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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

Demons of the Ocean                Tide of Terror

Cover Art:
        Vampirates by Justin Somper
Vampirates: Demons of the Ocean
by Justin Somper
Little, Brown and Company, 2006, ISBN 978-0-316-01373-4
US $15.99 / Can $19.99


Grace and Connor Tempest are twins. They live with their father, Dexter Tempest, in a lighthouse at Crescent Moon Bay on the East Coast of Australia. Whenever they are upset, he sings them this sea shanty:

I’ll tell you a tale of Vampirates,
A tale as old as true.
Yea, I’ll sing you a song of an ancient ship,
And its mighty fearsome crew.
Yea, I’ll sing you a song of an ancient ship,
That sails the oceans blue…
That haunts the oceans blue.

In 2512, Dexter suddenly dies, leaving the children with no family and no home. Polly Pagett, who runs the orphanage, fixes a room in expectation of the twins’ arrival. Lachlan Busby, the banker, and his wife want to adopt Grace and Connor, an idea neither twin dares contemplate. Instead, they abscond with their father’s boat, which the bank now owns. No sooner have they departed Crescent Moon Bay than a fierce storm dumps the children into the sea and destroys their vessel.

In the dark tempest, the twins become separated. While struggling to survive, Connor sees an old galleon sail away into the mist. Then Cheng Li, the Deputy Captain of The Diablo pulls him to safety. It isn’t long before he learns that his rescuers are pirates! With the exception of Mistress Li, everyone aboard, including Captain Molucco Wrathe and his pet snake, agree that Grace died and Connor must move on. He can’t do that, and to calm himself, he sings his father’s song. Suddenly, Connor realizes what ship he saw and what happened to his sister – the Vampirates have her. He vows to find her, but in the meanwhile there’s plenty to do and learn about pirate life and ships. Soon he must decide whether he will become a pirate or not.

Grace awakens aboard a strange ship. Lorcan, the Irish cabin boy who rescued her, appears when she least expects it. Hot food awaits her, even though no one entered the locked cabin. The candles never melt, yet they burn all day and night. A curtain covers her window, and the note pinned to the fabric says not to open it ever! Grace, however, is curious and strives to learn whatever she can. Lorcan assures her she is safe, as is her brother, but Lorcan evades answering any other questions. Eventually, she realizes she’s aboard the vampirate ship! But why?

When I was first approached to review this book, I hesitated. I tend not to read vampire stories since they usually involve lots of blood and gore. Since Vampirates is written for children ages eight to twelve, I thought I’d be on safe ground this time. The story fascinated me, and I yearned to read more about Grace and the vampirates than about Connor and the pirates. Perhaps because I know one group well, but the other remains a mystery.

Just as Dexter Tempest’s sea shanty spins a web for his children, so does Justin Somper weave a tale that captivates the reader. He rouses your curiosity and compels you to turn the page. Grace’s introduction into the world of vampirates is slow and casual, almost mesmerizing. There are warning signs that hint of blood and danger, but Somper makes certain nothing is overtly gruesome. Connor encounters far more violence as a pirate than Grace does during her stay with the vampirates.

Many years have passed since I’ve read about vampires, but from what I remember, Somper portrays them accurately and dispels some myths surrounding them. His knowledge about pirates and life at sea are quite evident as you read the story. Vampirates is a great read for fans who like pirates, vampires, and science fiction. Contrary to what the publisher says, young and old alike will crave to read this book. For those too timid to try, perhaps the last verse of the shanty will help:

Well, if pirates are bad,
And vampires are worse,
Then I pray that as long as I be
That though I sing of Vampirates
I never one shall see.
Yea, if pirates are danger
And vampires are death,
I’ll extend my prayer for thee –
That thine eyes never see a Vampirate…

…and they never lay a hand on thee.

Visit the Vampirates series website
Visit the Vampirates Fan Site

Book Review Copyright ©2006 Cindy Vallar

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Vampirates: Tide of Terror
By Justin Somper
Little, Brown and Company, 2007, ISBN 978-0-316-01374-1, US $15.99, CAN $19.99

The Tempest twins sail aboard Captain Molucco Wrathe’s pirate ship. Connor has become one of the Three Buccaneers, and together with Jez Stukeley and Bart Pearce, they make a formidable trio of swordsmen. Their encounter with a merchant ship – really another pirate ship in disguise – proves chilling and deadly, for not only are they defeated, but Jez is slain in a duel. Connor must come to grips with the loss of his friend and the realization that death is always a possibility.

Grace’s primary concern is Connor’s safety, and to that end, she convinces him to visit the Pirate Academy with the possibility of enrolling full-time. Her other obsession is the Vampirates, for she visits their ship in her dreams and discovers that Lorcan sacrificed his eyesight, and possibly his “life,” so Grace could be with her brother.

The Pirate Academy spins a web around Connor, and he wants to attend, but he did sign Molucco’s articles of agreement. Will his captain release him from that commitment? Is everything as wonderful as it appears? Or are forces working behind the scenes to entrap Connor in a scheme he knows nothing about? And what of Grace’s fascination with the Vampirates? Where will that lead her? While the twins struggle to unravel the mysteries surrounding them, evil forces are at work that inevitably lead to a confrontation none of them expect.

In spite of my reticence to read vampire stories, I so enjoyed the first book in the Vampirate series that I looked forward to reading this one. Unfortunately, my journey wasn’t nearly as exciting and enjoyable as I expected. When authors create their characters and stories, a back story evolves that explains what happened to lead the characters to the point in time when the story begins. This is what I felt while reading Tide of Terror. The information is important for the reader, but it’s essentially the back story for the next book in the series. The first few chapters and the last several are edge-of-your-seat action and adventure, but the rest of the story seems to sit on the page, failing to entice the reader. I also found the chapters on the evolution of a vampire distracting, in part because they unfold from an unfamiliar point of view. The twins do mature as the story progresses, and devoted fans of the series will probably enjoy how Connor and Grace work through the paths they must follow.

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Review copyrighted © 2008 Cindy Vallar

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