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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

Bloody Jack
by Louis A. Meyer

3 stars
Bloody Jack is a brilliantly written seafaring adventure following the adventures of a young ship’s “boy” on an English pirate hunter.

In Brief...

We liked:
  • Wonderfully crafted story and writing
  • Well developed characters — particularly Mary “Bloody Jack” Faber
  • Historical accuracy
  • Attention to the detail of seafaring life

Things we weren’t so keen on:
  • The lack of shipboard and ship-to-ship action

Our Review

Bloody Jack is a brilliantly written seafaring adventure following the adventures of a young ship’s “boy” on an English pirate hunter. That’s saying something because we didn’t expect to like the book. After all, the book’s main character:

  • was too young for our taste (somewhere between 13 and 15);
  • spoke in an 18th century street dialect; and
  • was a girl.

The story also unfolds on the decks of an 18th century English warship (a tired theme) and written in the first person (I, I, I, I….).

But we were wrong. Very wrong. And, we knew it within the first few pages. That’s because we were hooked.

L.A. Meyer has written a compelling story that kept us engaged and interested from page 1 through page 288 even without traditional action devices like ship battles, hand-to-hand combat, or storms.

The story follows the early years of Mary “Jacky” Faber, a young girl about eight or nine years old when she starts out orphaned in 1797. She is forced onto the dangerous, gang-infested streets of London’s slums after her parents and sister die from disease. She joins a homeless street gang to survive, but realizes that she wants more out of life than begging and scavenging for food.

Mary catches a break when she disguises herself as a boy, changes her name to “Jack”, and joins the HMS Dolphin, a 44-gun frigate, as a ship’s boy. The Dolphin has been dispatched to chase down pirates, first corsairs off the North African Coast, and then buccaneers in the West Indies. Jacky doesn’t really care—she’s more interested in having a reliable meal and is grateful for her first bath in years. She never does get over the fact she’s being paid for her services!

The perspective of a young ship’s boy turns out to be an excellent one for observing the harsh life of seamen on an 18th century man-of-war. Since the lead character is a girl, everyday issues like what to wear, where to “relieve yourself”, and how to sleep become entertaining conflicts that propel the story. Afterall, where does a girl take care of daily necessities among 400 men and boys? What happens when a girl, disguised as a boy, falls for a one of her shipmates? What happens when her shipmate, who doesn’t know she is a girl, begins to have romantic ideas about her?

The answers make for real tension and conflict boosted even further by a few real fights with pirate ships, several brushes with death, and a face-to-face meeting with a sadistic pirate named LeFievre. There’s a reason why Jacky Faber gets the nickname “Bloody Jack”, and Mary’s not to happy with it even though her shipmates are impressed.

Meyer’s ability to weave the day-to-day life of a seaman into Jacky Faber’s life made for a fast and smooth read. The detail of seafaring life is as rich (if not richer) than C.S. Forester’s series chronicling the career of Horatio Hornblower. Those more attuned to writing will appreciate the subtle way Meyer shifts language to reflect Faber’s own coming of age and education.

Bloody Jack would be a worthy addition to any library on pirates and pirating as well as any bookshelf filled with good fiction and stories.

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