This historical fiction novel is an imaginative story of an older woman trapped in the body of a ten-year-old girl who happens to be the captain of the trading clipper ship named the Transcendent. It is part sea adventure and part fantasy. The captain has been bound to service by the Madame Secretary who turns out to be her mother. Her present bodily state is maintained by a lamp which keeps her body forever young. We have a deep look into the mind of the captain while she is making the big decision, a leap of faith, from the world of the ageless into the real world of aging people.
At first, the story was a little slow. I prefer to know more about the characters from the start and we do learn some things about the captain at the beginning, but it wasn't until about twenty percent into the book that the author divulged the captain's name.
Literary prose abound in the novel, from the flowing description of the government building in Pomin with its massive library to the elaborate dress of the captain to the description of the Captain's Door, a magical device.
The reader is told that the captain is bound to her mother and sister, but I was never sure exactly what that meant. Her sister kept telling the captain that the captain did not understand the situation and, at times, that's exactly how I felt. I wanted to know more. If there is a sequel, perhaps more will be revealed later.
The author shows us the captain's inner conflict as she struggles with her experiences and worries about what the future will hold if she extinguishes the lamp. The captain recalled her previous crews in the lines: "They come and they go. I cry for a while and then go on. My family remains. The door persists." Lines like this evoke sadness, but not empathy. Even though it was told from a first person viewpoint, I always felt like someone on the outside looking in, like a play on a stage, never really a part of the action. This may have been because I kept thinking of the captain as a ten-year-old girl instead of as the woman inside her or maybe it was because the story was mostly narration with little dialogue.
Some action was interspersed among the elaborate descriptions and the workings of the ship, usually relating to escapes. Most of the characters were fully developed and had a life of their own and the author provided considerable conflict between the captain and her mother and sister.
I enjoyed reading the book, except for a few of the things I mentioned and I struggled with the star rating. The rating aside, if the reader enjoys maritime adventures, fantasies, character introspections, or a novel filled with literary prose, the reader should enjoy it.