Monday, March 25, 2013

Book Review: Bloody Jack by L.A. Meyer

Monday, March 25, 2013
Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary "Jacky" Faber, Ship's Boy (Bloody Jack, #1) 
Genre: Historical Adventure
Publisher: Graphia (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Series: Bloody Jack #1
Source: Bought
Life as a ship's boy aboard HMS Dolphin is a dream come true for Jacky Faber. Gone are the days of scavenging for food and fighting for survival on the streets of eighteenth-century London. Instead, Jacky is becoming a skilled and respected sailor as the crew pursues pirates on the high seas.There's only one problem: Jacky is a girl. And she will have to use every bit of her spirit, wit, and courage to keep the crew from discovering her secret. This could be the adventure of her life--if only she doesn't get caught. . . .
Summary from Goodreads. 
Ever since I saw Pirates of the Caribbean, I have been fascinated with pirates and seafaring folk in that time period. I also love the Piratica books (the first two, anyway) and from what I heard, Bloody Jack is similar. While Jacky Faber is actually a law-abiding sailor, not the pirate I had hoped for, this book definitely lived up to my expectations.

Mary "Jacky" Faber is a memorable protagonist, and the reader gets to see her grow up on board the HMS Dolphin. She's had a tough life, and somehow she hasn't let this taint her spirit in the slightest. Meyer captures her voice magnificently through his brilliant use of street talk. Unlike some readers, I can't imagine accents as I read, but I could clearly hear Jacky's and all of the other characters' ,as well. And what characters they were. My favorite is Liam, her sea dad, who's just  such a kind, caring soul. Then there's her fellow ship boys, Willy, Davy, Tink, and Jaimy, who make up the colorful and adventurous Brotherhood. To be honest, though, I liked Jaimy, the love interest, less and less as the novel progressed. It will be interesting to see what kind of person he becomes in the sequel.

The plot of Bloody Jack focuses on Jacky's growth, which I wish I had seen a bit more of emotionally. I saw a hint of what I was hoping for towards the end, but overall, it seems that Jacky stays pretty stagnant. She discovers things about herself, to some degree, and there are some small changes, but for the majority of the book, Jacky's thoughts and personality are very much the same.

Life on the HMS Dolphin is incredible, though. I'm biased because I love this sort of thing, but I think anyone can enjoy Bloody Jack. The daily jobs and the Deception (what Jacky calls her pretense of being a boy) and her dealings with some of the nastier sailors on the ship (Sloat will make your stomach turn) is fascinating. I especially appreciated how Meyer subtly incorporated themes through Tilden's daily lessons on the ship. Then there are the action scenes, which completely capture the gore and horror of battle. Every time things seem to be going all right for Jacky, something happens that stirs everything up again. It will definitely keep you on your toes.

Bloody Jack is a historical fiction novel, and a very accurate one at that. One dangerous flaw of some historical fiction is that the characters are too modern for their setting, but Meyer avoids this. All of the prejudices and stigmas of the period exist (and unfortunately, they're very reminiscent of the prejudices and stigmas of today) and Jacky is not always above them. However, they are all addressed in a way that is natural to the story and doesn't come off as preachy.

All in all, Bloody Jack is an awesome book. It's no wonder that so many people like this series!
*4 stars*
You'll Like This If You Liked: Piratica by Tanith Lee, Nobody's Princess by Esther Friesner
What are some of your favorite pirate reads?


  1. I've picked up this book so many times but never seem to make it past the first chapter. I *really* need to get into this, don't I? I'm glad that you gave a positive review without it being unabashedly gushing; it'll help me tone my expectations down, and perhaps if I go into the book that way, I'll actually finish it! Thanks! :)

  2. I'm so on the fence about this book. I like pirates/ship books and I do love historical fiction (so yay for historical accuracy in this one!) but I don't really love the girl-pretending-to-be-boy story and I really don't like phonetic writing (I don't like hearing character accents in my head). The positive points you addressed ARE pretty compelling though... thanks for the info! You've given me more food for thought.

  3. It goes away soon enough as she learns to speak better. In the later books, her adventures lead her to become a feared pirate, so hang on and I can assure that the fun ahs only just begun with this first book. The Eleventh book is actually set to come out later this year!

  4. This is one of those series I hear about OVER and OVER again... everyone says it's so good, but it just hasn't made its way on to my pile yet. I think I should make it my goal to read it within the next year or so, because I think I would really like it once I delved in.

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