Friday, February 27, 2009

Isle of Swords

Title: Isle of Swords

Series: Pirate Adventures #1

Author: Wayne Thomas Batson

Genre: Teen (13-16) High-Seas Adventure

Excerpt from “A Black Bird in the Storm,” Chapter 1 of Isle of Swords:

“Papa, I’m scared!” the little girl cried out as she slid awkwardly across the deck. Before she could regain her balance, she crashed into her father’s arms.

“Oh, Dolphin!” he said, shielding her from sheets of rain and sea spray. “What are you doing up here?”She looked up at him. “I heard a monster out in the sea!”

“A monster? My darling daughter, you heard the thunder and the wind, that’s all.” He snuggled her in close beneath his coat. “There are no monsters in the sea. It’s a storm.”

“But it’s a big storm!” she whimpered.

“No, not big. Just noisy.” But this voice was not her father’s.

A struggling pirate and his daughter must cross a powerful pirate lord to keep their ship—and family—afloat.

Craft: Choppy but clean. If I had to sum up the writing from Isle of Swords in one sentence, that would probably be it.

The plot is solid and straightforward, very reminiscent of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Action packs the pages, with swordfights galore and a few twists to keep the story unpredictable. However, the action is so constant as we jump from one crisis to the next, the reading feels a little bit choppy. In a similar way, the characters are very likeable and interesting, but tend to develop in fits and starts, with many POV jumps in a small space.

The prose itself is clean and easy to read. Unfortunately, that means there’s a higher use of short sentences and words, adding to the choppy feel.

But if you can get past the choppiness—and it does subside some farther into the book—there is a good story buried inside with some good humor and a fairly satisfying end.

Content: A Christian novel with the main heroes being pirates—it sounds like a contradiction. Yet Mr. Batson pulls it off for the most part. He treads carefully, thoroughly explaining the reasons behind why they became pirates and the protagonists are very vocally not Christian. He also resolves some of the tension in this area by the end. This doesn’t justify the wrong done in such a lifestyle, of course, so some discernment is needed in this matter. But the author tries very hard to strike a delicate balance and as a whole succeeds.

As for the spiritual threads, they surface in fits and starts, largely because of the non-Christian protagonists. So sometimes it’s hardly there, only to become blatantly obvious—on the edge of preachiness—on the next page. But it doesn’t seems forced for the most part, but flows naturally from the characters and their interactions. Other themes woven throughout the story include taking responsibility for actions, respecting authority, and the sovereignty of God.

As for topics of concern, the handful of supernatural elements—all connected with the Isle of Swords—are portrayed as divine protection. Violence is fairly common, with swordfights and navel battles. There are also a couple torture scenes and whippings. All are necessary, but given as light of a hand as possible, the results and character reactions the most common forms of showing.

Summary: Isle of Swords is a little choppy and not the most intellectually stimulating, but it provides a fun swash-buckling adventure. The writing would be exceptionally good with struggling readers. However, because of the stronger violence and questionable issues surrounding the pirates, a certain level of maturity and discernment is needed. Therefore I recommend that readers should be no younger than eleven or twelve without parental preapproval.

Rating: Craft—3, Content—3, Overall—3.5

Order Isle of Swords here, or from my Words of Whimsy bookstore. And don't miss my review of book 2, Isle of Fire!

No comments: