Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Mad Kestrel by Misty Massey

Mad Kestrel by Misty Massey is a fantasy pirate novel, set in a fictional world that centers on the Nine Islands. Kestrel is a Promise, one who has the potential to use magic. For that reason, the Danisoban mages seek her, so they can take her away to their magical school. Danisobans have a legal monopoly on magic, and one must join them or die. However, the Danisobans have a weakness--seawater. They can't abide it, and they lose their power when they are surrounded by it. Danisoban magic is tied strictly to the land, literally.

Therefore, Kestrel finds her eventual escape at sea. She joins the ship of the surprisingly kindly Artemus Binns, who eventually promotes her to Quartermaster. The rest of the ship's crew seems fine with this . . . or so you think. In the meantime, Kestrel discovers that her power is unaffected by seawater, making the life of a pirate just about perfect for her.

The novel opens when she has a run-in with McAvery, the captain of a huge vessel that can apparently vanish into thin air. He seems like a rogue and to all indications, as the plot progresses, he is a double-dealing scoundrel. Naturally, Kestrel is fascinated by him.

This is all very imaginative and the novel had no trouble holding my attention. However, I had trouble with the actions of the characters. I liked Kestrel well enough, but I never really connected with McAvery. He did a bit of double-crossing that he never explained to my satisfaction. In fact, the various characters are constantly betraying each other--McAvery betrays both Binns and Kestrel; Kestrel does something unforgivable to someone who saved her life, and even Binns betrays Kestrel by sending her to an agent of the king without revealing just what that agent is. And no one seems to hold a grudge with each other for these actions.

One of my favorite characters was the mysterious bounty-hunter Jaeger, who works for the Danisobans. Jaeger has a wicked-cool name and he keeps popping up like a stubborn wart. However, I was really disappointed with the way he was handled in the end--as if he were just another disposable villain. Even if he did live through it--perhaps to pop up in a future book--Kestrel could have handled it smarter. She really had nothing to fear from him, and he could have taught her a great deal.

Except for a naughty kissing scene, Massey kept it clean. In fact, I applaud the author for writing convincingly about pirates without using modern-day swear words. Instead, they use very British swear words that Americans mostly find amusing, such as "bloody", "damn" and even "bloody damn".

There was a strange episode toward the end. After her and McAvery have struck an alliance, she has him chained up while they row to shore. He points out that if she unchains him, he could help her row. She refuses . . . but as soon as she reaches the store, she unchains him and they work together perfectly. I can't for the life of me imagine why he was chained. During the space of time where he was chained, he makes speculations about her that make no sense, because he already knows these things. I kept thinking that I was missing something . . . or that this was something that should have been edited, but was missed.

Although Tor sent me this copy, nothing on it indicates that it is a review copy, subject to further edit. (Most of the review copies I receive are not marked as ARCs.) I received the copy right about the novel's release date. So this discrepancy--if there is one and it's not just me--may be fixed in the final version.

The ending was interesting and action-packed, revolving around something that many true-life pirates were after--the secret to eternal (well, at least extended) life. I keep wondering what Captain Jack Sparrow would have done if he got his hands on such a thing. I didn't hate the ending--except for Jaeger's part in it--but I didn't love it either. It did pave the way for future adventures, while tidying up all plot threads. McAvery got in another good kiss, and Kestrel now has an intriguing new job. Job? What kind of a job might a pirate have? Well I assure you, it's a bit more intriguing than the typical letter of marque that legalizes the actions of a privateer. And it sets a good plot foundation for future novels.


Kimber An said...

Oooh, fantasy pirates!

Tor has sent me real books instead of ARCs before too, including one hardback. Those babies ain't cheap!

Kimber An said...

Actually, I think they've sent me just one hardback. The other hardback was from St. Martin's Press.

Robert said...

Normally what Tor does is send ARCs and then finished copies. But sometimes they just send finished copies which is pretty nice :)

Tia Nevitt said...

I actually get more finished copies than ARCs. Which I prefer anyway, because ARCs seem to be designed for only one reading. I have several hardcovers from Tor, as well as other places.

Sara J. said...

Hmm... I wasn't actually all that interested in Mad Kestrel before, but you've piqued my interest, Tia ;)

Tia Nevitt said...

I'm glad to hear that, Sara! I guess what they say about any publicity being better than no publicity is true. I wouldn't call this review any better than lukewarm, but two of you have expressed interest, anyway.

Chris, The Book Swede said...

I have a copy of this :) Well, did. It has gone to one of my guest reviewers.

I tend to use "damn" and "bloody" and "darn" on the Internet quite often, since, like you say, they're quaint and non-swear-like :) But being British, I love them ;)

"Damn, damn, double damn!" is my favourite of late.

Maybe Tor aren't so keen on sending ARCs abroad or something; I haven't received any ARCs from Tor. Three hardbacks, though, which is interesting. And a few are in need of a review...

Tia Nevitt said...

Most of what Tor sends me are not ARCs. Which is cool with me!

I didn't know you had guest reviewers???

Robert said...

From Tor, I usually get ARCs about 3-4 months before the release date and then finished copies around the release date. I like this method, because I can review the ARCs without worrying about spoiling them, while the finished copies stay pristine and go in my collection :)