I’ll be working this Halloween night, and I will be in the kids’ department, which means my costume (because of course I’m dressing up!) can’t be too scary. I think I’m going to be a pirate. Which of course means the book of the moment is…
Pirates by Celia Rees
When fifteen-year old Nancy Kington’s Bristol merchant father dies, her brothers sell her into slavery. The British lass isn’t destined for the fields of her family’s Jamaican plantation, home of slave girl Minerva Sharpe. Instead, she’s been engaged to Bartholome, the sinister–and wealthy–Brazilian. Nancy has her own plans, that don’t involved paying off her brother’s gambling debts. She’s madly in love with her childhood sweetheart William, who’s currently in the navy, hunting down pirates. This is problematic, as Nancy and Minerva, who are now as close as sisters, escape together and take up a career of piracy. They travel across the high seas on the run from the Brazilian, searching for William. Their adventures culminate in a harrowing final confrontation that ultimately ends in swift, if bloody, justice for the wicked, and fulfilled romance for our heroines.
Nancy and Minerva are strong, capable protagonists supported by a wealth of colourful secondary characters, and Rees skilfully incorporates details of a bygone age without bogging down the reader with unecessary exposition. Certain plot points are a little too convenient, like the pirate captain who just happens to be the officer who befriended Nancy on the voyage from England. As well, Nancy is remarkably enlightened in her views of slavery and women’s rights. But the fast-moving plot and engaging characters more than make up for the relatively minor shortcomings. This novel should appeal to teen readers of historical fiction and action alike. Fun!