What we thought: Ebbing Tides, the second instalment in the Black Feather Trilogy, is much darker and more sinister than the first novel, The Kestrel, and plots a course for Alex and his crewmates into the murky waters of uncharted territory.
The story opens with an unexpected and unwanted surprise: Captain Nathaniel Winters has disappeared and been replaced by the callous, vindictive and largely incompetent Captain Grahams. With nepotism being alive and well, Grahams has hand-picked a number of sycophantic associates to join the officers and crew on board and this motley collection of cretins and thugs see to it that the original crew are kept in check.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, The Kestrel is being hunted by the Vliet brothers looking for revenge, as well as the ghost of a ship that they had previously sunk. As the stakes rise and the new captain’s ineptitude leads to one disastrous decision after another, the original crew begin to plot a mutiny led by the fiery Vesta Calida.
The volatile former first mate, who has been demoted to the rank of quartermaster under the command of Grahams, really comes into her own in this book and her strength and courage continually shine through her battle-scarred body. She leads by example and intelligence and uses her expertise as a sailor to protect her crew and get them through many a sticky situation.
In the meantime, Alex and Kitty’s friendship blossoms into something more and adds depth to their characters. Indeed, one of Sewell’s strengths as an author is relationship development and she delicately plucks at the reader’s empathy strings with all the main characters.
In contrast to The Kestrel, Ebbing Tides has less action, but greater tension, which makes for a more gripping read. The plot and drama are still there, and even though it always feels as though it is the middle of the story, it still moves on apace and keeps the wind in its sails. In many ways, it put me in mind of The Empire Strikes Back as the real meat in the Star Wars story, with Ebbing Tides fulfilling a similar role in the Black Feather tale.
If the finale can deliver a Return of the Jedi, F.K. Sewell will have delivered a wonderfully accomplished saga.
You’ll enjoy this if you like: Pirate tales and strong female characters.
Avoid if you dislike: Adventure series
Ideal accompaniments: Spiced rum punch and winter warming stew!
Genre: Historical fiction, adventure