The Strider and The Regulus(The Star of Atlantis Book 1)
By Tricia D. Wagner
Young Adult, 170 pages
Reviewed by Joan Bauer
Tricia D. Wagner’s beautifully titled The Strider and the Regulus transports its young readers to the lushly imagined Devonshire coast, where pirates have long plied their vagabond trade amidst sea monsters and mermaids. As the book opens, thirteen-year-old Swift Kingsley takes to the woods, where his father pursues him to give him the dreaded “Justus Talk.” Swift’s three older brothers have each received their vocation from Justus in turn, and Swift is well aware that his father wants him to become a doctor. But Swift—a precocious student who has already mastered eight languages—isn’t ready to give up his childhood. And while his former best friend has stolen many of his seafaring books, Swift discovers a map of the dangerous Wentletrap Forest hidden inside the back cover of The Star of Atlantis. At the edge of that forest is Sterncastle Cove, where the Star of Atlantis is guarded by an undead pirate named Grog Blossom. In true Peter Pan fashion, Swift says to himself, “If he discovered the Star of Atlantis, there’d be no call for growing up.”
Swift convinces his father and brothers to give him a sailing lesson. He is hoping to sail into Sterncastle Cove and discover the treasure; his father, meanwhile, knows he can use the voyage to pin the lad down for his Justus Talk. Wagner writes like an expert sailor herself; every knot in the rope and every sore muscle is perfectly placed, and the glittering sea with its weathers and colors comes fully to life. As Swift watches his brothers get ready to sail, “moments passed of the untying of everything, of the loosening of everything, of the freeing of everything.” Swift gets a little ahead of himself and is struck by the boom on the Strider and has to be rescued. Still, he’s undaunted. “He’d loved the sea for as long as he could remember. But to experience its power like that—it was like, in the moment the Strider bucked him, he’d drawn back a veil of wind and waves and found the face of a startled god.”
There’s a well-rendered brotherly rivalry here; after they’ve camped for the night, Swift decides to steal away on his own and discover the treasure before his father and brothers wake up. Alone on the Strider, Swift becomes Captain Corkscrew, calling out to his imaginary shipmates Peabrain, Jolly Stormcrow, and Mister Hogwash. But soon, a skiff is following him. Is it the dreaded Grog Blossom?
Wagner’s pacing can be unhurried at best; the whole family’s relentless focus on Swift and his future, together with Swift’s frequent seafaring musings, takes up rather too many of its 170 pages. But The Strider and the Regulus has all the elements of a strong coming-of-age story. As Justus tells Swift, “Growing up isn’t about running from storms. It’s about weathering them. Sometimes, it’s about conjuring them. And always, it’s about coming back alive.”
Reviewer Joan Bauer holds a master's degree in English and has worked as a trust officer in a bank. Her work is forthcoming in Amethyst Review, and she is currently querying a novel, THE BICYCLE MESSENGER, which was longlisted for the 2022 Virginia Prize for Fiction sponsored by Aurora Metro Books. Joan lives with her husband Paul in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In the course of raising three children, she has chaired fundraisers, served on boards, and volunteered frequently at church and school. Joan writes occasional book reviews for fellow WWA members.
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