Kemosha of the Caribbean
By: Alex Wheattle - Black Sheep/Akashic Books, $15.95
Description: In 1668, a young Jamaican girl, Kemosha, secures her freedom from enslavement and finds her true self while sailing to Panama with the legendary Captain Morgan.
Verdict: In 1668, fifteen-year-old Kemosha is sold by a slave owner to a tavern keeper in Port Royal, Jamaica—the “wickedest city on earth.”
She soon flees from a brutal assault and finds herself in the company of a mysterious free Black man, Ravenhide, who teaches her the fine art of swordplay, introduces her to her soul mate, Isabella, and helps her win her freedom.
Ravenhide is a privateer for the notorious Captain Morgan aboard his infamous ship, the Satisfaction. At Ravenhide’s encouragement, Morgan invites Kemosha to join them on a pillaging voyage to Panama.
As her swashbuckling legend grows, she realizes she has the chance to earn enough to buy the freedom of her loved ones — if she can escape with her life!
Having been described as ‘One of the most exciting writers of the black urban experience’ [The Times], I went into this book ready for an adventure from an author already well established within the genre - and I was not disappointed!
In larger-than-usual font, which makes the book a swift, easy and compelling read throughout, and although Kemosha of the Caribbean is most assuredly directed at middle grade readers and up, the writing still manages to weave a fantastical adventure before your very (teen and above) eyes.
Containing segments of prose written for Kemosha in a certain dialect, I will freely admit that there are times when it is hard to read, to grasp upon the one fly by, but once the story unfolds you get a grip of her tongue and so can more easily sink back into your reading chair.
And sure, being that this is aimed at a younger generation, and yet strewn with clues on how to avoid certain things, and how to safely circumvent situations and such, Kemosha makes some questionable decisions throughout the book, but even though things seem to work out for her, in truth.
In closing, and as a fugitive, a swordsman, a cook and a member of a pirate ship, Kemosha’s journey is anything but expected and author Wheatle has created a world rich with historical flavor, vibrant characters and plenty of colorfully vivid adventures.
Alex Wheatle is the author of several best-selling books including the young adult novels Cane Warriors and Home Girl, the modern classic Brixton Rock, and the multiaward-winning Crongton series.
He is the subject of the historical drama film Alex Wheatle, which is part of filmmaker Steve McQueen’s lauded anthology series Small Axe.
His body of work was a finalist for the 2021 NSK Neustadt Prize for Children’s Literature and has won numerous awards, including the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize.
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