Oh, how I have missed this series. I have been a fan of Jacky Faber since the first book, and while the endless mishaps and calamities that keep her from being with Jaimy are growing more frustrating with each passing novel, I understand that peace and security are the death knell of an adventure series, and so I enjoy the moments of relative peace that the poor besotted kids actually get, and grin a lot at the trouble Jacky manages to get them both into.
This book was a fun romp… it dealt with early diving bells, Spanish pirates, Cuba, cock fighting, and a shipwreck with a fortune in gold lying at the bottom of the sea. (And for the adults in the audience who were paying attention, had a Casablanca reference that made me grin.)
This book sees quite a few old characters return, and it introduces a couple of new ones. One of the most notable being the Nancy B’s new cook, Jemima. In one of the scenes that made me… really uncomfortable, Jacky acquires her at a slave auction. She’s an older woman, and Jacky (who comes from a Britain where slavery in the U.K. proper is illegal…) is appalled to hear people talking about getting a few more years out of her before she dies. Jacky being Jacky, and having the money… buys her. (And it’s a good thing… Jemima ends up being a valuable addition to the crew, and a complicated lady in her own right.)
Jacky’s morality is rather straightforward here (and consistent, if out of step with the rest of her world in some respects.) When some of her older, well-meaning abolitionist friends remind her that the money she just doled out from the coffers of Faber Shipping has just gone to support a reprehensibly unjust system… Jacky doesn’t care. She had the cash on hand to save someone else’s life… so she did it. Makes sense, though… Jacky knows quite well what it means to be thought of as expendable by those who have power over her.
The main action of the book concerns Jacky’s latest assignment from British Intelligence, which they kidnap her on the way to her wedding in order to give to her… grrr. I think poor Jaimy nearly exploded after being so close to having her for his wife. Long story short, they want her to go down in a new-fangled diving bell to the wreck of a Spanish ship and bring up the gold she was carrying to help finance the war. While doing this, she has to find the wreck, try not to kill herself by getting the bends by not following directions about coming up slowly in the bell (the title “Rapture of the Deep” refers to this…), and avoid arousing the suspicion of the current Spanish Navy, whose ships are not too far off from where the wreck is. This is not easy. There are alligators, mean Spanish Lieutenants, the awful Lieutenant Flashby showing up again, and Jacky trying to keep faithful to Jaimy… which is more difficult than it should be with Friendly Spanish Pirates and Dashing Marines With Whom Jacky Has a History coming out of the woodwork every other minute. (Or twice, if one is actually counting.) Jacky’s cleverness doesn’t fail her, and I found myself grinning at her enemies’ distress more than is proper.
I continue to be impressed that L.A. Meyer makes very little attempt to “nice up” the time period of these books. Jacky may be an improbable girl, but the world around her is very real. I can’t imagine any other heroine of a young adult novel engaging in cock fighting, for instance, which Jacky does in this novel with great gusto once she sees how much money is in it. She’s a practical kid, and while she tends to anthropomorphize the animals quite a bit, she’s got no problem with the sport. And… I like that her little rooster’s defeat of the champion is somewhat soured by her realization that she probably just took away a major source of income from the family that owned it. That Jacky is savvy enough to notice this and kind enough to care makes me love her.
Another scene in this novel that reminded me of just how unafraid the author is to let the world be vicious is the one where Jacky (and Joannie, one of her twelve-year-old cabin…kids) almost gets raped by one of Flaco’s mutinying pirates. It’s not ok. Nothing happens, but Mr. Meyer really lets you think it might. As upsetting as the scene was… I like that Jacky can’t always save herself. Sometimes the friends she’s been good to when no one else would have need to step in and save her skin.
And on a happy note… Jacky and Jaimy get to be together quite a bit more this novel, what with Jaimy’s Dolphin helping out with the recovery of the gold. There were several points in the book that had my scratching my head and saying, “This is awesome… And sexy… we left subtext about three stops ago… how are parents not screaming their heads off? This is a YA novel, right?” And then I went to Borders and actually looked at the YA section. Jacky’s got nothing on Gossip Girl.
The end sees Jacky wealthy and somewhat happy… so we know that can’t last for long. I’m debating about whether or not to read In the Wake of the Lorelei Lee now, or later when Mr. Meyer finally announces the release date of the next novel.