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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 Pirate Apprentices and Young Adults

Cover Art: The Left-Handed Fate
The Left-Handed Fate
By Kate Milford
Illustrated by Eliza Wheeler
Henry Holt, 2016, ISBN 978-0-8050-9800-6, US $16.99 / CAN $23.99
Also available in e-book


June 1812 is a dangerous time for a British privateer, especially the Left-Handed Fate, to put into Baltimore, Maryland. After all, the young United States has declared war on Great Britain! But the three young passengers have no choice. Their country faces an even greater threat Ė Napoleon Bonaparte, who wants to rule the world Ė so they risk their lives to find out what a Baltimore shopkeeper is keeping for Max Aultís father.

Max studies science and, after his fatherís untimely death, heís determined to finish his fatherís work. Mr. Ault believed he had found evidence of a philosophical device so powerful it could end all wars, particularly the British war with France. All Max knows is the device consists of three parts. To help find these scattered sections he enlists the help of a famous privateer named Captain Richard Bluecrowne.

Captain Bluecrowne and his two children, Lucy and Liao, live on the Left-Handed Fate. Lucy serves as first mate, but being a girl, sheís not permitted to take the Royal Navyís exam to officially become a lieutenant. Her younger brotherís expertise is in gunpowder and rockets, but Liao refuses to use them to harm others. He loves to light up the night sky with colorful explosions to entertain himself and his shipmates. When thereís any fighting, he hides below deck as far from the guns as possible.

With the Bluecrownes help, Max has already acquired the first part of the device Ė loom cards, weavers use to create fabric with colorful patterns. The problem is that neither Max nor the Bluecrownes know how to use these cards or whether they are even in the correct sequence for the device. When they arrive in Baltimore to collect the second part, Max discovers the shopkeeper has given it to a local privateer so the Left-Handed Fate pursues the vessel to Norfolk.

But Max, Lucy, and Liao arenít the only ones who want the powerful weapon. The Frenchman from whom they stole the loom cards will do whatever he must to reacquire them and build the device for France. Thereís also a mysterious black ship, crewed by silent men dressed in black, that seems to magically appear and disappear. The only warning the ship is near are the little blue lights that flitter like butterflies around the Left-Handed Fate and the children. Of course, since Lucy, Max, and Liao are in American waters, thereís also the danger of being captured by the American navy.

Acting-Midshipman Oliver Dexter serves aboard the USS Amaranthine and so far the voyage has been decidedly disappointing. The older midshipmen are always pulling tricks on him, but he refuses to complain. If anyone finds out his true identity, they would make his life even more miserable. But he has a keen eye and while on watch one night, he spots flashes of cannon fire between two vessels. The Amarathine enters the fray and captures the Left-Handed Fate. Much to Oliverís surprise, the captain puts him in charge of the British privateer with orders to take it and the prisoners, including Liao, Lucy, and Max, to Norfolk, Virginia. But just like everything else so far in his young life, this simple task does not go according to plans. He loses a duel to a girl. He encounters silent men in black uniforms. And to thwart the Frenchman who tries to take the Left-Handed Fate from him, he must make a bargain with Lucy that essentially makes him a traitor to his country.

This engaging, riveting adventure and its compelling characters quickly draw pirate apprentices into this skillfully woven tale of history, science, and fantasy. Readers experience a range of emotion from delight to heartache. Itís rare for tales set during the War of 1812 and the Napoleonic Wars to be geared toward middle-grade readers, but Milford stays true to the historical time period in which The Left-Handed Fate takes place and skillfully intertwines danger and mystery without the gore. But neither does she sugarcoat the realities of war. Her knowledge of ships and privateering also shine through without the facts intruding into the story. Unexpected twists and the final revelations make this a memorable story that even adults will enjoy.

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Review Copyrighted ©2016 Cindy Vallar

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