Everyone knows that women aboard pirate ships are unlucky. When I first saw Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller I assumed, erroneously, that the daughter from the title would be another left-behind maiden yearning to travel the sea with her father. I could not have been more wrong.
Seventeen year old Alosa has been raised by her father aboard his ship. She is deadly, demanding, strong, and smart. She has her own ship, a crew of mostly women to which she is deeply dedicated. But, when ordered by the Pirate King to locate a piece of a legendary map she doesn’t balk in getting herself captured aboard a rival’s ship. The only thing between Alosa and successfully completing her mission is Riden, the clever and attractive first mate aboard the infiltrated vessel.
It took me a few chapters to be truly drawn into this story. The capture is exhilarating but then there is a fairly boring cycle of being fake captured, escaping, and being re-captured that quickly grew stale. Still, like most series books, the action increased dramatically in the second half of the story and the culminating chapters left me excited for the next book.
Most of all, Alosa is a wonderful character. Strong, both physically and mentally, she has been raised by her father to be a weapon. As a Princess and a Pirate she must follow his command but she longs for equal independence. Further complicating her life is the legacy gifted to her by her mother. The real question is whether Riden will be her equal in this journey or just another complication? My hopes are pinned on him letting her continue to kick ass. All I know is that I cannot wait to see more of Alosa’s story.
Tell me, please!
What makes a strong female character real to you?
I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I finished Madeline Miller’s first book, The Song of Achilles. That book tore something in my heart and for days afterwards I carried it around the house as one would a beloved stuffed animal. When I learned that she had a new book I was ecstatic but unsure if I could withstand the heartache. I needed to read it but I didn’t want it to be over. So, I purchased Circe and did what I always do. I held onto it delaying the moment for as long as possible.
When I started Circe I was thrilled to see that Madeline Miller’s beautiful prose is as full and lush as the gorgeous cover. I expected nothing less from this author. In a book comprised almost entirely of description I fell into a lull that was almost hypnotic, especially once Circe was banned to Aiaia. When Circe interacted with people I felt the invasion of our private time together, Circe and myself, acutely. In short, I loved it.
Madeline Miller has an innate ability to take a well known subject and shift our perspective. She doesn’t change the story. Circe is still a witch. She is still banned to Aiaia. And, she interacts with all the heroes our education informed us should cross her path. But, this time, we are not subjected to this woman’s story as told through the lens of a man. Instead, we hear it from the witch herself.
When I finished Circe I put it down, smiled at it and squinted my eyes like you would at a clever child or a quick witted quip. Madeline Miller got me again. I expected a strong preconceived notion to be melted away and with it, my heart. I was surprised instead to watch a white hot spark flutter slowly into existence until it grew into golden fire. I squinted at the book and felt the desire to wink at Circe but couldn’t manage to avoid whispering, “You go girl.”
Tell me, please!
Have you read Madeline Miller’s books? What are your thoughts?
This morning I wrote a long blog post about how much I loved reading this book. I waxed poetically about my love for Drag Queens, my need for better self confidence in a bathing suit and how all around impressed I was with the main character Willowdean. I posted it.
Then I worried about my use of the word “fat” to describe the main character. I know this is how Willowdean describes herself but I thought that maybe I should add a little caveat acknowledging that fact and that it is not my favorite word to use. I went in to edit and I deleted the whole darn thing.
I’m going to try and find the old post. But this book and this character deserve to be written about and read right now. So, while we all wait to see if I can work the technology here are the big points:
(1) Willowdean is confident in a way that is totally enviable. From page 1 she is completely comfortable in her own (self-described) fat self.
(2) Willowdean has a crisis of confidence. It happens to the best of us. Hers doesn’t come from people mocking her or leaving her out. It comes from the amorous attention of a boy she likes.
(3) She gets her confidence back by her own damn self. Big props to Julie Murphy here.
This delightful second Kopp sisters novel gives us another peek into the historically rooted adventures of Constance, Norma and Fluerette Kopp. In Girl Waits With a Gun, the women took their first steps outside of their country home and into the adventure, and danger, of a changing world. Now, in The Lady Cop Makes Trouble, the women are determined to more fully engage in their chosen journey and each of them finds challenges great and small.
Constance, the main Kopp sister, has been accepted by the Sheriff of Bergen County as equal to the task of law enforcement and he has appointed her as one of the nation’s first female deputies. Constance finds herself a useful (and paid!) member of the sheriff’s department. Unfortunately, no adventure is ever smooth. Soon, an inmate escapes and Constance is blamed. Her dream of being a policewomen are placed in peril.
I love this character. Demoted and ashamed she could have just accepted a new position or gone back to the farm. Does she? Hell no. She has had a taste of the job she is destined to have and she is determined to win it back.
Constance is described in a variety of ways though the first and second book. Since she is a real person there are even photographs of her. But, for me, her actions paint the best picture of all. She kicks down doors, wrestles men to the ground and shoots her gun. She is smart and thorough. Constance stands quietly in the face of men and women who do not think she belongs on the force. She all but goes door to door righting wrongs. I love Constance.
Norma is a hard to crack and her obsession with carrier pigeons is…unusual. Fluerette is determined to build her life on a stage. These two sisters take a backseat in this installment but, and I say this with great hope, we will hear more from them very soon.
Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres. Sometimes an author creates a whole fictional world around a single fact, a unique person or one event. What Amy Stewart does that I absolutely adore is transport the reader into the past through intricate details like fabric samples, changes in transportation, social and economic shifts and some fabulous ladies. She freely admits which things she invents for the sake of the story and which are absolutely true. This book, like the last, almost feels like listening to a very old person tell a story they have told 100 times before. You know that things are embellished or perhaps not entirely historically accurate. But you also know that Constance, Norma and Fluerette are real. That is what makes the Kopp Sisters stories so very enjoyable.
I love Jessica Day George. The thought I might love her when I read Dragon Slippers. This is a story about a young woman named Creel whose aunt offers her as a sacrifice to the local Dragon hoping that she will be rescued by a knight and subsequently wed. Creel instead talks herself out of trouble and then heads into her kingdom’s metropolis with only some embroidery thread and a mysterious pair of slippers. Her adventures and successes are steered by her own convictions and supported by sheer determination. The next two books in the series are just as good.
Then, I read her Castle series. So good. My love was growing. Tuesdays at the Castle introduce the reader to Castle Glower and Princess Celie. Castle Glower is remarkable because on Tuesdays the Castle changes by adding a room or a turret or sometimes a whole new wing. Princess Celie is the only resident who is interested enough to map our the Castle and its new additions. When her family and home are attacked she, like Creel, steps up to defend herself, her home, and her kingdom. I love a strong woman!
Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow cemented my undying love. This book is just as good as anything Jessica Day George has written with the added benefit of being based on the Nordic fairy tale East of the Sun, West of the Moon. While I have gone through bouts of obsessing over Native American folklore, Irish fairytales, and even a period in college of immersing myself in Non-Western Culture I know nothing about Nordic fairytales. Still, like most fairytales you will see some familiar threads.
Give me a strong woman, a strange land and an intriguing quest and I am happy. Jessica Day George always delivers on all three and this book kept me ignoring my housekeeping and general personal hygiene until the very last page.
So there it is. Author obsession for today. Now that I have fully stalked her website I know that there are a couple of books I have missed. I’m off to read!