Jamaica in 1665 is a rough outpost of the English crown, a minor colony holding out against the vast supremacy of the Spanish empire. Port Royal, Jamaica′s capital, a cut-throat town of taverns, grog shops, and bawdy houses, is devoid of London′s luxuries; life here can end swiftly with dysentery or a dagger in your back. But for Captain Charles Hunter it is a life that can also lead to riches, if he abides by the island′s code. In the name of His Majesty King Charles II of England, gold in Spanish hands is gold for the taking. And law in the New World is made by those who take it into their hands.
Word in port is that the Spanish treasure galleon El Trinidad, fresh from New Spain, is stalled in nearby Matanceros harbor awaiting repairs. Heavily fortified, the impregnable Spanish outpost is guarded by the blood-swiller Cazalla, a favorite commander of King Philip IV himself. With the governor′s backing, Hunter assembles a roughneck crew to infiltrate the enemy island and commandeer the galleon, along with its fortune in Spanish gold. The raid is as perilous as the bloody legends of Matanceros suggest, and Hunter will lose more than one man before he finds himself on the island′s shores, where dense jungle and the firepower of Spanish infantry are all that stand between him and the treasure.
With the help of his cunning crew, Hunter hijacks El Trinidad and escapes the deadly clutches of Cazalla, leaving plenty of carnage in his wake. But his troubles have just begun. . . .
Disclaimer: I avoided Pirate Latitudes for a very long time, and I didn’t have any intention on ever reading it. I will go into my reasoning for this decision later in my review, but I decided to give it a read after suggestion from a number of friends when I put out a call for good pirate stories. And I am happy I gave it a chance.
Pirate Latitudes is exactly what I was looking for in a pirate story. There is romantic dalliances, thievery, epic battles, monsters of the deep, hurricanes, cannibals, mutiny, and treasure! It is a gritty pirate story that held me enthralled during my work commute, as I couldn’t stop listening to the unapologetic descriptions of life in Port Royal during the 1600s. And don’t worry, the story is surprisingly well developed despite containing the aforementioned list of plot points. I adored Captain Hunter; a business man who happily flirts with the opaque line between piracy and privateering! I especially enjoyed how Hunter is not romanticized, but is instead portrayed as an intelligent, educated individual who is both comrade and intolerant captain to the vagabonds working his ship.
The vast array of characters, both shipboard and landlocked, make this a complex story as we deal with the melding of different personalities intent of achieving similar outcomes. I like how the language doesn’t bend to modern political correctness standards. Many characters are identified mainly by their national origin (the Moor), religious preferences (the Jew), and skill set (Enders the sea artist), as they would have been in the 1600s. However, each is masterfully developed, so that you never find yourself wondering which person is which. I’m sorry, it may not be a verbally elegant way to describe it, but we have all found ourselves reading books where we spend half the novel trying to remember all the characters. Pirate Latitudes has a pretty extensive cast but you will have no problem visualizing, and remembering each one!
And now for the not so positive comments. Pirate Latitudes is not the book for you if you are looking for strong, competent, well developed female characters. This story is the complete opposite of Daughter of the Pirate King, in that the woman are only portrayed as sexual objects or witches. Granted, I know that most women living in Port Royal in the 1600s were sex workers…I just had hoped for them to have a stronger role, or more unique characterization. Sadly, each of the three females fell flat and I was left rolling my eyes each time they showed up. Oh I take part of that statement back…Lazue was a strong female character. However, the female pirate spends most of the story disguised as a male and only using her femininity as a deadly weapon (which is another eye roll worthy trope). I do like how Lazue is considered an equal by the crew due to her unique fighting style and excellent eyesight, but guys, don’t pick up Pirate Latitudes expecting strong females.
And why did I plan to never read Pirate Latitude? Because it was published posthumously, and if I was a author, I wouldn’t want my readers picking up something I hadn’t finished. Yes, Pirate Latitude is a great story but it has a few flaws that 1. should have been caught by an editor and 2. probably wouldn’t have ever made it past editing if Crichton had been involved in the publishing. These flaws included repetitive plot points, and incomplete storylines. I’d like to think that Crichton had so much more planned for Pirate Latitudes.
Pirate Latitudes is an old-school, romantic pirate story! I loved it, and suggest it to anyone interested in a swashbuckling story of plunder and life on the high seas :D! Please let me know what you think of this story, and definitely pick up a copy for a late summer beach day!