Reviewer: Jerome Griffin
The story follows the adventures of Alex, an orphan of pirates, as he returns to the sea on board The Kestrel as a cabin boy. On land, due to his parentage, he found himself shunned by polite society and so he joined a gang of miscreants and vagabonds. Two of the gang, Kitty and Sam, join him “on account” aboard The Kestrel seeking a life of excitement and freedom having outgrown the confines of small town Barretstowe.
Led by their charismatic captain, Nathaniel and his fiery, tempestuous first mate, Vesta, the three new crew mates are plunged into the deep end of pirate life in a heartbeat and learn that they need to adjust quickly in order to survive. They soon realise that the life of a pirate isn’t all pillage, plunder and rum, and that there’s more to their captain than meets the eye.
As well as an entertaining plot, Sewell has created a layered work of historical fiction that picks at numerous unsavoury social themes of the day. The prevalence of prostitution, ubiquity of homeless street urchins and an unforgiving and cruel penal system are just a few of the commonplace and accepted issues she explores.
If I have a criticism of The Kestrel at all, it is that the crew's enemies, particularly the Vliets, could have had a little more depth. Everyone loves a good, well developed bad guy and I just felt that Sewell could have done more here. By the same token, I have a feeling that one of the peripheral characters who was introduced late in the day could prove to be a worthy and despicable nemesis of Nathaniel through the rest of the series.
I guess I'll just have to wait for the next instalment to find out. And I'm looking forward to it already!
You’ll enjoy this if you like: Pirates, Patrick O’Brian and historical fiction.
Avoid if you dislike: Light reading
Ideal accompaniments: Sea breeze, an ocean view and rum, rum and more rum!
Genre: Historical fiction, adventure