Let’s Swashbuckle, Shall We?

It’s been over a month, but I’m still coming down off the high I’ve been on since watching the fabulous season finale of Once Upon a Time. Since then, I’ve been reading a lot more fairy tale retellings – I’ll start talking more about those soon! But, I also picked out a stack of pirate novels to tackle. For Captain Hook reasons.

Reading to get through the Once Upon a Time hiatus. It should be a thing.

pirate novels

The Sea-Hawk by Rafael Sabatini Goodreads / Amazon

Women and revenge. The downfall of pirates everywhere, y’all.

So, this is a legit old-school adventure novel, you guys. A guy gets tricked by someone he trusted into taking the blame for a murder and ends up slaving on a ship. He eventually rises into fame by becoming the Sea Hawk, a feared pirate captain and vows to take revenge on the people that wronged him. Plus, there’s a girl. And some Muslims. And treacherous women that try to kill  him.

Sometimes the characters got on my nerves – especially the women. But come on, reading this was fun! Plus, the language is so fantastic. Check out some of these great lines:

“‘Thou dog,’ I cried, ‘thou shalt be made to suffer!'”


“His thwarted desires of yesterday were the despots of his wits.”


“‘Unsay thy words, thou offal. Pronounce thyself a liar and a dog.'”

Under the Black Flag: The Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates by David Cordingly Goodreads / Amazon

Reading non-fiction books about pirates can be kind of a downer, because it’s the time when you have to face the fact that pirates aren’t actually romantic heroes. They’re, you know…actual raping, pillaging douchebags. Still though, this was a fascinating read! I admit that I did a little skimming when the topic wasn’t something that particularly interested me, but for the most part I enjoyed as I learned. From the different flags they used to women pirates to the sometimes fine line between the sanctioned privateers vs. actual pirates. Plus, now I really wanna reread Treasure Island…

“The fact is that we want to believe in the world of the pirates as it has been portrayed in the adventure stories, the plays, and the films over the years. We want the myths, the treasure maps, the buried treasure, the walking the plank, the resolute pirates captins with their cutlasses and earrings, and the seamen with their wooden legs and parrots. We prefer to forget the barbaric tortures and the hangings, and the desperate plight of men shipwrecked on hostile coasts. For most of us the pirates will always be romantic outlaws living far from civilization on some distant sunny shore.”

Gentlemen of the Road by Michael Chabon Goodreads / Amazon

This book was recommended on the Book Riot Podcast for fans of pirate novels even though the characters practice their thieving traveling from town to town via mountains and roadways. It’s the spirit of the thing that matters, right?

Basically, I loved this story to pieces. It’s takes place around the year 950. A skinny Jew and an African giant, loyal to each other beyond all reason, go from thieves and bamboozlers to accidental leaders of a revolution. Tell me that doesn’t sound awesome! The somewhat dry sounding synopsis I saw is so misleading, because believe it or not – this book is hilarious.

The characterization and the dialogue were just so breathtakingly good that I found myself giddy at times. One thing I loved was that the characters did have a kind of code they followed (good form, shall we say?). Take a look at one of my favorite bookmarked passages (both for the writing style and the interesting moral declaration):

“‘I am not overly encumbered by principle, as you know,’ Zelikman continued. ‘I am a gentleman of the road, an apostate from the faith of my fathers, a renegade, a brigand, a hired blade, a thief, but on this one small principle of economy, damn you, and damn that troublemaking little stripling, and damn every one of those men out there, living men, in full possession, for the most part, of all their limbs and humors, I have to hold firm: if we can only save them one man at a time, then by God we must only kill them one man at a time.'”


{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Emma July 7, 2014, 10:57 am

    PIRATES! Have you read Fast Ships, Black Sails? It’s a book about pirates in various times and places with a science fiction twist. It’s also a short story collection, so it fits in with your last post.

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