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


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Books for Adults - Fiction

The Black Corsair                 Queen of the Caribbean                Captain Tempesta

Cover Art: The Black Corsair
The Black Corsair
By Emilio Salgari
ROH Press, 2011, ISBN 978-0-9782707-8-0, US $16.95
Also available in ebook format

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Set during the days of the Buccaneers, this tale of adventure and revenge opens with a small boat, rowed by two men, approaching a pirate ship. Carmaux and Van Stiller, who followed the Red Corsair, bring sad tidings to the man who captains this vessel. The Governor of Maracaibo, a Flemish count named Van Guld, is now responsible for the deaths of all three of the Black Corsairís brothers Ė one through betrayal and two by hanging them for piracy. As the Red Corsairís body sinks into the sea, the Black Corsair vows to hunt down and slay not only his nemesis, but also all who bear his name.
 
On the voyage back to Tortuga, the Buccaneers happen upon a rich prize bound for Maracaibo. Under the guidance of the Black Corsairís second in command, a young man named Henry Morgan (destined to become the greatest of the Buccaneers) leads the boarding party that captures the Spanish ship. Aboard is the beautiful Honorata Willerman, a Flemish duchess who captures the Black Corsairís heart even though a gypsy once foretold the deaths of his three brothers, and that a beautiful woman he loved would lead to his own demise.
 
When the Thunder reaches Tortuga, the Black Corsair joins with Jean David Nau, the infamous LíOllonais, and Michael the Basque to attack Maracaibo with a fleet of eight heavily armed ships and 650 pirates. Honorata is to remain on Tortuga, but with the help of Carmaux and Van Stiller, as well as Moko the snake charmer, she stows aboard the Thunder. Just before the Black Corsair and his men disembark to attack the wealthy city, she and the Black Corsair confess their love and he explains why he seeks vengeance on the governor. Will he succeed? Will his brothers finally rest in peace? And if he returns, what then? How will the Black Corsair react when he learns Honorataís secret?
 
I am indebted to Nico Lorenzutti, who has translated some of Salgariís novels from the original Italian, for introducing me to this author. The Black Corsair, first published in 1898, is an exciting tale of swashbuckling intrigue and honor.  The lush tropics with its beautiful, yet deadly, flora and fauna come to life as the Black Corsair and his men face danger and quandaries not easily solved. Originally written when few had visited South America and the Caribbean, Salgari renders the exotic jungles in a manner reminiscent of the accounts written by the Buccaneers themselves, men like Lionel Wafer and William Dampier. History has left us with a one-sided view of the sadistic Nau, but Salgari brings this notorious pirate to life in such a way that the reader meets a three-dimensional character with both a good and a bad side. While some elements of piratical history are seamlessly woven into the story, Salgari steps away from the story at one point for a brief explanation as to who, what, and when about the Buccaneers. Fans of Rafael Sabatini and Captain Blood or his other swashbucklers will enjoy finding another author who writes in a similar vain. Readers who like heroes who are bigger than life and have dark sides will soon find themselves fans of Emilio Salgariís works. As a reader, I fall into both categories and as I read The Black Corsair, childhood memories of curling up on a stormy day to read about heroes forced into lives of crimes to right wrongs and rescue fair maidens in the clutches of wicked villains surfaced. 

Read an excerpt
Learn more about Emilio Salgari
Meet the Black Corsair
Watch Black Corsair animated series


Book Review Copyright ©2011 Cindy Vallar

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Cover Art: The Queen of the Caribbean
The Queen of the Caribbean
By Emilio Salgari
Translated by Nico Lorenzutti
ROH Press, 2015, ISBN 978-1-987886-15-3, $16.95
Also available in ebook format

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Four years have passed since the Black Corsair first swore to avenge his brothersí deaths and then fell in love with the daughter of the man who murdered them. His vow forced him to abandon her at sea in a long boat during a storm, but her death has haunted him as do the spirits of his brothers who still cry out for justice. Finding Duke Van Guld has proven a somewhat elusive goal, for he is wily and always slips away just before the buccaneers arrive. This time, though, stories of a beautiful woman, rescued during a storm, bring the Black Corsair and three of his men into the lionís den. That two thousand Spaniards and another 150 soldiers defend the Spanish city of Puerto Limon means little to them, for they are just annoying gnats whom the buccaneers of Tortuga have been terrorizing for years. They visit the dukeís home to question his steward, who has knowledge of this woman and her present location. That they might also learn the current whereabouts of the duke only adds to their determination to find what the Black Corsair seeks.

While Van Guldís steward answers their questions, he remains loyal to his master and springs a trap meant to capture the Black Corsair. In the ensuing battle, the Black Corsair is wounded, but Yara, a native girl in Van Guldís household, helps him escape. She loves the Black Corsair and knows that with his help she can exact payment from her master for murdering and enslaving her family and tribe. Once aboard their ship, the surgeon Exquemelin heals the buccaneer captain. But leaving Puerto Limon proves trickier than expected, for Spanish warships block their exit. The Black Corsairís second in command, a young man named Henry Morgan, devises a risky plan and, in true swashbuckling fashion, the buccaneers make another daring escape. Once free, they sail for Vera Cruz to meet up with Nicholas Van Horn, Laurens de Graaf, and Michel de Grammont, three of the most respected buccaneers of Tortuga. Together they plan to raid Vera Cruz, and allow the Black Corsair to finally deliver justice to Duke Van Guld. Only then will he be able to find his lost love, Honorata Van Guld.

Reading The Queen of the Caribbean is akin to participating in a death-defying, high-wire act where readers lack a safety net to catch any who fall. Salgariís characters face extreme situations where they are pitted against overwhelming odds, but they swashbuckle their way through this tale that deftly melds history with fiction. When first written, the exotic worlds in which the buccaneers lived and preyed were still unfamiliar to many readers, so the author includes passages reminiscent of the travel journals published by the pirates of this historical period Ė men like William Dampier, Alexandre Exquemelin, and Lionel Wafer. Today, these passages slow down the storyís pace, but they also allow readers to catch their breath from all the hair-raising, heart-stopping fixes from which our heroes must extricate themselves. No true pirate fan should miss this historical novel where some of the most famous buccaneers step off the page and into the present to enlist your participation in one of their grand adventures through the Spanish Main.
Read an excerpt
Learn more about Emilio Salgari
Watch Black Corsair animated series

 
Review Copyrighted ©2015 Cindy Vallar

Skull
              and crossbones


Cover Art: Captain Tempesta
Captain Tempesta
By Emilio Salgari
Translated by Nico Lorenzutti
ROH Press, 2019, ISBN 978-1-987886-59-7, $14.95
Ebook ISBN 978-1-987886-60-3, $4.95

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For thirteen long months, the Venetians have endured and staved off the Ottoman army of Sultan Selim II. But there is only so much that 700 can do against 80,000. The blockade of the port has cut off supplies and reinforcements, making it only a matter of time before Famagusta falls. Yet no one thinks of surrendering. Even if they did, they know the fate that awaits them, for the Turkish general is well-known for his cruelty.

One evening before the end comes, Sir Perpignan gambles with Captain Lazinski, a Polish mercenary. To Perpignan, the sell-sword is merely an adventurer who spends more time drinking and throwing dice than fighting. The game devolves into an argument about Perpignanís commander, Captain Tempesta, a true warrior who is an expert swordsman. Lazinski thinks Tempesta is far too feminine to be an accomplished warrior and has an exaggerated reputation. Before they come to blows, the subject of their discussion appears and dares Lazinski to a contest to decide which of them is the better swordsman. Each day, before the shelling begins, a Turk rides out from the enemy camp to challenge his enemy to a duel. Tomorrow, Tempesta and Lazinski will both accept and may the better man win.

There is more to this contest than a simple demonstration of swordsmanship. Lazinski knows Tempestaís secret. Captain Tempesta is a woman of noble birth, and the sell-sword will accept the challenge on the condition that she becomes his wife if he wins. She prefers to slit his throat so the truth remains a secret. Angered by the refusal, Lazinski still agrees so that he finally has the chance to unmask her before others.

Muley-el-Kadel, known as the Lion of Damascus, is an expert with the blade. No one can match him. Nor have any of the infidels taken up his challenge, so he is pleasantly surprised to find two adversaries who wish to fight him. He defeats one, but is defeated by the other. The one who bests him spares his life, and he vows never to forget such generosity.

Being a warrior was never Eleanora Eboliís goal in life. She desires only to wed the man she loves, Viscount Gaston Le HussiŤre. When he was captured by the Turks, she becomes Captain Tempesta in order to rescue Gaston so they can marry and live their lives together. First, she must find him. El-Kadur, a devoted family friend and servant, infiltrates the Ottoman camp for her. He knows Gaston lives, but cannot find out where. During the final bombardment, Captain Tempesta is wounded and he hides her from the brutal slaughter that follows. Although he would rather slit the Lion of Damascusís throat, he also knows that he is the only man who can help Tempesta escape the fallen city. The questions are will the Lion help Tempesta flee Famagusta and find Gaston, and can he do so before her secret is revealed?

Originally published in 1905 in Italian, Captain Tempesta is a rousing swashbuckler of the past that still ensnares those brave enough to venture within its pages. Each time the reader thinks all is well, a new twist raises the stakes and puts the characters in greater danger on land and at sea. The siege of Famagusta, which occurred between 1570 and 1571, is vividly depicted. The tale itself demonstrates the fine line separating love from jealousy and hate. The characters are larger than life, but realistically portrayed. The villains Ė and yes, there is more than one Ė arouse loathing in readers, but they compel you to turn pages to see what happens. While there is a happily-ever-after ending, it isnít the one you expect. Salgari is a master storyteller, unknown to many readers of English, and he knows exactly how to capture your imagination and take you on high adventure rife with sword fights and daring deeds reminiscent of more familiar authors, such as Rafael Sabatini, Alexander Dumas, or Baroness Orczy. Captain Tempesta can easily stand alongside Captain Blood, the Musketeers, or the Scarlet Pimpernel, and be worthy of the honor.

 

Review Copyrighted ©2020 Cindy Vallar


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