Top positive review
A compelling and entertaining adventure that makes me want to search for more treasure in the second book!
Reviewed in the United States on November 8, 2020
I really enjoyed this story, though it was a bit more adult than young adult in some aspects (see common sense warning below). The main character, Alosa, is a feisty, red-headed, hardened pirate, raised and trained by the Pirate King himself to be fierce and strong with special skills. She is seventeen and has endured a lot to become whatever her father has pushed her to be, just wanting his approval. She captains her own crew of mostly female pirates with exceptional skills. She has been sent on a mission by the Pirate King to be taken captive on another pirate lord's ship in order to find a piece of an ancient treasure map that will lead to a horde of treasure. The Pirate King wants that treasure to secure his dominion over the ocean (and land in some ways). Alosa wants the treasure to please her father, but also to prove her worth as his heir, someday to become the Pirate Queen.
Although Alosa is intentionally captured and can reveal her skills at any time to escape, she stays on board as a prisoner to search for the piece of map. But she didn't expect that the captain and his brother, the first mate, were intentionally seeking her to hold for ransom to the Pirate King and make a name for themselves. The captain is fierce and short-tempered, and could easily succumb to a darker side of himself, much like his father, without the support and watchful eye of his brother, Riden. Riden is more considerate and intelligent than his brother, and doesn't really seem to like being a pirate, but he won't leave his brother to become like their father. So Riden does his best to go forward with his brother's plan by questioning and gaining the trust of their prisoner, while also protecting her from the captain's temper.
Due to their regular encounters of interrogation, Alosa and Rider become almost like friends. They are both trying to read each other for information without giving away their own secrets, and they banter back and forth quite a bit. Meanwhile, Alosa sneaks out of her cell every night to search the ship for the map, but keeps returning to the brig empty-handed. By the time they near the place where they are to meet with the Pirate King to exchange his daughter for ransom, Alosa is desperate to accomplish her mission and escape, before these pirates learn more of her secrets and special abilities.
But she is getting dangerously close, almost intimate, with Riden through their interactions, both interrogation and protection from his brother's cruelty and impatience. He wants to protect his brother from the darkness inside of him, but also protect this pirate girl who seems so confident and capable and resilient. The more he discovers about her, the more he needs to solve this puzzle that is the Pirate King's daughter. This leads to all kinds of internal conflict for both Riden and Alosa, and they're forced to trust and rely on each other to get out of several predicaments before the conclusion of this adventure. It made me laugh and squirm, gave me sympathy for the characters, and got me all caught up in their tragic upbringings as children of pirates just trying to survive and earn approval and acceptance. Overall, a very fun and exciting read that kept me compelled until the end and wanting to search for more treasure in the second book.
I also read the free bonus chapter from the author, the first chapter of the book from Riden's perspective. It was totally worth having that extra information, and really fun to replay that scene from Riden's viewpoint. Go check it out on her website!
Common sense: To forewarn parents of younger readers, this is a story about ruthless pirates. As you can imagine, there is some swearing, drinking, and several fight scenes with guns and swords. The pirates kill people without remorse or even wincing. There are also many comments about the things male pirates do with women when they get to visit land, and a few things attempted on the main character and crude references, being the only female aboard a ship of male pirates for an extended period of time. There are a few frisky encounters described between Alosa and Riden as well, including when she is trying to seduce the other crew members to get what she wants, though nothing happens past removing some clothing. I would suggest these things are too much for younger imaginations to absorb, so keep it to high school level and up. This is a young adult series, after all.