Saturday, January 6, 2018
She's a witch.
He's a pirate.
She is young and lovely, and learning the extent of the power of her Craft, and he is flamboyantly handsome, with blue ribbons braided into his long black hair, and a golden acorn in one ear.
What more could the reader in search of romance, adventure and excitement expect?
But wait. There's more. There's a wonderful creation called the Tethys, a supernatural sea-creature who rules "her water realm with unchallenged power and a terrible omnipotence." In Maori myth she would be known as a Taniwha -- a mighty Taniwha, a taniwha nui.
The three powerful spirits clash and intertwine right from the start of this rousing adventure. The witch, young Tiola, has taken passage on a Cape Town-bound ship, fleeing from the Cornwall mob that would have hanged and burned her. The pirate, Jesamiah Acorne, is in hot pursuit of that same ship, determined to seize it, ransack the holds, rob the passengers, and vanish like smoke into the far horizon. In the midst of the frenzy of action that accompanies this, their souls link and cry out to each other, a spiritual questioning that Tethys, the taniwha asleep in the depths below, overhears, rousing her to dangerous awareness.
And so the complicated story begins. There is conflict, there are battles, there are remarkably well described love scenes, marriages of convenience, vendettas, and vivid characters, many of them evil. Real historical figures appear on the same page as the supernatural, and of course there is plenty of rum. It is Pirates of the Caribbean with a twist.
Helen Hollick's forte is her ebulliant imagination. Everything is original, from her writing, which is vivid and yet as economical as conversational French, where unnecessary words ("the", "and") are dropped for fluency. Notable is the lavish use of the color blue, so expensive and cherished at the time, that the cheeky blue of Jesamiah's ribbons is almost eclipsed by the sheer arrogance of painting his ship -- Sea Witch -- the same blue that was the prerogative of monarchs and prelates! And there are wonderful jokes, snitched from real history, such as the raid of a merchant ship by a crew of pirates who merely needed a haul of hats for their heads.
This book is strongly recommended for young adults who want a rousing story, and also for those who want a thought-provoking new approach to the traditional pirate yarn.
Helen Hollick is the founder of the Discovering Diamonds book review site. You can read more about her here.