Cindy Vallar, Editor & Reviewer
P.O. Box 425, Keller, TX 76244-0425
Books for Pirate Apprentices and Young Adults
At thirteen, Prince Noa Blackburn has an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and, per his father’s decree, believes magic and mythical creatures are figments of imagination. His younger brother, Dagan, is the polar opposite. He loves adventure, which is just what the two discover when they explore a forbidden beach and find a noose hanging from a tree and a pendant under a skull.
Their discoveries raise questions, but finding answers won’t be easy. They live in Aztrius, a realm comprised of six islands, each with its own king. Their father, King Titus, hates surprises and has instituted rules that he expects his sons to obey. One is that no child is permitted to leave the island. Another is that Noa and Dagan must be escorted everywhere, which is why they make up an imaginary guardian who allows them to go to places they’re not supposed to, such as the forbidden beach.
The arrival of King Edjlin from a neighboring kingdom interrupts the boys’ further investigation into the mysterious pendant. He’s come for the birthday festivities for their sister. During a conch game, Noa witnesses Edjlin meeting with a stranger rather than paying attention to the game. He also overhears a conversation between his father and Edjlin about a map and a battle involving the Death King and his venom.
Shortly before his sister’s birthday ball – a time during which the entire population will be in the castle – Noa and his father argue. Heated words are exchanged and the pendant is confiscated. Angry, Noa flees the castle to find his friend Ayla, the blacksmith’s daughter. An unfamiliar noise raises their curiosity and they find a longboat where it should not be. Then they spy two ships in the harbor, both flying the black flags of pirates! They run to the castle to alert his father, but the attack has already launched and the pirates are closing in. King Titus shoves a map into Noa’s hands and tells him to follow it. There’s no other way to save his father, his sister, and his people. But how can he leave the island and sail into the unknown? How can stop the pirates?
With little choice, Noa and Ayla hurry back to town where they meet Dagan, as well as some boys who favor gambling to hobnobbing with grownups. Together, they devise a plan to elude the pirates and escape the island. There’s just one problem: not all of the boys are Noa’s friends. Some are competitors, who take exception to Noa being in charge. For the risky and daring plan to succeed, they must work together. A slight mistiming results in one of them becoming a sacrificial lamb. Upon discovering Noa’s escape, the pirates are determined to get their hands on the magical map by whatever means necessary.
Sea of Kings is a high-action fantasy for young pirates ages 8-14. There is something for everyone: lies, betrayal, magic, blue men (a type of kelpie), electric octopuses, furry creatures, a vicious one-eyed pirate, a despicable tyrant, fearsome storms, a sea battle, a stowaway, near mutiny, a shipwreck, and an underwater, upside down castle. Humor is also woven into the story, and the stowaway’s sayings – such as “Slap me with cilantro” or “Flour my bottom and stick me in the oven” – will make readers smile. Rather than using many synonyms to refer to the pendant that Noa finds, it would have been better to just use one. This is a small quibble, though, in an otherwise well-paced, absorbing tale that melds magic and knowledge with seemingly-impossible dilemmas from which Noa and his friends must extricate themselves, including being declared pirates themselves.
Review Copyright ©2021 Cindy Vallar
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