(CW: today’s post discusses rape threats and sexual violence at length)
GUESS WHO JUST BUDDY-READ A PIRATE NOVEL?
After the craziness of NaNo, I was looking forward to finishing a fun pirate book I’d had lying around since 2017.
This book, though…
Well, it was an experience.
Two things about this book:
- I really enjoyed it.
- The tone was very inconsistent.
The book opens with our heroine Alosa and her crew fighting off enemy pirates.
Friends and enemies alike get brutally stabbed in the first five pages.
And we’re OFF!
Alosa’s quippiness and nonchalance gave me a good idea of what to expect from the rest of the story; I knew that, in spite of the violence, the story would be a fun ride.
Then the rape threats started.
- I prepped for a fun adventure novel, so I may be suffering from subverted expectations.
- I HATE explicit violence and sexual assault in books. Books that include these things are usually not for me.
Even knowing these things, my feelings about this book are still deeply mixed.
The quickest way to ruin my fun is to bring up sexual violence.
What’s gross, traumatizing, and leveraged against women in fiction?
You guessed it!
From a realism standpoint, the constant threat of rape is something a female pirate would undoubtedly face.
From a genre standpoint, I couldn’t help comparing Daughter of the Pirate King to The Dust of 100 Dogs, a YA pirate book that I read as a tween.
Dust goes the route of gritty realism, with sexual violence, homophobia, and graphic murder.
It sets up this tone early on and doesn’t deviate from it. Dust doesn’t go grimdark, but it’s far from light-hearted.
On the flip side, Daughter initially reminded me more of The Curse of the Black Pearl, a movie that never lost its sense of humor when things got dark. Curse’s overall focus is adventure with some bloodless carnage on the side.
For about 60-70% of its page count, Daughter of the Pirate King operates as a silly, Disney-esque YA adventure. Our heroine keeps outsmarting her captors, even befriend a few of them! What’s this? A romance between Alosa and “evil” first mate Riden? YO HO HO.
Nothing like a rape threat to bring that good feeling crashing down.
Every instance took me out of the story, which was disappointing.
One or two mentions would have felt gratuitous; Daughter contained more than that.
I think these were Levenseller’s way of reminding the reader of the stakes.
Could there, though, have been another, less extreme way to do that?
I did say I liked this novel, didn’t I?
I did like it! Truly!
Daughter of the Pirate King had plenty of positives!
I’m used to literature with reluctant female heroines and/or heroines who pretend to be boys for the bulk of their stories.
Neither is true of this book.
Alosa is a proud pirate, using both violence and persuasion to her advantage.
I cheered when the novel introduced Alosa’s powers of seduction. Yes! Femme fatale pirate! Get ’em!
Alosa even has her own crew! I’m not used to capable female pirate heroines!! This is such a wonderful new experience!!!
A hero/villain ship crops up in the novel and you KNOW I LOVE THOSE. I was charmed.
Levenseller also includes an interesting, fairly well-explained magic system that DELIGHTED me.
This magic system leads to a weird side quest that results in a plot twist I did not see coming.
I had to muffle my astonished screams late at night.
It took me a while to recover.
I would love to see more magic and romance in the sequel.
I do, however, have a few questions about the magical system.
(This section will be particularly spoiler-y, so avert yer eyes, scallawags.)
The novel makes clear that seduction magic only works on straight men; the novel’s one gay male character is immune.
Alosa then mentions that she needs men in her crew who respond to her magic for tracking purposes.
….do you mean to tell me there are no queer women in this universe?
Not a single bi or pan or lesbian lady out here pirating?
Not a one?
Also, though I’m less surprised by this, I’m still curious: does seduction magic work on ace people, too? Or are they also immune?
Alosa doesn’t know the extent of her magic, so perhaps both of these questions will be addressed in the sequel as she learns more about her powers.
As much as I criticized this book, I really enjoyed reading it.
The story is very fast-paced and action-packed and I genuinely didn’t want the book to end.
It’s light and fast enough that I can see myself rereading this for fun.
I would recommend this for fans of Six of Crows or Pirates of the Caribbean.
I’m saving the sequel for February.
I can’t wait!