Review: The Jumbee by Pamela Keyes

Book Reviews

The Jumbee by Pamela Keyes

Publication Date: October 4, 2010


Library Copy

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars (*****)

A teenage actress falls for a mysterious stranger in this haunting romance,
reminiscent of The Phantom of the Opera. High-school senior Esti Legard and her
mother have moved to the Caribbean after the death of Esti’s father, a famous
Shakespearean actor. While playing Juliet at her prestigious performing-arts
high school, Esti starts receiving acting instruction from a disembodied voice
in the theater. Frightened that she is being courted by a jumbee, or ghost, Esti
tries to switch her attention to charming flesh-and-blood Rafe, but she
continues to be seduced by the velvety-voiced persona, which seems to read her
mind. When Esti’s real and imagined worlds collide in the climax of a tropical
hurricane, her secrets are revealed, along with those of her conflicted island
community, where descendants of slaves and slave owners alike live in an uneasy
peace. The lushly described exotic setting breathes new life into the classic
star-crossed story line. Romance fans will enjoy the fascinating locale along
with the slow-building suspense and incidental acting lessons.

—Synopsis Courtesy of

There is nothing that I like more than
a tropical setting. Well, and the Phantom of the Opera. When I came
across the Jumbee, I was entranced. The Caribbean and the Phantom of
the Opera—together? In the same book?!
I read it during the period of winter known as Indian Summer, a brief
respite from the bitter, bitter cold and snow. It was perfect. The color of the eyes on the cover was startling, and otherworldly. I was
hooked before I even read the first page.

Esti Legard is a likeable and relatable character, someone that finds it
hard to forgive, hard to forget, and hard not to fall in love in her
life. Her relationship with Rafe Solomon, who is modeled after Raoul,
in the original Phantom of the Opera story, was a little more
tumultuous than I remember, but his protective ways prove that he was
a strong player in the overall story arc and added a bit of a
playfulness to the book.

Alan. There is so much to say about him. It gave me chills to read the
dialogues he had with Esti regarding Shakespeare, speaking the words
of the Bard in conversation as easily as if it were breathing. Pamela
Keyes did a wonderful job with Alan’s character, and his bittersweet,
underlying tone made him the true star of this novel. The only thing
that I didn’t like was Alan’s name, as it did not seem as “right”
for him as an authentic Caribbean or English name might have been,
and having the same name as Esti’s father, regardless of his
influence over Alan, was a little bit unsettling. However, as the
book went on, it was easier to adjust.

I’m always leery about retellings of stories that I love. Phantom of the
Opera is one of them, along with Tuck Everlasting. The Jumbee did not
disappoint. Rather, it reestablished my love for the musical, the
original book by Gaston Leroux, the film and all of the interpreted
“sequels” available now.

The Jumbee is well worth the investment, which is more than I can say for
many Young Adult books on the market today. It is, by far, is one of
the best books I have read the past year, and I can’t wait to see
what Pamela Keyes has in store for us next time.

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