Tag Archives: pirates

The Voyage to Magical North (Accidental Pirates #1)


The adorable cover captures the story inside perfectly. Who wouldn’t want to sail aboard a pirate ship and battle sea monsters to find endless magic and treasure? Especially on a charmed ship called The Onion? (Some pirates don’t spell so well).

12-year-old Brine Seaborne was found floating in a boat at sea when she was just a young girl. She has no memory of how she got there, or where she comes from. Claimed by a mediocre magician as his servant, she has grown up in a house of magic, serving the magician and his apprentice, Peter. Which is a bit of an issue, as she is allergic to magic.

One day, Brine and Peter overhear the magician making plans that will change their lives for the worse, so they steal the magician’s source of magic and flee in the middle of the night. Through one misstep after another, they get lost at sea and end up as crew of the great pirate ship The Onion, captained by none other than the beautiful and captivating (when she washes her hair) Cassie O’Pia. What follows is an adventure of a lifetime, as the crew searches for the legendary Magical North.

Oh, squeal of delight! (10 points to the sci-fi nerd who can tell me the obscure show that comes from. Without mocking me). What a completely delightful and surprising story. Love love LOVE the magic and pirates and library and bad-ass librarians and messenger gulls and sea monsters and evil bird-fish and giant octopi and ice that stalks its prey. Love all the plays on words and quips and puns. Love Brine and Peter and Tom and Ewan and Tim and Trudi and Cassie and their friendships.

The characters just leap off the page at you. Brine and Peter take a slow route to friendship, overcoming initial jealousy and dislike and mistrust to acceptance and mutual admiration. Tom comes later to the crew, but is open and eager for friends his age, something his isolated life has never allowed. And the pirates are fantastic! They are just what pirates should be – loud, dirty, distrustful, funny, scheming, with hearts of gold. If you don’t stand in the way of them getting gold. A ship full of colorful oddball individuals with quirks and personalities that had me howling with laughter. Add a sociopathic villain that strikes just the right balance between crazy and terrifying and you have the perfect cast of characters for a great adventure.

The world building is fabulous. Ships and star shells and mysterious lands and magical storms and land beneath ice and an island that holds all the world’s stories in a library that goes on and on and on. The ocean makes an endless, ever-changing backdrop that gives author Claire Fayers the opportunity to take the story in any direction. She takes full advantage, and the fast pace will keep you turning pages right to the end. And then wishing the sequel was already written!

I love how Fayers writes the novel around the idea of the stories we tell, and the ones we leave out. How stories define our lives and how others see us, how we sometimes try to manufacture the life we want others to believe. And how sometimes, we might want to erase the stories, and rewrite them. (If only… My teenage years, anyone? *cringes*)

This is an awesome middle-grade book for everyone who loves a fun adventure, with enough magic and mystery to keep it totally unpredictable. But still believable! I want to sail again on The Onion and explore the eight oceans with her crew, and cannot wait to read their next adventure.

The Voyage to Magical North was published July 5th, 2016 by Henry Holt and Co.




Before Blackbeard struck fear into the hearts of sailors, he was a young man who wished for a life of exploration and adventure on the high seas. But promised to a Baron’s daughter and destined to follow in the footsteps of his successful merchant father, Edward “Teach” Drummond’s dreams are just that, dreams.

16-year-old Anne Barrett, orphaned daughter of a British merchant and a West Indian slave, is a penniless maid who also imagines an escape from her dreary life in Bristol, England. The two meet, and recognizing the adventurous spirit in each other, fight to overcome the conventions that do not allow them to be together.

With this beautiful cover and the back page blurb, I expected a story of pirates and adventure and swashbuckling and revenge and Blackbeard’s origin. Instead, it is a romance. Which is fine, if it is the story you are looking for. But Blackbeard is probably the most well-known and notorious pirate in history, and this novel is a love story that could have been about any two people.

That criticism out of the way, if you approach the book with no expectations of a high seas adventure, it is a very enjoyable historical romance. Teach is the wealthy son of a merchant in late 17th century England, and Anne a biracial girl forced by circumstances to become a maid. Both are educated, independent, attractive, and wishing for a different life. The development of their relationship is nice and slow, although unlikely.

This story does seize the opportunity to discuss some very serious themes: racism and interracial relationships, along with class prejudice, among others. Author Nicole Castroman presents them very authentically to the time. So while the romance is implausible given the prejudices of the era, she uses it well to illustrate those very morals.

There is something familiar about the plot, and about halfway through I remembered the story of Anne Bonny. (I loved pirates as a young girl. Too bad I hate sleeping on boats, or I totally could be one. A pirate, not a boat.) Infamous in the 18th century, Bonny was the daughter of an Irish merchant and his servant, raised in the Carolinas, who ran away to marry an unsuitable man and become a pirate. There are shades of her amazing story in Blackhearts.

I do not like the ending. It is a cliffhanger, but there is no sequel in the works. Now, if this is indeed an origin story, I guess Teach just becomes Blackbeard and off we go on our merry way, rejoicing. But if you know Blackbeard’s story, there is a HUGE gap between this story and his known one. It is an unsatisfying conclusion, with far too many loose ends.

The novel is appropriate for the YA range, but will not appeal to those looking for an adventure story. It is a boy-meets-girl romance, lovely and predictable, with a few twists thrown in for interest. If a sequel ever does appear, I would read it, for fun.

Blackhearts was published February 9th, 2016 by Simon Pulse

The Marian


The Marian is a wild, post-apocalyptic pirate adventure.  How much more do you need to know?

Ethan Denby doesn’t know how he got on the Marian. He went to sleep, age 15, in his home in Dallas, and woke up inside the body of the ship’s much older captain, Duncan.  Hundreds of years in the future.  In a world completely unfamiliar to him. A soulswap.

And the Marian is unlike any ship Ethan has ever seen. It crawls on long, metal legs over dunes of salt, all that is left of the world’s oceans. Due to a cataclysmic bomb in the not so recent past, water on earth has all but disappeared, and what remains is distributed by a corrupt corporation, HydroSystems, which tightly controls every drop. The Marian is a pirate ship, and the treasure it seeks is water.

Character development in this novel is excellent. Ethan obviously gets the most attention, with the reader being privy to his thoughts, while the secondary characters are discovered through their action and conversation. All members of the Marian’s crew have distinct personalities, and the twin mercenaries that join them will. Freak. You. Out. Jackie and Bonnie were great teens; in a world where their lives were at risk every day, they still managed to sound authentic as they bickered at one moment, then looked out for each other the next.  Tucker and Percy and Lester and the Navigator made believable shipmates, while the pale skin and intensity of the HydroSystems crews was just fantastically creepy.

The world building is FLAWLESS. If you don’t feel fingers of fear crawling up your neck at the images of endless salt dunes, dehydrated, sun-baked skin and the mysterious Cloud (Ground Zero for the bomb) where reality is ever-changing and fluid, you are made of sterner stuff than I.

The pace of the novel is a bit slow in the beginning, but that quickly changed a few chapters in. Once the characters were firmly in place, the action picked up, and the plot’s many twists and turns were edge-of-your-seat suspenseful.

There is violence, fairly graphic, but all in service of a really good story.  Appropriate for all teens. It is the first book in what promises to be a gripping trilogy.

The Marian is self-published, I can only assume.  I cannot, for the life of me, find any information about the publisher.  My apologies if it is incredibly obvious; it is quite likely  I’m still suffering from post-summer brain sludge.