Captain Hornigold and the Pirate Republic
by Martin A. Frey
Bring ‘Em Near Press

"I go to my hammock, and no sooner have I dozed off than I’m awakened by gunfire coming from the direction of Potter’s Cay and the eastern basin."

In 1715, Abigail Pennyworth and her family set sail from England for America. Her father has been asked by the church to be a missionary in the colonies. However, the family’s ocean voyage is interrupted. A few days out from Jamaica, Spanish pirates attack the ship and take Abigail from her family. Still, Abigail’s fate won’t rest with the Spanish pirates for long. English pirates board the Spanish ship, and Abigail is taken again, this time to be the cabin boy for Captain Hornigold. As Abigail settles into her new life and learns her duties, she makes friends with the ship’s cooks and slowly begins to gain the captain’s favor. Her ability to read and write also helps her make friends among the crew.

It is not long before she begins to understand the rivalries between pirates and how the political and religious feuds in England still influence the behavior of the pirates half a world apart. She begins to enjoy the crew’s trips to the pirate haven of Nassau and the gossip she picks up in The Lion and the Unicorn tavern. It seems the European countries are beginning to find ways to deal with their pirate problem. Abigail is worried that she could be hanged as a pirate. Because many of these pirates are only continuing to do what they were legally doing during the previous war, a plan is proposed by King George which will allow them to be pardoned if they give up the pirate life. Some of the pirates she has come to know only pretend to give up the lifestyle, and she knows trouble is coming for them.

Frey’s pirate tale is historical fiction and will likely remind readers of a couple of different books. Much like Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, both feature a young protagonist quickly caught up in the lives and adventures of pirates. In addition, this same young protagonist may find readers relating her to Liesel Meminger from Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief. These two young women are seeing some of the realities of the adult world unfiltered. They are both directly influenced by the historical setting in which their story takes place. Frey has done a wealth of research on the history of the people, politics, and locations of his story. Of the three books, Frey's is the most focused on the historical part of historical fiction. Through the gossip in the tavern, the reader is kept aware of the political machinations surrounding the European monarchies and the religious viewpoints involved. Frey also includes detailed historical notes and source materials. History lovers, especially those particularly interested in this era, will find great information to help them continue their pursuit of the period’s secrets.

Frey’s writing is easy to read and approachable for upper middle-grade students through adults. The young protagonist will help with the appeal to a younger audience, but the historical details will likely draw in the more mature reader. The history is prominent, and some may feel the protagonist’s inner struggle with her circumstances is too easily put aside, while the swashbuckling they may expect from a tale about pirates is not really present. However, those readers who are looking for detailed historical fiction rather than simply an adventure story with historical frosting are going to find exactly what they want in Frey’s well-presented book. Readers may also wish to venture over to and plunder its treasure of articles that offer additional information on the themes explored in the novel.

A 2023 Eric Hoffer Book Award Category Finalist

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