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The History of Maritime Piracy

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

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Books for Adults ~ Historical Fiction: Pirates & Privateers

Cover Art: Tread Carefully on the Sea
Tread Carefully on the Sea
By David K. Bryant
Solstice, 2014, ISBN 978-1625261410, US $19.99
Also available in e-book format

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After reading Treasure Island, Bryant always wondered about Captain Flint, a pirate who appears only in the reminiscences of other pirates in Robert Louis Stevenson’s tale. Who was he? How did Long John Silver lose his leg, or Old Pew become blind? Why did Billy Bones have Flint’s treasure map? These questions led to this novel, Tread Carefully on the Sea – a swashbuckling adventure in which readers learn the answers to these questions.

Long ago in Jamaica, on the evening of 23 August 1749 to be precise, mischief is afoot. Governor Edward Tremayne throws a party to celebrate his adopted daughter’s twenty-first birthday. Except Jessica fails to attend. Long John Silver and other pirates, including two turncoats within the governor’s household, have spirited away her and her maid, Libby. Tremayne has until the next morning to deliver the ransom payment – alone – or he’ll not see the captives alive ever again.

Captain Michael Townsend of HMS Ambitious has been courting Jessica, although he’s reluctant to entrust his heart to her. His wife and son died during his absence, and he’s long blamed himself for their deaths. Accompanying him to the party is Lieutenant Patrick O’Hara, a former boxer who has stood by his captain’s side through thick and thin. Before they arrive at the governor’s mansion, pirates waylay them. Although they initially escape, they end up running straight into Silver and end up as prisoners again.

The best laid plans never go as planned. Tremayne appears with the ransom on time, but a burglary at the local gunsmith’s arsenal brings that man and his sons to the same tavern at the same time. Believing the governor is up to some trickery, Silver and his men abscond with the treasure and their four captives. The kidnapping should have been a simple affair, but with matters gone awry, the pirates and the prisoners end up on the deck of the Walrus, and Captain Flint is none too pleased to see his men or the prisoners. Yet this most infamous and dangerous of pirates treats the unexpected arrivals as his guests, and even Jessica’s cheekiness amuses him . . . for a time. He’s also delighted to see Townsend, an old school mate from his childhood.

Looks are deceiving and time is running out. Jessica, Michael, Libby, and Patrick know they must escape. But how? They’re in the middle of the ocean aboard a pirate ship where the scoundrels greatly outnumber them. There’s also a growing undercurrent of discontent flittering through the crew, instigated by Flint’s second mate. If the four captives are still aboard when the mutiny begins, they know exactly what awaits each of them. The miraculous appearance of the Ambitious provides them with a chance, a slim and risky one – if they can convince one of the pirates to help them.

Fans of Stevenson’s novel will delight in meeting Silver, Pew, Bones, and many other characters earlier in their lives, before tragedies befall Silver and Pew. The only flaws – minor ones to be sure – are the occasional and unnecessary repetition of information already revealed, and the manner in which part of the hunt for Flint unfolds five years after the kidnapping since much of that distances readers from the story, rather than allowing them to “be present” as that event unfolds. In spite of these, Bryant spins a most piratical and compelling prequel to Treasure Island. If you’ve not yet read that book, I heartily endorse the advice at the end of the preview of Tread Carefully on the Sea:
The crisis was over. Those fifteen pirates were on their way to another story. It’s one you should read if you enjoy great adventures.

But please read this one first. (12)
If you have read Treasure Island, Bryant provides satisfying and astounding answers to all the questions you may have about Flint and his treasure. The manipulations of Flint and his second mate are truly piratical, and Silver’s habit of playing both sides of the fence shows just how he’s able to wend his way through the slippery world of scoundrels. The final meeting between Flint and Townsend is inventive and unusual.

Review Copyright ©2015 Cindy Vallar

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