Jordan, one of two alternating narrators. His earliest memory begins the tale, and his romantic heroism buoys it. As an infant, he is fished from the Thames in 1630 by the Dog-Woman, who christens him for a more redemptive river, rears him as her own, and reluctantly relinquishes him to the quest that drives the narrative. Inspired at the age of three by the sight of the first banana brought to England, the young Jordan spends his youth sailing handmade boats and dreaming of exotic lands. At the age of ten, he is discovered by the famous explorer and royal gardener, John Tradescant, who, as his mentor, provides him with passage to the uncharted world. He journeys in search of Fortunata, the fleet, dancing princess he once glimpsed, in the hope that she will lead him to himself.
The Dog-Woman, the independent giantess who shares narration duties with her adopted son. She breeds fighting and racing dogs for a living. Heavier than an elephant but capable of melting into thin air, the Dog-Woman is the earthier reporter of the two, providing historical context to Jordan’s more fanciful and philosophic descriptions. A staunch Royalist, she uses her fabulous size and considerable courage to both protect and nurture the boy and to battle the intolerant Puritans. Self-sufficient and murderous (her father was her first victim), the Dog-Woman is vulnerable to a mother’s anxiety over the heartbreak of her...
(The entire section is 566 words.)