Treacherous Waters

The Chronicles of an Unlikely Voyager


After André nearly drowns in the St. Lawrence River in French Canada, the fear of water terrorizes him. Can he combat that fear in order to paddle as a voyageur with Antoine, ace canoe brigade leader, to the rendezvous and clerk at the fur trade post deep in North America’s Indian territory?

Still an unlikely voyageur at 14, André thrived in his first winter. He expected his second journey to be easy, knowing his murdering nemesis had perished in an icy river. But it is not. Fear haunts Andre, putting him and his canoe-mates in peril. André struggles to survive, his every ability challenged by the harsh environment, dangerous rivers new responsibilities—and a man intent killing him.

Treacherous Waters
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Treacherous Waters
Treacherous Waters - Chapter One

André hurried on the slushy narrow path along the French-Canadian waterfront, his feet skidding. October was early for this much snow. He lurched in the slippery mud and lost his balance, toppling into an icy puddle. Splat!

As he pushed himself up, he glanced at the swollen St. Lawrence River cascading nearby. What if I had fallen in there? The water swept by, carrying dark dead trees with shocking speed. In the twilight, the upthrust branches looked like arms beseeching the heavens.

Like Basile Roche struggling for his worthless life. He shivered—he’d mostly forgotten about his family’s enemy since Roche had drowned only half a year earlier on a dark and rushing river in the wilderness west of Lake Superior. But that’s over and done. And it’s well past supper—time to get home or Berthe and Joseph will worry.

He clambered to his feet, looking at his dripping and grimy clothes, and hurried on.

André was returning home from delivering a packet of medicinal herbs, a late-evening errand for Berthe Didier, his foster mother. Their hamlet was too small to attract a doctor—Berthe’s knowledge of herbal remedies made her an often-needed substitute.

He was worried, his mind like a caged bird flitting from place to place—proud, sad, happy, lonely, fearful, troubled—but never settling in one place for long.

What if Antoine doesn’t choose me to paddle to the rendezvous? Or to clerk at his wintering fur trade post in Ojibwe country beyond the Grand Portage? He should, because I proved myself as a clerk, even if I am only fourteen. But he has many good men to choose from.

A year and a half ago, he had left Lachine in a birch bark canoe with a voyageur brigade led by Antoine Felix, a top canoe brigade guide and leader. André sucked in a cold breath. The word “voyageur” thrilled him! Wearing the capote was badge of honor and made him proud. I was—I am one of them.

In his village he had no friends, and André felt lonely. No one else his age studied with Father Goiffon. The other boys of his village become men, and had long since left school to work, helping their families, earning money. They scorned him for wasting his time with lessons in mathematics and geography, English and Latin.

Those studies, however, had made his adventures in the New World possible. And he had gained new friends—his canoe-mates and Ojibwe natives. He glowed with warmth.

Then he frowned. He missed his brother, Denis, who had sailed to France with his new wife, Marie-Thérèse, less than a month earlier. A brother lost, then found had brought him wholeness and connection. Then lost again, so far away. Somehow he saw into me, understood me, though we had little time to learn about each other as brothers. Will I ever see Denis again?


River in Winter LandscapeA massive limb overhead snapped and plummeted toward him with astonishing speed. Its load of heavy wet snow smacked him on the chest, hammering him backwards. The branch twisted into his capote, hooking its wide sleeves and fringed hood. He lost his balance and his feet slipped once more.

André grabbed at the tree to steady himself. But his fingernails only scraped painfully along the bark. The limb, thick as his body, knocked the air out of him, and propelled him towards the river. Suddenly he was powerless. His arms flailed in the air.

He tumbled down the slick muddy bank. His hands clawed at the sloppy mud as he tried to free himself from the heavy branch.

Head first, André toppled into the river. It enveloped him in a full-body icy grip. He choked, inhaling water.

The river, swelled with meltwater, rushed him away from the bank at a furious rate. The current twisted him, rolling him deep underwater.

André thrashed. His head popped above the surface. “M’aidez!” he gasped. “Help me!”

Time only for a single yelp before his sodden capote dragged him under, sucked down by the force of current.

André couldn’t swim. Like most of his French-Canadian neighbors.

Panicked, he fought for breath, and tried to control his terror.

The river curves. And slows. Can I get to where the current is slower?

His hands scrabbled for anything to grab onto—but came up empty.

No, this can’t be.

The churning water whirled him around—he struggled to stay right-side up. I can’t breathe! Terror struck. His face broke the surface and he coughed, gagging, drawing in the river water. The icy water felt like nails stabbing into his chest.

Like a dark beast grabbing him, his heavy wet clothing drew him deep under, spinning him so he had no sense of up or down. His mind started going black, dotted with stars.

Ow! His knee banged against a submerged boulder.

Underwater André’s eyes flew open—he saw vague blurs of light.

A rock! Could it help spring me to the surface?

He reached halfheartedly but could not find a boulder.

His lungs burned.

His brain dimmed.

He could not …

Am I going to die?

Suddenly his body jarred to a crumpled stop.

“Got him.”

Crisp beautiful air washed over him. He oozed out bitter-tasting river water. His lungs wheezed—it hurt to breathe. His hands were numb, refusing to cooperate, and his arms went limp as rags. His head ached. André‘s eyelids drooped shut.

Hands latched onto his leg. He was yanked, hauled over a slippery pile of snow.

“Who is it?”

“Joseph and Berthe’s boy.”

“The stone cottage people a league inland?”

Oui, ’tis the one.”

“But, is he still alive?”


“Good eyes, Sam. Now run for the priest.”

André couldn’t draw in air. He couldn’t think, speak, move. Warm fingers on his wrist probed for a pulse.
Without warning, he coughed, then shuddered violently.

“Alive then. A quilt anyone? Let’s get him to shelter.”

Several men rolled a heavy blanket around him and carried him to a nearby cottage, but André remembered no more.

  • John Rivard would have been impressed–“Tres bien”--and hope a 3rd book is coming!

    I truly enjoyed this second book. Your writing style captures the mind and heart and brings one into the fears, anxieties and strengths of the growing character of Andre. I appreciated having both the French and Ojibwe glossaries to refer to as well as your very astute use of these languages throughout. I could tell you thoroughly researched the way of life of the voyageur. John Rivard would have been very impressed by your knowledge and excellent story-telling.
    We hope there is a third book in the making for we are surely taken with the life of Andre. Once again “Merci beaucoup” and “Tres bien” for a chronicle well done.

    Jeanne Rivard

  • I give it 5 stars!plenty of tension wth awesome characters


  • Unique Historical AdventureGeorge Peloquin

    Every time I shop for books, I'm always hoping for a good storyline — This book has that!
    Every chapter keeps you wanting to know what is happening next, and the dark unknown name "Basile" — [the author] keeps his name into your curiosity to the end of the story. The story is of the past, when French voyageurs crossed the wilderness to bring transportation solutions to the inhabitants of this wild country, and eases you into the families of that era, with the feeling that you are taking the journey with them!
    A very good adventure, and wrapped in a great story!

  • Insights into Voyageurs’ LivesInsights into Voyageurs’ LivesJackie & Warren

    We enjoy Andre's adventures as well as the insights into the lives of the voyageurs and the importance of the trade and exploration they fostered.

  • What a page-turner!What a page-turner!O.L.

    I was so enthralled with “Treacherous Waters” that I got a sunburn while reading it outside—I didn't want to stop. What a page-turner!

  • The wait is over!The wait is over!

    The wait is over! Fans of Book 1 of “Waters Like the Sky,” can set forth with André Didier on new adventures. They won’t be disappointed. “Treacherous Waters,” the second book in the series, is even more nail-bitingly perilous than the first. (If you haven’t read Book 1, don’t worry. The second book stands on its own.)

  • …will give Minnesotans a rich sense of their frontier heritage…will give Minnesotans a rich sense of their frontier heritageWayne Backman

    André’s new exploits begin a year later, when he embarks on his second canoe trip into the Minnesota wilderness with a brigade of voyageurs again led by the legendary Antoine Felix. Even before he sets off, calamity strikes. Our young adventurer, who cannot swim, falls into the ice currents of the St. Lawrence River and nearly drowns. Now, André must overcome his fear of the river as well as the many dangers nature has waiting for him, including a tornado that catches the crew in open water, a cruel monster of a man who has sworn to kill him, and hungry wolves that hunt him through a long, bitter-cold night as he lies pinned under a tree. If that sounds exhilarating, just wait until you read the book.

    In addition to being a cracking good adventure story, “Treacherous Waters” is also a well-researched portrait of life on the Minnesota frontier in early decades of the nineteenth century. Perhaps you’ve read “The Voyageur” by Grace Lee Nute or “The Great Northwest Fur Trade” by Ryan R. Gale. If so you will appreciate the pains Nikki Rajala, the author of “Treacherous Waters,” has taken with every detail of her story. As you read her book, you might consider keeping a copy of “The Illustrated Voyageur” near to hand; the depictions of life on the river will enliven your experience.

    Like “Waters Like the Sky,” the first book in the series, the second one is a coming of age story suitable for youth and adults. I would have devoured eagerly when I was a boy. If you give the book to your children, you might consider also giving them two illustrated companion volumes: “The Red Sash” by Jean E. Pendziwol and “The Voyageur’s Paddle” by Kathy-jo Wargin. The heroes of all three stories are young men of integrity and grit, who will give Minnesotans a rich sense of their frontier heritage.

Book Details


  • Title: Treacherous Waters
  • Series: The Chronicles of an Unlikely Voyageur (Book 2)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 260 pages
  • Publisher: Nikki Rajala Books (May 24, 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13:  978-0970804167
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.625 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight:  15 ounces

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