Mad Kestrel is a swashbuckling pirate adventure and an impressive first novel.
It combines adventure, fantasy, sea life and romance quite effortlessly.
Kestrel is the Quartermaster and second in command on the pirate sloop
Wolfshead. She is also the only woman onboard, and she has worked long and hard to prove her worth to the crew. The shipís captain is Artemus Binns, who
is like a father to Kestrel.
She holds a secret which she has told only to Binns and nobody else: she is a Promise, a child who was born with magical talent.
In this world, the Danisoban Brotherhood wants to control all mages and therefore take all Promises away from their families when they are very young. Kestrelís parents sacrificed themselves so that she could get away and live her life free. The Danisobans lose their magical abilities when they come into contact with saltwater, so a life at sea
is a perfect one for her. Even though she has magic of her own, she hates and fears all other magics. She can control air through whistling and singing, but she has kept her abilities tightly in check all her life
- and that life is about to change dramatically.
On their way to port, the crew of the Wolfshead glimpses a black ship which they at first think is a ghost ship.
The next time they see the same ship in harbor so it is real. The black shipís captain is a handsome, irritating rogue who manages to convince Captain Binns to buy the black ship,
Thanos, over Kestrelís objections. The next morning, Binns and Kestrel find out that
Thanos was stolen and Binns is arrested. Kestrel manages to avoid the soldiers trying to arrest her but is caught by a bounty hunter.
She breaks free and now has only to gather the crew, who do not really want to follow a woman. Then she
must follow the military vessel on which Binns is held prisoner and try to rescue him
- if she can find out where and when Binns is going to be moved.
Mad Kestrel is mostly fast-paced with an atmosphere of high adventure and fun. It has sword-fighting, secrets, intrigue, and sailing. It does romanticize piracy and pirates, but no more than most of
popular pirate movies. Although I had a hard time believing that a pillaging pirate captain would be the kindest and gentlest man alive, the reader does see everything through the eyes of Kestrel,
and she has her own opinions and feelings about everyone and everything.
The characters are entertaining, their interactions are at times amusing or touching. Almost all of them
carry some secrets and aren't quite what they seem at first glance. Kestrel herself is an independent and stubborn young woman; she has to be, to first survive on the streets as a child and later as a pirate and the only woman onboard. Binns stays a rather distant figure and seems a little too fatherly and kind-hearted to really be a pirate. McAvery, the captain of the black ship
Thanos, is quite a rogue and by turns amusing or irritating. Shadd is Kestrelís loyal follower and confidante who still has brains and opinions of his own.
Definitely recommended to anyone who likes sea adventures.