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Friday, March 7, 2008

"Mad Kestrel" by Misty Massey

Official Misty Massey Website
Order “Mad KestrelHERE
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Even though I’ve expressed my dislike towards nautical fiction, I must admit that I’ve had a soft spot for pirates, especially growing up when I went through a phase where I couldn’t get enough of Robert Louis Stevenson’sTreasure Island”, “Robinson Crusoe”, Rafael Sabatini’s Captain Blood novels and reading about Blackbeard & Captain Kidd. While my enthusiasm has waned since then, pirates have remained popular in our culture and in fact, are probably more popular than ever due to the recent success of Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean movies. So it’s no surprise that publishers are releasing a title like Misty Massey’s debut “Mad Kestrel” which hopes to build on that success.

Like the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, the classic Errol Flynn films that my dad enjoys so much, and the recent Zorro movies starring Antonio Banderas, “Mad Kestrel” is an action-packed swashbuckling adventure that is fun for the whole family. And it all starts with Kestrel, a spirited and charismatic young woman who is the narrator—third person—of the book. As a strong leading heroine that is so commonly found nowadays, Kestrel is fairly stereotypical, but Misty writes her with confidence and it’s easy to be swayed by Kestrel’s charms. Where the author falters in Kestrel’s depiction though is in her background. While we learn that Kestrel’s parents were killed by Danisobans, that she’s blessed with magical abilities, grew up as an orphan in the alleys of Eldraga, and worked as a barmaid in a brothel before she started serving under the pirate captain Artemus Binn, her life before the start of the book was never explored with any real depth. So how Kestrel survived on the streets, learned to control her powers, and became such an expert swordsman and able seaman—enough to become Binn’s quartermaster after only two years of service—has to be taken with a grain of salt. Unfortunately this lack of depth also extends to the world which features the feared Danisoban—magi who rip Promises (children with magical talent) from their families and train them into Brethren, the Nine Islands and their Ageless King, and the mythical Continent. In fact, aside from a few tidbits like Danisobans being unable to perform magic on sea water, there is very little worldbuilding involved which is especially disappointing if, like me, you wanted to learn more about the magic system or the culture of the Nine Islands. One aspect that Misty does excel at though is pirate life right down to the lingo—don’t be surprised if ‘aye’, ‘ye’ and ‘yer’ suddenly become a part of your everyday vocabulary ;)—even if her portrayal stems more from popular culture than actual history.

Story-wise, “Mad Kestrel” starts out fast and never really lets up as Misty spins a tale of high seas adventure, intrigue and a little bit of romance that involves rescuing Captain Binn; evading bounty hunters, magi and the Royal Navy; unfoiling a plot to overthrow the king; and a treasure that supposedly offers immortality, not to mention Kestrel dealing with the maddening Philip McAvery who could be a magi, a rogue, or something much worse. In short, “Mad Kestrel” is one of those novels that readers will breeze through—clocks in at 320 pages—and while most everything is wrapped up all nice and neat by the end, the foundation is definitely set up for future sequels.

As a whole, “Mad Kestrel” is not a deep or thought-provoking reading experience, but then again it’s not meant to be. Simply put, debut novelist Misty Massey wants her book to be fun & entertaining and in that regard “Mad Kestrel” succeeds despite justifiable arguments about the nearly absent worldbuilding, a story that doesn’t offer very many surprises, and the book’s lighthearted nature :) For myself, Misty Massey’s debut really took me back to the days of my youth when Long John Silver, Blackbeard and other iconic pirates were my heroes and I look forward to continuing the adventures of Mad Kestrel

7 comments:

David said...

Pretty cover art on that one. Who's the artist?

Robert said...

Yes it is quite beautiful :) The artist is Shelly Wan. I've never heard of her myself, but she has a blog here:

http://shellywan.blogspot.com/

There are some nice pieces in there :)

Anonymous said...

This book sounds interesting enough to check out, so I reserved it in my library system where they got a copy somewhere in one of the 40 or so member libraries and I should get it next week.

Liviu

daydream said...

Aw, I really wanted to see some magic with sea water. You know water elementalism among with plant control get to be the least developed and they make such great magic systems. Oh well you gotta dmite though. Pirates are cool. Nice review.

Robert said...

As always, I'm looking forward to what you think of it Liviu :)

Daydream, there's some magic in the book, but not much, and nothing that hasn't been seen before...

Anonymous said...

I browsed Mad Kestrel and the author's style just did not mesh with me, so I give this one a pass.

Even though I easily have 50 or more books in my reading queue - or to be more precise books that I started and I intend to read in time when the mood strikes me - for example this year I've been reading a lot of historical fiction which I have not done in 5 or 6 years and very likely I bought or will buy more such than I will read until my mood changes - I am always on the lookout for the next book that I want to read NOW, so I enjoy your reviews.

Since Ms. Morgan stopped Emerald City I've never found a review site with consistently interesting new books for me until this one.

Liviu

Robert said...

Liviu, at least you gave the book a shot so there's nothing wrong with that :)

And thanks for the compliment! I've always heard that Emerald City was a great review site...

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