Five Guns Blazing
“Convict’s daughter, Laetitia Beedham, is set on an epic journey from the back streets of London, through transportation to Barbados and grueling plantation life, into the clutches of notorious pirates John ‘Calico Jack’ Rackham, Mary Read and the treacherous Anne Bonny. In a world of villainy and deceit, where black men are kept in chains and a woman will sell her daughter for a few gold coins, Laetitia can find no one in whom to place her trust. As the King’s men close in on the pirates and the noose begins to tighten around their necks, who will win her loyalty and her heart?”
Five Guns Blazing, is well written, well researched and vividly brings to life the experiences of a young girl caught up in circumstances entirely beyond her control. Her treatment at the hands of those entrusted to care for her, from her mother to overseers, is criminally lacking, and evoking these relationships is at the heart of the novel.
Ms Millar markets the book as a pirate novel… but what this is not a pirate story. We do not meet a pirate until half way through the novel. And the research, although good in respect of what was going on in the Bahamas in the early 18th century, does forget almost entirely what a pirate cared about most – his ship. I could not picture the vessel, and there was scant suggestion of how to sail it. Mention of ‘setting the sail’ in the singular demonstrates the author’s lack of nautical knowledge and research in this crucial area.
What this novel is, however, is a story about slavery. Ms Millar’s best writing is in the portrayal of slavery. Slavery in the form of the workhouse, a plantation, and indeed aboard a pirate ship, because our protagonist is as much a slave on board Jack Rackham’s ship as she ever was on the sugar plantation.
If you want a swashbuckling adventure on the high seas, this will not be for you, but if you want an in-depth study of slavery written by an author who trusts her reader to come to their own conclusions, this is a satisfying read.