Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Reader's Review: "The Pirate Princess" by Catherine Banks

Synopsis from Amazon:
As the daughter of the Pirate King, Tilia Swanson has an unusual upbringing learning skills that aren't often available for women. As the heir apparent for the Kingdom of Crilan, her skills set her apart as she is trained by the best in the land and taught to harness her magic. However, piracy is in her blood, and draws danger to her in the way that treasure draws pirates. Some treasures are more valuable than others. Will this lesson be learned in time or will the betrayal of those around her be her undoing?

My Review:

Sigh.... So many conflicting feelings about this book. I had high hopes because, where the blurb seems a bit vague on plot, the cover was exciting, and it helped to read all the generally-positive reviews. I offered to feature a review of it on my blog, and the author was kind enough to gift me a copy.
The story was amusing for about the first ten chapters. Tilia was a sassy, "gifted" young lady with no time for "landlubber" things like dresses and balls. She gets sent to live with her aunt and uncle in a castle for a time, and she finds out that Jared and Esmerelda are kind of like the "cool parents", young-couple type--both are "the best fighters in the land" and Esmerelda shares Tilia's disdain for finery. At the ball celebrating her sixteenth (sixteen... remember that!) birthday, Tilia crosses paths, and later swords, with the handsome and well-trained Finn--a pirate boy whom the royal couple surely would object to. They don't, though, and it takes a potentially-fatal kidnapping incident resulting in a magic-aided rescue (because magic is as normal as swordsmanship) to finally reveal to these close friends that she is a princess and a pirate.

The end, right? Nope; we move on to Chapter 7 (I think...), and we are treated to a "time snap" ("One year"/"three months"/"Fourteen months later") pretty much every other chapter after that. This was probably my biggest issue with the book: the chapters were so long, and covered so many events, that it was difficult to keep reading at times. I kept reading only because the setting had seemed so fascinating at first, I was wondering when the story would stop feeling like a disjointed "introduction" to a much larger, or at least more consistent plot--but, as far as I could tell, it never quite made it that far.
There is a budding relationship with Finn--but again, the character had nothing much to recommend him beyond how Tilia (the narrator) stated how she felt around him, and the fact that Finn was instantly jealous and angry at any guy who laid a hand on Tilia.... which a lot of guys invariably did, her being drop-dead gorgeous on top of supremely talented. Reading this sprawling, gamboling "clip show" of a tale had me thinking so much of what consistent plot lines I would have pursued, given the circumstances, that it was distracting me from following what Banks had originally wrote!
Then, too, there was my issue with the language; maybe I'm just strange, but a high-fantasy-type setting with mages and pirates and royalty doesn't quite seem the sort of place where people use terms like "butt" and "awesomeness" and "getting up there in age".... The vocabulary Banks uses feels suited for a middle-grade reader--but then again, the frequent fight scenes and the, umm, "suggestive" scenes between Finn and Tilia (not explicit, but rather close!) make it difficult to pronounce the book suitable for that age group.

What makes it even more difficult to figure out a rating is that this is not the author's first book--but it certainly seemed like it. I will say, there was enough creativity involved that kept the entertainment factor throughout. The other positive reviews are certainly well-deserved. I just didn't quite enjoy it as much as I have other indie books I've featured here. I would have loved to see a character like Faxon more involved with the events of the story; perhaps further development of the relationships between the other kingdoms, (rather than just not mentioning them till they're trying to kill pirates or capture Tilia), or some kind of deeper plot with the neat concept of the Queen's Fire/ the King's Steel staging a coup that would have kept things rolling and provided the book with a neat resolution (which the story didn't exactly have, really...) But if you're the sort that likes a "swashbuckling" adventure in a neat setting without too much substance to it, and all of the "traditional" tropes one would expect to find in a "pirates-versus-royals" story featuring a (sixteen-year-old!) lady pirate... "Pirate Princess" is a good, light-and-fluffy (albeit long!) read.

I would give "Pirate Princess" a ***THREE STAR*** Rating and an Upstream Writer Certified "Recommended" Rating. 

Other Reviews of Related Reads:

Royalty in Hiding (Fantasy): "The Starlight Proverbs", "Songstruck", "Foul is Fair"
Strong Female Lead: "Sky Knight", "The Way", "Disenchanted"