First Lines: After Anne’s father died, her mother often said that sorrow was the only sun that rose for them. Her mother had since followed him into the darkness of death, leaving Anne to face the dawn alone.
I love a good pirate story. I was into it as a kid, but the more I understand their oddly democratic society as an adult, the more interesting they are. So with this story supposed to be about Blackbeard, who was such a cool freak, I was in.
Blackbeard the pirate is known for the terror he caused, but at one point he was a young man trying to find his place in the world. Edward “Teach” Drummond has just returned from a year at sea to find that his life…well, it’s really not his anymore. His father, one of the richest merchants in Bristol, has arranged all the pieces and Edward must follow the plan–or else. Affianced to a girl he doesn’t love and desiring only to be back on the water (something his father won’t allow), Edward finds his world getting smaller and smaller. Anne, penniless and orphaned, is about add “homeless” to the list. Forced to take a job at Master Drummond’s house, Anne dreams of leaving England and sailing to the Caribbean where her mother was born. From the moment Anne and Edward meet, they see how trapped they both are. But can they escape their circumstances? Is it worth it?
I was really excited to read this. Except…nothing happens. I kept waiting the whole book for something to happen. I mean, there are plot things going on. We see the struggles of Anne and Edward, but the pace was just so slow it felt like nothing was ever going anywhere. What I really wanted to read was a pirate book and that is definitely NOT what I got.
This whole book is exposition for the real pirate story, which I assume is what the sequel will be. This is Anne and Edward both having crappy lives, feeling trapped by society, and wishing they were somewhere else before extra crappy things begin happening. I felt no suspense, no drive to the story. I wasn’t even really invested in the characters.
Let’s talk about a few things here. First of all, I felt historically speaking it took a lot of liberties (a fact the author acknowledges). We really don’t know anything about Blackbeard’s childhood/adolescence. But let’s allow that because of artistic license. Beyond that as our indicator, it didn’t really feel tied to any specific time period. It could have been anywhere from the 1500s to the 1800s (it’s really the early 1700s based on Teach’s life). Literally nothing distinguished the setting. Setting had a lot of struggles.
There are really only two “real” characters in this story: Edward and Anne. And I’m not just picking them because they’re the main characters. Every other character is a caricature of a person. The vast majority of minor characters are meant to be evil. For Anne, there are two maids who make her life miserable. For Edward, they’re two men who are supposed to care about him–and a vicious fiance. There are some “good” characters, but we see very little of them. It ended up seeming almost whiny from Edward and Anne’s perspectives, how everyone is out to get them. I guess the point is that they weren’t supposed to have any allies besides each other, but man did it make the story a downer.
I will give props to one aspect of the story, with a caveat. Anne is a mixed-race main character. Her father was white and her mother was a West Indian slave, their story a love story. While I appreciated that for that (and because historically, that obviously happened in England just like it happened in the US, if pretty rare in both places), it never went anywhere. Anne was very rarely distinguished because of that. Sure, there were references to how she wasn’t going to “be accepted” by society because her skin is “a shade darker”, but even that only came up in a few scenes. I was a little surprised by that, especially since pretty much everyone was xenophobic in England in the 17th and 18th centuries.
It just felt like, for a historical fiction, someone didn’t do much homework.