Sunday, July 3, 2011

On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers


Historical Fiction / Fantasy / Sci-Fi (322 pgs.)


Aboard the Vociferous Carmichael pupeteer John Chandagnac is sailing towards Jamaica to claim his stolen birthright from an unscrupulous uncle when the vessel is captured... by pirates! Offered a choice by Captain Phil Davies to join their seafaring band or die, Chandagnac assumes the name John Shandy and a new life as a brigand. But more than swash-buckling sea battles and fabulous plunder await the novice buccanneer on the roiling Caribbean waters--for treachery and powerful vodun sorcery are coins of the realm in this dark new world. And for the love of the beautiful, magically imperiled Beth Hurwood, Shandy will set sail on even stranger tides, following the savage, ghost-infested pirate king Blackbeard and a motley crew of the living and the dead to the cursed nightmare banks on the fabled Fountain of Youth.


When I found out that the newest installment of Pirates of the Caribbean had been inspired by a book, let's just say I was down at my local Border's before you could say "Bring me that horizon." It is easy to see why Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio (screenwriters for Pirates) used this book as "inspiration." The story is filled with high seas adventure and paranormal magic, two ingredients that made the Pirates series so incredibly popular.

This book, to put it frankly, was brilliant fun. The story was original and fast-paced, the characters well-written, and the detail flawless. I even found that Powers' detail when describing the pirate ships had me reaching for my laptop, frantically Google searching words like "mizzen mast" and "gunwale." A little over-educated in the maritime department for me, but I got along just as well.

Onto the characters. Our protagonist, Jack Shandy, aptly fits the characteristics of a slightly more-piraty William Turner. Handsome, simple, and someone who eventually succumbs to the life of a pirate. His love for the damsel in distress, Beth Hurwood, literally drives him across oceans. I was rooting for him the entire novel. SO many things got in the way of his rescuing Beth, I was ready to pull my hair out. But finally, they find each other. I absolutely loved that part of the story.

Powers did a good job writing the character of our main villain, Mr. Hurwood, Beth's father. After the loss of his wife, Hurwood will not stop until he had evicted his own daughter's soul from her body and replaced it with the soul of his dead wife. Pure evil, right? I sure thought so.

It was brilliant how Powers used the concept of vodun magic to explain famous events in piratical history, such as the death of Blackbeard. Blackbeard only "allowed" the Navy to kill him so he could be reincarnated, as he had spilled blood at the Fountain of Youth. I found Power's abstract concept of this strange magic instilled a sense of "foreverness" among the Golden Age pirate stories... that they truly will never die, and that their spirit will live on forever.

The action going on in this story blew me away. The sea battles were uber intense! A little gory, but hey, what do you think happens when you shoot someone with a pistol? The sense of adventure was strong and true throughout the entire novel.

All in all, if you are a fan of anything pirate, you must read this book! Tim Powers did an excellent job of bringing archaic pirates to life. This novel is action-packed, full of romance and strange magic, which ended up being a recipe for success! This is the ultimate pirate novel. A perfect summer read!



Book #3 in Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

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