I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Steel by Carrie Vaughn
Published by Harper Collins on March 15th 2011
Genres: Young Adult, Action & Adventure, Pirates, Fantasy & Magic, Girls & Women
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It was a slender length of rusted steel, tapered to a point at one end and jagged at the other, as if it had broken. A thousand people would step over it and think it trash, but not her.
This was the tip of a rapier.
Sixteen-year-old Jill has fought in dozens of fencing tournaments, but she has never held a sharpened blade. When she finds a corroded sword piece on a Caribbean beach, she is instantly intrigued and pockets it as her own personal treasure.
The broken tip holds secrets, though, and it transports Jill through time to the deck of a pirate ship. Stranded in the past and surrounded by strangers, she is forced to sign on as crew. But a pirate's life is bloody and brief, and as Jill learns about the dark magic that brought her there, she forms a desperate scheme to get home—one that risks everything in a duel to the death with a villainous pirate captain.
Time travel, swordplay, and romance combine in an original high-seas adventure from New York Times bestseller Carrie Vaughn.
I’m not gonna lie, I find swords to be pretty badass weapons. Fencing is a beautiful sport, evoking that scene in The Princess Bride when Wesley and Inigo Montoya are fighting. In Steel by Carrie Vaughn, swords and fencing take center stage.
Time travel, sword play, and pirates pepper the plot of Steel, however, I’m not exactly sure the sum is greater than its parts. You see, main character Jill is kind of a brat, which is okay because many teenagers are brats. Jill is in the Bahamas for Olympic fencing try-outs.Her whole family goes and it turns into a vacation. Only Jill is all moody-teenager around her family, what with her changing body and hormones and all. A bit of time traveling happens, and Jill finds herself aboard pirate queen Marjory Cooper’s ship.
There is a lot of this:
Which is awesome. However, unfortunately, the book was not all sword fights and action. You see there’s about 5% romance, which is not much to complain about, but to me the romance felt contrived. It seemed as though it had been inserted at the last-minute as part of an unspoken requirement that all Young Adult books must have romance. However, I never felt a spark between Jill and her ‘love interest’. It seemed like they were friend-zoned for the whole book. Her love interest taught her things, sure, but there was never any lustful glances, or an accidental brushing of hands. There was no longing. There wasn’t even that moment where friends turn into something more. And for me, that’s why the romance just didn’t feel real. I think that’s what dragged Steel down.
I think if Vaughn had made Steel simply a novel of transformation and swordplay, this novel would have been excellent, just have to cut the romance. Or if the romance needs to be in there, make it real. Make me, the reader, feel something for the budding relationship. I thought Jill’s transformation from majorly spoiled to thoughtful and caring was well-done, if a bit rushed. She goes from being the typical I am the center of the work teenager (not that there is anything wrong with that, I was the same exact way as a teen) to seeing that she does love her family and they have more purpose in life than just annoying her. It would have been nice to have deeper interaction with her family instead of the brief thought of them, or the short two chapters in the beginning where her family is on the page. Maybe even see some of Jill’s life before her fencing tournament in the Bahamas.
What I thought was intriguing was the look at the history of the Caribbean and piracy in particular. You see my whole education of the Caribbean consists of the first Pirates Of The Caribbean movie (awesome, but I’m not into the rest of the series). So, while Steel wasn’t exactly a crash course in the history of piracy, it added to my knowledge just a little bit, especially the author note at the end. Carrie Vaughn explains that while there may not have been pirate queens in the Caribbean, there were in Ireland, which I totally didn’t know. She also wrote about pirates raiding slave ships, and how usually pirates didn’t free slaves but sold them for profits, which again, I didn’t know. ALSO, we see Jill’s reactions to being back in time and actually knowing how history will play out. As a history nerd, I found myself enjoying that part.
In all, I’m conflicted on Steel by Carrie Vaughn. Straight up, my feelings are mixed. I connected with parts of it, and was turned off by other parts.
Disclosure: Received for review.