After the death of her legendary actor father, Esti Legard, an aspiring actress and Shakespeare aficionado herself, is hoping for a fresh start. So when she moves to an obscure island in the Caribbean to attend a prestigious acting school, she is determined not to miss a single opportunity. But the move is filled with disasters and disasters waiting to happen. First fellow student Paul is found dead on stage with Esti being the last to speak to him. Second, Esti’s mother Aurora is as depressed as ever, increasing her drinking day by day. Then there’s snotty and privileged Danielle whom she hears will be heavily favored for the lead in the school play, Romeo and Juliet. Most discouraging of all is Esti’s ache for her father and his guidance when her confidence wanes. But then comes the voice; her mentor, her Romeo. The voice that only she can hear. Without physical evidence of his existence, Esti falls quickly in love with Alan, who knows Shakespeare in and out and brings back the spark to any character Esti plays. But his guidance is not without a catch. Rumors begin to circulate that the theater jumbee or wicked spirit is back, and Esti is in communication with it. Soon friends become enemies and enemies friends while Esti seeks the mysterious truth behind her unlikely mentor and the island’s legends.
I’m not very familiar with The Phantom of the Opera beyond Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical but I didn’t hesitate when I was offered a chance to review The Jumbee. The lush island setting and mysterious title were both appealing as well as the fact that it was a retelling. You don’t have to read very far to find out what a jumbee is yet the Caribbean culture was fresh and alluring. Beyond that since I’m not a die-hard fan of the original I had no serious expectations for this retelling. Perhaps that’s why I was surprisingly impressed with Pamela Keyes debut novel. The writing is accessible yet evocative. Esti’s voice may have been difficult to discern at first, but she slowly became more and more distinct and matured over the course of the novel. I melted every time I heard Alan with his perfectly smooth knack for reciting line after line of different Shakespeare plays to seamlessly fit within the present context. His motivations and backstory are an unpredictable divergence from the original story. Esti’s other love Rafe was harder to get a firm grasp on. First we’re told from past experience that he’s the town lothario/bad boy. And when he first meets Esti, I believed this was true from his actions. What confused me was how quickly Esti reformed Rafe’s ways from egotistical flirt to loving and committed boyfriend. Still, when I wanted to hate him Rafe won me over in the end. Their relationship is sweet even though I lamented Alan and what could never be. Overall The Jumbee was an entertaining read that will please fans of YA romantic mystery and be devoured by old and new fans of Gaston Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera.
Abby the Librarian Review
All Things Urban Fantasy Review
Amy Reads Review
Anna’s Book Blog Review
Dark Faerie Tales Review
Emily’s Reading Room Review
Good Books and Good Wine Review
Mindful Musings Review
See Michelle Read Review