Sunday, 18 July 2010

Dread Pirate Fleur and the Hangman's Noose by Sara Starbuck (Children's, 9 years +, 10E/10E)

1st July 2010, Random House Children's Books
368 pages, Paperback
Review copy

Summary from Random House Children's Books 

Fleur has been reunited with the crew of the pirate ship the Black Dragon, and is especially happy to be home with her best friend Tom and her gruff uncle William the Heartless. They set sale for the Americas, a continent in the suspicious grip of the infamous witch trials at Salem. When Fleur discovers her mother - who she has long believed dead - is on trial for witchcraft, she mounts a daring rescue mission, which results in William being captured and transported to London to the Tyburn gallows.
Fleur knows she must do everything in her power to save him, and captains the Black Dragon on its most treacherous journey yet. But dealing with rough waters and an ambush from the Royal Navy is nothing compared to the danger posed by her own mother Rose, the ultimate in unscrupulous pirate queens..

It's a book about a girl pirate! Yay! For me, pirates beat vampires (unless we're talking Vampirates), especially female pirates. Fleur has a semi-magically connection to her weapon of choice: a staff. I think the background to the Hart staff was possibly mentioned in the previous book, Dread Pirate Fleur and the Ruby Heart but I haven't read it yet so I can't say for sure. Either way I wouldn't mess with Fleur when she has that staff in her hand! Her adventure gets a bit hair raising when she is surrounded by a mass of enemies. Sometimes it is better to retreat and fight another day (with the help of distractions). Fleur can be stubborn, but her friends help her see sense.

I felt totally at home in Fleur's life. I felt like I knew the crew already. Her uncle treats her fairly, and is quite sweet when he gives the occasional compliment. It is completely understandable why Fleur feels so awful when he is captured: after all, it was she who wanted to find her mother. Her uncle has reasons why he wasn't so keen on meeting up with her mother. Fleur finds it hard to adjust to her mother being back in her life. She has this image of how her mother should have been, and it doesn't quite match up to her expectation.

What makes it worse is that she has to deal with this while being the temporary captain of the ship. The crew aren't wholeheartedly behind her captaincy. Fleur struggles to gain their respect - respect is much different from companionship. Fleur learns that in leadership roles, alongside responsibility comes loneliness - people don't always like the decisions that have to be made. She has a lot of conflict with her own friends, both from their own problems and from the other mysterious person who is a newcomer to the ship. This definitely is tougher than the battle with the Royal Navy, which does eventually have a happy-ish ending.

There's plenty of humour, action, intrigue, mystery and drama in this story - everything that I enjoy and more. Including the cover! Good colour scheme, and highly appealing. I'm looking forward to more adventures from Fleur (which should happen given part of the storyline!)

For more pirate action (with strong female and male protagonists) try the Vampirate series which starts with Demons of the Ocean, by Justin Somper

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