I know they say “never judge a book by its cover”, but is there a rule against judging a book by its title? I was hooked by the word ‘Pirates’, if you know me even a little bit, that won’t be much of a surprise.
“Twelve-year-old Brine Seaborne is a girl with a past, if only she could remember what it is. Found alone in a rowboat as a child, clutching a shard of the rare starshell needed for spell-casting, she’s spent the past years keeping house for an irritable magician and his obnoxious apprentice, Peter. When Brine and Peter get themselves into a load of trouble and flee, they blunder into the path of the legendary pirate ship the Onion. Before you can say “pieces of eight,” they’re up to their necks in the pirates’ quest to find Magical North, a place so shrouded in secrets and myth that most people don’t even think it exists. If Brine is lucky, she may find out who her parents are. And if she’s unlucky, everyone on the ship will be eaten by sea monsters. It could really go either way.”
I started reading this at work, I was bored and it was there and it had the word Pirates in the title, it was worth a shot. I’m so glad I picked it up. The characters are diverse, the world is vast and well built, there is an entire island dedicated to the library.
There are some interesting quirks and references that adults will get and kids may not, the flag of the ship for instance, is a traditional pirate flag, but is has an inverted colour scheme. The Pirates names are all puns, my favourite being ‘Tim Burre’ who happens to fall over a lot. The captain and the ship have constellations as names, or they should do, because of a misprint at the boat shop, the ship is called ‘Onion’.
I really liked the villain of the story, he was a big character with a full story and at times was actually relatable, until he did something super evil anyway. The kids act like real kids, they make sense as characters and they make the story interesting.
This book is reminiscent of Pirates of the Caribbean, the Onion is basically the Black Pearl without the skeletons, and also of The Pirates, Band of Misfits, an Aardman movie that is widely underrated. It’s fun and quirky, it moves at a good pace, it has strong messages of working together and getting along, there’s magic and nautical adventure. In the end the author says it best herself: “The story wasn’t even about Cassie O’Pia; it was about every boy or girl who’d ever wanted to run away from home and look for adventure” (like a dolt, I forgot to write the page number down for that quote, if anyone finds it, let me know and I’ll give you a starshell.)
I’m giving it 5 stars for being so cute (from the perspective of an adult reading a kids book) and for making me guess all the way to the end. It’s a very enjoyable read :).