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Pirates!    by Celia Rees order for
by Celia Rees
Order:  USA  Can
Bloomsbury, 2003 (2003)
Hardcover, Audio

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Nancy Kington grows up a wealthy Bristol merchant's daughter in the early 1700s. She helps her childhood friend, and first and only love, William, to achieve his goal of becoming a naval officer, and plans to marry him when they grow up.

Then her father dies and Nancy is sent with her brother and guardian, Joseph, to their Fountainhead plantation in Jamaica. Nancy is horrified when she sees how the family fortune has been built on the scarred backs of black people. She takes an immediate dislike to the family's cruel overseer and befriends two house slaves, Phyllis Sharpe and her daughter Minerva. When Nancy and Joseph dine with their Brazilian neighbor Bartholome, she learns that she is expected to marry this ruthless collector whose stare is 'as dark and cold as the waters of a bottomless well'.

An incident back at Fountainhead propels Nancy, Phyllis and Minerva in flight for their lives. They join other outcasts, the maroons. Unfortunately Nancy rejects Phyllis' advice to discard the cursed rubies that the Brazilian gave her, to her later regret. Bartholome's posting of a huge reward forces Nancy and Minerva to flee again, this time to join the pirate's life with Captain Broom and his crew. The girls fight together, sail from the Caribbean to America and then to Madagascar, win treasures, cope with mutineers and shipwreck, are captured and escape again. A strong bond develops between them.

But Nancy never forgets William. Of course, everything works out eventually, after the unpleasant villain is finally defeated and his rubies become simply stones again. Though parts of Pirates! are hard to believe (some of the outlaws are just too nice), it's a rousing adventure that will keep you reading about two unique heroines who stand back to back against what the world throws at them.

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