by K. Hanson
YA Fantasy with Pirates!
Captain Nereyda and her first mate, Brynja, lead a band of pirates as they seek out grand adventures and loot vulnerable merchant ships. However, when they attempt an overly ambitious raid, Nereyda and her crew are captured by Commander Erhan of the Imperial navy and separated. Nereyda is pressed into service aboard a ship to patrol the treacherous waters of the Shattered Sea. Meanwhile, Brynja and the rest of the crew are sent to a life of hellish labor deep in an Imperial mining prison camp.
While serving her sentence, Nereyda is shipwrecked on an unknown island. As she explores it, she stumbles into some ancient ruins and finds…something. Whatever it is, it wakes a part of Nereyda that she had not felt before. Something that could help her free the rest of her crew and return to life on the sea, if only she can learn to control it. Unfortunately, Commander Erhan is also on the island. Nereyda must escape him, get off of the island, and rescue her crew before the commander can stop her and before her crew withers away in the oppressive mines.
Pirates and high-sea adventure mix with a brave and daring heroine to make this one of those books which can't be put down until the last page has been read.
Nereyda is the captain of a successful pirate ship, one which doesn't shy away from any worthwhile treasure and never takes more than the victims can afford. She's fearless, a bit reckless but honorable as far as pirates go. When Nereyda and her crew are lured into a trap, she finds herself serving as a slave on a military vessel in treacherous waters, while her crew is sentenced to work twenty years under life threatening conditions in the mines. Swearing to find a way to free them, she finds herself under a captain with little talent in steering a ship in dangerous waters. When a storm lands her stranded on an unknown island, she must not only fight against a dangerous mysterious power, but escape the hateful man stranded with her and find a way to leave the island and save her crew.
This is a pirate story with a wonderful female captain, who has tons of snark and bite. It is not a love story, which was not only refreshing but allowed the adventure to ride full swing. Nereyda is a pirate, who's talented, experienced, cocky and a little reckless. In other words, she's a real treat. Her morals teeter on the border, but then, she is a pirate.
The adventure never stops as Nereyda battles her way from one sticky situation through the next. But it's not only about her. Brynja, her first mate, shines as many of the chapters are told from her viewpoint as well. While Nereyda does her best to escape her ship prison and later the island, Brynja protects the crew in the mines as best she can. The two have an interesting relationship, making it unclear how the other will react or how strong the loyalty really is. It keeps the reader on their toes, never really knowing what the outcome will be.
To liven things up even more—as if that was necessary—, there's a super natural aspect thrown in. It does not follow any cliche direction and adds an interesting twist to the story. At the ending of this book, it's clear that this aspect will have a very strong influence on the further plot of the series, and no doubt, an exciting one.
Summed up, this was a fast-paced, very entertaining pirate story, which steers away from the common romance themes often seen in YA. It's girl power pure with tons of snark, risk and simply a fun read.
The scent of treasure floated in the ocean air as it breezed through Nereyda’s black hair. She gazed across the water at the largest cruise ship she had ever seen, which would be carrying some of the wealthiest lords and merchants from the Empire. She didn’t see any armed passengers aside from the personal bodyguards that were along for the ride. Just as importantly, no cannons were visible. The ship didn’t even have any gun ports. Easy prey.
Pirates never dared strike so close to the mainland. The high level of naval activity, along with a large number of ports from which reinforcements could sail, made it dangerous. However, Nereyda felt confident that they could slip in and hit one ship before escaping into the open ocean.
“Send them a warning,” she said to Brynja, her first mate.
“Aye, aye,” Brynja said as she relayed the order.
It wasn’t even really necessary since the huge ship couldn’t possibly flee or outmaneuver the Storm Raven. Still, they should at least give their target a chance to surrender.
The shot splashed just aft of the cruise ship. A minute later, the cruise ship’s crew had furled their sails and run up a white flag. As they drifted, the Storm Raven pulled alongside them. Nereyda’s crew tossed hooks to link the two vessels. Due to the height of the cruise ship, they extended ladders across the gap.
Nereyda mounted one of the ladders and climbed to the deck of the Luxura, followed by the rest of the boarding party. As she vaulted the railing at the top of the ladder, she looked around the deck. The passengers remained seated at tables strewn about the area, apparently enjoying their afternoon tea. All of them wore terrified expressions. All except for one bodyguard who walked toward her, drawing his sword.
“How dare you interrupt our journey!” he asked, pointing his blade Nereyda. “Get back on your ship and leave at once.”
Nereyda smirked at him. “Or what?”
“I’ll run you through myself,” he threatened.
Nereyda smiled, her amethyst eyes twinkling. “Go ahead,” she said as she drew her own cutlass.
The bodyguard stepped forward with a thrust toward her stomach.
With a swipe of her blade, she knocked his sword to the side. Nereyda stepped forward and struck him in the gut with the pommel of her weapon.
As the guard bent over to clutch his belly, Nereyda knocked the sword out of his hand and kicked it up to her free hand. She pointed both blades at him and said, “Are you finished? Go back to your seat and shake it off.”
“You’re not going to kill me?”
“Is there a reason I should? Sit down like I said, and you’ll get through this just fine.” Nereyda handed the guard’s sword to one of her crew members and patted the guard’s back before she turned back to the travelers. “Anybody else feel like fighting?” She opened her arms in a welcoming gesture.
Nobody stood up. “Now that we’re done with that, surrender any gold, jewelry, or other valuables you have, and we’ll let you keep going on your nice little journey. My friends here have some convenient bags. Just toss your things into them as they come around.”
Her crew scattered about the deck, holding up their canvas sacks as the wealthy passengers surrendered their possessions. As the crew worked on collecting these treasures, Nereyda spotted a table with an open seat where some fluffy-looking merchant or lord or whatever sat with his wife and a young man who appeared to be their son.
“Is this seat taken?” she asked. They just stared at her as she plopped down into the available chair.
“Is now, I guess.” Nereyda reached across the table for the teapot and an empty cup. After she had poured herself some tea, she pushed aside the teapot, leaned back in her chair, then lifted her legs to rest her boots on the table.
“Having a nice trip so far?” she asked in a bright voice, looking around the table.
They gave her no answer other than looking away from her, avoiding eye contact.
“Come now, what happened to all of those manners you rich people spend a fortune to teach your kids? I asked you a question.”
Still no answer from the couple, but the young man leaned forward. “Why should we treat you with any sort of manners?”
“I’m a guest at your table, aren’t I?” Nereyda flashed a smile. “We don’t have to let this be unpleasant.”
The boy’s eyes narrowed as he scowled at her. “You call robbing our ship pleasant?”
“That depends on how you look at it,” she said. “I may be taking some of your things, but you should look on the bright side. You get to leave with your clothes on. I’m not taking your food. And, best of all, you get to sail away from here, alive.” She leaned in. “I’d say that’s a pretty good deal.”
“You talk as if letting us live is some kind of favor.” He jabbed a finger toward her. “I’ve seen what your kind of people do, falling on ships and villages alike, taking what you please and killing whoever gets in your way.”
“You actually missed the part about how we snatch children away in the night to eat them.” She winked at the young man. “Wouldn’t want our reputation to suffer. But really, we’re just making a living like everyone else. May I ask how you earn your place on a ship like this?”
“Lesser people pay us nobles for the privilege of working our land, and we provide them with protection.”
“And what if they stop paying?” Nereyda asked.
He rolled his eyes. “Then we run them off our land and take what they owe us, of course.”
Neryeda tilted her head. “So they’re paying you for protection from…you? At least we’re honest about being criminals.”
“You mock us, wench!” The young man jumped to his feet, knocking aside his chair and sending it clattering to the deck. He drew a sword from his hip and pointed it at Nereyda. “I will not let you leave this ship.”
The pirate captain chuckled. “Tsk, tsk, tsk. You brought a sword to tea? That’s not very gentlemanly. It’s a pity those etiquette lessons didn’t stick.”
“Who are you to talk about etiquette? You sit at our table with your weapons, drink our tea, and laugh at us. Do you even know who my father is?” He glanced over at the older noble at the table. “He’s High Judge Aydin of the Imperial Court.”
Nereyda shrugged. “I’m a pirate. I do what I want. And I don’t particularly care who your dad is.”
“Stand and face me, coward.”
She sighed and rolled her eyes as she lazily eased her feet from the top of the table. With the young man’s blade following her, she pushed herself to her feet and looked into his eyes with her purple gaze, but did not draw her own weapon. “Do you know how to use that thing?”
He drew himself up straight and puffed out his chest. “I’ve had lessons since I was a child. I know what I’m doing.”
“Oh, I’m sure you know how to swing it around with all the right moves. Maybe you even know where to stick it. But have you had to use it for real?” She took a step toward him and held his gaze with her own. “Have you ever had to kill a man?” she asked. “Have you ever been one wrong move from losing your own life or one right one from taking someone else’s?”
His eyes flicked away for a moment. He swallowed but did not respond.
Another step. “Have you ever looked into a man’s eyes as the life flickered out from them, just after you spilled his blood and guts from his belly?”
The blood drained from his face, leaving him pale, and he shifted uncomfortably on his feet, as if he wanted to retreat but held his ground out of pride. His grip loosened slightly, and the sword dipped lower.
A third step, and the tip of his blade pressed against the leather armor over her sternum, resting between her breasts. “Now is your chance. You can get your first taste of blood right here, right now. I’d be honored to be your first,” she said as she stroked the length of his sword with her fingertips. “All it takes is one little thrust or a big one depending on the sword, and you can bring me to my knees. What do you say, boy? I hope you don’t disappoint me.”
The young man dropped his sword arm to his side and slouched his shoulders.
“Don’t worry. Even the best sometimes have trouble keeping it up.”
He looked down at the deck, refusing to make eye contact. “Just take what you want and get out of here.”
“I think my crew is just about done anyway. You’ve been a great date. Thanks for the tea!” Nereyda strutted past him and slid her hand over his shoulder. She looked around and saw that her crew had indeed almost finished collecting the passengers’ valuables.
Nereyda ordered her crew to set about hauling their seized goods from the cruise ship to the hold of the Storm Raven. When all of it had been loaded, the crew of the Raven hauled in the boarding lines and cast off from the cruise ship.
K lives in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where he works as a software developer. In his spare time, when he isn’t writing, he enjoys reading, working out, playing video games, and spending time with his wonderful fiancee, Bobbi. Some of his favorite authors are Tom Clancy, George R. R. Martin, and Sarah Maas.