The Republic of Pirates by Colin Woodard (Books Are My Favorite Movies)

The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them DownThe Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down by Colin Woodard
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As someone who grew up in the mid-atlantic, I was surrounded by all sorts of pirate lore growing up. I always had a desire to find out how much was real and how much was fiction, and Republic of Pirates fits that bill. Aside from piecing together all sorts of fascinating stories based on primary sources such as trials, diaries, and testimonies that paint fresh and realistic pictures of the pirates so notorious to history (Blackbeard and Black Sam Bellamy, to name a few), Republic of Pirates does its best to explain the forces of history that produced the pirates. After a lengthy beginning that focuses on the injustices and squalor that confronted mariners at the time, basically marking their profession as one that was little better than a death sentence with no hazard pay, the reason for so many turning to piracy becomes clear. The quasi-democratic way pirate ships were run was a sharp contrast to the shifty merchant marines and brutal royal navy ships of the time. It seems no surprise that pirates became folk heroes. Many were after money, but some had grander visions of fighting inequality or affecting regime change at home. The affinity pirates had for the Jacobite cause during King George I's reign was something I had no concept of, but that this book did a thorough job teaching me. Even if it shattered so many of the tall tales I was told growing up in coastal Virginia, this was an informative and entertaining read into how the pirates shaped world affairs at the time and the forces that eventually brought them down.

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The Inexplicables by Cherie Priest (Books Are My Favorite Movies)

The Inexplicables (The Clockwork Century, #4)The Inexplicables by Cherie Priest
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Cherie Priest has gotten dumped on a bit for this one, with some calling it the weakest of the Clockwork Century books. I think that's a bit unfair. Even though it's clearly not the strongest entry by a long shot, I think I enjoyed its basic story (and certainly the back half) to be much more enjoyable than Clementine. That still remains the weakest entry for me.

That said, I think most people have issue with the main character, Rector. He's a whiny, angsty teenager with a drug addiction. This isn't a coming of age story, though. It's a redemption story. I applaud Cherie Priest for writing a protagonist that isn't likable from the word go and turning him into someone who eventually is. She's written her fair share of anti-hero protagonists, but all of them had a certain rogue charm as soon as the reader is introduced to them. Rector doesn't. His utter lack of charm as a thief and junkie makes the first few chapters of the book a big of a slog, but it creates a real arc for the character that moves slowly and has a payoff.

I enjoyed returning to the Blighted Seattle of Boneshaker (which will still remain an epic that's head and shoulders above everything else in Clockwork Century except for maybe Ganymede) and seeing all of the characters introduced in many of the previous volumes work together to take out a new series of threats to their poisoned but hard-earned city. Definitely a worthy volume to read if you're into the series, but I certainly wouldn't start here. You will be lost and perplexed. Definitely start with Boneshaker.

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Handmaiden's Fury by J.M. Guillen (Books Are My Favorite Movies)

Handmaiden's Fury (The Paean of Sundered Dreams)Handmaiden's Fury by J.M. Guillen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This novella got a little repetitive, but I have to give a round of applause for anyone that can mix BDSM, sex magic, and horror into a coherent narrative. Sometimes the world-building seemed a little outsized for the story this was attempting to tell, but it compensated for that with some steamy scenes that were surprisingly skillfully juxtaposed with horrific violence. The characters seem a little one-note, but it is a novella, so that's to be expected.

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