Review: The Final Curse of Ophelia Cray by Christine Calella

The Final Curse of Ophelia Cray by Christine Callela

The Final Curse of Ophelia Cray
Christine Calella
Page Street Press
Published April 9, 2024

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About The Final Curse of Ophelia Cray

Storms and pirates are nothing compared to the evil within men’s hearts.

After a lifetime of abuse at the hands of superstitious townsfolk, Ophelia Young, a bastard child of the notorious pirate queen, is tired of paying for the sins of her mother. Despite playing by the rules her whole life, she’s earned nothing but spite and suspicion. So when a naval officer saves her from the jeering crowd at her mother’s hanging, Ophelia hatches a new hope of enlisting in the navy to escape her mother’s legacy and redeem her own reputation for good. But Ophelia soon discovers that a life at sea isn’t as honorable as she hoped.

Betsy Young is as different as she could be from her half-sister Ophelia. She’s a nervous homebody who wants to keep her family safe and longs to be in love. So naturally, she’s devastated when the son of their family’s business partner rejects her hand in marriage and her sister joins the navy. But when her father contracts a life-threatening illness as well, Betsy has to bring Ophelia home to save the family business.

Unfortunately for the Young sisters, Betsy trying to get Ophelia recalled reveals that Ophelia enlisted fraudulently under Betsy’s name, a secret which Ophelia struggles to keep from crewmates who would kill her if they knew she was the pirate queen’s daughter. To save Ophelia from the naval authorities, Betsy will have to board a ship during hurricane season and brave all the dangers of the sea to get them both home safe.

The Final Curse of Ophelia Cray on Goodreads

My Review

Is it weird to say that I found it refreshing to read about pirates as the villains in this book? Ha. Actually, I liked a lot of things about this book. The relationship between Betsy and Ophelia, of course, drew me into the story. They are half-sisters nearly the same age but with very different personalities. Despite their differences, these two girls have each other’s back in everything but this: Betsy’s crippling anxiety keeps her mostly at home, and Ophelia longs for a life at sea in the Navy.

While I really appreciate that Betsy has anxiety, I felt like the representation in the story was uneven. At the beginning, Betsy’s anxiety pretty much runs her life. She has decided to stay home where she feels safe, and she can barely speak when someone outside her family tries to talk to her. When she faces boarding a ship and making the journey to find Ophelia, she doesn’t make that decision lightly or without her anxiety spiking. As the story progresses, though, her anxiety sort of evaporates? She experiences life-threatening situations and eloquently advocates for herself and others. She grieves and feels fear, but I felt like the symptoms the story used to define her anxiety faded away.

I don’t know. I guess it made me a little bit uncomfortable because it implied that all she needed to do to conquer her anxiety was get out there and be brave, and that’s not really how clinical anxiety works? Maybe this wasn’t supposed to be representative of clinical anxiety, though.

At any rate. I really appreciated the relationship between the sisters and the representation of the pirates in the story. It was nice to read something that didn’t totally romanticize piracy. The plot was pretty evenly paced, and I loved the twists and turns the story took.

The Final Curse of Ophelia Cray on Bookshop

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 14 up.

Betsy has anxiety. Ophelia is asexual/aromantic. Minor characters are lesbian.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Strong profanity used infrequently.

Romance/Sexual Content
In one scene, a boy kisses a girl without her consent. She breaks off the kiss and makes it clear it isn’t what she wants. He stops, but is unhappy. Later, a girl welcomes kisses from a boy. In another scene, a boy coerces a girl to kiss him, and she bites his mouth.

Spiritual Content
Betsy and her mother believe in some spiritual things, like bad vibes and curses. Ophelia wrestles with whether she believes in anything like that. The people of her town seem to believe her mother’s blood is cursed, and they treat her terribly because of it. Later, some inexplicable things happen, and Ophelia isn’t sure what to make of them. She seems to finally believe in some spiritual happenings, whether it’s her mother’s spirit guiding her from beyond or some other benevolent force.

Violent Content
Betsy and Ophelia attend a hanging. The person’s face is covered, but they watch until she dies. The crowd abuses Ophelia, pushing her, pulling her hair, and nearly trampling her. Ophelia makes it clear this kind of treatment from her neighbors is pretty common.

Sailors are whipped as punishment. They battle those on enemy ships.

Pirates attack a ship, shooting some on board and brutalizing others. Some graphic descriptions of violence, including brief torture and dismemberment. A sailor wraps chains around a girl’s neck to mimic a hanging. Sailors battle for control of a ship, stabbing and shooting each other as they can.

Drug Content
Characters have wine with dinner. A fellow sailor passes Ophelia a bottle of whisky, which she takes a small sip from. Three girls drink rum together. One drinks until very drunk.

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About Kasey

Reads things. Writes things. Fluent in sarcasm. Willful optimist. Cat companion, chocolate connoisseur, coffee drinker. There are some who call me Mom.

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