Recent Book Reviews
A bold adventure into realms unknown
Hillary Westfield has achieved her dream of becoming a member of The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates, and even has a pirate nickname, The Terror of the Southlands. So she is shocked when she receives a notice from the League warning her that she has been displaying un-piratical behavior. Ordered to undertake a dangerous quest by the Leader of the League, she instead opts to search for the missing Enchantress of Augusta. Accompanied by her loyal gargoyle companion, friends, and loyal crew, she is plunged into a fight against a conspiracy that threatens the stability of her world.
I do not read much young adult fiction, but at the American Library Association annual conference this year, I happened upon an advanced reader’s copy of this book. Not really knowing much about the series, but being a huge fan of pirates and 18th century naval history, I decided to pick it up and give it a read. I was generally surprised by how entertaining this book was. Caroline Carlson has created a unique fantasy world, one part C.M Foster (Horatio Hornblower Series), one part Jane Austen, and one part Gilbert and Sullivan. As I read this book I thought, this is the world were the events of both The Pirates of Penzance and HMS Pinafore could occur.
An excellent book for young adults, this book also contains much humorous material that will have adults laughing as well. The author uses not only the techniques of memoir which give it an 18th-19th century feel), but also includes newspaper articles, notices, correspondence, forms, and other inserted documents that flesh out the setting the novel takes place in and paints a picture of a world not purchasing tickets the Pirate League Holiday Party is considered an un-piratical act. This is the second book in the series, so I went and read the first book, The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates #1: Magic Marks the Spot. Although I had some of the events of this book spoiled by reading the sequel, I enjoyed the first volume just as much as this one. I heartily recommend this book for all ages and await the next volume in the series.
One of the quests that motivates me as a reviewer and blogger about speculative fiction is the search for something new. Many times this quest sees me seeking out the cinema of other countries. When I was at the theater for another movie I noticed a poster for a Korean movie called The Pirates. Without knowing anything about it, I decided to watch it, and I am glad I did.
The Pirates fictionalizes an event form the history of the founding of the Joseon Dynasty in Korea during the 1300s. The movie pits a band of pirates led by the feared and skilled pirate captain Yeo-wol, the Daughter of the Dragon, against a rather hapless band of bandits led by the ex-soldier Jang Sa-jung who calls himself Crazy Tiger as they attempt the recover the Joseon Royal Seal from the whale that swallowed it. Both pirates and bandits are pursued by are pursued by ruthless enemies from their past.
This movie mixes comedy and action, makes several references/homages to the Pirates of the Caribbean films, and yet creates its own style. There is some violence but is of the action comedy variety. See it if you get the chance.
As I mentioned earlier The VNHLP: Terror of the Southlands put me in mind of the work of the Victorian masters of the light opera and the patter song, Gilbert and Sullivan. Specifically two of their operettas: HMS Pinafore and The Pirates of Penzance
HMS Pinafore (1879) tells the story of the crew of the British ship HMS Pinafore as they struggle for romance and rank in their naval careers. It is probably Gilbert and Sullivan’s best known operetta and as referenced often in many other movies, appearing in titles as diverse as Star Trek: Insurrection (1998) and The Hand that Rocks the Cradle (1992).
The Pirates of Penzance (1879) relates the tale of the pirate Fredrick and daughter of the Major General Mabel’s and their star-crossed romance. The pirates as presented in this operetta have a lot in common with the Pirates of The VNHLP: Terror of the Southlands Terror of the Southlands. Probably the most familiar element of this work is the song “I am the Very Model of a Modern Major General” a tongue twisting patter song often performed with parody lyrics such as in “The Elements” by Tom Lear on in animated shows line Animaniacs or ReBoot. There is a movie version titled The Pirate Movie, (1981) directed by Ken Annakin and starring Kristy McNichol and Christopher Atkins. It jettisons most of the original score, adds new songs, and is suffused with an abundance of 1980s cheesiness. It is best avoided.