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Cindy Vallar, Editor & Reviewer
P.O. Box 425, Keller, TX  76244-0425

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Books for Adults - Fiction

Trident            The Pyrate

Cover Art: Trident
By Michael Aye
Biting Duck Press, 2014, print ISBN 978-1-938463-12-9, $20.99
e-book ISBN 978-1-938463-08-2, $9.99

With Britain at war with the American rebels and their French allies, Captain Sir Gabriel Anthony commands HMS Trident, a third rate ship of the line and the flagship of Rear Admiral Rupert Buck’s squadron. Convoy duty can be tedious, but each day brings Gabe closer to Barbados and time off to visit with his wife and newborn son. But duty intervenes, which causes a rift between Gabe and Faith, who sides with her countrymen in their bid for independence. Her threat to take their son home to America weighs heavy on his mind when he should focus on his assignment.

Thus begins Trident, the sixth title in The Fighting Anthonys series. After American privateers steal the army’s payroll, Gabe is tasked with rescuing the British officers imprisoned on St. Croix. Although the Danes claim neutrality in this revolution, they permit the Americans to come and go as they please. Gabe and his men succeed in their mission, but Lord Skalla of the Foreign Office learns from the freed prisoners that the American privateers plan to team up with French warships to prey on British merchant ships in the Indian Ocean. If successful, such a maneuver could devastate the British economy. Rather than patching things up with his wife, Gabe must sail half a world away to stop the enemy.

Three of Aye’s own poems introduce each part of the book, hinting at what is to come. He also includes a who’s who of characters, a glossary of nautical terms, and an historical note, which includes information about the pirates of Madagascar.

Even though I haven't read the previous books in this series, Trident easily works as a stand-alone. Aye vividly recreates life aboard an eighteenth-century warship, but abstains from inundating readers with ship-handling information. He expertly weaves in history and backstory to craft a nautical tale that immediately captures the reader, and his rousing sea battles bring us to the edge of our seats. Trident is a fast-paced, compelling story populated with memorable characters.

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Review Copyrighted ©2014 Cindy Vallar

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Cover Art: The Pyrate
The Pyrate: The Rise of Cooper Cain
By Michael Aye
Boson Books, 2015, ISBN 978-1-938463-26-6, $29.99
e-book ISBN 978-1-938463-27-3, $9.99
His father’s gambling debts have left Cooper Cain beholden to his uncle, but Cooper’s presence gnaws at his jealous cousin. The rift grows until his cousin’s lie rouses his uncle’s ire, leaving eighteen-year-old Cooper with a facial scar and forced to flee his mother and their home. In January 1810, feeling betrayed and vowing revenge, he sails for Antigua where he hopes to one day reclaim his family’s plantation, which his uncle now controls.

Also aboard the ship are David MacArthur, a former lieutenant in the Royal Navy, and the lieutenant governor of Antigua, his wife, and three daughters. The trip proves uneventful until a sail is sighted, and before long, the ship, her crew, and her passengers find themselves at the mercy of pirates. When their captain, Eli Taylor, invites Cooper and Mac to join them, they are reluctant to become outlaws. Only the seizing of two of the governor’s daughters, who are to be held for ransom, sways them to go on the account, if only to protect the girls from harm.

Eli Taylor may be the captain of the Raven and her motley crew of pirates, but he’s also a gentleman. Nevertheless he brooks no disobedience, a lesson Cooper and Mac quickly learn when one pirate goes against the captain’s orders. With the ship’s hold filled to the brim, the pirates head for Barataria to sell their plunder. During the voyage, Eli gauges the mettle and skills of both new recruits, who are treated as outcasts until they prove themselves to be true brethren of the seas. Mac’s training in the navy makes him a skilled navigator and ship’s master, while Cooper’s natural swordsmanship and quick thinking demonstrate his leadership abilities. Perhaps with the right kind of mentoring, he might one day become the Raven’s captain, for Eli wants to retire from pirating and become a respectable member of society.

At Barataria, Jean LaFitte sells their plunder and, while the Ravens disburse to spend their ill-gotten booty, Eli takes Cooper, Mac, and the girls to the home of Cindy Veigh, a respectable lady who will watch over the girls until their ransom is paid. During their stay, Cooper meets the exotic Sophia and falls in love. She is another man’s mistress and Cooper lacks sufficient funds to purchase her contract.

Eli’s legitimate business ventures have made him wealthy and, with his guidance and backing, Cooper pursues his new life in hopes of one day gaining the wealth he requires to reclaim his birthright and to make Sophia his wife. To that end they return to plundering, among which are the merchant ships in his uncle’s fleet. This provides Cooper with the first opportunity to begin wreaking vengeance on his uncle and cousin. But the pirates’ success also brings Cooper new enemies, especially when he thwarts the plans of El Diablo. Doing so makes Cooper a marked man, for this bloodthirsty and cruel pirate promises to make him pay for his interference.

The Pyrate hosts a long list of characters, some of whom are real historical personages, whiles others are fictional. The real smugglers and pirates/privateers of Barataria include Jean and Pierre Laffite, Dominique Youx, Louis “Nez Coupé” Chighizola, Renato Beluche, and Vincent Gambi. The legendary Jose Gaspar also appears. Yet it is the great cast of minor characters – with memorable names like Rooster, Spurlock, and Quang – who truly bring the story to life. A few characters from the Aye’s other series – the Fighting Anthonys and War of 1812 – also make appearances.

The themes that Aye explores in The Pyrate, the first novel in a new historical trilogy, are meant for adults. The topics are authentic and entertaining, but brutal and explicit. Revenge is the one theme that is never fully developed, even though the opening of the story implies it will be a key factor in Cooper’s life.* There are only occasional references to indicate that he achieves some payback against his uncle and cousin, but the confrontational climax fails to occur. In spite of this minor flaw, The Pyrate is filled with action and adventure, as well as a bit of romance, and is sure to please readers who enjoy gritty realism and historical accuracy in their piratical tales.

*Special note: Michael Aye assures me that the revenge theme will be carried out through all three books with Cooper's final blow against his cousin occurring in the final book.

Review Copyrighted ©2015 Cindy Vallar

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