Cindy Vallar, Editor & Reviewer
P.O. Box 425, Keller, TX 76244-0425
Books for Pirate Apprentices and Young Adults
Fifteen and a slave. One who is curious, always asking questions. Kemosha also has dreams. No matter what she witnesses or endures, she refuses to allow Captain Tate or any of the overseers on the plantation to take away her dreams. One day she will be free!
But Tate has different plans. He sells her to Quartermaster Antock Powell – a move that separates her from her little brother and her friends. Kemosha will be a welcome addition to the tavern that Powell owns. She can cook and she is chaste; with her dark skin his patrons will pay extra for a night with her. Frightened, Kemosha has no choice but to go with her new master, but she vows to one day return to free those she loves.
When her worst fears are realized, Kemosha defends herself and then runs. As a free Black man, Ravenhide understands what awaits her if she’s found. He hides her from her pursuers and, afterwards, trains her to fight with a sword. Once Kemosha can hold her own, he arranges a duel between her and Powell. If she wins, she will be free. Fulfilling one dream isn’t enough, though. Those left behind deserve their freedom too, but that requires money.
Ravenhide, a cooper, sometimes goes buccaneering with Captain Henry Morgan is planning a raid on Porto Bello. When word spreads of a new venture, Kemosha insists on joining Ravenhide at sea even though she’s never set foot beyond Port Royal. Much to everyone’s surprise, Morgan hires her as his cook. Going to sea, however, is fraught with peril, especially since both Powell and the customer she knifed will also be joining this venture. Kemosha soon realizes that dreams and reality differ, sometimes in frightening ways.
The story’s first-person narrative provides young adult readers with a startling, yet realistic portrayal of slavery, seventeenth-century piracy, and Port Royal (and Jamaica) as it was, rather than as Hollywood often portrays the pirate haven. The one drawback is the use of dialect, which only occurs in dialogue. It may give the feel of authenticity to the story, but it can distract readers and is sometimes difficult to decipher. Although some may object to Kemosha’s relationship with another girl, this is a but a fraction of the story as a whole.
While Kemosha may be a product of her times, her dreams, thoughts, and emotional reactions are ones to which modern readers will readily relate. She is a Black heroine who struggles to survive in a world that relegates her to the status of property, yet time and again she shows everyone that she is a person. Morgan’s 1688 raid on Portobello is considered one of the highlights of the Buccaneer Era and, while Kemosha doesn’t participate in the actual sacking, the aftermath that she witnesses is a raw and gut-wrenching portrayal that provides readers with a vivid glimpse into both the realities of her world and the emotions she experiences.
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