Title: Magic Marks the Spot
Series: The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates
Author: Caroline Carlson
Number of Pages: 344
Target Age: 8 – 12
“A good pirate fights back,” said Jasper, “and a good pirate finds treasure.”
“Why, Charlie Dove,” said Hilary, “I do believe you’re scared of finishing-school girls.”
“I should think sword fighting would be very similar to waltzing, only less romantic and with a more gruesome conclusion.”
Synopsis: Hilary Westfield has always dreamed of being a pirate. She can tread water for thirty-seven minutes. She can tie a knot faster than a fleet of sailors. She particularly enjoys defying authority, and she already owns a rather pointy sword. There’s only one problem: The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates refuses to let any girl join their ranks of scourges and scallywags.
Girls belong at Miss Pimm’s Finishing School for Delicate Ladies, learning to waltz, faint, and curtsy. But Hilary and her dearest friend, the gargoyle, have no use for such frivolous lessons — they are pirates! (Or very nearly.)
To escape from a life of petticoats and politeness, Hilary answers a curious advertisement for a pirate crew and suddenly finds herself swept up in a seafaring adventure that may or may not involve a map without an X, a magical treasure that likely doesn’t exist, a rouge governess who insists on propriety, a crew of misfit scallywags, and the treacherous — and unexpected — villain on the High Seas.
Plot: In short, Magic Marks the Spot is about a girl named Hilary Westfield. She wants to be a pirate, but several things stand in her way: the VNHLP (Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates) won’t let her become a pirate because she is a girl; her father, Admiral Westfield, is the captain of the Royal Navy of Augusta, and hates pirates; and she is being sent to Miss Pimm’s, a finishing school.
The plot is very easy to follow. It doesn’t loop back on itself or have tons of holes, like some books I’ve read.
I saw some of the plot twists coming, but there was still quite a lot that surprised me: who the real villain was, who was stealing magical items, who the Enchantress was, and more.
Characters: I thought that the characters were very well done. They all had different ways of speaking (Miss Greyson, Hilary’s governess, likes lecturing people; Hilary and some of the other characters in the novel have distinct High Society accents; the pirates talk like pirates (big surprise there); and Hilary’s gargoyle likes saying things like “A pirate is never scared” or “A pirate isn’t squeamish.”).
The one character that I wasn’t impressed with was the Enchantress. When her identity was finally revealed near the end of the book, I must say that I was disappointed. *SPOILER ALERT* She turned out to be one of the most strict and proper characters in the whole book. *END SPOILER ALERT*
Writing: I absolutely love Caroline Carlson’s style of writing. Great vocabulary and lots of action. There were, however, some sections that were a little bit slow, but none of them were boring enough to discourage me from continuing to read it.
At the end of every chapter were several letters. Among them were letters from the Queen, from Hilary’s best friend Claire, and even some thing that were not letters at all, like newspaper articles and snippets from the VNHLP handbook. The requests to go to sea were the best, and made me laugh out loud several times.
Cover: I love the cover of Magic Marks the Spot. The pirate ship, the ocean, the adorable cartoon style — I love it all. If it weren’t for the amazing cover, I probably wouldn’t have gotten the book out of the library.
Other Comments: Magic does play a role in this book, but it isn’t the “wave a wand and chant spells” kind of magic. The magic in Augusta (the land where this story is set) is actually an ore similar to gold. The magic is mined, then shaped into coins, toothbrushes, silverware, etc.
In order to use magic, the characters either think quite hard about what they want to happen while holding their magic thing, or else they ask their magic item politely to assist them. For instance, when Hilary was trying to get a pirate ship called the Pigeon to sail faster, she held Miss Greyson’s magic item and asked it nicely to make the boat go faster.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book, and would recommend it to anyone who likes adventure stories!