Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller
Published by: Feiwel & Friends
Released: February 28 2017 (in the US)
Read: September 24-25 2017
Most of the books I review here are ones I receive from Netgalley. The other advanced copies I read are reviewed elsewhere. But now I have more time to read for myself, I hope to add books that have been on my to-be-read list for a while, ones that I have heard about and have been keen to read. Daughter of the Pirate King is one such book, and I am pleased that it lived up to my expectations.
A caveat of sorts. Books about pirates do cause me some consternation. I remember a judging panel I was once on, where another judge confronted us all with a strong anti-pirate stance. The argument was based on the fact that today, pirates still exist, and the trauma they cause is real and horrifying. That to create a romanticised view of them was to do a disservice to people who are robbed, kidnapped or worse by these opportunists. It was a discussion mostly around picture book depictions, and how we continue to create pretty, fanciful pirate books, and how offensive this is. I certainly haven’t forgotten that explanation, and so every time I see a pirate book, I am much more cautious and careful.
However, pirates are present in films, TV shows as well as books, and it’s difficult to completely ignore their presence. This year I created a ‘nautical’ shelf on GR to accommodate a growing number of books where characters live life on oceans or rivers, and villains in those books are often a variation of a pirate character. What’s tricky is a situation in which the pirate character is the protagonist, and readers are asked to identify with him or her, and we all know pirates loot, ravage and destroy. How can we reconcile that?
Easily, actually. The same way we accept vampires or gangsters, thieves or vikings. Authors present characters as flawed individuals and readers accept them or not. It’s up to us.
Right, so, on with the review. Finally. Alosa is the title character. As daughter of the pirate king, she agrees to be taken captive and sneakily hunt down a piece of an important, life-changing map. Right from the beginning we are aware we follow an adept, clever, confident girl, a captain of her own crew, a skilled fighter, and a scheming opportunist. Alosa has deliberately put herself in harm’s way, has a clear plan to follow, but is capable of working outside it when the situation requires, which happens often. Not surprising really, considering she is dealing with well, other pirates.
Alosa reveals her secrets slowly. Her dark back story only makes her more appealing and sympathetic. When she fights for her life towards the end, we are glad of all the gifts and skills she possesses, even though we know how much she suffered to have them. I loved her too cocky, too confident snark, but ultimately she has every reason to be arrogant. She really is that good.
The romance is a slow smolder. The trust builds with Riden (pronunciation, anybody? Ree-din? Ry-den?) even while they eye each other suspiciously, and lie to one another (and themselves). Their banter is consistently good fun and revealing, and inevitably why they are able to save each other. The conclusion is a mix—some plot points are wrapped up, but the major story line is left open for at least one more follow up.
Daughter of the Pirate King contains a strong and determined main character, who never gives up. Alosa’s story is a blend of the her time as a prisoner, as she tries to locate the map and gets to know her enemies, and flashbacks to her upbringing, her own crew, and the larger story of the mysterious map. Truly, the dialogue is witty and snarky, an obvious contrast to the dire situation of being the only woman on a ship inhabited by immoral men. It’s not long or drawn out, and this conciseness keeps the narrative tight and tense. Yes, it’s a fun fantasy tale, but it also continues the trend in YA of depicting independent females in charge and capable, and developing diverse secondary characters who bring nuance and texture. Highly recommended.