Marooned on an island, John, Susan, Titty and Roger begin map-making and exploring. But who are the mysterious savages who lurk nearby?
Reviewed on 21st February 2012
Secret Water is, in my opinion, the weakest of the Swallows and Amazons series. It follows on directly from 'We Didn't Mean to Go to Sea', but the plot is very different. The Swallows are 'marooned' on an island with a blank map, and tasked by their father with exploring the surrounding area and mapping it out.
While the book does have its good points - featuring Bridget for the first time adds a new dynamic to the group - a lot of it just doesn't seem to work, and I think this is probably why it's the least memorable from when I read the series as a child. Some characters seem included without enough for them to do, and of the new characters only one seems to really have much by way of depth. Unlike many of the other books, this one doesn't seem to focus on any particular character, and I think this spreads the plot too thinly.
Some aspects of the plot are new and interesting, but all in all it seems like a pretty dull holiday for the children compared to their previous adventures, and the various elements don't entirely fit together well. The ending in particular feels quite rushed, and it almost seems like Ransome reached his word count and just wrapped things up without any real climax.
Overall then, it's an unusual low point for what is otherwise an excellent series. I didn't connect with it so well as the 'lakes' books in the series, and look forward to re-reading the last of those in the near future.