Publisher: Tor Books on December 6, 2016
My thanks to the publisher for providing me with a digital review copy. No compensation was provided for this review, and all opinions are my own.
Marine videographer and biologist Sophie Hansa has spent the past few months putting her knowledge of science to use on the strange world of Stormwrack, solving seemingly impossible cases where no solution had been found before.
When a series of ships within the Fleet of Nations, the main governing body that rules a loose alliance of island nation states, are sunk by magical sabotage, Sophie is called on to find out why. While surveying the damage of the most recent wreck, she discovers a strange-looking creature—a fright, a wooden oddity born from a banished spell—causing chaos within the ship. The question is who would put this creature aboard and why?
The quest for answers finds Sophie magically bound to an abolitionist from Sylvanner, her father’s homeland. Now Sophie and the crew of the Nightjar must discover what makes this man so unique while outrunning magical assassins and villainous pirates, and stopping the people responsible for the attacks on the Fleet before they strike again.
Today I’m very pleased to be bringing you a guest post by A.M. Dellamonica, a Canadian science fiction and fantasy writer who’s won numerous awards including the Prix Aurora Award for Best Novel. Her work often explores queer themes, and her portal fantasy series Hidden Sea Tales has been nominated for a Lambda Award.
As you probably know by now, reading and celebrating books written by and about queer people is really important to me, so I was absolutely thrilled when Dellamonica agreed to write a post discussing her experiences writing queer characters in SF/F. Please welcome A.M. Dellamonica!
Sophie Hansa was adopted as a baby and never knew her biological parents, for good reason: they belong to another world. Stormwrack is similar to earth during the Age of Sail, but with significantly less land mass…and magic. Governed by the Fleet, a floating city comprised of hundreds of ships, Stormwrack is a place where people’s names are powerful ingredients in working spells or intentions; and it’s also a place where Sophie’s knowledge of science is scorned. Sucked into Stormwrack against her will, Sophie gradually begins to fall in love with her biological parents’ home world and takes on a series of missions there.
Secretive, deeply politically divided, and bound by rules of etiquette that Sophie considers old fashioned, Stormwrack is a fascinating world that I’ve really enjoyed learning about throughout the series. In THE NATURE OF A PIRATE, Dellamonica delves more deeply into the particulars of Stormwrack’s various cultures and practices, most notably the slave trade. Understandably, the slave trade is a bitter pill to swallow for both Sophie and her brother Bram (many Stormwrackers feel the same) but it plays a large role in the social hierarchy of Stormwrack. The siblings get up close and personal with slavers in this book, and the results are pretty spectacular…to say the least!
Sophie also connects more deeply with her biological family and the Verdanni half of her heritage in THE NATURE OF A PIRATE, which was a treat to read about. The Verdanni are a powerful people in Stormwrack: they lay claim to one of the largest landmasses on Stormwrack and their agricultural practices have made them quite wealth. A matriarchal people, the Verdanni are ruled by the Allmother and celebrate women – but they also expect a lot from them. This means that Sophie’s relatives Beatrice, Verena, and Annela are pretty badass ladies who also have giant chips on their shoulders…much like Sophie herself.
The character growth in THE NATURE OF A PIRATE is absolutely phenomenal, and as the star of the show, Sophie has really come into her own throughout the series. She’s more confident in her own abilities and intellect, more sure of her place in her family (both adopted and biological), and she’s also more experienced in the ways of Stormwrackers. I’ve also really enjoyed seeing Bram, Sophie’s brother, grow more assertive and stand up to Sophie when he thinks his big sister is trying to walk all over him. Of course, I’m also biased because Bram’s gay and y’all know I love a queer character… But he is really cool, I promise!
With a satisfying yet slightly open-ended conclusion, THE NATURE OF A PIRATE is a strong instalment in a solid series about magic, family, finding yourself, and – of course – sailing. If you like books with fantastic PoC and queer representation, or you’re hoping to read more stories set at sea, then I recommend the Hidden Sea Tales series.