Review: Steel

Review: SteelSteel by Carrie Vaughn
Published by HarperTeen on March 15, 2011
Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, Historical
Pages: 291
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library

It was a slender length of rusted steel, tapered to a point at one end and jagged at the other, as if it had broken. A thousand people would step over it and think it trash, but not her.

This was the tip of a rapier.

Sixteen-year-old Jill has fought in dozens of fencing tournaments, but she has never held a sharpened blade. When she finds a corroded sword piece on a Caribbean beach, she is instantly intrigued and pockets it as her own personal treasure.

The broken tip holds secrets, though, and it transports Jill through time to the deck of a pirate ship. Stranded in the past and surrounded by strangers, she is forced to sign on as crew. But a pirate's life is bloody and brief, and as Jill learns about the dark magic that brought her there, she forms a desperate scheme to get homeā€”one that risks everything in a duel to the death with a villainous pirate captain.

Time travel, swordplay, and romance combine in an original high-seas adventure from New York Times bestseller Carrie Vaughn.

I discovered Carrie Vaughn in Brave New Worlds, which I read and reviewed a couple months ago. Her story was one of my favorites, so I put her on my list of authors to watch for. Imagine my surprise and delight to see that she had two books coming out, both with beautiful covers: one adult, one teen.

The cover of Steel describes the novel as “a swashbuckling tale of magic, romance, and pirates.” I was so there. The swashbuckling and pirates parts are most definitely true. Jill can be quite a strong lady, when she’s not panicking herself into a frenzy. She definitely grows from a bit of an obnoxious whiner at the outset to a strong heroine, able to stand up to even the scariest of pirates.

The magic and the romance were a bit less present in the story. Certainly, magic is pervasive, but only in the rapier which brought Jill through time. Magic served that one purpose and no other. And it really didn’t work for me. I think I would have preferred the more standard story where she disguises herself as a boy to run off and gets caught up with pirates. The journey through time just felt too contrived. There is romance of a sort, but it’s not particularly romantic, nor is it long-lived or monumental. I did not ship her with anyone and think the romance, such as it was, did little to help the story.

Though I didn’t love this one, it was a fairly interesting read. My favorite part was actually reading the acknowledgements, where the author acknowledges which parts of history she altered (knowingly). That is a section of historical fiction novels I have come to appreciate in recent years, nerd that I am. I still have high hopes for her adult fiction book, which I will be reading soon.

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