Friday, September 12, 2014

Steel (Carrie Vaughn)

Carrie Vaughn
Fiction, YA Fantasy
**** (Good)

DESCRIPTION: A fraction of a second. That's all it took for Jill to lose a shot at the Junior World Fencing Championships. Though her parents are supportive and her coach still thinks she's Olympic material, she can't stop thinking about that match, and how she should've won. Even in the Bahamas, where the family has come for a vacation, Jill broods. Then she finds the rusted piece of metal on the beach: the tip of a rapier, possibly centuries old. And everything changes.
Falling overboard during a sightseeing tour, Jill wakes to find herself hauled out of the water - not onto a fiberglass motorboat, but a wooden schooner straight out of a pirate movie, complete with ragged, unwashed extras brandishing blades and muskets. This is the Diana, run by the pirate queen Majorie Cooper. That rusted old blade tip came from a cursed sword brandished by Captain Cooper's sworn enemy, Edmund Blane. In order to survive long enough to figure out how it pulled Jill back in time, she has to stay alive in a lawless, unforgiving world.
Being too slow by a fraction of a second cost her a match. That same mistake here could cost her her life.

REVIEW: A young adult tale of pirates, fencing, obsession, and just a light touch of romance and magic, Steel starts fairly fast and rarely slackens. Jill obsesses over fencing: it's more than just a sport, it's her life, and that lost match is a festering open sore. Naturally, during her adventure, she learns some important lessons that make fretting over a mere tournament seem childish, but Vaughn manages to make Jill sympathetic even when she's a brooding teen... no mean feat for a writer. The world of piracy is no Errol Flynn movie (or even Johnny Depp), shown as a savage place in a time when humans are commodities, yet at least among the pirates there exists a hint of democracy - among themselves, at any rate. Jill meets a variety of characters, most of whom are more than mere wayposts on her journey of growth and self-discovery, though ultimately she must stand alone against both the foul Blane and the magic that brought her here. That magic, frankly, almost could've been cut from the story without affecting it overmuch; it really is something of an afterthought on Vaughn's part, a white rabbit to drop her down the rabbit hole of time. As a fantasy fan, I would've liked to see a little more of it, as its presence and powers seemed more like conveniences of the plot than a mystical, if nebulous, force. Overall, though, I can't really complain. Given my iffy reading luck lately, I forgave it a few minor irritations and went with a Good rating.

You Might Also Enjoy:
The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle (Avi) - My Review
Pirate's Passage (William Gilkerson) - My Review
Piratica (Tanith Lee) - My Review

No comments:

Post a Comment