Piratica, by Tanith Lee


Miss Artemesia Fitz-Willoughby Weatherhouse falls down the stairs one day at her posh lady’s school, and suddenly remembers her childhood as a pirate. Fed up with her current life, Art sets off to regain her old one, when she used to travel the seas on her mother’s pirate ship. However, Arts mother died many years ago, and when Art finds the old pirate crew everything is not what it seems. In fact, Art’s mother was a famous actress, and the pirate adventures that Art remembers actually took place on a stage. This new information hardly phases Art, who captures a ship and turns her band of actors into a real pirate crew. It turns out that one part of the stage show is real, and Art and her crew take off on the trail of a treasure, all the while being followed by the infamous, beautiful pirate Goldie Girl and her bloodthirsty crew.

For a book that seems so light-hearted and adventurous, the two main characters are surprisingly dark. Art is almost scarily driven to succeed as a pirate, and her eventual love interest, Felix, has a tragic past that informs his current life. Some levity is added by the crew of pirate actors, who are charmingly funny and given to declaiming. Lee’s novel moves quickly, and Art’s ploys as a pirate are clever. The book is fun to read when the pirate antics are going full storm, and Art is a truly independent and capable female lead character. However, I did not get everything I wanted out of this novel, perhaps because I was anticipating something a little more heavy on the adventure and less on the characters’ deeper, darker motivations. One other small quibble: Piratica is a truly awful title.