I have a much higher opinion of this book, by Katherine Sturtevant, than I did of it’s prequel. For me, this story was much more interesting, Meg was a much more sympathetic character, the ending had a much better payoff. In short, I thought it was a much more enjoyable book.
Meg’s now 16, so it takes place a few years after At the Sign of the Star ends. She still works in her father’s bookshop, but now everyone’s pressuring her to marry (being the mid 1600s and all). She doesn’t want to, so when Edward (her friend Anne’s brother) comes in before he leaves for Italy on an apprenticeship, and essentially proposes to her, she doesn’t respond well. In fact, when he asks if he could bring her anything, she says, “Why, nothing, unless — yes, I so wish we had a narrative to rival Okeley’s that we might sell at the sign of the Star. Can you not manage to be captured by pirates, and enslaved in North Africa?”
So, when it happens that Edward does get captured by pirates and sold into slavery in North Africa, Meg feels, well, guilty. She still doesn’t want to marry him — in fact she’s smitten with her father’s apprentice, Will Barlow — but she does her best working to raise the ransom money to bring him home. Eventually, they succeed, and Edward comes back.
And from there, I’m going to leave you in the dark. I think it’s best not knowing what happens (I didn’t, and I think I enjoyed it more than if I would have known) to them once Edward comes back.
Some other brief notes. There’s a lot on Muslims and life in Arabic lands in the book. In some respects, it fits okay in the book — Edward is just trying to work against prejudices of the time. But in others, it feels a bit, well, modern. I’m not sure what the prejudices were in the mid-1600s, but it felt a lot like Sturtevant was trying to deal with prejudices against Muslims in our time. (Did that make sense?) Maybe I’m being cynical here: it is a good time to publish a book that has pro-Muslim sentiments in it, trying to deal with false prejudices and stereotypes, and I guess I felt like she was taking advantage of that.
At any rate, it’s a good story. And it’s a good stand-alone book, so you don’t have to read the first one first.