288pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99
It’s 1718: pirate ships sail the oceans and brutal slave masters control the plantations so that those in Europe can enjoy luxuries like sugar, cotton and tobacco.
Eleven-year-old Abigail Buckler lives with her father in the Caribbean. Her clothes are made of finest muslin so she can’t play in them, not that there’s anyone to play with anyway. Her only “companion” is Boubacar, a slave boy whose whole family would be punished if their friendship became public knowledge. Such are the protocols of the time, she isn’t even allowed to go out alone. But when pirates attack the settlement, Abigail’s life changes forever, particularly her beliefs about and relationship with her father. Suddenly her old certainties about right and wrong, good and bad start to unravel.
Maybe Abigail doesn’t have to be so ladylike after all… in fact she can’t be as she dresses like a boy to escape and the twists and turns of her new life show her there are many sides to people, and not all stereotypes are true.
Fast-paced, action-filled this is a tense drama packed with characters who actually existed including Blackbeard himself, historical detail about the Atlantic slave trade, the ravages of empire and imperialism and the human cost of providing those luxuries to a Europe obsessed with displays of wealth and power, and which takes a look at the real pirates of the Caribbean, making it more than just a swashbuckling adventure and perhaps the start of an investigation that could help readers start to understand old practices and current attitudes.