NB—I’ve read this book before, I bought it and didn’t know it was part of a series. I re-read it after reading the prequel The Cipher , in preparation for reading book 3—The Turning Tide—which I received a review copy of.
Basically, this is just saying I’ve read the book before. Enjoy!
I like the cover, it’s similar to the previous one, it gets across the general mood of the book—maritime adventures—and was obviously intriguing enough to make me buy it, not realising it was part of a series. I also just like the art style, those ships look cool. There’s even a hint to a plot point from a little way into the book, which I like
Banned from the sea by a vindictive master pilot and cast out of Crosspointe’s Pilot Guild, Thorn believes his life is over—until he’s conscripted to serve aboard the rogue ship Eidolon, which is pitch black, a shadow in the night, and sails with an unknown purpose.
Thorn finds himself pilot to a mutinous, wreck-cursed crew, taking orders from an insane captain, and battling not only the terrifying magic of the sea, but also a traitor to whatever secret mission the Eidolon serves. The saboteur is desperate to stop the black ship from making port even if that means killing every soul aboard.
Certain his kidnapping and duty on the black ship is no coincidence, Thorn must find a way to survive long enough to get the answers he needs. Who destroyed his life? And why?
I love this book. I’m a sucker for a pirate novel1, and The Black Ship (while not technically a pirate/pyrate novel) doesn’t disappoint. Thorn is a well-developed, sympathetic, interesting and believable hero. Fitch is also amazing, so I had to represent her in the book photography.
The interactions between Thorn and Plusby were great fun to read, and it’s a testament to Diana Pharaoh Francis’ skill as a writer that I could eventually sympathise with both characters, even when they were fighting with each other2. Thorn and Plusby were alike in that their backstories are both heartwrenching and woven seamlessly into the book. The trials they have faced have made them into the men they are, and the trials they go through in The Black Ship continue to mould their choices, relationships and character in a way that is incredibly interesting to read.
The crew of the Eidolon were numerous, and I admit I had a hard time remembering which of the charmers had which role on the ship. This may also be because both times I’ve read this book I’ve rushed through it all in two or three sittings, there are certainly enough quirks given to the charmers to differentiate them.
Savaiu and her people were an interesting addition to the book, and I loved the furthering of the world that exposure to their culture brought about3. A returning character’s reaction to them likewise brought home the unconventional nature of Thorn’s actions. The beliefs and systems introduced also hint at the potential fate of some characters from The Cipher, while still leaving various outcomes as possibilities.
The world of Crosspointe was already an intriguing, well thought out one; but The Black Ship drives that to new heights with further details of the magic, religious and political systems of the world. Previous characters reappear, but never take the focus off the characters you come to know and love in this novel. The slang and superstitions of seafarers really brings this novel to life, building a world within a world that was already interesting and fleshed out.
The action in The Black Ship is never drawn out, anytime a threat is identified, the characters pull together to solve it, usually creating or uncovering an even bigger threat. The tension never drops, or feels played out, every resolution is hard-won and interesting—the book really does flow from strength to strength. In this way, the relationships that grow between the characters develop organically, which makes them great fun to read.
Thorn’s family life, the fate of Savaiu’s people and the hints as to the fate of Plusby’s wife are all tantalising threads that I hope to see picked up and woven into future Crosspointe novels, though I have no doubt that they will be.
This book exceeds all expectations, existing as both an incredible standalone novel and a thrilling sequel to The Cipher . Anyone who enjoys classic fantasy, well thought out worlds, seafaring adventures, political fantasy or just great characterisation would enjoy this book, and I look forward to reading book three, The Turning Tide.
1Pirates are like carnivals, or fairies, they’re just plain fun to read about
2Though slightly more with Thorn, of course. He is the hero
3That sentence is a little tortured, but I’m just trying to avoid spoilers, okay?