Review: The Captains Marshall

Rating: ★★★½☆
The Captains Marshall: A Promise of Freedom
by Catherine R. Donaldson

The Captains Marshall is the tale of two young cousins, Giselle and Saoirse Marshall. Following the early demise of their twin fathers – a couple of respected, good hearted shipbuilders. Their cruel grandmother seeks to get the girls married off as soon as possible – the cousins’ own feelings on the matter be damned. Rather than succumb to the lives of high society wives, Giselle and Saoirse coerce their fathers’ former coworkers to help them steal a ship and join them in a life of adventure and piracy. Continue reading

Review: Pirates of the Oregon Coast

Rating: ★½☆☆☆
Pirates of the Oregon Coast
by Achilles Massahos, Brian Benson, Kathleen Seligman, Michael O’Shaughnessy, and the Unknown Mariner

What with Caribbean Pirates getting so much attention – followed closely in popularity by Barbary Corsairs and Madagascar renegades, west coast pirates seem largely forgotten. Personally, I can only name one pirate that frequented the Pacific Northwest, and that’s One-Eyed Willey from the Goonies (which may not have been entirely historically accurate, I fear.) As such, the chance to learn a little about this under-appreciated region was most welcome.

“Pirates of the Oregon Coast” follows the exploits of a small ship and crew as they deal with local indians, Spanish authorities, and shipboard politics. The elements are present for a truly compelling read, but unfortunately the authors (five of them) seemed unable to commit to a single focus. In some respects, this book is historically-based fiction, featuring real places and feasible scenarios that might have served to illustrate likely historical truths. But in other respects it’s sheer fantasy, with magical jewels and sooth-saying birds, mystical glimpses of near and distant futures, and out-of-body experiences. These two extremes are interwoven in such a way as to make it difficult – if not impossible – to seperate the fact from the fiction, thereby dilluting this book’s potential as an educational vehicle. Continue reading

Review: The Legend of La Tormenta

Rating: ★★★☆☆
The Legend of La Tormenta
by Cynthia Zeuli

“The Legend of La Tormenta” by Cynthia Zeuli is the sort of pirate novel that would be easy to underestimate. First impressions can make a powerful impact, and this book’s first impression – like so many books – is made by its cover. And while we all know that covers can be misleading, it’s tough to take seriously a historical-era pirate novel graced with a photograph of a girl in a costume store bargain-bin outfit (complete with ill-fitting men’s suit shirt). Actually, the cover’s concept is clever and apt, as the pirate girl is flanked by the ghostly image of a man – very fitting indeed. But it’s poorly executed. Strike one. Strike two comes within the first few pages, as we learn that she-captain Tessa Santiago commands the Pilfering Pussycat. The charms of alliteration aside, it seems a silly name for a pirate vessel, and unlikely to inspire the desired reaction from potential prey. Personally, I groaned just a little. Continue reading

Review: In the Time of Worms

Rating: ★★★★☆

In the Time of Worms
by Kenelm Winslow Harris
www.inthetimeofworms.com

This will be a difficult book to review. This is because most book reviews have roughly two primary elements – the first where you talk about what the book is about, and the second where you say whether it’s any good or not. It’s the first element – effectively summarizing what the book is about – that proves problematic.

If I summarize In the Time of Worms, it will sound like a simplistic fairy tale. You’ll probably roll your eyes as I talk about this story of a psychiatrist who learns there’s a band of pirates living in his closet. See? It sounds silly. But that’s only because within this review I lack the space or the talent to recreate this tale with the same compelling artistry of Ken Harris, the book’s author. But I’ll give it a shot, just the same. Continue reading

Review: Piratica

Rating: ★★★½☆
Piratica
by Tanith Lee

I liked the swears, in particular. Wonderfully creative, g-rated swears. Swears such as “dastardly custard!” and “by the Sacred Golden Pig of Eira…”

Artemesia is a restless young girl trapped in a boarding school that’s hellbent on making her into a proper young lady. Her life prior to the school is a mystery to all, especially herself, as she’s afflicted with amnesia. But this changes drastically when a whack on the head brings back memories of her late mother, Piratica, and their adventures together on the high seas during Art’s youth. Determined to recapture her former life, Art escapes her boarding school to seek her mother’s old crew and once again pluder the seas of the world. Through luck, determination, and guile, Art seizes her new (old?) life and claims her mother’s identity as Piratica for herself. But while pirating is all she’d remembered, her own past isn’t, so to speak, and Art learns that her memories might not be quite what she, er, remembers. Continue reading

Review: Sea Witch

Rating: ★★★★☆
Sea Witch
by Helen Hollick

In regards to her pirate novel Sea Witch, author Helen Hollick has only one noteworthy shortcoming – she seems to think she’s in competition with Pirates of the Caribbean. From occasional dialogue remeniscent of Jack Sparrow (was the word “savvy” uttered by a single pirate before Jack?) right down to the cover quote weighing the sexiness of Hollick’s pirate protaganist Jesamiah Acorne against Johnny Depp’s own swashbuckling personification, it’s clear that Ms. Hollick is quite aware of Pirates of the Caribbean’s popularity, and that she hopes her own works might be comparable.

So let me set her mind at ease – no comparison is needed. Regardless of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise’s past and future successes and shortcomings (I’ve indeed made note of both), Sea Witch is a very worthy undertaking of its own, and needs not take back seat to any flick, no matter how trendy. Continue reading

Review: The Adventures of Short Stubbly Brownbeard

Rating: ★★★½☆
The Adventures of Short Stubbly Brownbeard
by Alan J. Levine

The Adventures of Short Stubbly Brownbeard begins brilliantly odd and piratey, and ends the same. And in the middle – it’s still wonderfully odd, although the piratey elements tend to waver a bit. The reason is simple – while the tale begins in the Caribbean, and smack in the middle of the golden age of piracy, the adventure soon carries us to the far reaches of the galaxy, where cats talk and baseball players (or the galactic equivelant) are worshipped as demigods and duly appointed to public office.

Brownbeard is the cousin of the famous pirate Blackbeard. He sets off from his accounting job to be a pirate of his own, and soon finds himself meeting with gremlins and aliens, and eating all sorts of weird things. Author Alan J. Levine has a strange sense of humor, reveling in the dryly ridiculous, while also enjoying a good pun or two. Sometimes it’s hilarious, sometimes it’s just weird. But it’s always unexpected, and generally quite entertaining. The book is at its best when Blackbeard makes his Continue reading

Review: The Two Space War

Rating: ★★★★☆
The Two Space War
by Dave Grossman and Leo Frankowski

I have a rule – I review pirate books, and ONLY pirate books. There are loads of nautical, naval, and otherwise maritime books out there. Many of them are very, very good. But this is a pirate site, and I review pirate books.

And so now I’m breaking this rule by reviewing The Two-Space War. Why? A couple of reasons. First off, it’s a wonderful book that you might well never hear about otherwise, so I consider it my duty to help spread the word. And secondly, it has monkeys in it. Lots and lots of space monkeys.

The Two-Space War is a combination of things that should generally never be combined – Napoleonic naval warfare, space exploration, and Tolkein-inspired races (elves, dwarves, etc.) But in the hands of authors Dave Grossman and Leo Frankowski, these varied elements begin to feel surprisingly natural. The basic premise is that mankind has begun to travel the galaxy by accessing the second demension, or Two-Space. Far from being Star Trek gobbledeegook, the concept of removing the Z-axis from our ordinarily XYZ, three demensional, existence would necessarily have the effect of bringing things closer together – a planet might be a thousand lightyears “above you” while being only a few miles to your right – crushing the galaxy flat would certainly bring you much closer to such a destination. Continue reading

Review: Gus Openshaw’s Whale Killing Journal

Rating: ★★★½☆
Gus Openshaw’s Whale Killing Journal
by Keith Thomson

If you read only one happy-go-lucky account of whale slaughter this year…

Gus Openshaw is just your average joe, seeking to make a life with his wife and new son. When his plans are thwarted by an angry whale (who swallows his family whole, along with Gus’s right arm), Gus must find a way to make that all-too-common transition from humble catfood cannery worker into whale hunting avenger. This is easier said than done, especially considering that in these kinder, gentler days whale killing is generally frowned upon. One is certain to become entangled in all sorts of legal fiascos. But that’s only the beginning – mutinous crews, renegade princesses, foreign navies, discount arms dealers, and (of course) pirates all serve to make Gus’ adventures a sight more interesting than he’d like. Continue reading

Review: The Pirates! In an Adventure with Ahab

Rating: ★★★★☆
The Pirates! In an Adventure with Ahab
by Gideon Defoe

Back in the charming days of yesteryear (I think it was 2004), Gideon Defoe took the literary world by storm with his groundbreaking novelette, “The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists.” Never before had the gritty world of pirates been so vividly realized, complete with the utmost attention to both historical accuracy and poetic beauty.

I am, of course, full of it.

Like its predecessor, Defoe’s second work, “The Pirates! In an Adventure with Ahab” is sure to throw humorless historians into a tissy. But for the rest of us, it’s another wonderfully demented bit of comedic genius. Once again we’re invited to follow the adventures of a hapless crew of no-name pirates (“The Pirate Captain”, “The Pirate with a Scarf”, “The Pirate Who was Good at Math” and such), this time as they seek a way – any way – to gather the needed money to pay off a debt to the most dangerous of villians, Cutlass Liz. They attempt to gain said loot through a range of efforts, from improv-theater to whaling to out-right pirating. Continue reading