Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Black Ship - Diana Pharaoh Francis

The Black Ship
A Novel Of Crosspointe
Diana Pharaoh Francis


Pilot Thorn has gone by many names in his life. He was born eldest son to the high chancellor. He left his family home when it became clear that his parents’ ambition overrode their concern for their sons. He lived for years as a street kid, doing what he had to do. Then he got work on a ship. Finally, he became a Pilot, one of those few individuals who can interact with a ship’s compass and steer it through the myriad dangers of the Inland Sea.

But Thorn, known as Sylbrac to his guild mates, is a loner. A loner who insists on sailing with his cat, Fitch. And whistling. Sailors everywhere consider the whistling and the cat bad luck. So far, he’s gotten away with it, due to the shortage of Pilots. Then he steps a bit too far over the line and finds himself without a ship for the coming season. Being dirt-bound is like death for a man whose reason for living is the sea. Complications continue when he’s crimped (kidnapped) by a bunch of bad-luck sailors and taken to a black ship.

The whole crew is composed of people who couldn’t get seafaring work on a legal ship. The captain just might be insane. And there’s a part of the cargo that’s been warded by strong majick. The money is just a little too good for this whole thing to be legal. But, like the rest of the crew, Thorn has nowhere else to go. And the ship’s owner, a powerful and mysterious user of majick, dangled the one carrot she knew Thorn wouldn’t refuse: Pilot this ship and find out the truth about the death of your younger brother, Jordan.

Ms. Francis has created a unique and compelling world here. This is the second in a series. I haven’t read the first, but that diminished my enjoyment not at all. I would like to go back and read the first book, though, since it largely concerns other characters and situations. Once you understand his history, and that’s presented fairly early on, it’s easy to sympathize with Thorn and the life he’s led. Who he is and how he got here is expressed succinctly but with great insight.

This novel is part fairy tale and part high seas adventure. The two work together exceptionally well. For those unfamiliar with various terms particular to this world, the author provides a very thorough glossary; and there are maps to aid in visualizing the characters’ travels. The language and descriptions of people and places is very evocative, yet somehow never slows the pace of the story. This is a great find for any fantasy reader.

Rating: 8
November 2008
ISBN# 978-0-451-46242-8 (paperback)


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