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Cuttlefish    by Dave Freer order for
by Dave Freer
Order:  USA  Can
Prometheus, 2012 (2012)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

In alternate histories, most authors choose a major battle as a starting point for the timeline to veer from our own. In Cuttlefish, David Freer uses the invention of synthetic ammonia as the catalyst for his action-packed YA novel.

Clara Calland and her mother are on the run from both the Russians and the English Empire. It seems Dr. Calland knows the secret to making synthetic ammonia, which can be used for munitions and fertilizer, the last a desperate need in a world affected by drastic climate changes, including the flooding of many major cities. In order to escape, they board the Cuttlefish, a submarine run by Underpeople and used to smuggle illegal goods.

Onboard, the bored Clara meets Tim, a dark-skinned cabin boy trying to work his way up in the world. Tim is a hard worker but is the lowest among the crew. However, when the boat gets caught in a net, Tim is the only one they can send to cut it free. Unfortunately, even his thin arms are too big. Clara, not normally the adventurous sort, finds herself volunteering. She is able to cut the net, but gets herself stuck in the process. After Tim rescues her, the two form a close friendship, and find themselves saving each other multiple times over the course of their journey, which turns more perilous with every nautical mile.

While Cuttlefish begins with the start of their adventure, the first few chapters are slow as the story flashes back every so often to show how Clara and her mother arrived on the Cuttlefish. However, once Clara's and Tim's storylines merge, the action really ramps up, creating a captivating alternate-timeline adventure for any YA reader. Freer did an amazing job building a scientifically-plausible world in which Clara and Tim can both find their true selves during the course of their remarkable adventure.

Cuttlefish is a must for anyone who enjoys alternate history novels. David Freer keeps the action coming and takes the reader on an underwater adventure unlike any other.

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