Maura O'Connell, 15, and her brother, Patrick, 12, escape Ireland's brutal poverty with only the belongings in their bundles and tickets for ocean passage. Sir Laurence Kirkle, 11, flees a life of privilege to seek justice. When fate brings them ogether, the three join forces in a daring scheme that may lead to freedom and glory...or dire consequences.
Devotees of historical novels will quickly become absorbed in this drama set in 19th-century England, about the misadventures of an Irish peasant and the young son of an English lord who cross paths before boarding a ship bound for America. The biting irony present in Avi's contemporary novels (Nothing but the Truth; City of Light, City of Dark) surfaces here in portrayals of the sharp contrasts between the upper and lower classes. Although the plot does tend to meander (the emigrants do not actually set sail until the last few pages), the author provides so many enticing side attractions in the form of unsavory villains and extraordinary twists of fate that readers will stay hooked. Full of tongue-in-cheek contrivances, this voluminous, Dickensian- style novel offers surprises around every corner. Fittingly, the book ends in medias res, so readers must await the September '96 publication of the second, and final, installment, Lord Kirkle's Money, to discover the destinies of Patrick and Laurence, the two unlikely traveling companions. Ages 11-14. (Apr.)