Empire of Blue Water

Empire of Blue Water: Captain Morgan’s Great Pirate Army, the Epic Battle for the Americas, and the Catastrophe That Ended the Outlaws’ Bloody Reign
by Stephan Talty

He challenged the greatest empire on earth with a ragtag bunch of renegades—and brought it to its knees. Empire of Blue Water is the real story of the pirates of the Caribbean.

Henry Morgan, a twenty-year-old Welshman, crossed the Atlantic in 1655, hell-bent on making his fortune. Over the next three decades, his exploits in the Caribbean in the service of the English became legendary. His daring attacks on the mighty Spanish Empire on land and at sea determined the fates of kings and queens, and his victories helped shape the destiny of the New World.

Morgan gathered disaffected European sailors and soldiers, hard-bitten adventurers, runaway slaves, and vicious cutthroats, and turned them into the most feared army in the Western Hemisphere. Sailing out from the English stronghold of Port Royal, Jamaica, “the wickedest city in the New World,” Morgan and his men terrorized Spanish merchant ships and devastated the cities where great riches in silver, gold, and gems lay waiting. His last raid, a daring assault on the fabled city of Panama, helped break Spain’s hold on the Americas forever.

Awash with bloody battles, political intrigues, natural disaster, and a cast of characters more compelling, bizarre, and memorable than any found in a Hollywood swashbuckler—including the notorious pirate L’Ollonais, the soul-tortured King Philip IV of Spain, and Thomas Modyford, the crafty English governor of Jamaica—Empire of Blue Water brilliantly re-creates the passions and the violence of the age of exploration and empire.

2019 has found me really wanting to learn more about the Golden Age of Piracy. Not really a weird reading trend; I did take an Archaeology of Piracy class during my Undergrad studies. It’s just last year I preferred fiction (Pirates Latitudes and Daughter of the Pirate King) and this year I am craving nonfiction. So I decided to finish Empire of Blue Water.

Note: Empire of Blue Water is one of the 2018 stragglers I needed to finish.

My overall reaction to this novel was…meh. The good thing is Empire of Blue Water provides so much detailed information. The bad thing is Empire of Blue Water provides soooooooo much detailed information.

The novel details the life of Henry Morgan and the golden age of Caribbean piracy. Readers are provided a detailed history of Henry Morgan’s upbringing, his life of privateering (let’s be real…it was piracy), and his transition to plantation owner and civil servant. The text also provides an generalized account of the lives of pirate crew, which works as both an educational and comparison tool. And I was shocked to learn that Morgan specialized in ‘over land’ battles instead of epic battles at sea. Empire of Blue Water was well organized, deftly presented, and relatively engaging.

And yet I struggled to get through the audiobook. It took me a solid four months to read! The problem was the book talked about everything that influenced Caribbean piracy: Spanish politics, English politics, the varieties of Christianity, the sugar crop, the silver trade, all the pirate captains and their impact on the Caribbean. EVERYTHING. There were just so many people covered that it was often difficult to keep them all separated in my mind. I consistently found myself drifting off, especially when the author spent an entire chapter dedicated to the health and superstitious qualities of the Spanish monarchy. I know, I know; this information is important in understanding all aspects of the golden age of piracy. The story just dragged, and I was a tad embarrassed at how relieved I was upon finishing it.

Empire of Blue Water was ok. I recommend it to anyone wanting to learn more about Morgan and the Golden Age of piracy. Just be prepared for the information dump and know you won’t really get to read about epic sea battles.

I think my next pirate reads will be X Marks the Spot and the Under the Black Flag. Let me know your favorite pirate fiction and nonfiction!

Lindsay

Pirate Latitudes

Pirate Latitudes

by Michael Crichton

6428887

 

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!

Lindsay

Daughter of the Pirate King

Daughter of the Pirate King

by Tricia Levenseller

33644022

If you want something done right . . .

When the ruthless pirate king learns of a legendary treasure map hidden on an enemy ship, his daughter, Alosa, knows there’s only one pirate for the job—herself. Leaving behind her beloved ship and crew, Alosa deliberately facilitates her own kidnapping to ensure her passage on the ship, confident in her ability to overcome any obstacle. After all, who’s going to suspect a seventeen-year-old girl locked in a cell? Then she meets the (surprisingly perceptive and unfairly attractive) first mate, Riden, who is charged with finding out all her secrets. Now it’s down to a battle of wits and will . . . . Can Alosa find the map and escape before Riden figures out her plan?

I picked up Daughter of the Pirate King because I wanted a good young adult historical fiction novel about pirates. Guys, it is near impossible to find a young adult pirate book that doesn’t include time travel, magic, fairies…and so on. I don’t dislike fantasy stories, I actually enjoy the occasional fantasy read, but on this site I like to share books that fall into the nonfiction, historical fiction, or mystery genres. (I mean, even my mystery shares are typically also considered historical fiction) So, you can imagine how I felt like I had finally hit pay dirt after reading the above synopsis! Here was a young adult novel about pirates that was not a fantasy story….WRONG! Now, this doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the book. I really liked Daughter of the Pirate King, but I felt you needed to be warned that this is a fantasy story, that is set in a fantasy world where magic exists.

However, I feel it should be noted Daughter of the Pirate King provides a relatable and somewhat accurate description of pirate culture. (Please note that I am not an expert on the history of piracy, though I have taken a few courses on the subject)  The scenes of debauchery when shore, the time stuck aboard ship, the superiority complexes, and even the tale of Alosa’s conception (yup, you read that correctly) are exquisitely detailed and developed in a rather realistic fashion embracing pirate culture and superstition. So, though I was disappointed at the magical element, I was happy with the rest of the book.

Ok, so I will start with the positive attributes of the story. I like how strong Alosa is. She is smart, witty, and confident in way most teenage, and even adult, females struggle to obtain. Her unwavering confidence in herself is the main reason she can successfully survive in a world dominated by men who are typically fueled by greed and self interest. I loved watching the plot unfold, even if it was a tad predictable at moments. Levenseller does a fantastic job depicting shipboard life, and I was happy with how she provided unique personalities to the men holding Alosa captive. And the relationship between Alosa and Riden was just fun, developing in a way that I found myself riveted to their story. And don’t worry guys; definitely no insta-love in Daughter of the Pirate King, which I feel we can all agree is a wonderful break of YA trope.

Now for a few negative points. Alosa is a strong, willful woman who also spends a good bit of the story being down right pigheaded. Some of her thoughts/comments/decisions left me rolling my eyes in shear annoyance. I am all about a character being flawed, but as I turned that last page, I was hit with the realization that Alosa hadn’t really learned any lessons about equality between men and women. Despite modern social standards, sexism isn’t just aimed at women, and Daughter of the Pirate King is full of rather extreme male sexism. I am hoping that this is rectified as the series progresses, because otherwise I will have to put this series down. Discriminating against someone because of their sex is plain sexism; it doesn’t matter if they are male or female. I also have to point out, that despite the blatant dude-bashing done by Alosa, she is the only fully developed female character in the story. Sure, we are introduced to a few of her all-female crew but I think maybe only one stood out from the rest….yep just one; the assassin. I feel the lack of development is only because Daughter of the Pirate King is Levenseller’s debut novel, and I expect both her plot and character development will only improve with time and experience.

In the end, I couldn’t put Daughter of the Pirate King down. I finished it over a weekend and it is the perfect read for those looking for a light, fun story to embrace the end of summer! I will be picking up the next story, Daughter of the Siren Queen, as soon as it comes out in 2018!

Have you read Daughter of the Pirate King? What are your thoughts? What books are your reading as summer ends?

Lindsay