Ships, Secrets, and Survivors: A Book Review by Teen Reviewer, Elle Dennison

Write 2Ignite rarely posts two reviews of the same book. But, in a few weeks Helena George will be posting a great article on how to write a clean YA book and I thought I’d bring her book to your attention again. – Carol Baldwin, blog administrator.


Sarah Rodecker and Helena George’s Ships, Secrets, and Survivors is an epic tale of cut-throat pirates and pirate hunters, harrowing sea battles, talking ships, and fearsome, magical sea dragons. Many characters have been looking forward to Selecting Day- an opportunity that means different things to different people. For Princess Adima Radi Kashinda it means serving her people in a truly meaningful way. For Liz it provides the challenge she wants. For Ash and other criminals serving time in prison, Scaera Dumeda is their way to “get out of jail free” card. However, for Ravin it reminds him of the past he is running away from- he escaped his First Kill and when he hears his name called during Selecting Day when he didn’t take the tryout test, he believes it to be his father’s plan to bring him home (dead most likely).

Scaera Dumeda is a way to raise strong leaders to become ambassadors in the Alliance- a way for the chosen young (to start over in some people’s case) and to lead their nation in peace. During the tests to determine the ambassadors, a few selectees are found dead, killed for some mysterious reason. Adima (Adi) and an (ex) assassin, Ravin, are accused of having a hand in the murders and so they flee to the famed ship, the Red Wind, along with the other suspects, in order to clear their names. While on the sea, they form bonds with the Red Wind’s crew and relentlessly chase the true murder who has proven to be a cunning opponent, constantly one step ahead. 


Personally, I am always excited when I know that there is going to be a large cast of characters (more characters to love:) So when I realized that Ships, Secrets, and Survivors was going to contain multiple important characters I was excited. Adi was not my favorite character- she honestly seemed a little flat and contradicting at times. I hope the second book will provide more depth and development for Adi’s character. On the other hand, I was intrigued with Ravin, the ex-assassin. Assassin books are some of my favorites, but I felt like this wasn’t a true assassin book. Ravin also appeared contradicting – he was supposed to be an excellent fighter but lost the knife/arrow competitions (against a bunch of people from various random backgrounds/sailors) and frequently was injured in fights that he lost. I liked how he was a more reserved character- not touchy or talkative because of his assassin background and the realistic struggle he had concerning his ruthless father. 

I found myself liking a lot of the secondary characters such as Ash, Liz, and Josiah. Ash wasn’t my favorite but the more the story progressed, the more I liked her. She was fierce and not afraid of getting into the thick, messy situations. The assumption at the beginning was that she was “heartless” but Rodecker and George show us the venerable and true side of Ash- that she cares about those she loves and is bold to protect her friends. My complaint with these characters is that I didn’t get enough of them!! The book focuses on Adi and Ravin (which is not bad- they grew on me:), meaning that there wasn’t close attention to the secondary characters. I wanted to know Ash’s backstory and the events from her perspective–she would make a great sarcastic narrator; Liz’s relationship with her father and their life before the Scaera Dumeda, and what Josiah thought about life. 

I was a little disappointed with the Red Wind’s crew: Captain Jay didn’t seem to know what he was doing for most of the book and Heather was really supportive at the beginning but during a critical, dangerous time she basically gave up and didn’t help the younger sailors. She let them save her- the adult who should have been leading them. 

“Rounding” Up the Review

Ships, Secrets, and Survivors was a good, entertaining book that never had a dull moment. It was wonderful to read a clean, wholesome book that contained heart stopping adventures and nail-biting climaxes. The characters were generally satisfying, and I look forward to diving deeper into their development with the second book. I would recommend this book- preferably from the ages 10 – 15 (fifth to tenth grade). Happy Reading!! 

Elle Dennison is a sophomore and an avid reader of any genre of books. As a ravenous consumer of books, she is always up for a reading challenge.

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