Celia Rees, Author . Bloomsbury $17.95 (340p) ISBN 978-1-58234-816-2

Fans of Rees's earlier Witch Child will relish this highly romantic cross-dressing romp on the high seas in the early 18th century. Readers new to the author may be drawn in by the book's good looks: handsome cover art and appropriately swashbuckling endpapers. After her family's fortunes founder, and her merchant (and slave trader) father dies, narrator Nancy is sent from her Bristol home to the Jamaica plantation she is slated to inherit. There the 16-year-old learns she has been promised in marriage to the Brazilian Bartholome, a sadistic man rumored to be "the Devil himself." Nancy runs away with Minerva, the slave girl to whom she has grown close, and they wind up on the pirate ship captained by the gentlemanly officer who befriended Nancy on her way to Jamaica. Clad in men's clothes, the two girls adapt quickly to their new life, but Nancy's prophetic nightmares indicate that the Brazilian still hunts for his vanished bride, captaining a "dark ship, sailing under a black hoist with no device upon it." So fast and furious are the pirates' adventures, so enthralling are the girls' passions (Nancy has promised herself to her childhood sweetheart, while Minerva falls hard for Vincent Crosby, "a handsome young mulatto of about five and twenty with skin the colour of dark honey"), that it's easy to ignore the one-dimensionality of the novel's characters (villains are almost always denoted by a lack of personal hygiene). A playful yet intriguing glimpse of 18th-century life as it was lived by those who were not—or chose not to be—gentlefolk. Ages 12-up. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 10/20/2003
Release date: 10/01/2003
Genre: Children's
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Paperback - 379 pages - 978-1-58234-665-6
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