• Maree

Book Review: Piratica by Tanith Lee

Updated: Oct 17, 2019



“And even if we went down, don’t fear that either. Those that the sea keeps, sleep among mermaids and pearls and sunken kingdoms. You wouldn’t mind that, would you, love?”

Piratica is based on the age-old pirate tales of plunder and treasure-seeking, but with a twist at the beginning I didn’t see coming.


Artemesia Blastside, 16, has been “trapped” in an academy after her mother: “Piratica” died. Her memories of living a pirates life under her mother’s pink Jolly Roger, never leave her and so she escapes to find her mother’s coffee-drinking crew. They set sail in search of prizes, but have one rule: never kill.


Art is a fiery young captain. She has the spirit of freedom and adventure romantic pirates usually have. Amid a storm, she is to be seen up in the sails, cackling- reminiscent of Captain Barbossa in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.


Her seasick crew (plus a parrot which makes chicken noises), surprisingly trust the young girl to lead them, or perhaps they are just afraid of her. Either way, they do admire her and respect the legacy of Piratica.

“He murmured, ‘She’s insane.’
‘Aye,’ said Cuthbert. ‘…A good woman nearly always is. But a good cap’n-always.’”

Like many pirates, they gain possession of a treasure map and search for a long-lost island. I do really like how this turned out and the prospects of future adventures.

The setting is a parallel world to our own. It is Seventeen-Twelvety, and England is a republic. Places such as Lundon, Africay and Mad-Agash Scar exist.


My husband opened to a random page of this book and was impressed by how piratical the language was. I do want to reread this one day to take in the amazing colourful language fully. There were so many witty and comical phrases and descriptions.


The only downsides I found were that I had a lot of questions that weren’t answered until the end. It seemed to take a while for characters to appear three-dimensional. I wanted to see more and deeper interactions between Felix, the highwayman, and the other characters. I do see the reasons for all of these things to be how they were (including focus audience and tension), and I don’t think the story would have had as much impact if they were changed, but can’t help but notice them.


It is a young adult/middle school (warning at least one instance of strong language) read. I would have loved to read this book when I was younger. I could imagine my teacher reading it to the class at school and everyone thoroughly enjoying it. I’m sure I would have reread it many times.


Now to set sail in search of treasure and Piratica II.


Note: if you don’t want to know the twist at the beginning, don’t read the Goodreads synopsis. Probably too late? It wasn’t on the blurb of my copy, but not sure about others.


4 stars

Published: 2004

Read: March 2019

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