Magic Marks the Spot

Magic Marks the Spot
The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates #1
by Caroline Carlson (2013)

Hilary Westfield has always dreamed of being a pirate. She can tread water for thirty-seven minutes. She can tie a knot faster than a fleet of sailors. She particularly enjoys defying authority, and she already owns a rather pointy sword. There’s only one problem: The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates refuses to let any girl join their ranks of scourges and scallywags.


For some reason I got this author confused with Gail Carson Levine. Aside from the similar name, the book cover is the same style. Levine wrote ‘Ella Enchanted’ that was made into a film and ‘A Tale of Two Castles’ which I read in 2012 and gave 4/5 stars.

This novel is obviously aimed at a teenage audience. Hilary, the main protagonist is a young girl (13-14) who manages to overcome obstacles and defeat her enemies using a combination of luck and persuasion.
The violence here is more like ‘The Princess Bride’ than a pirate film. The whole tone of the book is light and good natured. Even the ‘evil’ characters are self-aware of their villainy and mock others in very stereotypical pirate ways (haarrrr). The story moves along at a good pace and has enough twists and turns to ensure an unexpected ending.

One of the best part(s) of the book is the frequent insertion of letters, posters, manual excerpts and newspaper clippings. While they are done in the same style, it does provide an amusing third party view of the narrative. The mystery is how all the letters make their way between the main characters despite most of them being at sea. My guess would be pigeon post, or maybe the all the seas are small and hence shipping routes always close to shore.

It’s an enjoyable light and amusing read for teenagers of all ages.