Cover Image: The Night Ship

The Night Ship

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Member Reviews

The Night Ship is a beautifully written story centering around the dual narrative of Mayken, a young girl in the 1600s sailing on a doomed ship towards the Dutch East Indies, and Gil, a young boy sent to live with his estranged grandfather on a tiny fishing island off the coast of Australia in the 1980s. This story was unexpected and haunting exploring the different ideas of abandonment, sacrifice, friendship, and family. This was my first book by Jess Kidd and I will absolutely be reading her backlist. Thank you to NetGalley for the chance to read and review this book!

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This book moved me deeply like nothing else I’ve read recently. The main characters are remarkable in their bravery and kindness towards others. So many others have described it as haunting, and I absolutely have to agree. This book will stay with me for a long time.

Our full review is on our podcast, and the link is listed below. If you want to listen to it in your podcast app of choice, simply look up Books Are Magical and you will see the episode for this book.

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This book tells the dual story of Mayken on the ship “Batavia” in 1629, headed to live with her father, and Gil, who lives on a Western Australian island in 1989 -- the same island where the “Batavia” was shipwrecked.

The two stories are compelling and well-written as is Jess Kidd’s style. However, I never felt a connection between the two children or their stories. Yes, they are both going through their own difficult times, each living through dramatic situations, but what is their connection other than that they both end up on the same island, 360 years apart?

I have read Jess Kidd’s other books Himself, Things in Jars, and Mr. Flood’s Last Resort, and I’m sorry to say that each of those was more interesting and entertaining to me than The Night Ship. I just didn’t care for this story as much. I wanted more. I wanted a surprise or a twist, or maybe a ghost, as in a couple of her other books. But I was left with the question of “What was the purpose of this book? What was I supposed to get out of it?” I’m still not sure.

I will continue to follow Jess Kidd. I think she is a wonderful author, but this just wasn’t the book for me.

I'd like to thank NetGalley, Jess Kidd, and Atria Books for the advanced reader's copy in exchange for my unbiased review.

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Two motherless waifs, separated by hundreds of years, both live in fear of bloodthirsty, legendary creatures. They realize far too late that "it's the living you need to watch out for."

This is another winning effort by Jess Kidd, one of my favorite authors, a writer who can honestly do no wrong. Readers should know that though both main characters are youngsters, this is not a book for children. History has never been kind to the most vulnerable, and this book reflects that, warts and all.

An intriguing, unforgettable read - one of the best of the year.

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An amazing, romantic (not the lovey dovey kind) story of how human nature, relationships and actions bind us throughout time. I adored the two MCs but ‘twas a bit slow for my liking. Solid recommend!

Thank you for the opportunity!

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Thank you to NetGalley and Atria for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

I was charmed and heartbroken by both Mayken and Gil. At times their stories were clear parallels, and at others, the relationship between their stories was looser. But throughout, Kidd masterfully writes two narratives that consistently complement one another and deliver a double gut punch (although I did find it difficult to sort through the dense casts of characters that inhabited each timeline). I especially enjoyed reading something that took the imagination of children so seriously, especially as their imaginations have “real” reverberations in their lives.

I was equally enthralled (though less charmed) by the settings of each timeline: a ship and a small coral island that’s home to a small finishing community. Kidd brings these settings to life—not in the sense that she makes them feel vibrant or saturated, but in the sense that she makes them *real* in all their mystery and melancholy. They’re both isolated settings, allowing tight relationships, complex conflicts, and the formation of unexpected communities to steer the plot.

This was my first time reading a book from Kidd, and based on this, I’m certainly open to reading more.

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I’m not much of a fantasy reader, but when I do choose to read that genre this is definitely more my speed as it reads more like a dark historical fiction. however I have to admit I was a bit disappointed with this one, it alternated between 2 timelines and I definitely preferred the 1989 one over the other, and couldn’t wait to get back to those chapters.

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Thanks to Atria for the copy of this book.

Man. This synopsis seemed SO GOOD and this book is just absolutely gorgeous. I also love that it was based on the crazy, real events of the Batavia. Unfortunately, I just really didn't connect with this story. I didn't want to put it down for the first third of the book, but after that it just started falling flat for me. The two stories didn't connect well for me and I just wasn't super interested in where it was going. I think a lot of readers will enjoy this one, but for some reason, it just wasn't for me.

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Thank you to Netgalley, Atria Books, and Ms. Kidd for the opportunity to read an ARC of this title. An honest review was requested but not required.

I read Things in Jars, and liked it, but this was better. As with Jars, The Night Ship is absolutely beautifully written. Ms. Kidd’s prose is lyrical and haunting. I started this book mildly interested and by page two was rapt; thus is the power of the talented storyteller.

The book alternates between two timelines: The first belongs to Mayken, a young, well-off Dutch child, travelling in 1629 to “Batavia” (Indonesia) aboard a ship also named Batavia. Mayken is in the care of her elderly, infirm nurse Imke and has recently lost her mother. The second timeline is Gil’s. Gil is an orphaned Australian boy of approximately the same age – eight or so – who has just been sent to the Abrolhos islands in 1989 to live with his sole remaining relative, a grandfather. Like Mayken, Gil’s mother had also just died (it is implied due to a drug overdose).

It is clear to the reader from Gil’s timeline that Mayken’s does not end happily. Indeed, I read her every entry with dread, knowing the axe would fall, but not exactly when or how. Mayken’s timeline really made me wonder about the intrepidness of people who voyaged by sea: it sounds like an *extremely* unpleasant way to travel in that time. I felt very sorry for the poor cows, doomed to stand in their own excrement and breathe hot, fetid air in the dark, crawling with rats, for months, as well as the unfortunate soldiers forced to share that crowded, disgusting space. However, as unfortunate as Mayken’s experience sounds, Gil’s is hardly better. He is a child who clearly has been let down by the adults in his life, exposed to significant traumas, and desperately floundering for direction and affection. Even KNOWING that Mayken’s fate was unhappy (if not exactly how), I felt sorrier for Gil, because his entire life had been awful and it didn’t seem like it was due to improve anytime soon.

I will say this: Jess Kidd’s stories do not veer away from the dark, the gruesome, the gritty realities of the harsher things in life. This book may be triggering to some. It certainly was unpleasant in some parts. It also leaves Gil’s fate open-ended. I had some theories and questions that were just left abandoned. Nonetheless, it was a moving, deeply engrossing book and I would recommend it. I find it very fascinating that the 1629 events were based on historical events. I definitely went down a Google wormhole reading about the actual Batavia and the islands off Australia’s west coast. It is astonishing that anyone survived, considering the conditions on those islands. Absolutely astonishing. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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I went into The Night Ship completely blind. I was expecting more of a fantastical novel but was met with a very interesting historical fiction instead. I did not know until after I completed the book that the Batavia was a real ship. This story is told in two different times lines. A story in 1629 and another in 1989. Both sections are carried forth by 9-year-old main characters. A girl on the Batavia and a boy where the Batavia was wrecked (Australia). The way the author goes back and forth between the two lines and characters made this book very hard to put down. I was invested in Mayken's journey to her father's home after her mother passes on the Batavia and in Gil's story as he settles in with a grandpa he doesn't know after the death of his own mother. The way these two characters echoed each other throughout the book was a fantastic literary device. When each child is first described at the start of the book, I got goosebumps. Anyway, those looking for lots of fantastical elements may be disappointed, this felt more historical, and reality based. It was definitely a story well told and I am grabbing Things in Jars off my shelf very soon!

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Jess Kid spins such a good yarn. This isn't my favorite of her yarns but it is still very well executed--well written and plotted, perfectly paced. I think The Night Ship is a great example of how to use dual timelines to effect and I loved the way the stories hewed toward another as the story reached its conclusion. I did struggle a bit with some of the characters in the contemporary story--they felt cartoon villainish. But, overall, a really enjoyable read. I hope this novel finds its audience.

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This book is beautiful, haunting, and everything else that other folks said it was. This book is very character driven, and I like that about it! Unfortunately, it was not the book for me *at this moment* since I'm not in a good place to be emotionally gut punched and so I did not finish it. But I hope to come back to it when I am ready, because from what I read it does seem like a beautiful book!

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Jess Kidd's latest novel unfolds in twinned narratives that converge, diverge, overlap, and echo across 400 years. In 1629, a Dutch ship sailed toward Batavia (present-day Indonesia) with 200 souls aboard, a mixed company of soldiers, sailors, merchants, families, and upper-class passengers. Among the wealthy is the child Mayken, whose ferocity and kindness keep equal pace. She explores each deck of the ship with an insatiable curiosity and seeks out the monsters that plague their journey.

In 1989, the child Gil comes to live with his taciturn grandfather on a remote and unforgiving island off the coast of western Australia. Following a recent loss, Gil is shaken by an inscrutable grief, and he explores the island with watchful eyes and the pragmatic caution of a prey animal. He is especially interested the nearby archaeological dig that excavates the remains of a long-ago shipwreck, and he is repulsed by the monsters that inhabit the local lore.

The reader soars with Mayken, whose high delights and impetuous adventures lift the narrative like updrafts under primary feathers. The reader aches for Gil, whose tender heart suffers and trudges and beats fiercely for his friends. Both children are written with tremendous empathy and deep understanding, and the characters who support and oppose them pulse with reality. Kidd has equal facility wielding humor and suspense, deploying her language with real joy and skill, and she paces her chapters and transitions to create maximum engagement with the symbiotic storylines.

As always, Kidd's writing entrances. As always, I raced through her novel. As always, I'm both blessed by the time I spent reading her work, and bereft when I turn the last page. I can't wait to read it again.

Many thanks to Atria Books and NetGalley for the eARC.

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This is the first novel that I have read by Jess Kidd and I found her writing style to be engrossing. The Night Ship focuses on two nine-year-old characters who live 360 years apart. Each of them has recently lost their mother and is grieving the loss. However, their personalities couldn’t be more different. Mayken is outgoing and likes to be with people, spending time exploring the ship and getting to know the people on board. Gil is introverted and is content avoiding contact with his peers and neighbors, spending time with Enkidu, his 900-year-old tortoise.

The Night Ship is a character study of these two children told in alternating chapters. The world that each one inhabits is carefully constructed with details that make you care for these two characters. It’s a slow paced novel and I admit that at times I jumped ahead to continue reading about one of them, skipping the alternating chapters and then going back and reading them sequentially. Usually I enjoy reading two alternating viewpoints; however, the nexus between Mayken and Gil is not enhanced by this and sometimes the transitions in viewpoint left me discontented. While the ending shows character growth for both Mayken and Gil, I kept waiting to learn of how their stories are bound together (other than the fact that each of them believes in a mythical monster and that each of them possesses a perfect, round stone with a hole right through the middle, thinking of it as a magical stone.)

Nevertheless, I enjoyed reading about their lives and how differently each of them interacted with those around them and how they dealt with the difficult circumstances they faced.

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The Night Ship by Jesse Kidd is based on the historical event on a shipwreck off the coast of Australia in the 1600s.

"It's 1629 and a newly orphaned girl named Mayken is sent to her father in the Dutch East Indies on the ship, Batavia. She spends her time searching the ship for a mythical monster. But true monsters are closer than she thinks.

In 1989 after his mother dies, Gil is sent to live with his grandfather on an island off the coast of Australia with the seasonal fishing community. There he discovers the story of an infamous shipwreck."

Kidd goes back and forth between Mayken and the events that led up to the shipwreck and the conflict surrounding Gil and his grandfather. There are lots of vivid characters from Kidd both on the ship and in the fishing village. And lots of awful characters. Both kids, Mayken and Gil, are struggling with the aftermath of their mothers' deaths. And Gil has some other things going on because of what's happened to him growing up.

Mayken's story leads up to the sinking of the ship (not a spoiler, it's known in the first pages) Gil's is different. Lots of struggle and misunderstandings with the other people on the island.

If you liked Things in Jars you'll probably like the writing in this one, but this is not a feel-good story. More of a story for people who enjoy complex characters.

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The Night Ship is a dual timeline historical fiction with one story in 1689 aboard the ship Batavia on its way from the Netherlands to the Spice Islands and one story in 1989 on the island where survivors of the Batavia wreck washed up. The main characters are Mayken in 1689 and Gil in 1989. Both are around 10 years old and are peculiar children for their time period.

I love Jess Kidd's books and this one was no exception, though I didn't love it as much as "Himself". I found this one to be a bit slow in parts and the connection between the two children was satisfying enough for me. I wanted a bit more to link them together.

I really enjoyed how well-drawn and detailed the characters and places were. I felt like I was there and I could see everything happening in front of me. I really felt the struggles of Mayken and Gil too and if I were more prone to crying when reading, there definitely were points when I would have.

I would definitely recommend this book for fans of Jess Kidd and fans of historical fiction!

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Normally a slow paced book will frustrate me but the writing and these characters were so lovely, I didn’t mind staying with them. I’m almost every way this is not a book that should have worked for me and yet somehow it did.

I think what connected me to these stories was the element of folklore which I’ve been into recently. I like the way Kidd uses it as a common thread between boys hundred of years apart.

And the turtle! Fantastic.

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The Night Ship is a novelized version of true story about a shipwreck (the Batavia – a Dutch merchant ship) that was lost in Western Australia. I hadn’t heard of this shipwreck prior to picking this up, but I read up a little before getting too far into this book and found it fascinating. Google Batavia shipwreck and you’ll get quite a bit of information. It’s obvious the author did her research. It felt heavily researched but not in a bad way. If felt authentic. It’s up to you whether you prefer to go in blind or read up on the actual even first.

The story revolves around two children. Their stories are told 360 years apart (one in 1629 and the other in 1989). Mayken (1629) is nine years old and traveling on the Batavia. She makes friends and roams the ship, which is against the rules, and finds trouble along the way. Not everyone on the ship is kind, Mayken finds, and all that time on the ship (months – and this is not a luxury cruiser we’re talking about here) has turned some of the passengers a bit mad. Gil (1989), who recently lost his mother, is living on Beacon Island (close to where the ship was lost) to stay with his grandfather. The grandfather (an aging fisherman) is an odd and lonely man, and the entire island is a bit obsessed with the shipwreck, even after all this time, as pieces of ship have been found near the island. There is even said to be a ghost, Little May, that roams the island.

What happened to the ship? What happened to Maken? What will come of Gil (who feels lost and lonely and haunted himself).

There is a mythical creature in this story (Bullebak), but I wouldn’t consider this fantasy, per se. I’m not sure how I’d classify it. Maybe straight up historical fiction. I liked the two connected yet separate stories. They had similar themes but told in such different timelines, but she pulled it off and it worked. I like both characters (Gil and Mayken).

I had some issues with the pacing. It started slow and 1/3 of the way in it hadn’t yet picked up but once it did pick up (before the halfway mark) it managed to sink its claws into me.

Thank you @atria for the advanced copy. Pub date is October 4th.

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I sadly had to DNF this one. I didn't want to! Finding and reading Himself was such a lovely surprise that I immediately became a Jess Kidd fan. But this book didn't hit for me. It could be just where I am in my life, but it was too slow. I could tell it was an interesting historical fiction take on an awful moment in history, but I made it 45% into the book and never felt like it grabbed my attention or that I wanted to go back and pick it up at the end of the night. I've seen plenty of positive reviews though, so I may be in the minority!

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Historical fiction usually isn't my genre, but the premise of this sounded so good I had to give it a try. The two storylines were both interesting but both moved so slowly it was hard to get super invested in anything. I also kept waiting for them to be interconnected in some way other than just living on the same island. And this book was SAD man. Some awful things happen to these children. It is interesting that it is based on a ship wreck that actually occurred but I just didn't connect with this story or characters in any way.

**I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinions.

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