The Very Nearly Honourable League of Pirates: Magic Marks the Spot by Caroline Carlson
|The Very Nearly Honourable League of Pirates: Magic Marks the Spot by Caroline Carlson|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Linda Lawlor|
|Summary: Hilary is determined to go to sea as a pirate, and she's not going to let something as irrelevant as the fact that she's a girl stop her. Swashbuckling adventures, with a truly devious villain and a very soppy gargoyle!|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 350||Date: January 2014|
|Publisher: Simon and Schuster|
|External links: Author's website|
Take one Victorian finishing school for delicate ladies, full of classes on how to waltz and swoon gracefully (not necessarily at the same time), perform a water ballet and use a bow and arrow without perspiring. If you're feeling very brave, you could even (shudder) stir in a smattering (just a tiny amount, for pity's sake!) of the fine art of embroidering Improving Sayings on a sampler. Add a bunch of unruly, unscrupulous and unwashed pirates (except, of course, for the dashingly handsome and gallant ones: they're generally quite hygienic). Chuck in a substantial dollop of magic and stand well back—the result is an action-packed and wondrously silly adventure on the high seas.
Hilary's exploits and escapades are not of the kind that gives you nightmares. Yes, she has to wield her trusty (more rusty, really, but it's all she's got) sword at one point to defend her fellow pirates and their ship from officers of Her Majesty's Navy, but even in the heat of battle she gets the distinct feeling her opponents are not really trying. Yes, some of the main characters spend time in the dungeons, and one or two are even threatened with a place at an Academy for Difficult Boys. But the overall atmosphere is light-hearted and cheerful, from the improving letters Hilary receives from her governess to the extracts from the Very Nearly Honourable League of Pirates Official Guide. You just know from the very first pages that despite all the difficulties Hilary will end up being a pirate, and a successful one at that, but that doesn't mean she — and the reader — won't have a lot of fun on the way.
The humour in this book is deftly handled, and it comes as a surprise to discover that this is Ms Carlson's first book. Some authors, even those with a good deal more experience, allow themselves to become so tied up in the whimsical and fantastic aspects of the world they've created that they lay the laughs on with a very heavy hand. Here, everything is light and jolly, and once you've accepted one or two premises (like the brilliant notion of a bureaucratic and rule-bound league of pirates, with its own entrance tests and apprenticeship programme) then everything falls neatly and joyfully into place. After all, who could resist a pet gargoyle which loves nothing more than a nice juicy spider — unless, of course, it's a story with a romantic, happy-ever-after ending?
Hilary is a character many young girls will want to identify with: she is strong-willed and plucky, utterly determined to attain her dream whatever her family and her society may dictate, but she is also prepared to put her own aims aside for a while to help a friend in need. She makes a good role model for our contemporary world of instant and easy fame, but for all that the book is never, ever preachy. And a few other characters reveal hidden depths as this splendid tale unfurls.
The book ties up (so difficult to avoid these boating terms!) in a very satisfactory manner, but the good news is that we are promised another two stories about Hilary and her companions. It's even rumoured that in volume two we will uncover the secret of those curious dancing sheep . . . Arrrr!
Another excellent series with a less-than-traditional main character is Goblins by Philip Reeve, and the sequel Goblins versus Dwarves about Skarper, who thinks there ought to be more to life than eating, stealing and a good punch-up.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Very Nearly Honourable League of Pirates: Magic Marks the Spot by Caroline Carlson at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Very Nearly Honourable League of Pirates: Magic Marks the Spot by Caroline Carlson at Amazon.com.
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