A tale of pirates, mutiny, and friendship on the high seas
It’s 1663, and twelve-year-old Petra sees only one way to escape her abusive father: She stows away on a merchant ship bound for the East Indies. But she quickly realizes that surviving for months at sea will be impossible without help. So when Bram, the illegitimate, half-Dutch/half-Javanese son of the ship’s carpenter, finds her hiding spot, Petra convinces him to help her stay hidden.
If Petra is discovered, she could be tossed overboard, or worse . . . returned to her father. And if Bram is exposed for helping her, he could lose the only home—and family—he has. As tensions rise on the ship, with pirate attacks, illness, and even mutiny, both Petra and Bram must make impossible decisions about friendship, loyalty, freedom, and survival. Told in alternating voices and filled with secrets and intrigue, this action-packed, richly researched novel is historical fiction at its best.
April 1663 in the City of Amsterdam
“Can you fix me up, Miss Petra?”
I paused, knife in the air. Cor, the baker’s boy, stood at the kitchen door, gnawing his bottom lip and shuffling from foot to foot. Poor dull Cor. Pocked cheeks, fish eyes, no fat. Needing help today of all days, and still so much to do before Father returned.
“Show me,” I said.
Cor held up his hand, biting his lip. The baker’s oven had sucked the flesh from his palm and boiled it.
“Can you fix me?” he asked again.
I could. Human skin is remarkably strong. Albertina says you can pull a needle through it as hard as you like, hard enough to drag a barge off spring mud, and skin won’t tear. Nay, it’s what’s underneath the skin that’s most delicate, especially the parts not visible to the human eye. Like the liver. Or the soul.
Pa and me stood at the bow rail of the Golden Lion, far and away the biggest ship in the Amsterdam harbor, looking out at the wharf.
“Don’t worry about me,” I said. “I’ll be fine.”
“Take you with me if I could,” Pa said.
He would, too. But it’s against the law for mestizos—mixed race bastards of Dutch fathers and East Indies mothers—to step foot on Dutch soil. And Dutch soil was what we was looking at. He pulled off my knit cap and rubbed my hair. We wore the same sailor’s slops and we had the same freckles on our noses, but that was all. His colors was ginger and white, and mine was black and tan.
“Paulus! We’re getting old down here,” yelled a sailor from a skiff waiting below us.
“Right,” Pa said, handing me back my cap. He wasn’t one for chit chat.
He climbed over the rail and down the side of the ship for a night out with his mates. I watched ’em steer around other boats moored in harbor ’til they got to the dock. The ship’s figurehead, a gold lion, kept lookout with me.
“What are you looking so happy about?” I said to it. “No legs with a stick up your rump. You’re stuck here good as me.”