I found ‘Devil’s Ballast’ while browsing through netgalley, and the cover and summary immediately caught my attention, and I haven’t been able to put it down so here I am to share my love for this story.
*Disclaimer e-copy received from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review*
Anne Bonny was eighteen when she ran away from her violent husband, James, into the arms of pirate captain Calico Jack Rackham. Now she’s ensconced aboard Jack’s ship Ranger, passing as a cabin boy and playing her ruthless part in a crew that is raining down mayhem and murder on the ships of the Caribbean. But James Bonny is willing to pay to get his ‘property’ back. And pirate-hunter Captain Barnet is happy to take his money. The Ranger’s a fast ship: Anne might just be able to outrun Barnet. But can she outrun the consequences of her relationship with Calico Jack?
“I counted fifteen dead men working the deck of the Kingston. Well, they weren’t dead yet, but the day was young, and I had a full belt of shot.”
What a fantastic way to start a book. As soon as I read this, I knew that I was going to love this book and I was right, having stayed up till the wee hours to read it. It was fast-paced for the most part and drew you along with a wonderful sense of adventure, banter and high stakes.
As historical fiction, I was impressed with the level of realism. The author didn’t shy away from the reality of Piracy, while also negotiating the stories, rumours and misconceptions that surrounded the real historical figure of Ann Bonny, in a way that makes this version seem as though it could be the real one. Yet, at the same time, it carried the romanticism that is often applied to Piracy, making ‘The Devil’s Ballast’ an entertaining, accessible read.
The character of Anne Bonny was beautifully done, and was everything I want in a female protagonist, riding that line between being a bad-ass woman, who isn’t perfect, and a one who can’t always fight alone, and who to some extent is defined by her love. The romance aspect was handled in a very unique way, and while it didn’t necessarily hold as much page-time as you might expect, it permeated through the story, so you couldn’t doubt the relationship between Anne and Calico Jack. As much as I enjoyed this, it was Anne’s friendship with Read that was my favourite part of the book, as it was built up in a realistic, well-done way, and didn’t turn into a triangle, while also leading both characters through some fairly heavy situations/topics as well and providing some fantastic LGBTQA+ representation which I am always happy to see in books.
Barnet also made for a fascinating ‘villain’ for the story, and it was interesting to watch him balancing between duty and honour, and revenge. In the beginning, I disliked him, but as we learned more about him and his motivations, it was impossible not to respect him or to feel for him, and it made him so much more than the one-dimensional villains that you often see.
A rip-roaring Pirate adventure, with a dash of romance and a high level of historical realism, that had more than a few twists in the tale. I was kept on my toes the whole way through and found myself holding my breath at points due to the weight of what was at stake. I honestly can’t recommend this book highly enough.
Devil’s Ballast – Meg Caddy (Text Publishing, 2019 (Kindle)/2020 (Paperback) – **** (4/5 Stars)
You can order the ebook/preorder the paperback HERE.
If you’ve read it, or read it in the future please feel free to shout at me about this fantastic book.