goddess's Mountain. But this voyage takes a nasty turn when a beloved heir turns up dead, throwing the entire expedition into a frenzy.


Enter our underdog protagonist, Ganymedes Piscero (affectionately known as Dee). Dee's from the less glamorous fish province of Concordia – the lowest rung on the noble house ladder. Unlike his fellow Blesseds who flaunt their magical abilities, Dee's got nothing but his wits and a personality that's both charming and, well, a bit much at times. His brash personality aside, White keeps me hooked with a captivating narrative.


White excels at weaving intricate details into the story, making every page a treasure map leading to the next clue. The camaraderie between Dee, Wyatt, and Grasshopper – a found family born in the chaos – is the true heart of the book. Their bond is what kept me glued to the pages, eager to see how they'd navigate the treacherous waters (both literal and metaphorical) ahead. Dee, despite his shortcomings, manages to rise to the occasion, proving that a "miracle" doesn't require fancy magic.


"'You see the world in a way nobody else does. You’re better than all of them.' He rested his forehead against mine, fingers knotting in my tousled hair. 'Because you don’t need a Blessing to be a miracle.'" (p. 57)


As usual for me, I got swindled and shocked with every plot twist revealed throughout the book. Each heir has their own secrets and motives, making them all potential suspects. White masterfully integrates these fantastical abilities into the investigation, creating a dynamic scenario where magic is a double-edged sword – a weapon and a valuable tool.


White's prose is clear and engaging, bringing the opulent ship, the vast ocean, and the tense interactions between characters vividly to life. The world of Concordia is richly developed, hinting at a deeper history and political intrigue that begs for further exploration. What's even more refreshing is the inclusion of diverse characters rarely seen in traditional fantasy: a spectrum of LGBTQ+ characters (including Dee himself) and those with disabilities who are not mere tokens, but essential to the narrative.


Voyage of the Damned delves deep into the tightrope walk between privilege and responsibility. The Blesseds, meant to safeguard peace, wield immense power, ripe for corruption. Dee, the only Blessed lacking a magical ability, embodies the pressure to conform in a society obsessed with extraordinary abilities. This thrilling story tests his place in Concordia and aboard the ship, forcing him to confront deadly secrets and redefine what it truly means to be a hero.


Voyage of the Damned, published by Penguin Michael Joseph, is out now.

 

Edited by Lara Mae Simpson, Literature Editor


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