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Saturday, January 6, 2018


She's a witch.

He's a pirate.

She is young and lovely, and learning the extent of the power of her Craft, and he is flamboyantly handsome, with blue ribbons braided into his long black hair, and a golden acorn in one ear.

What more could the reader in search of romance, adventure and excitement expect?

But wait. There's more.  There's a wonderful creation called the Tethys, a supernatural sea-creature who rules "her water realm with unchallenged power and a terrible omnipotence."  In Maori myth she would be known as a Taniwha -- a mighty Taniwha, a taniwha nui.

The three powerful spirits clash and intertwine right from the start of this rousing adventure.  The witch, young Tiola, has taken passage on a Cape Town-bound ship, fleeing from the Cornwall mob that would have hanged and burned her.  The pirate, Jesamiah Acorne, is in hot pursuit of that same ship, determined to seize it, ransack the holds, rob the passengers, and vanish like smoke into the far horizon.  In the midst of the frenzy of action that accompanies this, their souls link and cry out to each other, a spiritual questioning that Tethys, the taniwha asleep in the depths below, overhears, rousing her to dangerous awareness.

And so the complicated story begins.  There is conflict, there are battles, there are remarkably well described love scenes, marriages of convenience, vendettas, and vivid characters, many of them evil.  Real historical figures appear on the same page as the supernatural, and of course there is plenty of rum.  It is Pirates of the Caribbean with a twist.

Helen Hollick's forte is her ebulliant imagination.   Everything is original, from her writing, which is vivid and yet as economical as conversational French, where unnecessary words ("the", "and") are dropped for fluency. Notable is the lavish use of the color blue, so expensive and cherished at the time, that the cheeky blue of Jesamiah's ribbons is almost eclipsed by the sheer arrogance of painting his ship -- Sea Witch  -- the same blue that was the prerogative of monarchs and prelates! And there are wonderful jokes, snitched from real history, such as the raid of a merchant ship by a crew of pirates who merely needed a haul of hats for their heads.

This book is strongly recommended for young adults who want a rousing story, and also for those who want a thought-provoking new approach to the traditional pirate yarn.

Helen Hollick is the founder of the Discovering Diamonds book review site.  You can read more about her here.


Helen Hollick said...

Thank you Joan, naturally I'm delighted that you enjoyed the read, and hopefully will also enjoy Jesamiah's further adventures - Sea Witch was initially intended as a 'one off' but in typical pirate style, Jesamiah stole my heart, and I found I had to write more about him. I am about to start Voyage six!

Joan Druett said...

As you may have guessed, I really, really liked the Tethys. the image of the taniwha flashed into my head the instant I first read her name.

The image I used in the post is actually of two taniwha, Ngake and Whataitai, which is why you see two heads, but the Tethys could easily be multi-headed!

Ngake created Wellington Harbor, which was originally a lake, by bursting through a rock barrier into Cook Strait. He is supposed to be still lurking out there, just like the Tethys....

And yes, I am sure your readers will be gobbling up the rest of the series.

topazshell said...

I love the description of the pirate. Not usually interested in men with long hair and blue ribbons. Of course, there aren't any around here. But this pirate is worth my reading knowledge one day.

Helen Hollick said...

Thank you Topazshell - I must admit I was somewhat surprised to 'fall' for a chap with long hair and blue ribbons (and infrequent baths!) But those ribbons have lots of uses from standing in as emergency twine, to a very efficient, silent and handy weapon!