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The History of Pirates
by Angus Konstam

The History of Pirates is a well organized primer on pirates from ancient times to the present day.

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What Readers
are Saying

“S.R. Staley transports you back to a time when the flapping of canvas, the roar of ships' cannons, and the flash of cutlasses are seen through the smell of gunpowder and smoke. The Pirate of Panther Bay, the young Isabella, prowls the seas. She is dogged by a Spanish man-o-war commanded by a dashing young Spaniard who also commands her heart. A great adventure romance!”
-- Robert, Chapel Hill, NC

Book Review

The Angel's Command
by Brian Jacques

3 stars
The Angel's Command is an enjoyable and engaging adventure from the author of Castaways of the Flying Dutchman and the famed Redwall series.

In Brief...

We liked:
  • The story—a boy and a dog fending off pirates and other 17th century evil doers in the Caribbean, off the coast of France, and in the Pyrénées mountains on the southern border of France and Spain
  • Readable style and prose
  • Interesting characters
  • Realistic portrayal of pirates and pirate life

Things we weren’t so keen on:
  • Action is better in the first part when if focuses on the pirate adventures
  • Detour into France and the Pyrénées
  • Awkward inclusion of Karay as a token girl in the plot of the second book
  • No real tie-in to the ghost of the Flying Dutchman

Our Review

The Angel's Command is an enjoyable and engaging adventure from the author of Castaways of the Flying Dutchman and the famed Redwall series. This is the second in the Flying Dutchman series, but Mr. Jacques provides enough background in the first few pages readers can sail safely on into the book without having read the first novel.

The first part finds our heroes, Ben and Ned, falling in with pirates along the coast of Central America in 1628. Ben, our human hero, is a boy barely in his teens. He is trapped by a curse put on the Flying Dutchman, where he toiled as a cabin boy. Washed overboard, he and his sidekick black Labrador Ned wonder the world, trying to avoid the ghost of the evil captain of the Dutchman and obeying the commands of an angel from heaven. The curse keeps them from growing older physically, but allows them to communicate through their thoughts.

Ben and Ned hook up with a battle weary French pirate captain, Raphael Thuron, when they save him from being swindled by the black hearted Spanish pirate captain Rocco Madrid. Thuron takes Ben and Ned under his arms and adds them to the crew of his ship, Le Petite Marie. Madrid, livid at being discovered, vows to chase down Thuron and send him, Ben, Ned, and the crew into the deep. The chase is on! Little do Thuron and Madrid know, however, that they are also being chased by an arrogant English privateer, Captain Jack Teal.

Jacques engagingly weaves the story of Thuron's desperate, and ultimately futile, attempt to escape his pirate past. Ben and Ned faithfully try to help him because they know he is basically a decent man and ready to leave his pirating ways. The first part of The Angel's Command tells the tale of a the cat and mouse game between Thuron, Madrid, and Teal, climaxing in a running sea battle between Madrid, Thuron, Teal, and the French Navy in the Bay of Biscay off the western coast of France.

Book Two finds Ben and Ned stranded on the French coast, and forced to find their way by land to the Mediterranean Sea. Unfortunately, the story's pace slows once the two have their feet on land. Still, we are introduced to new characters--the feisty gypsy girl Karay and the mysterious face painter Dominic.

Together and penniless, the foursome runs across a kindly lord in Veron. They discover his son has been captured by a barbaric mountain clan called the Razan, and they set off to find him. The second part of The Angel's Command traces our heroes' exploits through the punishing Pyrénées mountains--some peaks are higher than 10,000 feet--and into the cave hide-out of the Razan.

The second book is engaging, but the story seems to wonder from the main theme of the Flying Dutchman. Ned and Ben are dogged by the Dutchman's ghost, and the possibility they could be captured and put back on the ghost ship, but the connection seems forced. Not surprisingly, the second part read like…well…a second book rather than an extension of the first part.

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