Daedalus and the Deep
During the mid-1800s, after the wars between France and England have ended, the HMS Daedalus, led by an erratic captain named MacQuarrie, is sailing the South China Seas in search of ships involved in the illegal slave trade. During the voyage, a large sea creature is sighted. The captain feels strongly that by capturing the creature and bringing it back to England for study, he will become famous in the scientific community. It also happens that one of the crew members, a teenager named Colyer and a midshipman, is a young girl masquerading as a boy. She assumed the identity of her brother, who died before he could sign on to the Daedalus before it left England.
This novel sits on the border between historical fiction and fantasy. Sea monsters were common sightings during the 1800s, although there has never been an event where a creature was stalked and then an attempt made to capture it. I found this book a fast-paced thriller with interesting characters, especially the young girl who stole aboard the ship. The plot was a take-off on the classic Moby Dick, except in this case the subject was a sea monster and not a whale. One area of the story that could have been avoided was the thoughts (in italics) of the sea creature as it was moved along the ocean; I found this annoying and unnecessary, and it didn’t really add much to the storyline. Despite this one exception, I would recommend this novel as a fun read.