Friday, January 18, 2008

PIRATICA by Tanith Lee

DISCLAIMER: If this turns out to be a lousy review, the fault is mine and not the author's. I'm still battling a head-cold.A while back I went searching for great adventure stories with young women as the heroines. I found PIRATICA by Tanith Lee and felt I'd struck a gold mine! Tanith Lee is a British author who's been around for decades. I wish I'd known about her when I was a teen, but I grew up in an isolated town in the West with a library the size of a portable latrine and the Internet hadn't been invented yet. Most people there were born there, would live their whole lives there, and would die there. As long as they were happy, I can't fault them for that. But, the cultural isolation and narrow expectations of womankind drove me insane with boredom. I say all this because it made the heroine of PIRATICA totally relatable to me.


Artemesia starts the story living in an all-girls school learning how to walk with a book on her head and how to swoon. A stumble and a blow to the head jogs her memory. She remembers being the daughter of the most famous female pirate, Molly, and growing up on the ship. I loved this part because STAR CAPTAINS' DAUGHTER is also about a teen with a strong mother who happens to be a ship's captain. Artemesia is much more confident at age 16 than super-klutz Junior is in my story, but I digress. Artemesia remembers how her mother died and how she survived the same explosion and was brought to this school by her estranged father.


Memory restored, Artemesia return to her full self, the super confident and super clevor daughter of a pirate. Needless to say, her father and the school's matron, Ms. 'Evil Eeble,' are not at all pleased. They lock her in her room and tell her she can't come out until she's reasonable. At this point, Artemesia will knock anyone on his or her back side for calling her by that name and insists on being called 'Art.' She doesn't panick. She steams. She gathers her memories and bides her time, then escapes up the chimney because her 'jailers' had cruelly forbade her a fire to keep warm.


This story is what I think is called an 'Alternative History' story. It would seem to be set in 1800ish, but England is a republic. London is called Lundin. America is Amir Ka, or something like that. It's really amazing how Tanith Lee pulled off such a parallel universe. Her writing style and voice is so unique I wonder if American publishers would put up with it from a first-time author. There are lots of fragments and words which seem to be extra, but my mind adjusted immediately and I enjoyed it.


Back to the story. While escaping, Art steals the clothes of a really cute boy named Felix. She has a vague memory of a Lundin pub and proceeds there. It's really funny because instead of alcohol, coffee is all the rage. She finds her mother's old crew, but something's rather odd about them. They tell her Molly wasn't a pirate at all, but an actress! They were all actors and the pirating was just a play. Well, Art's not about to let that dash her dreams of Piratica. Through hook and by crook, she fenagles the crew into sailing up the river in their coffee boat. They accidentally rescue Felix and he winds up stuck on this 'voyage of the damned.' In doing so and by not following the course their sponsor ordered, they become outlaws and can't put into port for fear of being arrested. Soon, they're all the way to the ocean and Art has proclaimed herself captain.


PIRATICA is not a standard issue YA Fantasy. There are no elves or hobbits and the Hero is a girl who can weild a fake sword with such efficience that she can pop the buttons of her opponent's trousures before he can draw his own blade. There is a sequel to PIRATICA. Like I said, Tanith Lee has been around for decades. Finding and reading her backlist is like finding your own pirate's treasure.


Holly Kennedy said...

Isn't it amazing how many authors there are out there, who've been in the business for YEARS, that one stumbles across? I, too, have never heard of her, but this sounds wonderful.

P.S. You're a sweetheart saying what you said about the cover of my upcoming novel!

Kimber An said...

Thank you, Holly. You're a sweetie too.

Kimber Chin said...

You had me until you said that there were no hobbits. No hobbits? No small men with hairy feet? And you expect me to read this book? LOL

Hope you're feeling better!

Kimber An said...

Fear not, Kimber Chin. Peter Jackson's making THE HOBBIT into a movie right now.