Luck of the Titanic // a carefully crafted historical fic with subtle but powerful themes

Hello friends! Today I bring you my review of Luck of the Titanic, a historical fiction I finished recently and enjoyed.

Luck of the Titanic

Southampton, 1912: Seventeen-year-old British-Chinese Valora Luck has quit her job and smuggled herself aboard the Titanic with two goals in mind: to reunite with her twin brother Jamie–her only family now that both their parents are dead–and to convince a part-owner of the Ringling Brothers Circus to take the twins on as acrobats. Quick-thinking Val talks her way into opulent firstclass accommodations and finds Jamie with a group of fellow Chinese laborers in third class. But in the rigidly stratified world of the luxury liner, Val’s ruse can only last so long, and after two long years apart, it’s unclear if Jamie even wants the life Val proposes. Then, one moonless night in the North Atlantic, the unthinkable happens–the supposedly unsinkable ship is dealt a fatal blow–and Val and her companions suddenly find themselves in a race to survive.

What Worked For Me

Characters

  • Luck of the Titanic is told from Val’s POV. In three words, I’d describe her as spunky, clever, and compassionate. She has such a strong sense of perseverance and headstrong view of her destiny that was refreshing to see!
  • She and her twin Jamie were just beautifully written and I love their dynamic.
  • Plus the whole found family with Wink, Olly, Bo, April, and Charlotte in particular was simply lovely!!
  • I loved how Val’s memories of her brother and their lives before were woven in at the right times. I also thought that how she referred to herself as the dragon and Jamie as the phoenix was very clever.
  • I think Val’s anthem would be Try Everything by Shakira. The lyrics “Lost to myself, but I’ll just start again”, “But I always get up now to see what’s next”, “Birds don’t just fly // They fall down and get up // Nobody learns without getting it wrong”, “You filled your heart with love // Baby, you’ve done enough // Take a deep breath”, and “Don’t beat yourself up // No need to run so fast // Sometimes we come last, but we did our best” match her especially!!

“I’m afraid my brother wants to see the stars, not be one of them.”

Val about Jamie in Luck of the Titanic

Writing Style

  • Lee uses A LOT of similes and figurative language.
  • But she does so in a way that makes sense and really adds to the atmosphere, mood, or emotion of a scene.
  • I’m in awe of authors who can navigate ship terminology so fluently (see what I did there 🚢) and Lee definitely knows her way around the Titanic as if she’s been there!

Pace

  • The first 50% are on the slower end, but pleasantly so. I didn’t find myself getting bored, and because there’s a quite a number of characters to keep track of, I wanted to get to know them before I had to follow them into danger.
  • The last 50%, tension escalated and the stakes are higher. Val’s mission became increasingly important as she learned more about the truth behind her parents’ relationship and Jamie’s bottled anger, and I loved watching her objectives change.

“I can’t decide which bothers me more, that the shawl I thought Mum loved embarrassed her, or that Jamie understood her and I had not.”

Val in Luck of the Titanic

Themes

  • Lee handles the themes very well—with subtlety but power. The themes show themselves most prominently in Val’s revelation-like inner monologues or dialogues, which is really one of the best ways to deliver theme.
  • From what I understood, Luck of the Titanic talked about not sacrificing yourself and your dreams for others, being true to yourself, and understanding that sometimes loving means letting go.

“But an almond twisted from the tree before it’s ready will always be bitter…we might lose each other for good. I could never let that happen to us.”

Val in Luck of the Titanic

What Didn’t Work For Me

I can’t say I have any real fault with this book—it was a very solid read. This was a great way for me to sail back into historical fiction. I will say that I wanted that extra spark from this book, that moment where I would go “that is genius!”, or that quote that I knew I’d be thinking about for several days. I can’t say that happened, but it rarely does, so I’m not too put out over that!

Final Star Ratings and Conclusion

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Finally, I have a solid star rating—4 out of 5 stars! That 4 looks a little lonely without a decimal point, but ah well!

Luck of the Titanic is a compelling historical fiction with profound themes about family and identity. Against the vivid backdrop are clever situations and witty lines, but it’s the lovable found family who really anchor this story.

Look to the sky, Jamie, and you will always find me.

Val in Luck of the Titanic

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10 thoughts on “Luck of the Titanic // a carefully crafted historical fic with subtle but powerful themes”

  1. definitely an interesting topic for a book! the blurb sounds enticing and the cover is beautiful. wonderful review Ellie! it also reminds me to look into some historical fic books, I can’t remember the last time I read one…

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    1. Right, you can’t go wrong with British Chinese acrobats on the Titanic!! Thank you so much Abby 🤗 I haven’t read a historical fiction before Luck in a while…I remember reading quite a few for school like The Sign of the Beaver and The Witch of Blackbird Pond and
      Bud, Not Buddy haha.

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  2. I liked this one, but I think you’re right in that nothing about it particularly stands out. And, I thought it was odd, but the part before the boat starts sinking is way more interesting than the grand finale! Val is a great character. It’s just maybe difficult to make another Titanic story since we all know pretty much how it ends?

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    1. Thank you so much for reading Krysta!! 😊 While Val wasn’t a passive character, the way her voice read was passive in some places—maybe that’s why it was difficult for more events to stand out? That or the plot took more time to develop. I’m honestly surprised and a little impressed that Lee was able to get away with THAT ending…the part before the boat sank I want to say was more of Val’s emotional stakes with the circus, Jamie, and her mother, but the whole finale with the boat sinking was more external and that need for survival…I was getting so worried because I remembered they said six out of eight survived! 😅 Yep we all know how the infamous “two could have fit on the door” that’s been haunting cinema went down…thank you again for your comment!!

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      1. I think Val can come across as a bit passive because she has no real plan. She just boards a boat and hopes for the best. She isn’t even aware that she isn’t allowed in the country she’s travelling to, nor does she care when she finds out, but just continues to be on the ship, hoping that things… magically work out? She has an assertive personality in others ways–insofar as she is a bit controlling about her brother’s life–but strangely isn’t always very active in her own. It’s like she’s half-active. She starts a plan and then gives up because she didn’t think it through.

        I was surprised by the ending, but I admit it didn’t resonate with me the way I think it was meant to. I think it was supposed to be Val finally letting go and allowing her brother to be his own person, but by the time we got there, I kind of didn’t care anymore. It was more interesting to me when she was trying to join the circus.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Interesting! Right, she did acknowledge that her plans tended to be half baked…I do wish they talked more about what would happen realistically once they arrived in America, like you said, especially as this was set in a historical context. I also appreciated the details about their parents, but I think having whole flashbacks would be even more interesting, to see how the dynamics between them shifted as they grew older and how Val looks back on those memories with her new perspectives. So…I think we’re thinking less Titanic and more Val and co. would have been nice?

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