I was sent this book as an advance copy by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own.
This book is really hard for me to rate. I’ve settled on the rating I feel represents my feelings the most, but I’m going to try and rate things separately because I feel like it’s necessary:
what plot?: 4/10
Technical stuff: 3/10
Diversity: FIVE BILLIONS/10
(Note that not all points have the same weight in my eyes)
As you see, I was able to completely enjoy this book even though I was aware that some things could have been done better.
Let’s get the bad/average stuff out of the way first:
What I called “technical stuff” basically comes down to one major thing: the PoVs in this book were all over the place. The thing is, they’re so many (I’ll talk about this in the characters section of this review), but that’s not the problem at all, at least for me. The problem is that while each chapter focuses on one/two or a handful of characters at most, it’s never really clear whose PoV it is. Very rarely I got a sense that the narrative was third person omniscient, it seemed more of a case of third person limited where the PoVs switch a lot within the chapter, without a clear separation, and, what’s worse, sometimes that even happened within the same sentence.
Look, not everybody will care about this, but the way my brain works, once I learn about these things (I’m not gonna lie, I didn’t even know about this stuff not too long ago) I just can’t unsee them, you know? There’s just something reassuring in knowing that the whole chapter will be from X’s PoV.
Despite this, I managed not to get too distracted by it and I was able to focus on the characters. I say characters because the plot was pretty much non-existent, but if you know me, you’ll know that I usually love character-driven stories, and this was certainly one of those.
The thing is, the characters in this book were so many and sometimes so random that in theory, this book shouldn’t work. But in reality? It works. At least for me. I wasn’t bored once, I was never confused despite the endless amounts of point of views, even when it wasn’t entirely clear at first how some new characters fit into the story. It was also not always plainly clear whether something was a flashback or not, but it was overall understandable given the context.
This is also a rather short book, and because of that I felt like there was no time to make each character more well-rounded and layered, but what was shown on-page was still a decent exploration of each character’s background, experience and feelings.
This bring me to my next and favorite point, and where I personally think this books shines, and another reason why in theory it shouldn’t work but incredibly it does: the diversity was a.m.a.z.i.n.g., and as I was reading I tried to write down a list of diverse rep within it because it was all too much to keep in mind:
✓Homosexuality (male and female)
✓Heterosexuality (very little tbh)
✓Gender fluid character
✓in God (Catholic)
✓in science and evolution
✓no faith (atheism) [and let me just add that the number of times I, as an atheist, have felt represented in a book were very, very few, and I was so happy to see an atheist character here]
✓not sure (agnosticism)
✓Bipolar disorder (?)*
As well as various types of disability and all kinds of skin color/ethnicity.
(You should keep in mind though, no sexuality label was actually used within the book, since it takes place in the late 1800s -I’m not exactly sure when, and I might have caught at least one historical inaccuracy, but what can you do-. Still, the various sexualities and genders were pretty much understandable and I tried to narrow them down to labels because I think it’s useful if someone reads this review and wants to know whether they’ll feel represented.)
*(The (?) are because I’m not exactly sure about those.)
As you can see, that’s really a lot. If someone had told me that all those things, especially all the different sexualities, would have fit in a short book like this one, I would have thought it couldn’t possibly work. While you won’t find an extensive study on all of those (though I think quite decent explanations were given about asexuality, demisexuality, gender fluidity and depression), it’s still amazing how the authors managed to squeeze all of that in this tiny book. Sure, there wasn’t space for much else, like an actual plot, but it was refreshing to read about such different point of views, and at the same time I never felt like this book was used as a dump to “show off” how diverse you could make it. The different stories and backgrounds fit together quite well and to me this should be the selling point of this book.
All in all, this was pretty much a whole lot of romance (there’s so many pairings I can’t even count them all off the top of my head to be honest), but they all felt different from each other and I was never bored or felt like things got repetitive.
To wrap this up, here’s another brief list of things that I loved:
• predominantly-female pirate crew;
• Healthy! Communication! Between! The characters!
• everybody respected each other’s boundaries;
• the women were such role models;
• the men/males too;
• basically everyone was amazing for different reasons tbh;
• the different fantastical creatures were interesting and fit well within this otherwise-historical world.
All in all I would say that if you usually love character-driven plots there’s a high chance that you’ll be able to love this book as much as I did!