Sunday, July 13, 2008

“Mad Kestrel” by Misty Massey

A rip-roaring pirate romance and mystery In a world where infants with magical powers are torn from their parents to be raised by the mysterious and powerful Danisoba, who have a monopoly on magic, Kestrel has managed to keep her abilities concealed--and herself free. First hiding in back alleys as a street urchin, she hid when they killed her parents, and then served as a young tavern maid before escaping to sea, where magic is cancelled by water. Now an adult, as the quartermaster of a pirate ship, Kestrel loves the freedom of living on the seas. But her way of life could end if anyone on board learns her closely guarded secret--that she has magical control over the wind. One day a black ship appears, and her life changes. Its captain is a handsome rogue of whom Kestrel is strangely, constantly aware. When Kestrel's captain is led into a trap and is arrested, she gathers her crew and sets sail in relentless pursuit. . . .
I am really stymied about exactly what to say about this book. The action is pretty much pell mell, the narrative and main character well drawn but… most of the remaining cast are one-dimensional and in some cases outright caricatures (wenches, blue-coats, henchmen, etc). The whole package came off as a sort of PG rated Disney interpretation of a pirate fantasy. Kind of like old Errol Flynn swashbucklers with wonderful fight and battle scenes where people die but nobody bleeds. Almost like a serious Saturday morning cartoon except even then there are seemingly comic moments that I am not sure were intended to be comic. A scene with the dastardly prince near the end comes to mind. Does anyone believe a pirate actual says “land lubber”?

If this had been written as a pastiche or comic homage a la Princess Bride I would get it. Perhaps this was intended originally as a YA novel that the publisher decided to put in the adult market instead. Whenever the bad guys came on stage I felt like blowing a raspberry in their face and saying “Oh you are so scary!” Not. I liked the book but it simply lacked any edge whatsoever and surely a good pirate fantasy deserves more. Recommended for the kids and very kind gentle souls.


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