The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates: Magic Marks the Spot by Caroline Carlson is the first in what will be a trilogy or series of novels. I don’t know. What I do know is that this is a cute book and it does not rely on a cliffhanger to drive the reader to keep exploring the world the author created.
In this first novel we’re introduced to Hilary Westfield who wants to be a pirate. She applies to the Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates (VNHLP) but they reject her off-hand because she is a girl. To make matters worse, they take the initiative to have her enrolled in Miss Pimm’s Finishing School for Delicate Ladies. This does not deter our young heroine and adventures ensue.
I enjoyed this book and found it to be cute, appropriate for its intended tween audience. But like the protagonist, tweens often want more and I don’t know that this novel shows signs of promising more. That doesn’t mean that the next novel and however many more there may prove to be won’t be fulfilling. After all, Lemony Snicket has managed to write a series of novels that do not deviate from the established narrative arch of the first novel but manages to sustain itself for thirteen books. Predictable though they may be, they do succeed. So this series could prove to be equally successful. But the Series of Unfortunate Events is darker than this novel and tweens appreciate being trusted with such themes as death, abuse, violence, and such.
So cute works but can it sustain? I don’t know. I couldn’t help but think of Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett where a young girl shows interest in becoming a wizard although there are no female wizards and must stand athwart of the Unseen University and earn admission to be properly trained. Pratchett’s novels are wry, written for adults. Some parents might not want their tween to read his novels but I certainly wouldn’t hesitate to encourage my tweenagers to read as many of the Discworld books as they like. And there are many of them.
Still, I confess, I didn’t immediately fall in love with J K Rowling either after reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. This novel will probably be condemned to comparison. There are certain similarities. Both novels have a foot in both a world like our own (with a reference to Shakespeare and others) and a world unlike our own, one infused with magic, although these worlds are not as separated in this novel as they are in Rowling’s. Carlson also has three young friends who join together although in her world there are two girls and one boy in the trio. Unfortunately, there are clear indications, when this novel is compared with the other, to suggest that this author doesn’t have the same writing strength. Whereas Harry’s friends each served a clear purpose in working through the final conflict in the novel, Hilary’s friends serve mostly as sidekicks with her working through all of the conflicts she faces. They serve merely as secondary and mostly flat characters but, it is possible, they could prove to be more complex and interesting as the series continues to be published.
Hopefully, the characters will grow as the series grows. Hopefully, the narrative will mature with the reader and each of the novels in the series will prove to be more sophisticated. This was a cute novel and I enjoyed it enough to hope for more in the upcoming novels. However, I don’t know that I’ll go out of my way to seek them out. If I happen upon the next one, I might give it a go. You never know.