Tag Archives: Pirates

Review: How to Train Your Dragon: How to Be a Pirate by Cressida Cowell

How to Train Your Dragon: How to Be a Pirate by Cressida Cowell

How to Be a Pirate (How to Train Your Dragon #2)
Cressida Cowell
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Published February 1, 2010 (orig. 2004)

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About How to Be a Pirate

When Hiccup finds a coffin at sea, he opens it to discover a riddle that will lead to the treasure of Grimbeard the Ghastly, the world’s greatest pirate and Hiccup’s ancestor. So Hiccup and his friends set out on a treasure hunt, determined to master the art of swordfighting. How else will they escape an island of murderous dragons, defeat a boatload of Viking pirates, and survive all the twists and turns their journey will bring?

Join Hiccup and his friends on another rollicking illustrated adventure, and discover the brilliant combination of magic, action, humor, and heart that has made Cressida Cowell a beloved bestseller around the globe.

My Review

My only complaint about this book is that there are practically no female characters at all. There are maybe a couple references to female characters in the village, but no one of note and none involved in resolving the plot of the story. It’s also an entirely white cast. I’m not at all sure of the history of Vikings and whether there are simple/creative ways to incorporate BIPOC into the story and what those might be.

That said, HOW TO BE A PIRATE is another wild and wacky adventure starring Hiccup and his dragon Toothless. There’s no overlap between this story and the second HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON movie. It’s an entirely different book, as the title suggests.

At first, it seems Hiccup is outmatched and ill-equipped for the Viking challenges before him. He’s both terrible at swordplay and at an apparent disadvantage with Toothless as his dragon to hunt for treasure.

As the story progresses, Hiccup faces challenges that require more than brute strength and a dragon with a super-sniffer. As with the first book in the series, it’s here that Hiccup finds his opportunity to shine.

Toothless is still my favorite character, though he’s totally different than the dragon in the movie. He’s kind of goofy and irascible but smart. He and Hiccup make a comedic pair, but they also have a great bond which shows when things get dicey.

All in all, I enjoyed this book. I don’t know that I’ll read the rest of the series, but I can definitely see why they’re so lasting and popular.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 8 to 12.

Representation
Characters are white Vikings.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Some crude references to passing gas.

Romance/Sexual Content
None.

Spiritual Content
Brief references to Valhalla.

Violent Content
Situations of peril and battle scenes. One human character threatens to eat other human characters.

Drug Content
None.

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Review: Daughter of the Siren Queen by Tricia Levenseller

Daughter of the Siren Queen (Daughter of the Pirate King #2)
Tricia Levenseller
Feiwel & Friends
Published February 27, 2018

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About Daughter of the Siren Queen

Alosa’s mission is finally complete. Not only has she recovered all three pieces of the map to a legendary hidden treasure, but the pirates who originally took her captive are now prisoners on her ship. Still unfairly attractive and unexpectedly loyal, first mate Riden is a constant distraction, but now he’s under her orders. And she takes great comfort in knowing that the villainous Vordan will soon be facing her father’s justice.

When Vordan exposes a secret her father has kept for years, Alosa and her crew find themselves in a deadly race with the feared Pirate King. Despite the danger, Alosa knows they will recover the treasure first . . . after all, she is the daughter of the Siren Queen.

My Review

I finally read the first book in this series a few months ago, and I knew it couldn’t be long before I read the second (and final) one. I really wanted to know how things progressed with the quest to reach the island where Alosa’s mother, the Siren Queen was rumored to live. I desperately wanted to know what would happen between her and Riden. And I was very eager for a confrontation between Alosa and her father, because that definitely needed to happen!

The story scratched all those itches for me, and for the most part, I felt like they all exceeded my expectations. The only thing that felt a little bit underwhelming for me had to do with Alosa’s mom. I think I was expecting her to be… more something. Complicated? Morally gray?

She definitely is not a morally pure character, as she’s a siren and behaves as sirens in this story universe do. (See content notes below.) So it wasn’t that she was pure. I guess maybe I just found it a little weird that she was also sort of scripted as the perfect, loving mother in some ways? I don’t know. For sure I read the first scene with her in it and was like, wait, that’s her mom?

On the whole, though, I enjoyed the story. I appreciated that the sirens’ behavior is more strongly condemned in this book than in the first one. And I loved seeing both Riden and Alosa grow as characters and find their way through personal battles and issues to figure out what they wanted from each other.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 14 up.

Representation
Major characters are white.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Strong profanity used infrequently.

Romance/Sexual Content
Kissing between boy and girl. She takes of his shirt. In one scene, it’s clear they intend to have sex.

There are also some sexual comments about both women and men.

Spiritual Content
Alosa’s mother is a siren, and she herself possesses the ability to sing and command men to do as she wants them to. All sirens have that power.

Violent ContentContent warning for rape.
Sirens desire to drag men under the water, rape them and murder them. It’s discussed but not shown on scene. There are scenes in which sirens drag men under water with them and disappear into the ocean.

There are also several scenes showing some pretty gruesome violence/torture. Someone shoots prisoners trying to make another prisoner tell secrets in order to save others. Some mentions of childhood abuse. They’re brief, but pretty intense.

Drug Content
One character is an alcoholic and gives up drinking. Alosa keeps a supply of rum on the ship and rations it out to her crew.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog.

Review: Pirate Queens by Leigh Lewis

Pirate Queens
Leigh Lewis
Illustrated by
National Geographic Kids
Published January 11, 2022

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads

About Pirate Queens

This wow-worthy book proves that women have been making their mark in all aspects of history―even the high seas!

Meet Ching Shih, a Chinese pirate who presided over a fleet of 80,000 men (by contrast, Blackbeard had some 300). Get the scoop on Anne Bonny who famously ran away from an arranged marriage to don trousers and brandish a pistol in the Bahamas. And there are more!

Each pirate profile includes a dramatic original poem presented against a backdrop of gorgeous full-color art by award-winning illustrator Sara Gómez Woolley. Each profile is followed by fascinating information about the real life and times of these daring (and dangerous!) women.

Vetted by the world’s leading pirate experts and historians, this book is a cool and edgy gift. It’s also perfect for any curious kid who dreams of adventure and for parents who are eager to show their tweens and teens that history is more diverse, daring, and surprising than what is typically found in textbooks.

My Review

What a cool idea for a book! I had no idea there were female pirate captains, much less that there were so many or that one commanded 80,000 pirates. Wowza.

I like that the author included a note at the beginning of the book talking about why she wrote the book. Basically, her daughters were playing a game and she discovered that they were all thinking of pirates as only men. She wondered if there were female pirates, and from there, the book was born. I also like that she clarifies that this book isn’t to glorify the piracy or romanticize what is a violent life. It’s about bringing to light stories of powerful women who history may have otherwise forgotten.

The book is divided up into six biographies: Artemisia of Caria, Sela, Sayyida al Hurra, Grace O’Malley, Anne Bonny, and Ching Shih. Each biography features a poem telling the story of a critical moment in the pirate captain’s life followed by historical information. I learned a lot of things, and I’m really excited to have read this book.

I think PIRATE QUEENS would make a great addition to a library or classroom, and it’s a great nonfiction book for readers who love seafaring adventures.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 8 to 12.

Representation
Details the lives of six pirate queens. One is Chinese. One is Muslim and Moroccan.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
None.

Romance/Sexual Content
Reference to marriages.

Spiritual Content
Sayyida al Hurra was a Muslim who grew up in Spain when its rulers forced Muslims out of their homes. As a pirate, she specifically sought out Christian vessels as revenge for how she and her people were treated.

Violent Content
References to battles and stealing/looting. References to execution.

Drug Content
None.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog. I received a free copy of PIRATE QUEENS in exchange for my honest review.

Review: Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller

Daughter of the Pirate King
Tricia Levenseller
Feiwel & Friends
Published February 28th 2017

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads

About Daughter of the Pirate King

There will be plenty of time for me to beat him soundly once I’ve gotten what I came for.

Sent on a mission to retrieve an ancient hidden map—the key to a legendary treasure trove—seventeen-year-old pirate captain Alosa deliberately allows herself to be captured by her enemies, giving her the perfect opportunity to search their ship.

More than a match for the ruthless pirate crew, Alosa has only one thing standing between her and the map: her captor, the unexpectedly clever and unfairly attractive first mate, Riden. But not to worry, for Alosa has a few tricks up her sleeve, and no lone pirate can stop the Daughter of the Pirate King.

My Review

I really enjoyed a lot of things about this book. First, I loved Alosa. She’s fierce and smart and knows how to bide her time and wait for the right moments to do what she needs to do. I also loved Riden. He’s so conflicted, so caught between what he wants and protecting people he cares about and doing the right thing. But he’s also a pirate, so kind of unpredictable, definitely living by his own code of ethics. Once I understood how that code worked, I was a huge fan of him.

So… consent stuff. Alosa is a captive aboard a pirate ship. She arranges for herself to be captured and makes it clear (to the reader) that she can come and go from her cell pretty much at will. When she experiences a romantic advance from one of the other pirates, it’s not clear whether she wants him to behave like he does. I guess it’s clear she could stop him if she wanted to, but it felt a little weird to me. Maybe I’ve just come to appreciate the recent books where consent is made really clear.

There’s also some backstory referring to the way sirens treat their victims that isn’t ever really addressed in the story. At one point, a character comments on the sirens’ behavior (See below for details.) and Alosa kind of dismisses it like, yeah, but the pirates had harmful intentions, too. I don’t know. I wish the book addressed this in the story more clearly.

Conclusion

Aside from that, I liked a lot of other things– the adventure on a pirate ship, the enemies to lovers romance, the banter between characters, and the fierce heroine. I want to read the second book in this duology, DAUGHTER OF THE SIREN QUEEN. Some of the reviews on Goodreads indicate that this book better addresses consent issues.

Readers who enjoyed SIEGE AND STORM by Leigh Bardugo or IMPRISON THE SKY by A. C. Gaughen will like this one.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 14 up.

Representation
Major characters are white.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Strong profanity used infrequently.

Romance/Sexual ContentTrigger Warning for Mentions of Rape
A pirate captain implies that he will let his crew rape Alosa. One of the crew members is a serial rapist. He stands guard over Alosa’s cell and continually leers at her. He reaches into the cell (she stands out of his reach but is unable to sleep while he’s there.). At one point he grabs her and licks her neck.

Sirens live in the ocean, but journey to the surface to capture men before dragging them to the bottom of the sea, raping, and killing them. The story states this more than once, but no graphic description.

Kissing between a boy and girl. It’s an enemies to lovers situation, and it’s not really clear if some of the kisses/touches are welcome or not. I had weird feelings about it.

Spiritual Content
Sirens are powerful beings whose song controls men.

Violent Content
Graphic battle violence. Some scenes include references to torture and some descriptions of it.

Drug Content
One pirate is clearly an alcoholic. There’s reference to others drinking alcohol, too.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog.

Review: This Golden Flame by Emily Victoria

This Golden Flame
Emily Victoria
Inkyard Press
Published February 2, 2021

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indiebound | Goodreads

About This Golden Flame

Orphaned and forced to serve her country’s ruling group of scribes, Karis wants nothing more than to find her brother, long ago shipped away. But family bonds don’t matter to the Scriptorium, whose sole focus is unlocking the magic of an ancient automaton army.

In her search for her brother, Karis does the seemingly impossible—she awakens a hidden automaton. Intelligent, with a conscience of his own, Alix has no idea why he was made. Or why his father—their nation’s greatest traitor—once tried to destroy the automatons.

Suddenly, the Scriptorium isn’t just trying to control Karis; it’s hunting her. Together with Alix, Karis must find her brother…and the secret that’s held her country in its power for centuries.

My Review

I think this book was pretty good. I struggled with a few things, but it’s hard to tell if they’re personal issues or problems with the story. I’ll explain, but I want to talk about the good stuff first.

So first, I enjoyed the setting. Something about it felt vaguely Roman (oops– it’s based on Ancient Greece, so not Roman!) to me. I loved the pirate crew and especially Zara, with her no-nonsense, never-give-up sensibilities. I liked the friendship between Karis and Alix, and the way she identified with him and his past as well as her love for her brother.

All that said, I struggled a bit with Alix’s character. In the story, there are giant machines called automatons that have been lying dormant for a long time, and the people holding Karis captive have been studying them, trying to figure out how to get them working again. In general, it seems like they have kind of an interactive book that can be used to control them. Write a command, and the automaton will execute that command. So they’re kind of like robots operated with magic??

Except then, enter Alix, who is similar to an automaton, but not?? Because he has a personality and LOTS of emotions and the ability to think for himself and choose his own actions. He still has a book that can be used to control him, though.

I guess, I felt like I didn’t really get what he was supposed to be. I kept expecting him to be more like a high level android, with internal calculations and limits and maybe emotions layered on top of that? But it seemed like, no, he was really supposed to be exactly like a person, but also an automaton.

It felt confusing to me. I don’t know if my expectations got in the way of the story or if more explanation would have been helpful? I’m not really sure. But it definitely became an obstacle to me enjoying the story.

Other than that, I enjoyed the story, though, and I thought it was great to see a book focus on a friendship relationship rather than a romance and to center an aromantic asexual character. I thought that was very nicely done.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 12 up.

Representation
The main character identifies as aromantic asexual. One minor character is nonbinary. Another is gay. Other minor characters represent different races and cultures.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
None.

Romance/Sexual Content
Brief kissing between boy and girl. One boy identifies another boy as his lover.

Spiritual Content
Some characters have the ability to read or write magic runes that have an effect on objects and automatons around them.

Violent Content
Some reference to human slavery. A couple brief battle scenes.

Drug Content
The captain purchases a round of drinks for the crew at a tavern. (What they drink isn’t specified.)

Note: I received a free copy of THIS GOLDEN FLAME in exchange for my honest review. This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support running this blog.

Review: Starflight by Melissa Landers

Starflight
Melissa Landers
Disney-Hyperion
Published February 2, 2016

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indiebound | Goodreads

About Starflight

Life in the outer realm is a lawless, dirty, hard existence, and Solara Brooks is hungry for it. Just out of the orphanage, she needs a fresh start in a place where nobody cares about the engine grease beneath her fingernails or the felony tattoos across her knuckles. She’s so desperate to reach the realm that she’s willing to indenture herself to Doran Spaulding, the rich and popular quarterback who made her life miserable all through high school, in exchange for passage aboard the spaceliner Zenith.

When a twist of fate lands them instead on the Banshee, a vessel of dubious repute, Doran learns he’s been framed on Earth for conspiracy. As he pursues a set of mysterious coordinates rumored to hold the key to clearing his name, he and Solara must get past their enmity to work together and evade those out for their arrest. Life on the Banshee may be tumultuous, but as Solara and Doran are forced to question everything they once believed about their world—and each other—the ship becomes home, and the eccentric crew family. But what Solara and Doran discover on the mysterious Planet X has the power to not only alter their lives, but the existence of everyone in the universe…

My Review

I’ve had this book on my list for SO LONG. It was really nice to finally get around to reading it, and so rewarding, since I loved it!

STARFLIGHT definitely has that FIREFLY vibe to it– making it on the frontier of space, passengers on a ship on the run from authorities. It’s an upbeat, fun, enemies-to-lovers story that is absolutely what I needed right now to distract me from more serious day-to-day life.

I liked that all of the characters were more than they seemed. I felt like Melissa Landers took some of the usual space characters and added twists and secrets. I loved the crew of the Banshee and the banter and relationships between them.

If you’re looking for a fun, light sci-fi with a great cast of characters and lots of banter, add this one to your reading list!

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 14 up.

Representation
One character is bisexual.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Mild profanity used infrequently.

Romance/Sexual Content
Kissing between boy and girl. References to sex. Scenes leading up to sex.

Spiritual Content
None.

Violent Content
Battle violence and situations of peril. References to torture.

Drug Content
Some scenes show or reference drinking alcohol.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support the costs of running this blog.