Review: The Terror of the Southlands by Caroline Carlson

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Terror of the Southlands by Caroline CarlsonThe Terror of the Southlands by Caroline Carlson
Series: The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates #2
Published by HarperCollins on September 9, 2014
Genres: Adventure, Fantasy
Pages: 307
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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two-half-stars

Hilary Westfield is a pirate. In fact, she’s the Terror of the Southlands! She’s daring, brave, fearless, and . . . in a rut. Maybe she hasn’t found any treasure lately. And maybe she isn’t fighting off as many scallywags as she’d like. But does that mean she and her loyal crew (including a magical gargoyle) deserve to be kicked out of the ranks of the Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates?

There is only one thing to do—find a daring mission worthy of her fearless reputation. With the help of first mate Charlie, finishing-school friend Claire, and the self-proclaimed intrepid gargoyle, Hilary sets sail on a swashbuckling expedition that may or may not involve a kidnapped Enchantress, bumbling inspectors, a mysterious group called the Mutineers, and—the most terrifying thing of all—a High Society ball.

Caroline Carlson brings just as much rollicking fun, laughter, and action to this second book of the Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates as she did with the first, Magic Marks the Spot.

These days, I’m just not all that into middle grade books. That’s what I’m realizing. As they’re becoming, I think, increasingly popular, I’m trending the other way. I found Magic Marks the Spot to be hilarious and full of adventure. Somehow, though, I didn’t feel nearly as invested in this second book. It’s some combination of my mood, my boredom with most middle grade, and the book itself.

The Terror of the Southlands is definitely cute and funny, as the first installment was. Reading it on the heels of Hook’s Revenge was probably a bit of a mistake. I was not in the right mood at all. You can expect to get a book that’s very close in tone to Magic Marks the Spot. This is either a good or bad thing, depending on the type of reader you are. For my part, I really hope to see any sort of middle grade fantasy get a lot darker in the later installments. Book one might be flufftastic, but book two should have higher stakes. The Terror of the Southlands does not; if anything, the stakes are diminished. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it wasn’t what I wanted.

Carlson’s writing continues to be delightful and humorous. My favorite parts of The Terror of the Southlands were actually the letters and newspaper articles at the end of each chapter. Such a technique is really hard to get right, but I think that Carlson makes them so interesting. They tend to have character discussion of what went on in the previous chapter, and they’re so funny. The one exception to this is the gargoyle’s memoir, which is a retelling of book one with him as the hero. Funny in theory, but trying in actuality.

The other thing with middle grade fiction is that there doesn’t tend to be much romance, because obviously they’re very young. Romance really helps engage me in a story and there is none of it here. I think I remember having a ship in the previous book, but there’s no hint of romance here at all. Middle grade ships can be so cute with the handholding and the awkward flirting. Either Charlie and Claire or Charlie and Hilary could have been so completely adorable together, but oh well.

The plot of The Terror of the Southlands is lacking the piratical bent to be honest. Hilary, in fact, receives a notice for unpiratical behavior at the beginning. If she doesn’t do something piratey, she will be removed from the League. This is good. Unfortunately, she goes to rescue her friend, the Enchantress, instead, which frankly is not a pirate thing. The argument made is that pirates watch out for their mates, but I’m not sure that that is actually true and also pirates definitely do like to steal things. In book one, she found treasure at least, but she doesn’t nothing remotely piratey in this book. What’s the point with having her be a pirate if she’s NOT a pirate? Why not have her join the royal navy or something?

For all that, The Terror of the Southlands is definitely cute. I’m probably going to read the next book in the series anyway, but I do hope to see higher stakes and more actual pirate behavior in the next book. Also, is some romance too much to ask?

Favorite Quote:

“I don’t want to alarm you, Terror, but I believe you’re being attacked by a ball gown.”

Hilary tossed a rope down to the fishing boat, and Jasper began to pull himself aboard. “If I weren’t so happy to see you,” she said, “I’d send the ball gown after you next. It’s terribly vicious, you know.”

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 gif pirates of the caribbean

4 responses to “Review: The Terror of the Southlands by Caroline Carlson”

  1. I remembered how much you enjoyed the first one as did I, and I was wondering if it was just me because I didn’t enjoy this one nearly as much either. I just attributed it to not being in a MG mood but those have been few and far between for me. I’ll likely read the next book too because why not, but I am hoping for a lot more as well. Great review. 🙂
    Bonnie @ For the Love of Words recently posted…Ominous October: Scary Reading in OctoberMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      I’m really sad about that as well. I was going to give it a three, but I was really disconnected the whole time. It wasn’t BAD but I don’t know if I actually liked it. Felt a bit of chore. As I wrote my review, I was coming up with more reasons why, even though I hadn’t realized I had anything specific to point to until then. *sighs* Hopefully there will be more romance and swashbuckling in the next one.

  2. Anya says:

    I also wasn’t as into this one as book one, so I don’t think it’s just you. I just didn’t find myself laughing and smiling as much for some reason and I think the plot direction had a lot to do with that, plus just less tongue-in-cheek humor (or at least I missed it?). In any case, agreed, I’ll read the next one, but I was sad that this series didn’t keep getting better.
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