The Castle in the Sea
The Castle in the Sea
The island ended in a rocky point, which they clambered around. When they emerged from the shelter of the island, they were hit by a strong breeze, which Will quickly realized must be the island’s prevailing wind: it had sculpted the trees artistically. Rocks eventually gave way to another thin strip of beach, long, gently curving, and largely uninterrupted. They walked along the beach together, staying on the wet, hard sand. No footprints interrupted its length. No ships showed on the horizon.
“We’re going to have to build a proper shelter, aren’t we?” Essie sighed.
Will nodded. He felt exhausted just thinking about it. “And find food.”
His stomach was so empty it felt like a small animal was trying to eat him from the inside. He turned to look up at the trees rising above them, wondering if there was any chance there might be something edible growing up there—and stopped in his tracks.
“No way,” Will said softly.
There, rising above the trees, was a castle.
In this sequel to the “cli-fi” thriller The Flooded Earth, Will, his sister Annalie, and their friends Essie and Pod continue their journey across the seas to find Will and Annalie’s father Spinner, one of a group of scientists hiding the secrets to the device that has resulted in the world being flooded beyond recognition. Separated in a horrific storm, Will and Essie fall overboard, ending up on a desert island whose only sign of civilization is an abandoned castle while Annalie and Pod end up in the clutches of pirates who force them to steal from the all-powerful Admiralty in order to pay for repairing their boat. Reunited, they find two of the other scientists in remote corners of the world, the first ending up captured by the Admiralty, the second confessing she has betrayed Spinner to them. Escaping from the clutches of the Admiralty agent Avery Bennett, they finally come into contact with Spinner, but their meeting is thwarted when his hideout is flattened by an explosion, and the group sets off once again to continue their quest.
The Castle in the Sea continues the highly suspenseful adventure, strong characterization, and intriguing speculation on a very real-seeming future that made The Flooded Earth so satisfying. The endless variety of post-Flood nations, from the northern oasis of Norlind to the squalor of Brundisi to the crime-infested anarchy of the pirate island Dasto Puri, are described in fascinating detail, rendering them both strange and familiar. Parallels with our contemporary world are poignant, from the callous indifference to climate refugees to the materialistic world of Essie’s rich parents, yet the book is never moralizing, instead relying on constant action to propel it forward. The “bad guys” and the “good guys” are never totally clear: the cruel pirates keep their word to the children while each scientist is not entirely sure of their commitment to keeping the destructive weather-altering Collodius Process technology from those in power.
The geography continues to be a bit confusing, with nations that bear no resemblance to our century, and yet, when they are lured by Bennett to the rebuilt 500-year-old city of Gloradol, it is described on a timeline that would seem to set the story in the late 21st century. Indeed, other than the lack of recognizable names, the future presented does not seem that remote, nor does the worldwide drought that led to the development of the Collodius Process that caused the Flood. While the exact reason why the Admiralty so desperately wants the Process back remains shrouded in some mystery, new light is shed on Spinner’s group’s difficult decision to steal the research and keep it safe among each of them. Once again, the incredible survival of a group of kids on a boat in a violent world stays just this side of credible, and the reader will find only a few occasions where belief is tested. The characters are once again strong, with Essie struggling to shuffle off her sheltered upbringing and former slave Pod deciding he has to overcome his fear of drowning.
But again, it is the incredible and thrilling pace of the story, and the almost effortless flow for the reader, that make this book as likeable and compelling as it is profound and thought-provoking. Readers will be on a knife’s edge as the group come so close to Spinner only to lose him again, but readers will thrill to the promise of the final scene where he is seen being picked up by a submarine. The final installment in the trilogy cannot come too soon!
Todd Kyle is the CEO of the Newmarket Public Library in Ontario and Vice-Chair of the Canadian Federation of Library Associations-Fédération canadienne des associations de bibliothèques.