Sunday, October 17, 2010

Book Review: The Jumbee by Pamela Keyes


When Esti Legard starts theater school on Cariba, she's determined to step out of the shadow of her late father, a famous Shakespearean actor. But on an island rife with superstition, Esti can't escape the darkness. In the black of the theater, an alluring phantom voice, known only as Alan, becomes her brilliant drama tutor, while in the light of day Esti struggles to resist her magnetic attraction to Rafe, the local bad boy. Toppled sets, frightening rumors of jumbee ghosts, and brewing tropical storms culminate in a tantalizingly spooky finale where romance sizzles and truths are unmasked.

Laced with eerie mystery and the lush scenery of the West Indies, this modern Phantom is perfect for readers who like their love stories served with spine-tingling suspense.


The Short Version:
Rich in West Indies culture and interesting in premise, The Jumbee weaves a new ghost and creates a unique love triangle as a result. Centered on Esti but written in third person perspective, the wide cast of characters is full of life and intrigue. Though seemingly slow in the beginning, the mystery weaves in smoothly and the play style chapter breakdown builds the overall air more. With a heavy emphasis on romance and the dual love angle, The Jumbee is a great blend of romance and ghosts.

The Extended Version:
Esti is a character who is strong and intelligent, though brash in a certain way that makes her relatively unapproachable. Living in the shadow of her now now dead but well renowned throughout the theater circuit father, Esti is striving to make a name for herself that has nothing to do with her last name, while now also living not only in a new place but an entirely different continent all together. Her new school, however, is mixed with Continental students and locals, creating an easy connection for the reader. Esti is intense and passionate in nature, and though her indecision and flip flopping between Alan and Rafe is frustrating and repetitive, the underlying reason and emotion is very strongly written.

Rafe is a seemingly stereotypical character, a true womanizer who is used to get any girl he wants until Esti comes walking into his life, but the underlying reasons and the chemistry and tug between them is fantastic. With some shared history in their pasts and the current drama of Esti's life complicating things more, there is a fire between them that drives the plot in surprising ways. Rafe is smooth in manner and suave in his words, but he, too, holds an underlying vulnerability that shows through at just the right moments to bring him into a good light with the reader.

Alan is a raging ball of mystery, coming off as moody and almost selfish in his actions and manners. The secret meetings he has backstage with Esti, which don't say secret long, are the primary source of social strain and dislike for Esti, yet she feel such a strong connection to him she doesn't immediately drop him. Also unused to the jumbee legends and not sure she even believes it, Esti continues to strongly hope and believe Alan is real. Unfazed by his supposed age of twenty-five and reacting to the intensity and passion she insights in him, which comes off in a very different way than what Rafe causes, it is very easy for the reader to see why Esti feels a constant pull back towards him.

The local culture is written in a beautiful way, slipped in both subtly and flamboyantly. From the parades to the local legends and superstitions, both Esti and the reader get a full immersion in life on this particual West Indies island. The local dialect is written into the book, and though I found reading this type of speak to be very jarring, it did help create the sense of being there to some extent.

The plot itself centers around Esti in the theater, and Esti trying to figure things out with both Alan and Rafe. Though I did find the long passages of Esti spouting Shakespeare and practicing different characters outside of Romeo and Juliet with Alan to become repetitive, I did understand its purpose to build not only Alan but Esti's connection to him. There were a few other slow parts outside of this, but overall, this book is filled with emotion and very internally driven.

The third person perspective made it a little difficult to forge a strong connection to Esti, though her reasons and emotions did come across very well. The descriptions, however, were brilliant and vivid, creating the West Indies boldly for the reader. Though Shakespeare is heavily quoted and referenced, the difference between "normal" English and the local dialect also creates an interesting atmosphere, even if haltingly.

Overall, The Jumbee is a great read, especially for those who like both tangled and torn love, as well as ghost stories. Centered on a cultural belief, there is a certain realistic element even to the jumbees. Well paced overall though repetitive for my tastes in the long Shakespeare quoting scenes, this is still well worth the read. Twisting the Phantom of the Opera story in a way that speaks to modern day readers without being a direct imitation of the original, and heavy on passion and feeling, there is a little something for every kind of reader to connect to in this one.

Source: Received for review from Media Muscle
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: Dial (October 14, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0803733135
ISBN-13: 978-0803733138


  1. Nice review! I LOVE this books coverart.:)

  2. The Jumbee sounds like a really good book! I'm going to have to check it out. Great review:)

  3. I hadn't heard of Jumbee until now! I'll keep my eyes peeled for it. Thanks for the great review! :)

  4. thanks for the detailed review, i think this one looks great!

  5. Thank you for the insightful review. Really curious about this book.