Saturday, October 8, 2011
So, I may not be perfectly objective in this review. But I will be honest.
And honestly, I really enjoyed The Society of Pirates.
The Society of Pirates is somewhere between a swashbuckling yarn and historical fiction. It pays more attention to the realities of life among the pirates and the attitudes of the times than the traditional swashbuckling tale, and is a little lighter on the details of geography and culture than a traditional historical fiction. The plot is a somewhat basic pirate story: head off in search of buried treasure and deal with the black-hatted (or in this case lipped) nemesis before he deals with you. The details: a hull full of Jesuits, a safe haven with a natural philosopher and his trained monkeys, and Spanish-nobleman pirate hunters, are all new.
In relation to the plot the story is a bit loose. In a tight story each aspect of the story moves the plot forward. Bits of Society fill in character, give us depth of world, but don't necessarily move the storyline forward. Though I don't think a sequel is in the offing, it does read quite a bit like the first story in a series. Basically, there's a lot of good world and character building here, probably a bit more than was strictly necessary for the first book, but it's a good foundation for series of tales.
I'm often frustrated by the division between YA and adult fiction. Usually the dividing line is the age of the main character; an adult main character means a book isn't YA fiction. All of the characters in The Society of Pirates are adults. Yet with a snappy storyline, fun characters, minimal adult language, minimal explicit violence, and no sex, I'd be more than comfortable giving this book to any ten-year-old who likes pirates and wants to stretch his reading skills.
The history hit a sweet spot for me. Dave explored on the rift between the Catholics and Protestants, Spain and England, and the freebooting multi-culture of the pirate world. One of the things modern Americans often forget is that once upon a time 'white' was meaningless in regards to race and Christian meant very little in terms of religious harmony. I'm always happy to see a realistic treatment of race and religion, especially in stories where it's not vitally important to the plot. It shows the author was paying attention and doing a good job of setting the scene.
Dialog. I've said it before. I'm sure I'll say it again. I'm a sucker for a great dialog. And not only is the dialog tight and witty, it's in dialect and well done. Well done dialect is one of the most difficult skills for a writer to develop. Most of us have a hard enough time just getting distinct voices for our characters, let alone trying to capture the phonetic spellings of the different speech patterns of our characters. Dave didn't just write dialect. He didn't just do it well. He did four distinct dialects. Pirate English, Scots, Spanish, and the traditional American English of the narrator. My mind boggles at the work involved in pulling that off. I know I couldn't do it, and I've seen very, very few other writers do it well.
So, all in all, I'm very pleased with The Society of Pirates. Go give it a read, or get a copy for the pirate-loving-ten-year-old in your life, and spend a little while in the company of pirates.
Posted by Keryl Raist at 2:46 PM