I really wasn't sure what I was going to get with this book, or whether I should even accept a copy; I had been in this crazy-busy mode and probably sI really wasn't sure what I was going to get with this book, or whether I should even accept a copy; I had been in this crazy-busy mode and probably shouldn't have been accepting anything, on top of which I normally shy away from lesser known, wildcard publishers. But for whatever reason, something about this grabbed me (pirates! pretty!) and I caved. And though there were certainly times I regretted that, I ended up glad I did. But it's strange.
I felt like I'd started the story in the middle. The romance was SO immediate and completely head-over, and I just couldn't see where it was coming from. It was worse than the insta-love you get in most YA PNR or adult bodice ripper, which is saying something. It felt really silly, and baseless even though I think Leever did try to make it romantic and steamy and lovey. But it so very desperately needed more build up, more connections and history and smoldering. Orrin and Aeron (don't get me started on that little bit of tongue-twisting confusion) are in love within a day, and it seems it was based on the idea of each other - and compatible insatiable sexual appetites, of course. This is something that always irritates me without fail, but it wasn't just the insta-love that made it feel as if the first 1/2 of my book had just somehow fell out before I got a chance to read it. I'm all for plunging the reader in and avoiding info-dumping, but you've still got to give a full story. And when the book is only 200 pages, there's really no excuse not to flesh it out a bit.
All of that, and some copious amounts of the eye-rolling that comes with insta-love, had me wanting and intending to put the book down pretty early on. But it's so short and such a quick read that I would tell myself, "I'll give it X more pages and then I'm done." Only I wouldn't be. Despite the eye-rollingness, there's something about this that is just compulsively readable. Eventually the urge to put it down just went away, and though the eye-rolling never completely stopped (thanks, Kale!), I couldn't help but just give in and enjoy the damn thing.
And it was a good thing, because it did have some unexpected plot points to it that balanced or even outweighed the twoowuv4eva. I mean, it had some plot holes, too, and some things that Analytical-Misty would love to question - but in a book like this (historical pirate romance for godssake), you just have to let some things go. The thing is, Analytical-Misty can be silenced. Sometimes you just have to turn off that part of you and enjoy something just for the hell of it. And it's a good pirate story, for those who like that sort of thing. There needed to be a better sense of time and timing in more than just the romance (how fast does one really travel by seas?), but when I just let go of that part that keeps saying "But wait - but what about - well, how could -" then it's just a fun book with characters I kinda wanted to hate but just couldn't.
One of the things I liked best (and worst, at the same time) was one of the surprising bits that made me glad I'd hung on - I loved how Queen Winifred was worked into the story. Granted, she was a bit over the top for my liking. Okay "a bit over the top" is the understatement of the year, however, she was reminiscent of Elizabeth Bathory, who was a real over the top whackjob, so it sort of worked. It's really interesting and rare to have a female villain, especially one with her...proclivities, and that made it so much more dark and enjoyable and unexpected. Despite any early hesitancy on my part, the Big Pirate Fight at the end coupled with Crazy Queen W. made the 200 pages worth it. And, you know, the healthy dose of smut.
All in all, a quick, fun read for fans of the genre.
<------ Also, Patricia Leever has the most adorable author picture. ...more
This was a pretty fun book, mixing real pirate lore and superstition with elements from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, in a how-to style. TheThis was a pretty fun book, mixing real pirate lore and superstition with elements from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, in a how-to style. There are the things every pirate should know, like how to climb rigging or properly insult someone ("feculent maggot" being my personal favorite, followed closely by "salty wench").
There are also the less expected tips on things like How to Disguise Your Gender* or How to Cope with Mermaids.
There are pictures and illustrations interspersed throughout the text, ranging from movie stills to instructional diagrams to amusing illustrations. like this ------->
All told, I think this would make a great gift for boys (especially those who are reluctant readers) and for pirate aficiandos; it would also make for a fun quirky coffee table book, and certainly come in handy on International Talk Like a Pirate Day. There's enough real history mixed in with quirky pirate lore to entertain most pirate fans, and the design of the book is rather nice and user-friendly, too.
*as anyone who's seen my latest IMM would expect, I quite liked that section. Female pirates in disguise = awesomesauce....more
There are a lot of elements to Steel that seem as if its bound to be a win. Fencing? Pirates? Time travel? A touch of romance? They’re all there.There are a lot of elements to Steel that seem as if its bound to be a win. Fencing? ☑ Pirates? ☑ Time travel? ☑ A touch of romance? ☑ They’re all there. But I never really connected to Steel the way I would have liked.
I mean, it was enjoyable enough, but there were some things that held me back and created a bit of a disconnect. Jill was a bit too moody and petulant for me. I get that she’s a teen (and probably a spoiled rich one - who else fences?), and I get that super competitive people are really hard on themselves and can get pretty pissy when they don’t do as well as they want/anticipate. But that’s part of why I’m not friends with a lot of super competitive people. I don’t want to watch you sulk, or listen to you bitch and moan.
And realistically, I think this was part of the point. Not only is it part of Jill’s character, but it’s this whole transformative growth mumbojumbo wherein Jill realizes that losing a fencing match is maybe not so important in the grand scheme of things. And her turnaround begins pretty quickly, so it really shouldn’t bother me the way it does. But the fact is, the Jill I met in the beginning of the story stayed with me throughout - in my head, at least - and prevented me from really loving the book. It felt a little too after-school-special, and I’ve always doubted that the spoiled rich kids who learn the value of blahblahblah in those specials actually change and remember said value for long.
Now, lest you think I completely dislike Jill, let me correct you: I did like her and root for her, but part of that, I think, was just that she’s the main character and therefore who I was supposed to root for. My irritation with her was for the most part slight, but it was there, and it contributed to my mehness about the book.
Also a contributing factor was the “unreality” of it all. I mean, yes, she’s a fencer and she ends up on a pirate ship where she learns where her skills really come from, historically, and how to put them to good use and actually swordfight, not just playact, and golly isn’t that swell. But I never had a real sense of time in the book (was she there days? Weeks? Months? I don’t frakking know.), so I found it sort of silly when everyone is willing to let her fight Mr Big Bad. She’s a high school fencer, for jeebus sake. I think it would have taken him about .02 seconds to run her through in reality. Again, it was kind of after-school-special (which I’ve just realized abbreviates to ASS), and I just didn’t buy it. I think maybe younger kids, tweens and early teens, would eat this up and not have a problem with the lack of believability in this respect, but it nagged at me.
Those two larger things aside, I liked the book well enough, though I never felt compelled to read it. The piracy was rollicking and fun, and pretty well researched, I’d say (though a bit sanitized), and there was a good feel to the book, a good sense of place. Whether in the Caribbean or on the ocean, it all felt very scenic and pretty fully realized, and I enjoyed that. The reader gets to learn the world and explore it through Jill, and from that aspect it worked for me. In the end, I didn’t feel it was a waste of my time, but it didn’t keep me on the edge of my seat, either. I think it will find a welcome audience with younger girls, and I think seeing strong women like Pirate Queen Marjory Cooper and Jill (later in the book, when she’s left bratty behind) will be welcome to the young girls who do read it. But I wanted more, and have a feeling it will fade from memory pretty quickly....more
There are a lot of things I could say about the writing and the structure of the book, and the alternating viewpoints, and the interestingness of it aThere are a lot of things I could say about the writing and the structure of the book, and the alternating viewpoints, and the interestingness of it all, but what I really want to talk about is this: I'm kind of amazed at how dark this book is. I mean, don't get me wrong, I sort of loved it, but my god...this is a dark book. That description up ↑there↑ makes it sound sort of campy and quirky - a fun pirate romp. Not so much. Emer was a pirate in the full sense of the word: she stole and swahsbuckled with the best of them, sure, but more importantly, she was bloodthirsty and had nothing to lose (until suddenly, she had everything to lose). In the course of her brief time as a pirate, she kills countless men and meditates on her piratical "trademark" - should she carve her name into her victims backs? Been done. Maybe amputate limbs or keelhaul them? Gets old. Nope, Emer is an eye-gouger. In fact, the book opens with it. What I'm saying is, she's dark.
So when she's cursed to live 100 lives as a dog (many of them brief and brutal), and is then reborn in the form of Saffron Adams, the darkness doesn't just go away. Though she never acts on her darker desires, she routinely pictures herself scalping, skewering and otherwise inconveniencing people who make life difficult for her. It's funny, but it's also scary, and above all, it's true to her character. She's had 300 years to learn and grow and let go of some grudges, maybe - but she's also had 300 years to stew and fixate, and you can't let something like that go. Not to mention that being a teen in the 80s/90s and having your parents breathing down your neck about college, when in your heart you know you're a mothereffing pirate -- well, that would do things to a person. There have to be times she questions her sanity, and there have to be times that she wants to be able to exercise the, um, freedom of a pirate in dealing with her enemies. King realizes this and stays true to who Emer was, while allowing Saffron (and 100 dogs) to bring new own experiences to the mix. And bloodthirsty pirate that she is, you kind of can't help but love her.
But the darkness doesn't just lie within Emer/Saffron. There is a pervasive dark streak throughout nearly ever aspect of the book, and no act of human cruelty is shied away from. The things that are done to Emer, the things that she does to other people, the things that other people do to other people, and say and think and want - they're more often than not harsh and raw and selfish, and unflinching in it. King doesn't tiptoe around the negatives and the brutal realities of piracy, history and human nature in general, and the steady stream of (yes, dark) humor throughout the book just plays counterpoint to all the really messed up things that are going on.
I'd say it's a tale of obsession more than anything, but for all that, it is equally a story about love. Told through alternating timelines and viewpoints, as the reader you're stuck watching as things move inexorably towards each other, heading for a crash, and when you think it couldn't possibly end well for anyone involved, it somehow manages to be redemptive. It's full of contradictions, a simple tale full of complexities, and as hard as it is to read, it's harder yet to put down. By no means is it a story for everyone, and many many people will be turned off by the casual violence and general bleakness. But the rest of us will fall in love with Emer/Saffron, and cringe along through the good and the bad, right until the end....more