Pirates! by Celia Rees 2003
IQ "She laughed a little, and I smiled at the picture her words painted. I felt my spirits lifting. She had brought hope to me, as a wind springs from nowhere to take a ship out of a flat calm, to fill her sails and send her singing through the water, speeding on her one true course." Nancy pg. 375
Squee! You guys LOOK at that cover. Minerva's face is on the front! I would have bought this book on the spot based on the title and cover. A Black Female pirate?! Sadly I own the U.S. paperback version in which Nancy's face is on the front and Minerva's is on the back (I wonder if Nancy's face is on the back of the UK paperback?). *sigh* I wish I owned that copy instead. Besides Minerva and her one ruby earring being on the cover, I really like the font used and the purple. Plus I love that Minerva is so realistic looking. She's not airbrushed (I don't think), her hair is all over the place probably due to the wind from a pirate ship. Yeah I don't many black girls have hair that looks good windblown and it's nice to see that fact displayed on a cover ;) I also think it's cool that the cover could be a portrait. I don't know, I will investigate. However, I do like my copy too. Minerva looks very determined on the back cover and the one ruby earring that she and Nancy wear stands out more. I'm indifferent about Nancy's side of the cover.
*Ahem* Enough cover talk, back to the book. Nancy Kingston did not plan to initially become a pirate. But when she realizes that the men in her life have planned out her entire future, she realizes she must leave. The man she is supposed to marry is cruel and much older than her sixteen year old self. Nancy is living in Jamaica on her family's plantation, Fountainhead and she is attended by a slave, Minerva Sharpe. Nancy and Minerva decide to leave the plantation together and they end up being taken on by the pirate ship, Deliverance. However, the man Nancy is engaged to (Bartholome) has "pledged to follow them over the seven seas". More importantly, the man Nancy loves, despises pirates. He is a sailor in the Royal Navy and Nancy isn't sure that he will take her back or if she will ever see him again.
This book is about pirates, what's not to love? That practically guarantees that there will be lots of fights, cursing, romance, and travel. Something I really liked about this novel was when Minerva and Nancy run away, Nancy doesn't have to "adjust" to a slave not waiting on her hand and foot. It may not have been wholly realistic, but it was relief to read historical fiction about a white girl who is not used to be waited on hand and foot. The story is dramatic but in a good way. The battles are described in vivid detail as is daily (ordinary) life on a pirate ship. The attention to detail that the author has is wonderful and makes for a more engaging read.
I wish that the novel had been told from Minerva's perspective. I think it would have been even more interesting. Minerva was bold, courageous, and resolute. Nancy's side of the events made for a delightful read, but it could have really been great from Minerva's point of view. Nancy was too passive for me, she never seemed to really take charge of her destiny, instead she let it be shaped by the events occurring around her. I was also bothered by the book being told from Nancy perspective as she looks back on her past. The constant "if we had only known"... spoiled aspects of the story because you knew something big and bad was about to go down.
Pirates! is a gripping read. There is always something going on, always an air of inevitable danger. The pirates have dynamic personalities, good or bad. The men don't want women on board at first, but most of them come around. There are various incidents along the way, but they all lead up to the big showdown between the pirates and Bartholome. The historical accuracy (well I assume it's accurate since such great care was taken to report everything) makes the book an even better read. Not only are historical details about pirate life included but so are details about life in Jamaica in the 18th century as well as life in England during that time. It covers the role of women, sailors, and Black people. The only thing that detracts from the book is the wistful voice that looks back on the past (along with my personal preference of Minerva over Nancy). Nancy reflects on how Captain Broom seems to know when his men (and women) need their spirits lifted. This book has a lot of blood and unfortunate events, but it has moments of levity (some of them surprising) that keep this from solely becoming an action-based book. One of my personal favorites (it was a reread).
Disclosure: Bought with my own cash money!
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