Book Review: The Night Ship by Jess Kidd

About the Book:




1629. Embarking on a journey in search of her father, a young girl called Mayken boards the Batavia, the most impressive sea vessel of the age. During the long voyage, this curious and resourceful child must find her place in the ship’s stratified world. She soon uncovers shadowy secrets above and below deck and as tensions spiral, the fate of the ship and all on board becomes increasingly uncertain.

1989. Gil, a boy mourning the death of his mother, is placed in the care of his cranky grandfather. Their home is a shack on a tiny fishing island off the West Australian coast, notable only for its reefs and wrecked boats. This is no place for a boy struggling with a dark past, and Gil’s actions soon get him noticed by the wrong people.

The Night Ship is an enthralling tale of human brutality, fate and friendship – and of two children, hundreds of years apart, whose destinies are inextricably bound together.

Published by Penguin Random House Australia – Viking

Released 5th July 2022

My Thoughts:

There is far more to this novel than what it at first seems. I will confess from the outset though that I found it rather slow for the first two thirds and it wasn’t until I got to a particular part, at about the 250 page mark, whereby there was a moment of supernatural connection between our two protagonists, hundreds of years apart, that I felt myself shift gears with this novel and become far more invested in it than I had been to that point. It was at this point of connection that many other things began to align, and I could see what the author had set out to achieve with this novel, and suffice to say, as I am not going to share any spoilers, her vision was very clever and imaginative indeed. As the novel builds to its climax in both eras, we see the threads between the dual narrative tighten further and further in a blinding symmetry that was at times breathtaking.

The story revolves around the journey and subsequent shipwrecking of the Batavia. The story will be new to some, familiar to others, either way, the way Jess Kidd writes of the events following the shipwreck is both stunning and horrific. This is a story of monsters, but not the imagined kind, although they do make an appearance, but in a symbolic manner that informs the entire theme of the story within both eras. The monsters front and centre in The Night Ship are of the human variety, the kind that have sunk out of their own humanity, who are willing to shed their human skin for greed and survival. That’s the real horror story embedded within this novel, and that’s the one that had me reeling and unable to put the novel down for the last 150 pages.

“Her nightmares are real, not some child-scaring tale.”

The Night Ship is my first read of Jess Kidd, it certainly won’t be my last. There were aspects I struggled with, as mentioned, the earlier pacing and certain parts of the child narration – just a matter of personal taste – but overall, this is a thrilling novel that I would highly recommend.

Thanks to the publisher for the review copy.

3 thoughts on “Book Review: The Night Ship by Jess Kidd

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