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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 - Fiction

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          The Braver Thing
The Braver Thing
By Clifford Jackman
Random House Canada, 2020, ISBN 978-0-7352-8021-2, $18.95
Also available in e-book formats

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Obed Coffin arrives in New Providence in the Bahamas on 21 April 1721. Although a Quaker with a wife and child, he has nowhere else to go. He is a seaman, carpenter, and helmsman, but only one ship seeks enlistments – a vessel of pirates, or so rumors go. The perfect place for the damned. But how can the crew trust a sober man?

He once sailed with Blackbeard, but took the king’s pardon. Now, James Kavanagh (also known as the Taoisach) has purchased the governor’s ship and is fitting it out for a long voyage. The destination is secret, but the scurvy men who vie for a place among the crew have a past that suggests this voyage will not be conducting normal trade.

Among those lucky, or perhaps unlucky, enough to gain a berth are an uneasy mix. Tom Apollo serves as first mate, but his constant companion, a thin rattan, garners few friends. He uses it not only on himself, but those not quick enough to heed his commands. Bradford Scudder once sailed with Sam Bellamy. He’s a friend of everyone, but the only true friend that Billy Quantrill has. John O’Brien and Robert Dickens both sailed with Charles Vane, so neither is pleased to find the pirate-turned-pirate hunter Benjamin Hornigold aboard, the man they hold responsible for Vane’s hanging. Then there’s Israel Hands, who also sailed with Blackbeard and now serves as Kavanagh’s enforcer.

From the Caribbean to Africa to Madagascar and the Indian Ocean to the Dutch East Indies, these men embark on a two-year voyage from which not all will return. Danger and intrigue lurk within and without. They amass a great hoard of treasure, which eventually turns the hunters into the hunted.

Readers familiar with the golden age of piracy will recognize many of the names and places mentioned in this gripping maelstrom of pirate adventure. Jackman’s knowledge of the time period, the history, and the psyche of these men are so intricately intertwined that readers are transported back in time to experience firsthand just how perilous going on the account could be. Throughout this fictional journey, he keeps within the bounds of history, straying only where facts cease to exist, such as concerns Benjamin Hornigold and what became of him after he disappears from the historical record.

The Braver Thing is one of the best novels to portray pirates in recent years. But, from the reader’s perspective, which is braver: delving into the midst of men bent on a Merry Life where no one trusts anyone, or resisting the allure and never taking the dare?

Review Copyright ©2021 Cindy Vallar
 
   
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