My pixie-in-law and I are back with another one-two sins-wins book review (like our sins and wins for Caraval, by Stephanie Garber), this time for Tricia Levenseller’s The Daughter of the Pirate King.
At this point, it may be evident that my Pixie is excellent at ferreting-out a writer’s indiscretions while I have the ability to put a positive spin on /anything/. It’s one of the reasons why we’re friends. Respective strengths. Someday, I hope to trick her into ‘winning’ a book that I’ll ‘sin’… but that day may be a few centuries away.
Without further ado, here are a few positives you need to know before starting in on The Daughter of the Pirate King:
- The Protagonist wins. Alosa has a fabulous voice. She is sassy. She is stabby. She is sexy. She reminds me of one of my all-time favorite protagonists that I’ve ever written – and anytime a writer has written something similar to your best work, it deserves kudos. I have no doubt this biased me toward her while reading the book.
- Subversion of expectations. While Levenseller tends to keep it simple, set-up followed by immediate subversion, she plays it fairly well from a simple plot angle. What I mean by this is: have an obviously competent famous pirate captain in a battle be… captured? Oh. Oh, not captured? ‘Captured’ *wink*. Levenseller also does it from a character angle: ‘Strong female character’ will obviously be a ‘feminist’ fish well out of the water of… whatever time period this is. Oh. Oh, she’s not? Well, all right then. My qualm with this as a whole is that her construction tends to be simple. Set up. Knock down. Move on. The result is a pretty pattern woven into the fabric of the book. She has one or two long setups that pay off toward the end of the plot quite nicely, but… a little more obfuscation here and there might make it a more tangible read. As it is, you can kick back with a bottle of rum and be pleasantly surprised without expending much brain power.
- THIS ONE DESERVES A SUBPOINT WIN BECAUSE the greatest subversion of expectation in this novel took an irritation of mine and turned it into a solid kudos. It is, however, something of a spoiler. Let me just say that I am deeply opposed to smut for smut’s sake. Levenseller wrote what I thought to be pure YA fluff, but she made me reconsider it in light of later revelations. I love being that kind of wrong. I love it more than I probably should.
- Stabbing. This is a pirate book. There should blood, secrets, fear, terror, storms, treasure, swords, and stabbing. As it stands, there is a comfortable amount of violence and violent backstory to keep the bloodthirstiest of us Buccaneers engaged, but, by no means does Levenseller go overboard with it. As it is, she plays to her protagonist’s strengths. Alosa is a woman, and women are good at getting close enough to stab things with daggers and, well, less-good at street brawling. I approve of the amount of stabbing in this story. It is a good amount of stabbing.
- Pirates. Well, this is a pirate book, so there should be pirates. Now, I’ve done a considerable amount of independent research on pirates, because… reasons, and I’m here to tell you that Levenseller does not hit the mark of real pirates. Real pirates were horrible people for the most part, and would behave very badly in YA fiction, so this was a good decision. Her pirates fall somewhere between a Disney-fied version of pirate and Black ‘Sam’ Bellamy (the gentleman, Prince of Pirates, read more here: link). Most horrid vices and acts of violence fall just off screen but are implied – the rest… aren’t even implied, they are simply absent.
- The magic system. This book will try to fool you by making you think it’s all about pirates and maps (not pictured) and that Alosa is the next Jack Sparrow. This is very, very confusing. There is, in fact, a magic system featured in this novel… albeit near the end. Yes, in this fictional world, there is magic. And a wider fictional world than the two ships, two islands, and remembered stronghold to be explored – though all were vaguely implied and never described, a great peeve to me. Something I hope she rectifies in later writings. Nevertheless, there is a system. And I liked it.
There are flaws, yes, mainly because stories stand on the equal three legs of World, Character, and Plot. While two of the Daughter of the Pirate King’s legs were quite sturdy, but Levenseller’s World was so flimsy, the whole thing nearly toppled into the sea. For more details on this, I highly recommend my pixie-in-law’s post: here.
I liked this book enough to look up the release date for the sequel as I closed the cover (2018, FYI), and re-read portions to check a few details. All in all, a romping good adventure with a stab-tastic protagonist. If you sail on these siren-infested waters, I wish you a bonne voyage, mon ami.