Pirate Shishkabob

Our rating: *****

Recounts the tale of Pirate Shishkabob, a most unconventional buccaneer who pillages ingredients for his kabobs instead of treasure. One day, he gets a letter from King Egleburt asking him to help out with a very serious problem…

Here’s a simple, delightful story for the young and young at heart. Clever text is combined with grin-inducing illustrations. Unlike many children’s books, Pirate Shishkabob is silly without resorting to stupidity. Really, if you can’t read this book without smiling, something is seriously wrong with you.

Drowned Wednesday

Our rating: ****

Wednesday dawns and Author Penhaligon is facing his next task: finding and claiming the next part of the Will and the Third Key. But this isn’t any easier than Monday and Tuesday were. Lady Wednesday herself, rumor has it, has been transformed into a monstrous, all-devouring whale. And the terrible and powerful pirate-sorceror Feverfew is set on capturing and killing Arthur. Falling in with the unusual crew of the salvaging ship The Moth, Arthur faces high adventure on the Border Sea, risking much to complete his quest. Lives are at stake.

Drowned Wednesday is fairly consistent with the first two books of the series, while still keeping the adventures fresh and unique. A good blend of humor and peril, with both old characters and new. I can’t say that it’s an exceptionally remarkable story, but I found it imaginative and enjoyable nonetheless, and I intend to follow it up promptly with the fourth book, Sir Thursday.

Peter Duck

Our rating: ****

The Swallows and Amazons, along with Captain Flint (the Amazons’ Uncle Jim) are preparing for a holiday in a small schooner, the Wild Cat. When they hire Peter Duck as an extra sailor, things begin to happen. The notorious Black Jake and his ship Viper begin following their every move. Why? Peter Duck was witness to a treasure burial many years ago and word has gotten to Black Jake. Captain Flint thinks a go at treasure would be a good vacation, so off they sail into an adventure.

Peter Duck is meant to be a story made up by the Swallows and Amazons during a winter holiday. However, this is never explained, so the book could be as real as you want it to be. Here we have a rollicking good time hunting for treasure, fighting pirates, and sailing on the open sea. I thought the story dragged a little at the beginning, but once Arthur Ransome hit his stride, I was carried along and reading at a furious rate. Guaranteed to make you wish you were sailing!

Isle of Fire

Our rating: ****

Declan Ross and his daughter Anne have left piracy behind and now work for the Royal Navy as pirate hunters. Their former, amnesic crew mate, Cat, has stayed behind in a monastery of treasure-guarding monks. All seems somewhat peaceful, now that Bartholomew Thorne is dead—or is he? A devious scheme to attack England takes shape, drawing Cat, Anne, and Ross into a battle that could change the course of history.

There’s no doubt about it. Wayne Thomas Batson was born to write pirate books. Most of the characters are quite deep, especially Cat, who was very well done. In the style of Brian Jacques, Batson writes a powerful story that zips along faster than a merchant clipper. My only real problem is with the possible historical inaccuracy of an attack on England, but this is fiction, after all. Although I preferred Isle of Swords, this is definitely a worthy successor.

Isle of Swords

Our rating: ****½

It all starts when Declan Ross, captain of the William Wallace, and his headstrong daughter Anne take on a badly injured boy who has no memory of his previous life. As time goes on, the truth about a great treasure, long believed lost, is revealed. Hidden by a mysterious order of monks, this treasure must be reclaimed—and Declan Ross is the one to do it. Perilous dangers await in the journey, and Bartholomew Thorne, the most dreaded pirate on the high seas, is determined to find the treasure first. So begins a deadly race to the Isle of Swords with more at stake than first meets the eye.

Despite a few flaws, I was quite impressed with this book. A great page-turner, memorable characters, and many intricate subplots. I debated whether to mark this for ages 13+, like the other Wayne Thomas Batson books we’ve reviewed, or to bump it up to 15+. I will leave it at 13+ with a warning: Bartholomew Thorne is not a nice fellow, and he does not treat his prisoners kindly. Nothing was overly vivid, but it had me grimacing on several occasions. So do take that into consideration.
Also, I was under the impression that Isle of Swords was a stand-alone book. Be forewarned! I raced through the climax right to the end where the story is left at a cliffhanger. While the main plot is resolved, many mysterious puzzles are left unsolved. All that to say, I’ll be watching for Isle of Fire, the sequel.