Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Pirate Queen

The Pirate Queen
Written by: Alan Gold
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: NAL Trade
Language: English
January 2006, $9.99
Genre: Fiction

“Grace O’Malley commanded more than a dozen ships and the obedience of thousands of men. Feared and loved on land as well as on sea, she ruled an empire that stretched from Connaught on the Irish coast to the cobalt waters off Africa. Through the daring of her piracy, Grace nearly bankrupted the English treasurey, and her outright defiance brought embarrassment to Elizabeth I. yet the lives of these two amazing women were inextricably intertwined, and their eventual meeting, during the most brilliant and romantic era that Europe as ever known, would shock the world…”


I don’t know if you are like me, but sometimes I pick up a book simply by the cover and the title. Also I think when this book entered into the realms of my many to be read piles I was still on a bit of a pirate kick. Let’s face it pirates are cool. Kind of like ninjas and zombies. I had heard of Grace O’Malley and admittedly the fetching maid on the cover had me and my costume ideas in overload for the Renne faire. And yet it sat on my shelf for a while. Probably a reason for it now that I think about it.

There are a few well known pirating ladies: Anne Bonny, Mary Read, and Lai Choi San. Gráinne Ní Mháille aka Grace O’Malley has her own history and I was curious to see how the author was going to view her life. We begin the tale when Grace is just a wee thing up through her life and meetings with Queen Elizabeth. Was it great? Well I will say that it made me want to read more about the woman. In fact I even went to the local library to see if I could find anything else not necessarily just on her but piracy and women in piracy in general.

Things I loved: I was looking for a light read and I will say that it was a breeze. I will say the prose isn’t that exciting. It isn’t horrible as I have read far worse, but it was nothing special. It was just kind of meh to be honest. I did however like the ideas behind what Gold was trying to do. I just wish he had done it just a shade better. Admittedly Gold makes Gráinne’s life far more exciting than what the history books say as he speculates about her life.

*I did like how she was handfasted to her second husband for a year and then took over his castle and divorced him while they remained a couple (which seems to be partially historically accurate). Made me giggle. Would make a great scene in a movie.

Things I didn't love so much: I am not a Tudor expert at all, but I do love Elizabeth and I thought her portrayal was very one dimensional. I didn’t like her. Not that Elizabeth was perfect, but I have read far better portrayals. Gold seems to be trying to show how similar Elizabeth and Grace were; that they were both strong, independent women who did not need men to save and take care of them. But it falls flat. And to be honest most of the characters were that way in this book including Grace herself. There is no real character development and often the secondary characters are very cliché in their portrayals. For example, Grace’s first husband Donal is an ass. Ever the macho, heavy drinking stereotypical jerk he beats and rapes his new bride. However, (methinks in an attempt to make Grace’s life tragic or something…I don’t know really) suddenly he becomes a loving and doting husband like something out of a bad romance novel. Why? Who knows, but it happens and it is forced and odd and completely out of his cardboard character. Then a chapter later he’s back to being an evil jerk and we don’t mourn his eventual death. Why did he revert? Once again no one knows…except for maybe the Shadow.

* Apparently Grace is also a nymphomaniac. Now I am all about sexually liberated women, but when the author tries to hard to make it so, it just ends up being…well boring and makes me like her less.

* The dialogue is bad. I am guessing the musical version of Grace’s life has to be more interesting. Once again it was dull, and extremely cliché.

Buy or Borrow: Borrow. I applaud Gold for trying to bring Grace’s story to life. I just wish he had done it much better. We’ll see how the film version (which is supposedly being filmed) tells her story.

Part of: Stand Alone

Also Recommended: The Pirate Queen by Morgan Llywelyn or Granuaile: Ireland’s Pirate Queen by Anne Chambers.

2.25 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks

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