A brilliantly novel that raised the bar on pirate fiction to new heights for all the right reasons. This novel will make its way to the Top 10 of many pirate-novel fans!
Edward Thatcher, also known as Blackbeard, British Navy privateer turned pirate, controlled the Atlantic and the Caribbean during the Golden Age of Piracy. Both a hero and a villain of his time, Blackbeard became one of the first American revolutionaries in the War of Independence against the British. But who was he before Blackbeard, the most known pirate of the seas? This is the true story of the honourable man that masterfully dodged his obsessed pursuer, Alexander Spotswood, Virginia’s governor, became the most feared pirate to conquer both Atlantic and Pacific.
I can’t even put into words how much I enjoyed this novel. If I could give it more than five stars, I would.
As the reader follows both the perspectives of Blackbeard and Alexander, the reader is taken deep into the adventure marked by both determination and obsession in this cat-and-mouse game across the seas. The pace starts slow but picks up the pace, especially in the third part of the novel. I couldn’t put it down.
The novel starts with a detailed presentation of Edward Thatch, his life and values, portraying him as a hero before he became the evil pirate that he’s still known for nowadays. Pirates were paid by the British settlers in the New World to attack French and Spanish ships, something that Blackbeard was accustomed to doing. Only later, alliances shifted. The common dislike for the rule of King George of the House of Hanover the growing desire to see James III from the House of Stuart in his place fuelled a revolution that turned the ties in favour of the New World. As the rich became richer and the common folk paid the price, Blackbeard turned against the British taking the fortune of the rich and distributing it fairly amongst the people. Since the beginning, however, the man was known for his charisma, leadership and the way he swiftly attacked ships avoiding deadly confrontations for both his crew and the adversary. He treated everyone equally, no matter the colour of their skin or background. His men were proud to work with and for him. Surprisingly, by the end, he made choices that I definitely wasn’t expecting from him.
The way Samuel Marquis describes the life of Blackbeard and his crew, I could almost smell the salty waters and feel the fresh breeze. At the same time, he smoothly makes clear that those who became pirates had political, economic motivations and a deep love of freedom. He jumps from scene to scene connecting you to the story and its numerous characters with perfect ease, giving you just enough time to process all the details and information and fully visualise the settings.
The style of writing is incredible, Marquis found the perfect balance between historical facts, and fiction, bringing it together with a solid historical base and a beautiful, melodically and addictive style that makes you want to stay and sail the seas in it. I was amazed at the number of true facts the author embedded and I must admit I questioned myself which ones were true and which ones were fiction. Marquis mixed everything so perfectly, that it’s hard to distinguish what’s real and what’s not.
As you might have figured out, Blackbeard isn’t the villain of this story. Alexander Spotswood, Virginia’s lieutenant is the opposite of Blackbeard. A vindictive and tyrannical man, disliked by the members of his colony, obsessed in capturing the notorious privateer-turned-pirate to gain the favour of England, Alexander his known for his thirst for power and dominance. Marquis did an incredible job with this character and his build-up; he’s the perfect villain of this Golden Age of Piracy and the representation of the beliefs that the founders of the future United States would go against. Other characters like Steede Bonnet, a man that gave up his plantations in Barbados to make a life at sea (despite knowing next-to-nothing about it), give an extra touch of “human” to the story, making the story jump out of its pages. Marquis is a master of character building!
Buying a paper version of this novel is on my priority books-to-buy list! My recommendation? Read it, read it, read it! It’s a brilliant novel that will freshen up the lives of all pirate fans!
Thank you NetGalley, the publisher Mount Sopris Publishing and the author for allowing me to read and review a digital copy of this book.