Wednesday 8 January 2014

Magic Marks the Spot by Caroline Carlson

Ever since the letter had arrived from Miss Pimm's, Hilary had spent more and more time talking to the gargoyle.
Her parents disapproved, she knew perfectly well, but she much preferred the gargoyle's company to theirs. Hilary and the gargoyle did not always see eye to eye, but she found his opinion of finishing school to be thoroughly refreshing.
Published by Simon and Schuster in January 2013
Pages - 368
Summary From Simon and Schuster
Hilary Westfield has always dreamed of being a pirate. But the Very Nearly Honourable League of Pirates rejects Hilary's application because she's a girl – outrageous! – and her father ships her off to Miss Pimm's Finishing School for Delicate Ladies instead. Ugh.
Expected to wear woollen dresses (petticoats not provided) and enthusiastically throw herself into activities such as Viennese Waltzing for the Eager Novece, Hilary discovers Miss Pimm's to be every bit as horrid as she feared.
However, a true pirate never lets dire circumstances stand in her way and 
after a mostly dreadful first week, Hilary escapes and applies for a job with a freelance pirate known as the Terror of the Southlands. He offers her a place on his misfit crew, on one condition: she must find the famous treasure that's rumoured to contain most of the kingdom's lost magic.
Hilary soon finds herself caught up in a dangerous quest, and on the run from her school governess and the most villainous pirate on the high seas!
Packed with quick-witted dialogue, a feisty heroine, a talking gargoyle and a whole cast of other larger-than-life characters, Magic Marks the Spot combines classic storytelling, charm and humour to create a riveting story for boys and girls aged 8 – 12.
Arr – this book be bursting with piratical fun from start to finish! It's a fast-moving yarn with plenty of twists and turns, entertaining characters and a thoroughly worthwhile quest. 
Hilary Westfield wants to be a pirate. Turned down because she's a girl, she refuses to give up her dream, even when her parents send her to Miss Pimm's finishing school. She lives in a world where magic used to be widely available; now magical items mostly belong to High Society and some of the wealthiest misuse their magical power to make life difficult for everybody else. 
The pirate known as the Terror of the Southlands plans to change all that. When Hilary runs away from Miss Pimm's and joins his crew, he believes that they can find the Empress's lost magical treasure and, like seafaring Robin Hoods, distribute it to the ordinary people who have no magic of their own. 
The book is written in a droll, understated and delightfully prim and proper voice designed to give a flavour of a time gone by. Seeing finishing school language applied to pirates is a bizarre but very funny experience. The style rather reminded me of Eva Ibbotson's Journey to the River Sea, a book I love, and I found myself reading late into the night because I simply had to find out what was going to happen next. Mostly the story is straightforward narrative, but occasionally there are letters or pages from a pirate's training manual tucked in. They help to speed the plot along, but I have to admit that I found the letters hard to read because they're written in a small, loopy, sloping font intended to look like handwriting. Don't skip them, though, or you'll miss out on a big chunk of plot. (If anyone from Simon and Schuster is reading this review, could I respectfully suggest that a larger font size for letters would benefit the reader in the next two books of the trilogy.)
The font size, though, is my only criticism of this book. It's well-written,  well-plotted and well worth reading! Don't miss it! Arr!

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