Underrated Books

Underrated books – we all have a list of books we love that we think don’t get enough attention. I sort of love this because sometimes books get so much hype that they don’t live up to people’s expectations or might be ignored by someone because everyone and their brother and their cat is telling them they have to read this damn book. But at the same time, I want to talk about some of the books I love that are less well known.

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Book Review: Piratica II & III

Piratica II: Return to Parrot Island
(Being: The Return of a Most Intrepid Heroine to Sea and Secrets)
By Tanith Lee

My Edition:
Hardcover, 320 pages
2006, Dutton Children’s Books
ISBN: 0525477691

Art and Felix return to the sea with their old crew, this time as privateers in the government’s employ, to fight against Franco-Spainia in support of a revolution for the people. Not only does she have some new crew members, but she also has orders, and struggles to bend to the will of her employers and stay true to her code: never kill.

Sequels are always hard to talk about, but I’m going to do my best to avoid a lot of plot points.

I was excited for more Art and Felix…and Ebad and Honest…and Dirk and Whuskery (they are the bro-est of bros and possibly romantically involved, or at least easy to imagine that way, which is wonderful) and of course Plunqwette and Muck. The new crew members were too numerous and oddly-named for me to really absorb any of them, so at times it was hard to picture what was going on when new faces were involved. There’s also another female pirate, Mr. (Belladora) Bell, who adds a little tension between newly married Art and Phoenix. Goldie Girl is back as a low-key villain as well, and we meet a new face, Mary Hell.

The drama in this book mainly revolves around Art and Felix realizing they have different visions for their lives together and Art’s desperation to return to sea upsets Felix, especially because she’s involved herself in a war where casualties are inevitable. The couple also seems to have a lot of moments where they don’t understand each other, or really even stop and try to, and I think this added some realism to their relationship. Despite spending the first book together, they didn’t get to know all that much about each other and it makes sense that they might now question if they really are a good match.

Art is less of a wunderkind this time around – she’s unsure of herself and her judgments and she finds herself making mistakes. She thought she could avoid the war and somehow get back to the crew’s old adventures, but instead, finds herself in situations where she might have to break her rule about never taking a life or sinking another ship. Again, I think this gives Art more depth.

We get more perspectives in this book too, aside from just Art. Of course, there’s Felix again, but we get a look at what’s going on with the English naval officers, Parliament (which is actually called the House of Talking or something similar, lol) and even Muck!

I also want to add that the English naval ship names had me laughing. Here are some standout examples (playing on the idea that something happened when the captains, or whoever, were christening their ships, interrupting true names): Lily Achoo, Is That A Wasp, Ow Blast, I Knew I Shouldn’t Have Had That Last Sausage. Is That A Wasp gets me laughing the most because I can picture myself going to name a ship and then suddenly noticing a nearby bug. The end battle was a bit hard to follow because so many ships were involved and I really only cared about Art’s.

This is a solid sequel and if you enjoyed the first book, I recommend you keep reading.

~

Piratica III: The Family Sea
(Being The Gallant Take of a Fearless Heroine and a Fatal Secret)
By Tanith Lee

My Edition:
Paperback, 396 pages
2007, Hodder Children’s Books
ISBN: 9780340930854

After assisting England in the war, Art and Felix have returned home to raise their daughter, Africa. But Art yearns for the sea and when the couple finds their assets suddenly seized by the government, Art takes the opportunity to rejoin her crew, or some of them anyway, once again. This time she’s hired to guide the brother of an old crew member to the famed Parrot Island in search of further treasures.

Alright, I’ll admit I know next to nothing about the publishing world, but I’m mad that Dutton didn’t publish this in hardcover with the art that matches the first two! Nothing is worse than not being able own a matching series because some books simply don’t exist in that design! Argh! My solution is to also buy the Hodder paperbacks of the first two books so that I at least have one matching set. Not that I need an excuse to buy more Tanith books, or multiple copies of her books!

Right, on to the actual review. This book was bittersweet. It’s the end of a trilogy (and sadly with Tanith’s passing, no hope of it ever being revived -sob-) and it did not at all turn out how I expected.

There’s drama once more between Art and Felix regarding her obsession with the sea and her aversion to their daughter. To me, it seemed that Art was suffering from post-partum (I could be wrong), though there wasn’t a lot of depth brought into this aspect, perhaps because the novel is geared towards middle-grade/teens.

Man, it’s hard not to give away the plot. Let’s see…we get some new characters again, namely Moira, Queen of Scotland. I didn’t really care for her – she just didn’t leave an impression on me. And also for other reasons that are plot related that I won’t talk about.

It also seems that each book delves more into the viewpoints of characters aside from Art and I think we spent just as much time looking through the eyes of others than we did of Art, if not more. In this book, I’m not sure it worked as well though. I wasn’t excited by what other characters were experiencing through and I just wanted more Art.

The ending – ugh. Art is very changed from who she was at the start of the first book and it’s sad but in a good way. I was kind of left thinking “What? That’s it?!” and yet I enjoyed the slightly tortured feeling. Gaahd, I wish we could get more from this series, with a slightly older Art, like mid to late twenties. :[

This book was less atmospheric than its predecessors though, and that might be due to the constant location changes.  I hate to say, but the finale was middle of the road for me. This is still an awesome, fun and witty series that I would recommend in a heartbeat, and I think the conclusion is worth reading, it’s just not as gripping.

Book Review: Piratica

Piratica
(Being a Daring Tale of a Singular Girl’s Adventure Upon the High Seas)
By My Queen Tanith Lee

My Edition:
Hardcover, 288 pages
2003, Dutton Children’s Books
ISBN: 0525473246

Art has been banished to the Angels Academy for the last six years of her life, learning deportment and other ladylike qualities that bore her to death. A fall down the stairs and a knock to the head suddenly causes her to remember her childhood, which was spent at her mother’s side on a pirate ship. Art quickly escapes the academy, finds her mother’s old crew and revives their spirits by basically forcing them back into a life of piracy as she lives in the spirit of her legendary mother, Piratica.

-screams- TANITH! Er, ok, so, I’ve read a ton of middle-grade this month and, sadly, none of it has impressed me. It was time for a change and I knew just what would do the trick – Tanith Lee! I’ve been sitting on this Piratica series for FAR too long and I don’t know why. I love how atmospheric her Claidi series is and my semi-recent re-read of The Unicorn Trilogy made me recall the special place her middle-grade/teen (I feel like all these series fall somewhere in between) books have in my crusty little heart.

From the first page, I was giddy at the thought of diving into another of Tanith’s worlds and Art’s didn’t disappoint. Tanith has created a semi-Victorian (Regency? I don’t know time periods, sorry!) world in the year of Seventeen-Twelvety (how awesome is that?!) which somewhat resembles the actual year of 1802. This world primarily differs from our own in how the countries are laid out and there’s a handy map in the front that I actually referenced for once. But because this is Tanith and I am a flappy-handed fangirl for everything she’s written (ugh except Greyglass  -tosses if off a cliff-) I felt there was something subtle about her world that differed from an actual historic period. I can’t explain this further and likely I am crazy.

Art is fantastic. She’s bold and witty and smart and super talented at being a pirate, despite not having been one for the past six years. She could potentially suffer from special snowflake syndrome, but she doesn’t because she has to work to win over her crew and she doesn’t have the shining, sapphire eyes and porcelain doll-like features of your usual heroine. And oh, the sun doesn’t shine out of her ass. Anyway! She’s a great lead, but her crew is small enough that most of them actually (I think I’m saying this word too much in this review, but I’m too lazy to change it) feel different and developed, where they could easily have fallen to the wayside (portside?)

There’s a lot to the plot that I can’t talk about or I’ll spoil the fun, but from the moment Art rediscovers her crew and takes on her new life as a pirate, I had this underlying sense of something more. I knew something else was up and it was a nice feeling, knowing that the plot had another element that wasn’t being revealed, even though the plot was acting like everything had been revealed.

Look, I have a hard time analyzing Tanith’s work because I am super biased. But I can say, if you’re looking for a witty, semi-middle-grade-semi-teen pirate adventure with swashbuckling, a fantastically charming ragtag group of pirates, talented parrot and dog companions, a strong female lead and totally hawt boi, but no love triangles and no breaths being held unbeknownst to the holder, then Piratica may be just what you’re looking for! I can’t wait to read the other two books (even though the third was never published in hardcover and therefore doesn’t match the first two.)

Sadly, Tanith doesn’t really have a website, but her Wikipedia page does a decent job of at least listing out all her work.