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The Strange Voyage of the Raconteur    by J. C. Mills order for
Strange Voyage of the Raconteur
by J. C. Mills
Order:  USA  Can
Key Porter, 2005 (2005)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

J. C. Mills, author of the delightful Goodfellow Trilogy, weaves nautical instruction, history and the legend of the Holy Grail into The Strange Voyage of the Raconteur. Its seventeen-year-old hero, Joseph Allenby, escapes his unhappy home life to read books and watch boats sail by the marina at every opportunity. There, watched over by crusty dockmaster Old Jake and his orange tomcat Merlin, Joe feels like he belongs.

One morning, an unusual boat sails in, crewed by a black dog named Rosa and a man, Zen, in his late fifties with a piercing gaze. Joe helps him tie up the boat, and Zen tells him that he is a raconteur, a storyteller. He shares tales of the Holy Grail's journey through time, of Camelot and the Knights Templar, of how some guarded the treasure, while others, threatened by its goodness, 'want to possess or destroy it'. Entranced by Zen who tells him that 'just because something is written in the history books doesn't mean that it really happened that way', Joe returns at every opportunity to soak up stories and sailing lessons from this mysterious Yoda-like individual who often pronounces 'Some say so ... And then again, some say no.'

Then one day, Zen takes Joe out for hands-on, practical lessons. A fog rolls in, disaster strikes and Zen is incapacitated, leaving the neophyte to handle the boat. That's when a stranger with a sinister aura shows up, and Joe must put all his talents to the test in a frightening trial by fire. Who is the stranger and what is he after? It eventually all makes sense, after Zen tells Joe that 'what most people think they're looking for is not what they're really meant to find.' The Strange Voyage of the Raconteur tells the inspiring tale of an unbroken chain of storytellers upholding mankind's hopes and dreams against those who seek power over others.

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