Cindy Vallar, Editor & Reviewer
P.O. Box 425, Keller, TX 76244-0425
Books for Adults - Fiction
Born a prince, the Tiger of Mompracem and his followers prey in Asian waters for their sworn enemies, the colonial invaders. But Sandokan was not born to piracy. This prince ruled his people in northern Borneo until traitors and assassins destroyed his family and usurped his kingdom. He seeks vengeance against his enemy, and by 1849, he has become the most notorious pirate in Asia. When rumors of a woman of matchless beauty reach his fortified retreat of Mompracem, he sends his stalwart friend, a Portuguese named Yanez, to discover whether the Pearl of Labuan truly exists.
A free-spirited, English woman, Lady Marianna Guillonk struggles to conform to her uncle’s expectations. A sea captain, Lord James took in his niece after the death of her parents, and she sailed with him aboard his armed ship for three years and witnessed many bloody battles. Such was not the way for an heiress to live, so he built a home and insisted Marianna become more refined. She acquires the comportment and gentility of a lady, but continues to go on daring escapades, be it sailing in local waters or hunting tigers through the jungle. Much to her uncle’s chagrin, she also helps the local people, whom James despises.
The fearsome pirate finds himself obsessed with the Pearl and goes to find her. Soon after he and his men arrive at Labuan, a British naval vessel attacks. Their wooden prahus are no match against the steamship, and in the ensuing battle, the pirates are decimated. Although badly wounded, Sandokan manages to escape. Crazed with fever, he flees through the jungle to evade his enemy.
When Sandokan awakens three days later, he finds himself in the home of a wealthy gentleman. Aware of what fate has in store should his true identity become known, Sandokan pretends to be the brother of the Shaja. He recounts how pirates attacked his vessel and left him for dead. After music from the garden stirs Sandokan’s heart, he discovers he is the guest of Lord James Guillonk and the musician, and Sandokan’s nurse, is none other than the Pearl of Labuan, Lady Marianna.
As Sandokan recuperates, his love for Marianna grows, and although he knows she’s engaged to someone else, he dares to tell her his secret. She, too, declares her love and agrees to run away with him. But Lord James discovers the truth about his guest, and Sandokan is forced to flee without his beloved. He leaves her with a kiss and a promise, but can he escape the island, collect more men and ships, and return to free Marianna, whom her uncle has imprisoned at their estate, before it’s too late?
First written around 1883, Sandokan: The Tigers of Mompracem is the first in a series of swashbuckling adventures written by the Italian author Emilio Salgari. This book introduces readers to the exotic world of Borneo and Malaysia at a time when Europeans held power, rather than the local people who had lived on the islands for centuries. This tale captivates the reader and sweeps him/her back in time on a whirlwind ride through storm-swept seas and lush tropical jungles inhabited by dangerous beasts. Salgari convincingly portrays this fearless pirate and his struggles between the world he knows and the love he feels for a woman who is one of the enemy. Nico Lorenzutti’s translation of this tale is seamless, and reminds readers of the serial movies once shown at movie theaters. You might go to see the feature film, but you cheer the heroes and sit on the edge of your seat as each new episode reveals another twist to a tale of adventure and thrills.
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Learn more about Emilio Salgari
Special Notes: In 2007 Sandokan was listed as one of the 20th century's greatest characters in Lucy Daniel's Defining Moments in Books: The Greatest Books, Writers, Characters, Passages and Events that Shook the Literary World. In May 2008, Sandokan: The Tigers of Mompracem was included in Peter Boxall's newly revised 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. In 2009 Julia Eccleshare featured Sandokan: The Tigers of Mompracem in her 1001 Children's Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up.Book Review Copyright ©2008 Cindy Vallar
Sandokan: The Pirates of Malaysia
By Emilio Salgari
Translated by Nico Lorenzutti
ROH Press, 2007, ISBN 978-0-9782707-3-5, US $16.95 / £9.99
Also available in as e-book
The Young India encounters a typhoon on her way to Sarawak and wrecks upon the reefs near Mompracem on Borneo. Among the passengers is an Indian warrior named Kammamuri, and when pirates attack the doomed ship, he fights with such bravery that quarter is given. He accepts the pirate captain’s invitation to join the marauders on one condition – no harm will come to his mistress, the Guardian of the Temple of the East, who travels with him.
When he meets the Guardian, Yanez is astounded. She bears a striking resemblance to his dearest friend’s wife, who is her cousin. But Ada Corishant has lost her sanity, having been kidnapped and drugged by Indian thugs feared for their adeptness at strangling people. In an attempt to rescue his beloved, Tremal-Naik is betrayed to the British, imprisoned in Sarawak by “The Exterminator,” Rajah James Brooke of Sarawak. This destroyer of pirates intends to ship Tremal-Naik to Norfolk, an island prison of ill repute, for the remainder of his life.
When Sandokan, the leader of the Tigers of Mompracem, hears Kammamuri’s tale, he agrees to help Kammamuri rescue his master and reunite Ada with her beloved. Fortune smiles on Sandokan – he and his pirates encounter a British steamship, which they seize and sail into the harbor of Sarawak. Their luck ends too quickly, because Yanez notices something is amiss both in the harbor and on land. Rajah Brooke knows of the pirates and unleashes a deadly trap in which many are slain. Those still with Sandokan escape into the dark of night before the enemy to board the steamship. At the last moment, he sets flame to powder and dives overboard. The vessel explodes, killing many of the Rajah’s men and sinking several of his ships.
With their presence known and Brooke’s dogged determination to expunge the pirates from this world, Sandokan and his friends must devise another plan to rescue Tremal-Naik. To complicate matters, Yanez discovers that Lord James Guillonk is also at Sarawak, and he has vowed to kill Sandokan and Yanez for taking his niece, the Lady Marianna (Sandokan’s wife), from him. Will the pirates succeed in rescuing Tremal-Naik and reuniting the lovers? Will they escape the tightening noose devised by The Exterminator? Does Lord James finally take his vengeance?
From the harrowing ordeal of a shipwreck to the exotic jungles of Borneo to the fetid hold of a convict ship, Salgari takes the reader on an adventure with more twists, thrills, and frights than a roller coaster or a haunted house. His characters are multi-dimensional, demonstrating there is good and bad in everyone, and that cunning plays as much a role in one’s survival as skill. Sandokan: The Pirates of Malaysia captivates with such intensity the reader is compelled to turn each page until the story ends. So flawless is the translation, you will think Salgari wrote it in English just yesterday, rather than in Italian more than a century ago.
Read a Sample Chapter
Learn more about Emilio Salgari
Book Review Copyright ©2008 Cindy Vallar
The King of the Sea
By Emilio Salgari
Roh Press, 2009, ISBN 978-0-9782707-5-9, US $16.95 / £9.99
Also available in as e-book
Who instigates the uprising of Sea Dyaks against his old friend, Tremal-Naik? Who connives with the new Rajah of Sarawak, nephew to James Brooke whom the Tigers of Mompracem dethroned years ago? Who plots to destroy him and his invincible Tigers? Sandokan ponders these questions upon hearing of Tremal-Naik’s imminent danger and rumors reach him that the British intend to oust him from Mompracem, the island he calls home.
Yanez de Gomera, his Portuguese friend and blood brother, and some of their men set off to rescue Tremal-Naik and his daughter, Darma. Before they arrive at their destination, though, their ship becomes stranded, and Yanez suspects the pilot did so on purpose. Before he can test that theory, someone spots a man attempting to reach them in a canoe. Close on his tail are angry Sea Dyaks. Always willing to aid someone in need, Yanez thwarts the natives, but he’s smart enough to know they will return.
Tangusa, the wounded man who works for Tremal-Naik, shares what little he knows – the Dyaks now carry firearms, and a mystifying sherip, a master strategist, leads them. Since they still must rescue their friend, Yanez continues the journey and soon learns firsthand just how treacherous the sherip can be when the Sea Dyaks devise a devilish trap to roast the Tigers, and their ship, alive. With his usual quick-thinking and boldness, Yanez finally reaches Tremail-Naik and Darma, but getting them back to Mompracem presents additional dilemmas. Just as their escape from the island seems assured, the Sea Dyaks spring another trap. Tremail-Naik and Darma disappear aboard a steam ship that whisks them away, while Yanez and his men face certain death.
Until an iron ship, the fastest of her kind and carrying the latest weaponry, appears out of nowhere and rescues the Tigers. Commander Brien, captain of this magnificent Nebraska, intends to sell her once they reach Sarawak, but Yanez purchases the impressive ship on the spot. They quickly sail for Mompracem, only to arrive to rescue Sandokan and the other Tigers, who flee a British naval force decimating the pirate king’s island.
Sandokan, who gave immeasurable help to the British in India when he destroyed the Thugs and retired from his pirating ways, declares war on the Rajah of Sarawak, the British forces that aid him, and the mysterious stranger who’s manipulated the Tigers’ destruction from the start. First, the Tigers must find and rescue Tremal-Naik and Darma, then they will attack British ships. Sooner or later Sandokan will meet his unseen foe, but on his terms and when he holds the advantage. Their new vessel, rechristened King of the Sea, however, has a weakness – one that could eventually end the Tiger’s reign once and for all.
The King of the Sea is a swashbuckling, exotic adventure in the same vein as Rafael Sabatini’s stories. Pirate aficionados will enjoy this refreshing tale that takes place on the far side of the world from most novels, and the edge-of-your-seat pace keeps readers guessing. The ending may seem a bit pat, but it satisfies those who like books that tie up loose ends and resolve conflicts on an uplifting note.
Review Copyrighted ©2010 Cindy Vallar
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