Pirates & Sirens: To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo | Book Review

Genre: young adult fantasy, mermaids/sirens

Pages: 340

Synopsis

Princess Lira is siren royalty and the most lethal of them all. With the hearts of seventeen princes in her collection, she is revered across the sea. Until a twist of fate forces her to kill one of her own. To punish her daughter, the Sea Queen transforms Lira into the one thing they loathe most—a human. Robbed of her song, Lira has until the winter solstice to deliver Prince Elian’s heart to the Sea Queen or remain a human forever.

The ocean is the only place Prince Elian calls home, even though he is heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world. Hunting sirens is more than an unsavory hobby—it’s his calling. When he rescues a drowning woman in the ocean, she’s more than what she appears. She promises to help him find the key to destroying all of sirenkind for good—But can he trust her? And just how many deals will Elian have to barter to eliminate mankind’s greatest enemy? 

My thoughts

Rating out of five: three stars

I’m still not quite cold enough for the ocean that birthed me.

For a the little mermaid retelling with lots of pirates of the caribbean vibes mixed in, this was a good story. It was not as dark as it promised, however. Some parts are truly taken out of the little mermaid and the evil Ursula. I felt the story could’ve gone way deeper than it did on the abuse Lira goes through, for example it shows in a superficial, but at the same time well-placed way, why her cousin is the only siren left that Lira cares about. At the same time her beliefs, moral or confidence is never a question, the way you would’ve thought under that type of abuse. I recently read “The Midnight Lie” by Marie Rutkoski and I think that book deserved an extra star just from the mind-twisting that results from the similiar abuse the main characters had to endure there. It’s great to have a fierce female main character, who is truly deadly, but I really think a book should just go full out and not soften her, whether it’s because the plot requires it or fear of making her unlikable.

So what’s left is action and a bit of (unecessary honestly) romance, and a genuinely cool story with pirates, royals and mermaid-like sirens and horror-like mermaids. It all builds up towards this big endgame and destroying the enemy by using one item, which I was really worried about, but this standalone managed to finish it off with a good finale. Not that it wasn’t boring, but it felt epic enough. I genuinely liked the characters, and it was those who carried the story through.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book, but it’s missing a layer somehow. Both the characters, the plot and the writing is very straight-forward, which makes it an easy read, but also predictable. Definitely some enemies-to-lovers vibes going on as well, which I’ve truly realized is a trope I’m loving recently. In this book I would’ve been very happy if they’d just stayed soulmates though, and never introduced romance into it. It just didn’t really fit.

Pirate Cover | Friday Face Off

This is a weekly thing created by Books by Proxy, but currently run by Lynn’s Book Blog.

This week’s theme: “I’m disinclined to acquiesce to your request.” – A cover featuring Pirates

My pick: Demons of the Ocean (Vampirates #1) by Justin Somper

Yeah you heard right – vampirates – vampire pirates!!!

Ebook (2008) Little, Brown Books – Ebook (2010) by Simon & Schuster UK  – Italian (2006) by Arnoldo Mondadori

Hardcover (2006) by Litte Brown and Company – Swedish (2010) by B Wahlströms – Slovak (2008) by Slovart

My favourite

The italian one looks extremely italian somehow. The one I read once upon a time was the first one, so it has a place in my heart as the ultimate pirate book cover. But the winner is truly this detailed one –

The Unbinding of Mary Reade | Review

by Miriam McNamara

Pages: 340

Genre: historical fiction, lgbt

 

 

Synopsis

A romantic novel based on the true story of a girl who disguised herself as a boy to sail with the infamous pirates Anne Bonny and Calico Jack—and fell in love with Anne Bonny.

There’s two parallell stories told, the first in 1717 of Mary Reade trying to please her wealthy grandma, dressing up as a boy to have a claim to be her heir. Her childhood friend and love is Nat. In 1719 we meet her again as she’s on a merchant ship, still passing as a boy, until it’s raided by pirates and she manages to join them. She joins after seeing Anne Bonny, the girl of the captain Jack, and becomes fascinated with this female pirate, with a sword and a gun in her hands. Sailing with a crew on the verge of another mutiny, she has to decide if she wants to reunite with Nat, side with the captain or risk everything by going for Anne.

 

My thoughts

Rating out of five: three stars

tre

This book is a romance, with little action. It has grime and darkness, but it feels like it’s put here obligatory to meet some minimum requirement of being a pirate novel. That said, one thing I found interesting about this book is Anne and Mary returning to Anne’s home, a settlement of religious people where her the husband she escaped from has gathered a lot of influence. Nat – Mary’s childhood crush – also have settled there and the two girls struggle under the mysogynistic principles and ideas of what a woman should be (definitely not a pirate and unmarried). They’re fighting for their independence, realizing they have little to stand up with and that they’re trapped. The hopelessness was so strong in these scenes and broke through the apathy I’d weirdly felt for the characters until that point.

 the characters

Well, I didn’t feel anything for the characters except Anne. Mary first describes her as a independent and fierce girl standing on the deck with a sword and pistol in hand, being the only woman on her crew. She comes soon to realize she’s only there because of Jack’s permission, everyone on the crew apparantly dislikes her for being a woman. Anne doesn’t feel very thought-through as a character, she’s very girly and whiny, it’s like being relatively free on the ship after being beaten by her husband in the town hasn’t changed her at all. There’s no development, she’s uncomplex and flat like many of the other characters. I feel the author adressed this at one point, having Mary notice how Anne was manipulating Jack by being sweet and kissy when Mary was in danger from him.

It’s this weird battle through the book of Anne wanting to be free and independent, not tied to any man, at the same time as she haven’t gathered any skills to make it on her own. Mary is sewing dresses, struggling as the town is considering her an unmarried whore who they need to reform. I so wish Anne had been written as girly, yes, but also a woman of skills and personality. If she was “broken” by her circumstances, make that something that lasts more than a couple paragraphs.

 

the romance

If you want your sapphic Mary and Anne pirate romance, my opinion is that the chemistry is barely there. Sure, it’s a lot of back and forth, proclaiming their love to each other, but I did not feel the romance. Protectiveness sure, towards the end.

 

their struggles

I’m seeing reviews that expected Mary to be trans, which I do not think was the intent of the book. She certainly struggles with her identity, trying to figure out what parts of her was acting. If you should expect anything from that part of the book, it is that Mary feels like something in between a woman and a man. Both she and Anne faces so much discrimination and little freedom, in different ways and I think the fact that they didn’t understand each other struggles were one of the more realistic things. One is claiming the other have it easier, until they realize they need to both escape.

 

The feeling this book gave me: it got an extra star for the fact that it made me shed a tear (it was 3 am and that’s my excuse) when it showed the hopelessness of the situation of Anne and Mary trying to be “correct” women and still being beaten for it. other than that i was bored much of the way through, considering to dnf it several times.

 

Thanks to the publisher for receiving this copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller | Review

Pages: 320

Genre: fantasy, pirates

 

Synopsis

There will be plenty of time for me to beat him soundly once I’ve gotten what I came for.

Sent on a mission to retrieve an ancient hidden map—the key to a legendary treasure trove—seventeen-year-old pirate captain Alosa deliberately allows herself to be captured by her enemies, giving her the perfect opportunity to search their ship.

More than a match for the ruthless pirate crew, Alosa has only one thing standing between her and the map: her captor, the unexpectedly clever and unfairly attractive first mate, Riden. But not to worry, for Alosa has a few tricks up her sleeve, and no lone pirate can stop the Daughter of the Pirate King.

 

My thoughts

Rating out of five: four 

fire

This is a fun and enjoyable book. It’s fantastic to have girls who kick ass in fantasy, especially when it’s someone as cunning and dangerous as Alosa. I was hesitant to pick this book up because I noticed how it seemed to be talked about like “this princess isn’t sitting around in her ballgown, she cares about her clothes and appearance AND is a pirate captain who kills a lot of men”. I read this book fast, it was entertaining, but I am certainly a bit worried about why and how people are praising it. There’s not a lot of deeper world-building or truths, for a lack of a better phrase, in this book. It’s pirates, and it’s bloody and it’s fun – and better than a lot of similiar books I’ve read.

the main character Alosa

Alosa seems too overconfident at times as she tells herself over and over that she could get out of the captivity of the other pirate ship anytime, she just needs to get the map first. I mean, she was still in the middle of the fucking ocean. And then there was a revelation that made all of it make sense, she had a plan out, and I was impressed. I saw it coming a couple pages before the reveal, but it still was done in a really clever way. Alosa is the definition of cold, she reminded me of the character Katsa in “Graceling” by Kristin Cashore. Katsa also had an king relative who basically tortured her and gifts that enhanced that coldness. Also she’s one of my all time favs, so of course I would like Alosa.

plot and romance

The plot of this book is simple, but it’s well executed. Alosa is captive to find a map, she’s faced with challenges, both in searching creative hiding spaces, trying to not hook up with Riden and trying not to be tortured by the captain Daxen. The romance with Riden is what it seems, he’s her nicer-than-most guard after she escapes for the hundreth time, a lot of banting and suddenly they’re sharing stories and making out. It wasn’t as exciting as other parts of the book, but it’s obvious that they both have ulterior motives and know what they’re getting themselves into so.

What I was feeling reading this book: entertained and a bit concerned for everyone in Alosa’s path. Also I was laughing when Alosa ended up trashing a particular room and was found drawing octopuses on the maps.

 

a mini rant

I don’t like the reviews saying how “feminist” or girl-empowering this book is. There’s little in this book that I find feminist??? It’s set in a world with very clear patriarchy and where Alosa has carved out her mainly female crew, but we barely see them all book and don’t interact much with them, as she’s held capture on another ship because she’s the daughter of a pirate king. The fact that Alosa has certain skills, and that her father trained her to use them, does not overwin the fact that she has to avoid getting raped throughout this book and is constantly underestimated because she’s a girl, to the point where it’s almost comical because they know she’s the damn pirate princess. Alosa killed three guys without flinching to get her dresses when she was captured, she does not have much of a conscience. And that’s fine, especially as we learn more about her and what she’s been through, but she’s not the good person in this book. None of them are, Alosa and Riden discussed so at one point. They are pirates for a reason. I do think Alosa’s treatment is choices made deliberately by the author, and I don’t have a problem with that, just the way this book seemed to be discussed.