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It was a slender length of rusted steel, tapered to a point at one end and jagged at the other, as if it had broken. A thousand people would step over it and think it trash, but not her.

This was the tip of a rapier.

Sixteen-year-old Jill has fought in dozens of fencing tournaments, but she has never held a sharpened blade. When she finds a corroded sword piece on a Caribbean beach, she is instantly intrigued and pockets it as her own personal treasure.

The broken tip holds secrets, though, and it transports Jill through time to the deck of a pirate ship. Stranded in the past and surrounded by strangers, she is forced to sign on as crew. But a pirate's life is bloody and brief, and as Jill learns about the dark magic that brought her there, she forms a desperate scheme to get home—one that risks everything in a duel to the death with a villainous pirate captain.

Time travel, swordplay, and romance combine in an original high-seas adventure from New York Times bestseller Carrie Vaughn.

291 pages, Hardcover

First published February 25, 2011

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About the author

Carrie Vaughn

248 books4,331 followers
Carrie Vaughn is the author more than twenty novels and over a hundred short stories. She's best known for her New York Times bestselling series of novels about a werewolf named Kitty who hosts a talk radio advice show for the supernaturally disadvantaged. In 2018, she won the Philip K. Dick Award for Bannerless, a post-apocalyptic murder mystery. She's published over 20 novels and 100 short stories, two of which have been finalists for the Hugo Award. She's a contributor to the Wild Cards series of shared world superhero books edited by George R. R. Martin and a graduate of the Odyssey Fantasy Writing Workshop.

An Air Force brat, she survived her nomadic childhood and managed to put down roots in Boulder, Colorado, where she collects hobbies.

Visit her at www.carrievaughn.com

For writing advice and essays, check out her Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/carrievaughn

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 784 reviews
Profile Image for Erica (storybookend).
346 reviews287 followers
March 26, 2011
Steel. Ooh, shiver me timbers just thinking about it! Can I just say epically amazing! Oh yeah, this is the book. It is brilliant! I was so excited to read it and so ready to love it, and boy did it deliver! It’s everything it promises and more! It’s an incredibly exciting, roughish adventure that you can’t just help getting caught up in. I was engrossed from the very beginning, and couldn’t stop reading it.

The characters were brilliant. Jill was a strong heroine (I mean pirate, oh yeah ;). On a vacation with her family, Jill finds herself caught in a time travel mess from a magical shard of a hundred’s old sword, and is thrust into a time where pirates run rampant. A ship with a woman captain, the Pirate Queen, finds Jill floundering in the ocean, saves her, and basically say it's either the ocean, or she signs on as one of the crew. So Jill agrees to become one of them. And she soon finds her place amongst these dogs, she starts to feel like one of them, and she learns that there’s so much more to piracy than she thought. Like the killing. But living with these pirates a long time from home doesn’t deter her. She presses on, hoping to find a way home, but even so, begins to like, if not love, life on the seas as a pirate. And then there’s Henry. The cute, young pirate who lives life carefree and thrills at the thought of fighting. And the description of Henry when Jill first saw him… *excuse me while I faint.* But the love aspect was barely there. This story is more about the adventure and pirate intrigue than any budding romance. But it was still there, if just a little, and it was done nicely.

Carrie Vaughn throws you right into this tale, with vivid details of pirate life and fighting. She weaves magic, pirates, and fencing into a completely engaging, thrill of a ride. I couldn’t have asked for more. It was everything I was looking and hoping for. I loved how Carrie integrated fencing into it, and the fencing terms as titles of the chapters. Steel had a very Pirates of the Caribbean feel. If you like those movies, or pirates in general, I highly recommend this book. I really loved it, it’s still got me worked up with excitement! I think I will have to read Carrie’s YA debut novel, Voices of Dragons soon, which I'm guessing has the same type of adventurous, pure excitement feel to it!
Profile Image for Misty.
796 reviews1,229 followers
May 13, 2011
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.
Profile Image for Kristy.
592 reviews84 followers
April 7, 2011
Well, shiver me timbers: this was better than I had expected matey.

The Good:
C’mon it’s about pirates!!!!!
Female “hero” who actually fights
The rapier’s story and history
The characters
Feeling connected to our main character and knowing what she was thinking and feeling.
It was fun.

The bad:
A little bit “pirates of the Caribbean” girl-style for me. And, the fact that in the Author’s Notes in the back she specifically says her pirates are not “movie-pirates”. Disagree.
It wasn’t as exciting as you’d think, there wasn’t as much fighting, stealing, boozing it up and getting rowdy as you would think.
A little to ‘girl power’ with the captain being a strong woman as well as Jill.
The light dusting of a love story was just a little too weak, I wasn’t expecting marriage or anything, but she kept hinting at Jill and Henry, so it felt like it would go somewhere.
Even though it was fun, at times I found myself skimming pages and getting a little bored with the monotonous routine the book fell into.

Should you read this, you ask? I’d say yes. It is very quick and easy to read. It’s definitely not a ‘classic’, but it was good, clean fun. If you liked “Voices of Dragons” I believe you would like this one.
3.5 stars

I will leave you with a pirate joke, just because I’m crazy like that:
Why could the pirate not get into the movie?
Because it was rated ARRRRRRRR!!!!!
Profile Image for kaylaaaaaaaaaa kaylaaaaaaaaaa.
Author 1 book112 followers
March 11, 2018
This book was very entertaining but I also found it very unoriginal and bland. As a lover of pirate books and movies, I felt this was too similar to other works maybe if I read this a long time ago, I would have loved it!
Profile Image for Bry.
631 reviews93 followers
August 15, 2011
YA books do not have to be all Disney. They can deal with hard issues, tough situations, and difficult consequences all while being age appropriate, well written, and still entertaining. Unwind by Neal Shusterman is a perfect example of that.

This book, like many other YA novels coming out right now, takes what would normally be an extreme situation fraught with danger and dumbs it down to a series of easily survivable occurrences, unusually helpful people, and settings that are never as dangerous as they should be. This book is a perfect example of this.

Steel is about at teen girl who is mysteriously transported through time from current day to the Pirate laden waters of the Caribbean in the late 17th century. This was a time period rife with slavery, thievery, murder, illness, and death, but in this book the only injuries were a few cuts and bruises, an amputated arm, and NOT A SINGLE DEATH. Really?? I mean come on, in this time period, with these people, in these situations - not a single death??

Basically this was my biggest problem with this book. I don't see why authors feel the need to make their YA books so innocent. Yes children read these books, but that doesn't mean we need to treat them as unable to understand such issues, especially when this plot in general should be full of these types of issues.

Other problems I had with this book was the unexplained circumstances of Jill's time travel or the sword's 'powers'. You never quite understand how Jill made it this time period, or the extent of the swords abilities. Finally the characters were a final nail in the cofin so to speak, they were so one dimensional it hurt. Each had a single quirk and that was the only thing that kept them from being a blank slate.

Overall this book is better for super young kids who are extremely sheltered from anything real or just want to read absolutely anything that deals with pirates.

I guess I should have just assumed I wouldn't like this book since I strongly dislike Vaughn's Kitty the Wereworlf books anyways.
Profile Image for Nafiza.
Author 7 books1,187 followers
April 26, 2011
Let’s take a moment and gaze upon the awesomeness that is the cover of Steel. The girl with the calm, steady gaze – a determined glint in her eyes, I’d say – and the sparkly sword. The two things together promise a novel that is full of bad-assery and will have you at the edge of your seats as you travel the seas, fighting pirates and finding love.

The reality is a lot different.

I was excited to read this book. When my hold finally came in, I went to the reserve shelf, got it in my hands and did a (subtle) happy dance right there and then oblivious to the many looks I was getting. I was that excited. I started reading this right after I read The False Princess (which is seriously awesome, go read it) and so, my expectations were high, way up in the stratosphere over there. I mean, honestly, how could you go wrong? You have pirates, swords, a (potentially) tough heroine and time traveling. These things are already awesome by themselves so putting them all together in one book should just make the awesome factor go crazy. Right?

Well, not really.

There’s nothing wrong with the writing but there’s nothing right with it either. I kept on rehashing my reaction to the novel, trying to figure out what about it made me just…simply not care. And I finally realized that there were two main things:

1) I couldn’t connect to the main character. She’s just too drab. There’s nothing about her that provokes a response in me. So she loses a fight. Okay, fine, it’s tough, you worked hard, you still lost and now you don’t know whether to continue with the sport. So what? How does that separate you from all the other millions of kids working towards their dreams and often failing to achieve it? The general apathy the main character has towards life and everything else is contagious and pretty soon, I found myself struggling to continue reading. There’s no joie de vivre about her. She has nothing refreshing to offer and it’s not just her. All the characters in the novel are static people that the reader (me) is simply unable to connect with. They retain an emotional distance so I am able to read them but I simply am not moved by their lives and their stories. They are explored at a superficial level and it is as though they either do not have the depth necessary for a greater engagement or the author was not interested in making one.

2) The plot. So, we are on a pirate ship captained by a pirate queen, yeah? You’d think we’d be going around raiding ships, doing pirate-y things and generally being awesome, right? Well, you’d be wrong. I get it, okay? I understand that scrubbing a ship is important but come on now. We spend about 124 pages doing nothing but scrubbing and at some interval, rescuing slaves from a slaver ship. Which is heroic and all but even that sequence had action lacking. If the main character is not scrubbing, she is whining about returning home and that whole mythology is never explained in any satisfying detail. The main character’s tepidness reaches new highs when at the denouement of the novel, she returns to her home without even the most cursory twinge in her feelings. The “love interest” is really…I don’t see the point of him as his role is not developed at all and he barely makes it past the “fan service” mark.

In conclusion, this book was a huge disappointment. I had expected so much more than it delivered. I don’ t know if the author was having an off-day or something but people assure me her other books are awesome, so I shall try another one. Would I recommend it to you? To be honest, no. Do I tell you not to read it? Of course not. Make up your own mind.
Profile Image for Lydia Presley.
1,380 reviews105 followers
January 12, 2011
I think I am going to be kinder in this review then I want to be for two reasons mostly.

I read this book after reading a fantastic novel with pirates, seafaring terms and a cast of brilliant characters.
I really, really loved the cover. It's gorgeous.
In Steel, Carrie Vaughn sets up a story about Jill, a fencing student who just barely falls short of making the mark. The chapter titles are fencing terms, which is interesting in itself and sets the mood for each chapter well.

However, it also means that the story is set up to fall into predictability right from the start. With a turn of the page, young Jill is whisked back in time and found by a band of... polite pirates. These aren't the pirates you see in the Pirates of the Carribean movies, these are a much more toned down set of "sort-of-ruffians" complete with a female captain who seeks another pirate captain.

Vaughn, in her author's notes, openly admits to some far-reaching ideas being present in her book. She couldn't resist, she said, but far-reaching ideas don't necessarily make for a good story. In this case, it seemed sort of ridiculous and like I was peering into someone's flight of fancy.

That all said, this book would definitely capture the imagination of the younger Young Adult set. There's nothing objectionable in the book, it's filled with action, a touch of history and some interesting information about fencing. I just can't see any of the older YA set really enjoying this book without some rolling of the eyes.
Profile Image for Mary  BookHounds .
1,300 reviews1,784 followers
December 31, 2010

Carrie Vaughn is one of my favorite authors, so when she started to write young adult novels, I was more than thrilled to get a sneek peek at this one. Steel is just a fun and fabulous read that combines a bit of time travel with historical fiction. It has great characters and a believable plot. Well, as far as you can get with time travel and historical fiction. I found myself transported back in time and spent the afternoon googling the pirates named in the story.

Jill is an overachieving sixteen year old that wants to be a fencing national champion. While on vacation in the Carribean, she stumbles upon a a piece of rusty steel and immediately knows that it is a sword. She goes for a boat ride with her family and gets washed overboard. When she comes up, Jill is rescued by a pirate ship in the eighteenth century. Let's just say that it is a really good thing Jill knows about sword play.

There isn't much romance in this one and only one mention of a drunken situation where the pirates are more gentleman than today's teens could ever be. There is alcohol consumption, but with the time era, it is acceptable. I hope the author delves more into this type of story since I really enjoyed it.
Profile Image for Veronica Morfi.
Author 3 books401 followers
July 4, 2013
Rating: 4.5/5

Jill is in love with fencing but after losing a very important game she retreats in the Bahamas with her family. There she finds a tip of a broken rapier in the sand and realizes it's a 300 year old piece of history so of course she holds on to it. After an accident, involving a boat and some crazy waves, she ends up on board a pirate ship, at the time where the rapier tip came from.

All aboard!

This is the perfect read for people like me that love pirates and good swordfights. Jill is thrown in the middle of a pirate's everyday life and along with her we learn all these bits and pieces about how a pirate ship worked, the pirate honor and swordfights. I loved every single thing we got to learn in this book and there was plenty. Jill was a great main character, dying to get back home and struggling with her new life, knowing that she is not pirate material. All the secondary characters were great too. I loved the crew. There was Captain Cooper, a fierce pirate queen, Ade her right hand, Henry a cute pirate that Jill had a little crush on and then there were people on the crew that weren't that good, they are pirates after all. But the one I did enjoy the most was Cooper, sorry, Captain Cooper.

She was fierce and kick-ass and had a very tragic past, still she had her tender moments and everyone from the crew loved and feared her at the same time.

This book is filled with sailing, swordfights and ship raids as someone would expect from a book about pirates. There is the light romance between Jill and Henry but I kind of saw them more like good friends than anything else. This book is not about romance it truly is about the pirates and their lives, and how going through all of it changed Jill, and that's why I loved it so much.

I recommend this to anyone who loves pirates and wants a fast, action packed book that will teach you something in the end.
Profile Image for Novel Novice.
132 reviews75 followers
March 16, 2011
The comparisons to the Disney franchise are inevitable. Steel by Carrie Vaughn follows 16-year-old Jill as she travels back in time, and finds herself in the midst of a pirate crew sailing the Caribbean. But make no mistake: there are no signs of Captain Jack Sparrow here, and Vaughn lets you know in an author’s note that it’s deliberate.

Her decision to make her pirates a little tamer than some of the more vicious tales is also deliberate. That’s because more than anything else, Vaughn wrote the book she wanted to write — not what anyone would expect of a YA pirate book.

The result is a story that the author clearly loves, and a heroine who is both tough and vulnerable in all the right ways. Steel offers a unique blend of historical fiction, swashbuckling action, supernatural magic and a little dash of romance. However, a bit more of the romance might have livened up the story a more, along with higher stakes (and therefore higher tension). The sword-fighting scenes are pretty spectacular, though.

Personally, I would have preferred either a much darker pirate tale (some real cutthroats, more dangerous situations and higher stakes) or something more akin to Captain Jack. But those are my personal preferences — and I admire Vaughn’s willingness to stick with what she wanted, and not cater to any expectations.

Steel is also something unique to YA literature; there aren’t many pirate stories written for teens, and Vaughn does a good job of balancing the more glamorous aspects (sword fighting FTW!) with the mundane (swabbing decks … a LOT). And while she admits the historical accuracy is not 100% reliable, Vaughn does offer readers a glimpse at life in the Caribbean during the 18th century.
Profile Image for PJ.
30 reviews2 followers
May 6, 2022
cant get over the fact the main character is called jill
Profile Image for Cindy.
813 reviews38 followers
April 26, 2011
I would give this 3.5 stars actually.

I love the cover on this book, it is amazing! I normally love pirate stories, but this one was just likable. The story just seemed to be missing something. It just felt loose, I don't know if that's the right word or not. The main character wasn't actually my favorite character, Henry or Captain Cooper, or even the Captain Bain. As a reader I found them more interesting than the main and I found myself wanting to know more about there lives. That was another thing, felt like I was given bare bones information on characters. I wanted more!! The story is good and interesting, however I did not feel that there was depth to it. The romance in this was barely, in existence. I did like the fencing take on the story.This story had lots of interesting things, but for me just didn't pull together, and have the depth I was looking for. Teen books seem to be this way some read like a teen book and some read more like an adult book. With all that said I am glad I read it.

hand full swear words
clean romance LOL
Profile Image for Andrea.
865 reviews54 followers
December 21, 2010
This was definitely a unique story. You don't find many pirate stories that have a girl as the main character (or at least, I haven't read any). I liked reading this from a female point of view.

This was definitely an action drived story. There really didn't seem to be much character development. But hey, its a pirate story. It's going to be action-packed, right? I would have liked to get to know a little more about Jill and even Henry. And while the summary of the book says that romance was in the air, I find that to be kind of false. There was only one brief romantic scene at all.

If you're looking for a unique, action-packed story, then I think you'll like this one.
Profile Image for Ashley.
23 reviews57 followers
April 1, 2011
Review originally posted at: A & C Book Junkies - ARC Review: Steel (By Carrie Vaughn)

This was my first Carrie Vaughn experience and I must say, it was a rather pleasant one. This story is about a teenager, Jill, who is a highly competitive fencer. She lives fencing; she breathes fencing; she is fencing. Or so that is the mantra she goes by when the novel first beings. Have you ever wanted something so badly, come within its grasp, only to lose it completely? Well, that is where we meet Jill. She is determined to win to the point where losing is all she can think about when it happens. And then, on a family vacation after Jill's entire fencing world has seemed to crash down upon her, she finds a piece of a rapier. On a trip a sixteen year old girl does not want to be on, after losing a fencing championship that would have placed her as a potential olympian, finding a piece of history seems to brighten up her mood. It is through this historical artifact that Jill's entire world is turned upside down. She ends up going back in time to a period where Pirates –– like Blackbeard –– still roamed the open waters in large quantities.

Vaughn's writing transforms the reader from a hot tropical destination, the the high waters where swash buckling pirates still looted, raided, sailed by their own rules, and fought. History is fascinating; to be able to transport yourself into a different time period is an exhilarating idea. This book does that; it is able to grasp the reader by the collar and drag them into the water with Jill and resurface in a foreign time as a pirate. Honestly, who has never thought of how cool being a pirate would have been?

What I really loved in Steel was the female empowerment that was interwoven into the text throughout. Jill, firstly, is a teenage girl with a love fencing. Although fencing is safe, it is a sport that allows women to pick up a sword and fight. Secondly, Jill has somehow traveled through a space time continuum that places her in the midst of a pirate battle. At first scared, Jill is able to overcome her fears and live life as a pirate would have. The third aspect of the book that was fantastic for enabling female empowerment was the fact the Jill's new captain is a woman. Marjory Cooper is Captain of the ship that finds Jill and well respect to boot. Filled with men, the few women aboard have had to disguise themselves, assert power, and show enormous bouts of strength in order to survive in a male dominated world. I feel like this statement of female strength and power is a comment on the social order as it stands today. Women need to stick up for what they want and infiltrate the patriarchy, rising to the top themselves and flipping the social order on its head.

Where the novel tended to falter for me was in the relationship between Jill and Henry. Henry is a fellow pirate who helps Jill acclimatize to life at sea on board a pirate vessel. Their relationship felt rushed, especially in how everything takes place during the novels climax and ending sequence. I really enjoyed Henry as a stand alone character, but as a companion for Jill it would have been nice to see a little more in terms of character development. The book also fell flat at the end. I sat there feeling incomplete, like I missed something. Since the middle of the book was so strong, you expect a strong ending. Sadly, I didn't see that strength carried through till the end.

Vaughn has brought back the fascination with Pirates that was reinstated into culture by way of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. No, there is no Johnny Depp, but there is a vividly painted picture of what being aboard a pirate ship was all about. Through Vaughn's attention to detail, clothing, and scenery –– with the addition of real life documented pirates in the book –– the novel was fascinating and creates a thrilling ride of action, strength, determination, and hope that all will enjoy.

Profile Image for Chloë.
295 reviews33 followers
September 27, 2020
I love pirate stories, so I am always interested in discovering more of them. Steel is one that I have been looking forward to for some time and I am glad to say I enjoyed it very much.

Steel was a genuinely fun adventure that I was invested in from the very beginning. The novel follows Jill, a fencing competitor, who finds herself on the deck of a pirate ship during the Golden Age of Piracy after an accident whilst on holiday in Nassau. Initially I was unsure about the time travel aspect of the narrative, but I really enjoyed it and it actually added to the story, as Jill could observe the time in which she found herself with some understanding of it already. The mention of some real pirates who were active during the Golden Age of Piracy also made the story incredibly fun. The only real issues I had with this novel was the use of magic in the narrative, which I was just not as convinced by compared to the rest of the story. Jill's attitude towards the situation in which she found herself was also a little odd at times, as she was more accepting of where she was than she possibly should have been.

I often struggle to care for protagonists of many novels, but I quite liked Jill in this. I particularly liked that she did not easily adapt to her new surroundings of the pirate ship on which she found herself. Her journey was difficult and I liked that the reader saw her grow and improve, rather than for her to find everything she faced incredibly easy. Captain Marjory Cooper was also an interesting character and I enjoyed witnessing the relationship she had with her crew. I also really liked Henry and the way his relationship with Jill developed.

Overall, this novel was incredibly easy to get into and a lot of fun to read. I enjoyed the adventure and most importantly the pirates, who I absolutely loved reading about. I also liked the protagonist, Jill, who the reader got to witness improve and develop as a character. And although I did not love the use of magic in the narrative, this is still one novel I would certainly recommend!

Rating - 4/5

There is also a link to this review on my blog here!
Profile Image for Page (One Book At A Time).
704 reviews64 followers
January 3, 2011
The idea behind this one was a new one to me, and I admit it intrigued me greatly. I think with the latest Pirates of the Caribbean coming out in 2011, HarperTeen probably has a hit on their hands.
I thought Jill was a great character from the opening pages. She's dedicated to her sport and shows real discipline in it. I liked the fact that it was fencing because it was so appropriate to what happens to her. I enjoyed her character even more when she's transported back to the 18th century. She keeps her head on her shoulders, becomes part of the crew, and helps them overcome their own problems. When she's transported back to her own time, she takes the lessons she has learned with her.

I also the pirate story. A female pirate captain with a heart was a great thought. But, the story has enough of an edge that you know this pirate ship is anything but typical. I liked how Jill was able to learn about the bad along with the good. Plus, it was great that the author included real pirates such as Blackbeard.

The story seemed short, but well-rounded. It had the feel of a dream were the character wakes up at just the right moment. It was a fast read and I enjoyed it down to the last page!
Profile Image for Isamlq.
1,578 reviews713 followers
March 24, 2011
I didn’t think I'd enjoy a story about a girl and pirates, but I did. The story just works. A little bit of magic and a lot of adventure and this outlandish tale of a girl finding herself in place unknown was a fun read. From a romance angle, the story is kept relatively clean… not many passionate embraces here! But that’s OK, because it's a story driven by and steeped in adventure. The hints of magic didn't hurt either. And while I wanted the magical part explored a bit, as it stands I am satisfied with how the story flowed: Lot’s of adventure, battles and pirates. Another thing that had me smiling was the prominent role the author gave women on pirate ships. Then there's how she used familiar names to add some flair to Steel. And despite the lead being a girl, both girls and boys will likely get a kick out of the story:

One, the love story part is not a major thing in the story. In fact there’s more emphasis on friendship and loyalty.

Two, it’s chock full of adventure- ship battles and sword fights.

Finally, it's written in such a descriptive manner that it paints a pretty clear picture of the goings on in a ship. Who hasn’t dreamt of being a pirate?

Overall, A girl, some magic and a pirate ship make for a surprisingly fun read!

Profile Image for BookAddict  ✒ La Crimson Femme.
6,619 reviews1,258 followers
June 15, 2015
Honestly I have no idea why this book was on my TBR list. Trying to clear off my shelf, I finally borrowed this from the library and read it. After reading it, I still have no idea why I had this on my list of books to read. Totally not my genre and the book did nothing for me.

Ms. Vaughn is a good writer, there is no doubt. The fantasy she weaves is good. The world building is innovative. The characters are so-so. This book is really more for young adult and it's probably why it did nothing for me. The characters were just meh. I can't even remember the lead female character I just read the book two days ago. That is how little I cared about her.

From a historical perspective with pirates, women and slave ships, I liked it. It shows Ms. Vaughn did a considerable amount of research to lend a certain authenticity to her time travel novel. This is well done. The conflict, the descriptions of the time, all of them are vivid and I can easily see as a movie. All in all, a decent read and recommended for YA readers who enjoy betrayal, vengeance and pirates.
July 11, 2017
After having read this for like 5 hours straight through the night... I'm tired, so very tired.

It's a nice story about pirates, something i enjoy. The thing is that it had a sort of time travel, which i don't like.

The plot was fine, and so were the characters. 4 stars

But i wasn't content with the ending. Maybe it's the carefree child in me, but i expected more. Therefore: 4 stars - 1 star = 3 stars
Profile Image for Abby Rose.
499 reviews38 followers
December 7, 2015

A Kid in King Arthur's Court meets On Stranger Tides in this fun, sword-flinging adventure. Teenage Jill, down after losing the big fencing match, finds herself back in the 18th century, on board the ship of history's forgotten pirate queen, Marjory Cooper.

The good: this story is BIG on the fun. It's a great, fast read that will keep you wanting to know what happens next. Also, I LOVED Marjory Cooper's character; she was so amazing and believable there will forever be a part of me that secretly wants to go on thinking she was real and is only not in the history books because she was never caught by the royal navy. Surely no one so amazing could have been made up by a mere AUTHOR; though perhaps it is unfair of me to say that since Carrie Vaughn deserves full credit for inventing the incredibly raw and wonderful Captain Cooper. In addition, I ADORED the scene in which several famous pirates from that time period are having a drink together in a tavern. That was so well written and FUN! And of course, the author gets bonus points for writing her fencing and sword-fighting scenes in both time periods so well I could picture the whole thing in my head! I know from experience how hard those scenes can be to write and they were so well done here it just blew me away.

The bad: Well, I'm not gonna lie, Jill was okay, but she didn't exactly SHINE for me as a character. I wouldn't say she was one dimensional, but maybe TWO dimensional certainly... She didn't pop and sparkle with the same realistic crackle as Marjory Copper and Henry did. She had no goals other than to work with her head down, find a way home, and eventually fight the bad guy. I just felt there could have been more to her. My main beef with the book though, and the reason it didn't make my favorites list was because its pace was just a little too breakneck. It never slows down long enough for you to register what's happening. You DO get a little break in that fun scene with the pirates having a drink together, and that two second romance between Henry and Jill that goes NOWHERE and is just there for the cuteness factor I guess, but that's about it. Even when the storyline was explaining the whole bulk of the plot, exactly what the evil Edmund Blane did to Marjory to make her hate him so much, it went by so quick that if your eyes were tired and you blinked and accidentally skipped a line, you'd miss it.

Also, it kind of seemed the author was in too much of a hurry to wrap everything up. There was a line from the beginning of the book I thought was going to be called back to; it never was. Shame because it would have tied the ending together amazingly. As it was, the ending seemed a little too convenient and callous. I was hoping also, that maybe Henry's descendant in modern day would make an appearance in the epilogue to at least give a REASON for the romance between Henry/Jill or at least be a cute way to tie it up. I mean, even if he had DIED it would have been more conclusive than just she goes back home and vaguely misses him but not that much because he's probably gonna die young anyway... That's pretty much all the book says on the matter... Shrugs.

A good read though. Worth at least reading once.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Mundie Moms & Mundie Kids.
1,952 reviews204 followers
March 15, 2011
4.5 stars

Talk about an adventure on the high seas! Steel is a fantastic read that not only took me back to the 18th century via a pirate ship, but this is one of the few books I've read involving pirates and I really enjoyed it. It's action packed, pirate talk & rich history made for a fun, engaging read.

Jill, an avid fencer is on a trip with her family to Jamaica when she comes across part of a centuries old pirate sword. The magic from this sword ends up taking Jill on an unforgettable adventure. Knowing she's just falling out of a tour boat during a storm, Jill didn't except to get rescued from pirates aboard the ship Diana. What I loved about Jill's adventure is how authentic the setting, the language and the characters felt. My only compliant would be with Jill, as I felt like I was told more about how she felt and what she was thinking, vs experiencing it with her. For me that made me feel like she was closed off as character, but at the same time I did enjoy getting to experience the adventure with her.

I loved how alive the setting felt. I didn't need the experience of being on a ship at sea to get a vivid picture or a sense of what it's like. Steel's descriptive smells, and sounds made me feel like I was there on the ship. Can I just say GIRL POWER! I loved how Carrie Vaughn brought to life some very strong willed female characters, who have left their mark in what's known a man's world. I loved Diana's captain, Captain Marjory Copper. She not only holds her own, but she's respected among her ship and the other well known historical pirates that Carrie mentions in Steel. Not to mention Jill really over comes her struggles and finally accepts herself for who is she and what she can do.

There's no need to worry if you'll understand the pirate language, as Carrie's hard work and research really shines through Steel's pages. I never once felt like I didn't understand what was being said or going on. I loved the touch Carrie adds to her book with each chapter heading being a word that blends in with the story like En garde, Remise and Touche. The glossary at the end of the book includes the words means/description.

Steel is a fun, entertaining, adventurous read, with a nice romance that doesn't over take the main story. Carrie adds the perfect dose of character chemistry between Jill and Henry. *sigh* Henry. Carrie's writing flows wonderfully, the plot is engaging, the characters are great and world is captivating. Steel is a fantastic story that fans of YA, adventure, strong heroines and pirates would enjoy. Not to mention it's a great historical fiction. YES, I recommend picking up Steel today.
Profile Image for Nan.
839 reviews73 followers
January 24, 2012
This book reminds me of the time travel novels I loved when I was a preteen. Except it's better written and has a stronger plot. The cover may advertise this as a romance, but that's misleading. Unlike the time travel stories of my youth, the romance doesn't drive the plot. Instead, this is a book about steel and about power and how you use both.

As the novel opens, Jill places fourth in a fencing competition. This is a good placement, but it means that she will not be on the Olympic team. She's that good, and fourth place is devastating. When she can't pull herself out of the depression the loss brings, her family takes a vacation in the Caribbean, hoping that some sun and sand will be the cure she needs. It's not. Instead, Jill still manages to isolate herself from her family. When walking alone on the beach one day, she stumbles across the rusty tip of a rapier in the sand. She recognizes the object for what it is, and pockets it. Later, she and family go on a boat tour together. Just as the weather is getting rough, Jill has an accident and falls over the side of the small boat--and surfaces in the early seventeenth century, amid the wreckage of a ship destroyed by pirates. A different band of pirates finds her and takes her aboard, where she is given a choice: she can sign the articles and join the crew or go overboard again. Jill becomes a pirate.

The captain of the pirate ship, Marjory Cooper, recognizes the shard. The rest of the blade belongs to her mortal enemy, the pirate Edmund Blane. And since the shard wants to be reunited to the rest of the rapier, she determines to use it as a compass to track down Blane once and for all.

Through this, Jill is certain that the shard is her key to returning to the 21st century. However, she can't tell anyone just how far away her home is, and she gradually settles into the life aboard ship. Vaughn provides details that prove that she's heavily researched the time, but she weaves them into Jill's story effectively enough that they never seem like infodumps. Instead, we learn, as Jill does, why the ship must always be scrubbed--every day. We learn a little about the sails, and we also learn about battle. We learn these things because Jill lives them.

I don't think that everyone will like this book quite as much as I do. However, as I explained above, I have a strong residual fondness for this genre of story left over from my childhood reading. And I'm a Carrie Vaughn fangirl. I've read almost all of her works, and I've enjoyed them all. I encourage you to give this slim book a chance. It's worth it.
May 2, 2015
Carrie Vaughn: A swashbuckling tale of magic, romance, and pirates.
Me: A dull time-travel story of magic that wasn't even the focal part of the story, tasteless romance (not the lovey-dovey kind), and unappealing pirates.

This had so much potential. I mean come on, a story about sword-fighting and grimy pirates?

But Steel proved to be just one of those books with nothing but an eye-catching cover to offer.

I literally did not feel anything for any of the characters. Cooper's past was sad, but temporary sympathy was about as far I could feel for this woman.

Her voice had turned soft, and her look numb. No feeling entered her telling of the tale.


I didn't hate any of the characters, not even the supposed villain, but I didn't love them either. Hard to do when they all seem so two-dimensional. But if I had to choose, my least favorite character would be Jill. She's been stuck in the past for 2 weeks and not once does she tell us that she misses her family. Yeah, so maybe she mentions her siblings in a line or two, but does this girl even care about them? It's like she has no tear ducts!


She thrust, stabbing him under the ribs, twisting her sword, then lunging back out of the way. It was easier than she thought it would be--barely took any effort at all. Flesh was fragile. The blood came far too easily.

WTF? This girl's only known how to fence for medals and trophies her whole life, and now she's slashing pirates (albeit ones that wants to kill her) like she's one of them and shrugs it off by saying how easy it was? That's so messed, man. So messed up. You ever heard of a guilty conscience?

The only reason this didn't become a DNF was because I held onto this tiny slither of hope that Steel would get better. That it'd compensate for its tame "action" scenes and whatnot. But what I get instead is wasted hours that I will never get back. And to think that I was holding off Heir of Fire for this.

Profile Image for Jamie .
76 reviews53 followers
May 27, 2011
I saw this book one day when I was looking on the Barnes and Noble web page and thought that the premise was good enough to add it to my shopping cart. After checking out it's page on Goodreads I found that Steel got mixed reviews. A lot of 3 and 4 star ratings.

I thought that the idea behind the story was right up my alley...mainly because it was a new-to-me idea. I think reading Steel helped me get into the proper frame of mind for the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie that came out last weekend.

I thought Jill overall was a like able character, though in the beginning she was a little bit to "woe is me" for me personally. There is being dedicated to your sport then there is addicted. I think that at the beginning of the book she was leaning closer to addicted....To the point of NOT being able to enjoy a family vacation a MONTH after her last match. Which leads up to Jill being transported back to the 18th century and becoming a member of the crew on the pirate ship Diana. The more time that Jill spends on the Diana the more she's able to not only conquer her own issues she's also able to help the crew with some of their own problems. When Jill is finally transported back to her own time she takes the lessons that she has learned on the Diana with her to use in her life from that point on. Plus, there is a REALLY COOL "souvenir" too.

The pirate portion of the book was my favorite part of the book, meaning I'm not really a fan of the beginning but it got much better. There was a TON of action. The captain of the Diana was a WOMAN and I learned a TON. Did you know that pirate ships are where the first forms of democracy were formed? The main positions (captain, quartermaster, first mate, etc.) were all voted on. Each ship has it's own rules which are known as in Steel the "articles." Also, I really enjoyed that Carrie Vaughn brought actual pirates out of the history books and put them in her book.

The only part I had a slight misgiving with was the "romance." There were plenty of hints at it but there was only 1 real kiss in the whole book.

Overall, I would recommend this book if you are looking for a fun, quick read, or a slight departure from what you've been reading recently.

Profile Image for Mitch.
355 reviews602 followers
March 25, 2012
This book felt more like a historical tour of a working pirate ship than a real adventure. I think when writing this the author got a little too excited/carried away by all the pirate facts she compiled and forgot to focus on developing the plot as much. As a result, even the main character Jill admits the thing she learned after everything was how fiercely independent lady pirates are, not exactly a great sign.

Jill’s basically a tourist on the working pirate ship. She’s forced to scrub the decks, drink pirate ale, and eat pirate rations, while learning about the rules of piracy, how slaves are treated, who the important pirates are, etc. Interesting? Sure, but I’d get the same information from reading Wikipedia or a biography about Blackbeard. Henry and to a lesser extent Captain Cooper are her tour guides, and they’re both about as exciting and relatable as a fairly good tour guide on a modern working pirate ship. But as part of the plot, Henry doesn’t do much more than show Jill the ropes, while Captain Cooper, who supposedly takes Jill under her wing, is portrayed too much as a stoic, above the crew, tough captain to be really relatable. I’m sure she makes a good historically accurate pirate, but not a very complex historical fantasy figure.

The main plot to go after Captain Blane and destroy his cursed sword isn’t really well integrated into the story at all. He’s pretty much ignored during the first couple of chapters on pirate life, and then the chase for him later sort of becomes more of a show and tell on pirate society and norms. Jill’s sole character development (besides learning about pirates) comes when she duels Blane towards the end of the book, but I’m not sure what she gains from the experience … confidence? self-respect? I’m not sure, all I know is that she admires pirates now.
Profile Image for Christina (A Reader of Fictions).
4,211 reviews1,649 followers
April 24, 2011
I discovered Carrie Vaughn in Brave New Worlds, which I read and reviewed a couple months ago. Her story was one of my favorites, so I put her on my list of authors to watch for. Imagine my surprise and delight to see that she had two books coming out, both with beautiful covers: one adult, one teen.

The cover of Steel describes the novel as "a swashbuckling tale of magic, romance, and pirates." I was so there. The swashbuckling and pirates parts are most definitely true. Jill can be quite a strong lady, when she's not panicking herself into a frenzy. She definitely grows from a bit of an obnoxious whiner at the outset to a strong heroine, able to stand up to even the scariest of pirates.

The magic and the romance were a bit less present in the story. Certainly, magic is pervasive, but only in the rapier which brought Jill through time. Magic served that one purpose and no other. And it really didn't work for me. I think I would have preferred the more standard story where she disguises herself as a boy to run off and gets caught up with pirates. The journey through time just felt too contrived. There is romance of a sort, but it's not particularly romantic, nor is it long-lived or monumental. I did not ship her with anyone and think the romance, such as it was, did little to help the story.

Though I didn't love this one, it was a fairly interesting read. My favorite part was actually reading the acknowledgements, where the author acknowledges which parts of history she altered (knowingly). That is a section of historical fiction novels I have come to appreciate in recent years, nerd that I am. I still have high hopes for her adult fiction book, which I will be reading soon.
Profile Image for Krystle.
872 reviews337 followers
April 6, 2012
2.5 stars.

I read this so long ago I can’t remember much about this so I’m going to apologize in advance. This review is probably going to be very short and not very thorough like my others.

You see that cover? Awesomeness, right? Then you read the premise – pirates, time travelling, and sword fights! It’s a freaking bonanza of awesome! Until you start reading…

This girl is one whiny brat. Just because she lost a match she gets all habut (local slang, sorry) or maybe in other words, salty balls. Sure it’s a hit to your ego and demotivating but shouldn’t that make you want to try that much harder to get better so you’ll show your opponent up the next time? No, this girl just wants to whine and complain about and get into some depressing huffy fit about how she really just sucks and all this practicing and lessons aren’t worth it and how she’s going to quit everything altogether. Whatever.

The plot should be exciting but I remember just being bored. And those pirates? Lame. They had like some identity crisis. It’s almost as if she didn’t know whether to portray them as romanticized heroes or dirty, thieving scumbags. She shoulda just stuck to one characterization and kept with it. Not this jumping back and forth. Meh.

Other comments? Boring. Such potential wasted on a lifeless story. I am disappointed.
Profile Image for C.
1,193 reviews28 followers
November 6, 2013
What a great YA book for fans of pirates!

A co-worker said this was her favorite stand alone of Carrie Vaughn's & I have to agree. It took a chapter or two to get going, but once in, I really enjoyed it. I loved the pirate lore - she has a short explanation in the back about what is real history and what is embellished...there's some sailing 101 mixed into the story, as well.

She makes the main character's progression believable, especially the change from fencing to fighting for "real." I liked the character (she got a bit whiny at a couple points, but who can blame her?) and her story. She was a good mix of plucky and believably vulnerable.

One nitpick:
Profile Image for Wealhtheow.
2,406 reviews534 followers
February 28, 2012
After she loses out on competing in the Olympics, Jill's parents try to comfort her with a vacation to the Bahamas. But instead of having a nice, relaxing time, Jill finds the tip of a rusty rapier buried in the sand--and is abruptly transported back to the early eighteenth century. Now her biggest concern isn't how to win her next fencing bout, but how to survive on a ship of bloodthirsty pirates.

I really liked this. Jill is a very physical character, who works hard and takes pride in her muscles. She's smart and has a good moral center, too. I particularly liked her reactions to the 1700s: her shock at encountering slaves and slavers, her horror at the paucity of medical care, how hard she found the work.
Profile Image for Sarah.
355 reviews29 followers
May 26, 2016
This was a fun, quick little pirate adventure tale. It didn't go terribly deep into anything, but portrayed a relatively realistic feeling pirate ship, albeit of a more progressive nature than real pirates of the eighteenth century probably tended to be. The romance felt unnecessary, like it was an afterthought, and I don't think "romance" should be plastered on the front cover; it was really more about Jill herself and how she handled what she was being given. I really liked all the fencing tidbits, and how Jill's fencer brain worked. Overall, an enjoyable but perhaps not exceedingly memorable story.
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