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*****= An all-time favorite
****  = Outstanding
***    = Above average
**      = Enjoyable
*        = Good, with reservations

****The Curse of Treasure Island

by Francis Bryan

Reviewed August 19, 2002.
Viking, New York, 2002.  291 pages.

According to the book cover flap, Francis Bryan is “the pseudonym of a prominent British broadcast journalist.”  The nineteenth-century style name is one more detail making this book a worthy sequel to the great Treasure Island.

It’s always a risk writing a sequel to a classic.  Your work is inevitably going to be compared with great literature, and not many writers can stand up to that.  This book is excellent.  Well-written, suspenseful and adventurous.  It is not, I am afraid, as good as Treasure Island.  However, it’s a good book, of the sort I didn’t think they wrote nowadays.

The premise is that a beautiful stranger meets Jim Hawkins, now an adult and the landlord of the Admiral Benbow inn.  She asks him to take her to see Joseph Tait, who is one of the pirates left marooned on Treasure Island.  Jim doesn’t mean to go, but circumstances force his hand, and the beautiful stranger and her young son capture his heart.  They sail back to Treasure Island.

The author of this book beautifully captures the tone and writing style of Robert Louis Stevenson.  He imitates the nineteenth century writing style perfectly.

Indeed, this book is almost as good as the original, and that’s high praise indeed.  He doesn’t quite manage as many plot twists and suspenseful surprises as Robert Louis Stevenson did.  The original book is quite violent, with a high body count.  The body count in this book is even higher, with the deaths far more gruesome.  And the good guys sustain more of the deaths than in the original book.  Still, most of the horror of the gruesome deaths is presented off stage and left to our imaginations, just as a nineteenth century author would have done.  Perhaps it’s my own fault that they disturbed me.

Perhaps the violence is why this book is published as adult fiction, not young adult fiction like it’s predecessor.  Or maybe the simple fact that Jim Hawkins is no longer a child.  One other place where Francis Bryan falls short is that he didn’t manage as much shading in his characters.  Robert Louis Stevenson created a masterpiece with Long John Silver, because we see a good side to him, but we also see him commit acts of evil.  In this book, the bad guys are repugnant and evil throughout.  The good guys are very good.  Long John Silver even makes an appearance, but this time he’s a good guy.  There are not so many delicate shadings of good and evil as in the first book.

Still, I enjoyed this book, and found myself thoroughly caught up in the adventure.  I recommend re-reading Treasure Island or reading it for the first time before you read this one.  Then you will thoroughly enjoy how well Francis Bryan has done at taking up the tale.
Copyright © 2003 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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