Mistress of the Sea by Jenny Barden

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Mistress of the Sea by Jenny Barden

Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Louise Jones
Reviewed by Louise Jones
Summary: A swashbuckling tale of romance, piracy and revenge, set against the backdrop of major events in the life of Sir Francis Drake.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 426 Date: June 2013
Publisher: Ebury Press
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9780091949228

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Mistress of the Sea is an epic adventure involving pirates, star-crossed lovers and a lust for gold and vengeance. The novel, set in Tudor times, is based on the real-life events in the life of Francis Drake, notably the raid at Nombre de Dios and the rout of the English fleet at San Juan de Ulua. Barden weaves an exciting adventure/romance story against this backdrop, which results in an immersive narrative that excites the mind and senses.

Barden has several strengths when it comes to her writing style, especially when it comes to description. From the hurly-burly of Portsmouth harbour to the humid tropical forests of the Americas, she transports the reader to the heart of each scene with her detailed depiction of each sight, sound and scent. She is equally adept at writing memorable characters. The main players in the book were written as multi-layered, relatable people, each with their own unique flaws and strengths. One of my favourite characters was the villainous Capitan Gonzalo de Bastidas, a particularly loathsome fellow with a sadistic streak, who is intent on deflowering our sweet, virginal heroine.

In a genre swamped with tales of kings and queens, dukes and duchesses, there is something intensely refreshing about the niche that Barden has carved for herself. I loved learning more about Drake and realised what an interesting and enigmatic character he was. On the one hand, he was a charismatic leader who inspired loyalty, on the other, he was a ruthless, vengeful pirate who put the success of his mission before the lives of his men.

If I have one criticism, it concerns the pace of the storyline. The story opens with a very exciting and unusual scene involving bear-baiting, which immediately draws the reader in. The first few chapters about Ellyn running away to sea manage to continue the momentum of the opening scene. Sadly, the plot seems to lose its way in the middle of the book, with one of the most interesting characters being marooned on a remote island, which is quite limiting in terms of action. Thankfully, the book picks up pace later on with the vivid, bloody depictions of the raids on the Spanish and the story reaches a gripping climax and powerful conclusion.

Mistress of the Sea is a unique, well-researched historical novel with fascinating characters and a great will they, won’t they? romance element. I felt lthat the 426 page book could have benefitted from more streamlining in the middle, but ultimately the story redeemed itself with a satisfying final few chapters. Classic, swashbuckling stuff.

Readers interested in the Elizabethan era will enjoy The Time Traveller's Guide to Elizabethan England by Ian Mortimer

Buy Mistress of the Sea by Jenny Barden at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Mistress of the Sea by Jenny Barden at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Mistress of the Sea by Jenny Barden at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Mistress of the Sea by Jenny Barden at Amazon.com.


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