This book is: the opening of a intriguing YA fantasy series.
Other elements: pirates, magicians, pirate gender roles, supernatural islands, aspiring lady pirates.
Read it: if the draw of a burgeoning 17-year-old lady pirate sounds awesome enough to get you through a slow-starting story.
Overall rating: 7/10
I chose this book for two reasons: first, because of the beautiful cover (I know, that’s a faux pas), and secondly because the protagonist is a lady pirate and that’s awesome. That, and it was one of my prize options when I won Glipho’s Strange Chemistry book review contest! Thanks, Glipho and Strange Chemistry!
This book is going to be hard to review because of how much it feels like just the first part of a story. That’s not a bad thing, because it really is the first part of a story, and there are sequels to come.
The story opens with the introduction of pirate captain’s daughter Alanna of the Tanarou’s introduction to her future husband. She knows she’s being traded away as collateral for future inter-clan relations, and she doesn’t like it. At 17, she already has dreams of captaining her own ship, but she knows that the only realistic dream for a girl in her situation is marriage. At the last minute, Alanna sees a chance for escape and takes it. However, her bid for freedom seals a price on her head and sparks a war between families. When her attempt to defend herself against an assassin sparks an unlikely magic curse and binds the two former enemies together, Alanna and her new companion find themselves facing a set of impossible tasks that are their only chance to break the curse.
I know that sounds like a whole plot summary, but I promise that’s less information than you could read on the back of the book.
I absolutely love the idea of a sassy, rebellious lady pirate, but Alanna of the Tanarou doesn’t really come into her own within the confines of this book. She’s 17 and she’s a young 17. She says herself that the longest she’s ever been away from her parents is three weeks, and that was only one time. She has a lot of growing up to do. This really isn’t a problem, since this is the beginning of a series, but it would have been more satisfying if it felt like the main character grew at least a little during the first installment of her series. By the end she still feels as naive and childish as she did at the beginning.
Part of that might be the way that the character is written. She speaks slightly in dialect, but it’s used inconsistently and the overall effect is jarring. Grammatical inaccuracies appear every few sentences, but the same character also is known to speak beautifully, using sophisticated syntax. The dialect feels very forced and it makes it hard to get a feeling for the character. Here are some examples:
The tent’s shadow seemed to be shrinking, burning up in the sun. Sand blew across my feet, stuck to my legs. – Page 103
“What! This ain’t us stopping for the night?” – Page 103
I hadn’t even realized the hope for what it was until it got dragged away from me and I felt its absence in my heart. I couldn’t let go of that old vision of my future life and the thought of what it was going to be like now. – Page 155
…my voice turning into light. Ain’t no way that was me. – Page 37
Those were all narration or dialogue from the same character. It made it really hard for me to get a handle on her personality, and harder still to get absorbed into the story. But even so, I became used to the dialect about halfway through and stopped feeling jolted out of the novel every time I encountered a weird speech pattern.
Overall, I enjoyed this book and if I happen across the sequel, I’ll give it a chance. I’d be interested to see what’s next for this aspiring lady pirate captain and her assassin.