James P. Redwood’s Two Ships is a suspenseful adventure story centering on young Piotr Nowak who has fled his home in Europe and joined a crew sailing to Quebec City to make their fortune by trading for beaver furs in the New World. On another ship and in a parallel adventure, Jana Mueller, a novice nun, is traveling with another nun and two priests to establish the first Roman Catholic church in Quebec City. Both ships cross the Atlantic around the same time. Jana’s ship is grounded while sheltering from bad weather near an island close to the mainland. Her crew and fellow passengers separate, some staying with the ship and some continuing their journey by rowboat to arrange a rescue mission. Both groups are attacked, some are killed and some live to continue on to their destination. Jana and her ship’s first mate are separated and begin a fraught, overland journey to Quebec City.
Shortly afterwards, Piotr’s ship diverts to the island and rescue’s Jana’s ship’s captain, the sole survivor of a raid by a pirating Swedish ship, before continuing on to Quebec City from where they begin their trading and beaver trapping enterprise.
When Jana and 2 others are chased by unfriendly natives, Piotr and his friends happen upon and rescue them from the attack. And so the parallel stories collide.
Meanwhile, the other nun and the two priests finally arrive in Quebec and set about building the church with the assistance of the local mafia boss who earlier lost a nasty encounter with Piotr’s group. As this is a suspense, I’ll leave my plot description there.
This is quite an adventure story, combining escape from old, warring, imperial Europe on sailing ships, overcoming adversity on land in the New World against the environment and against other people, pitching good against evil all the while building to a dramatic conclusion back in Quebec City.
The book is well-written and the plot’s tension rises and falls throughout. The parallel stories come together in a natural-feeling way and the conclusion is both suspenseful and satisfying. The primary characters are well-developed, with genuine-feeling back stories and motivations. Reading the adventure I was easily able to cheer for clearly-identifiable good people and hope for the worst for the bad ones. There were sufficient and accurate technical details to make the sailing sections and the adversities of trading and traveling in the New World around Quebec feel real.
This book was a much needed escape from the modern world of smartphones and the internet. It was a story about courage, human endeavour, right and wrong, endurance, practicalities, and in the end, triumph over adversities and enemies.