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


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Cover Art:
          The Black Ship
The Black Ship
By Diana Pharaoh Francis
Bell Bridge, 2014, ISBN 978-1-61194-546-1, $16.95
eBook ISBN 978-1-61194-528-7, $6.99

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Having gone out of his way not to make friends and to create enemies within his guild, Sylbrac has become ďdispensable.Ē They sell him to crimpers, who deliver him to the black ship Eidolon. Given a choice to go free or sail as the pilot of this illegal ship, he chooses to join the smugglers, for that is the only way he will learn the truth about his brotherís murder. With nothing left for him at Crosspointe, he sheds his identity for the third time and takes the name ďThornĒ because heís often described as being a thorn in various areas of anatomy.

It is a mixed crew of unlucky and superstitious men and women who serve aboard Eidolon. Coupled with Thornís black cat, a mad captain, and four charmers (men who have survived three shipwrecks), they expect bad luck on this cruise and undercurrents of mutiny ripple through them. Most pilots care nothing for their crews, but not Thorn. If they are to succeed in delivering the cargo secreted in the hold within six sennights, the crew must mesh into a cohesive unit. Thorn knows of only one way to achieve this; he challenges the captain to a daring race up and down the icy main mast.

While someone has paid high sums to see this voyage succeed, there are others who will do whatever is necessary to prevent Eidolon from reaching her destination. Even before they leave the safety of the hidden cove, they are beset by river pyrates and someone sabotages the water supply. Once the ship reaches the high seas, there are even more dangers: a fiercesome storm, deadly knucklebone weirs that can shred the bottom of the ship, swarms of hungry vescies seeking their next meal, and a surge so powerful it can swallow a ship whole. Then there are the Jutras, who fire upon Eidolon to murder or enslave Thorn and his shipmates. But the greatest danger comes from within, for there is an assassin on board whose express purpose is to kill Thorn. The only way for him to survive is to trust a renegade pyrate captain, but she is a Jutras and he has no reason to trust her or the bargain they forge.

This is the second novel in the Crosspointe series, but readers need not have read the first book to understand what happens. Francis seamlessly interweaves the necessary backstory into the narrative where itís needed and only in such detail as to firmly ground the reader. The author also includes maps and a glossary to further orient the reader. While Sylbrac almost alienates readers as mightily has he does his fellow pilots, once he becomes Thorn, his personality changes and readers experience the tenuous threads that eventually mature into unlikely, but real, friendships that provide him with an anchor and a sense of family that heís never had before. The storyís pace is slow to start, but once Thorn is born, the action mirrors a roller coaster from which readers canít escape until the story ends. Francisís ability to craft a believable world that is reminiscent of the Age of Discovery is superb, and she skillfully blends magic, fantasy, and nautical adventure into a compelling story.

One caution: readers seeking a neatly tied bow that solves all the mystery and leaves everyone living happily ever after wonít find it here. She does resolve many of the subplots, but not necessarily as fully as one might wish. After all, this is a series and youíll have to read the next book to find out what happens. But the tale she spins around Thorn and the spidery complications surrounding this voyage will ensnare readers so thoroughly they will eagerly await The Turning Tide. Just to whet the appetite, the publishers have included an excerpt of this book at the end of The Black Ship.


Review Copyrighted ©2015 Cindy Vallar
 

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