Navigator Hector Lynch is keen to give up a life of piracy and settle down with his pregnant wife, Maria, in the fabled settlement of Libertalia, where all men are equal. But Libertalia is proving hard to locate, so reluctantly he agrees to join his friends Jacques and Jezreel on the freebooter the Fancy, to go in search of a place to call home and enough booty to support his family. However, Captain Henry Avery, the ship’s commander, has a very ambitious target in his sights – no less than the Grand Mogul’s treasure ship, the Ganj-i-Sawa’i. Getting involved in this expedition has repercussions that might jeopardise everything Hector holds dear.
Set in the late 17th century, this is the fifth in Tim Severin’s Pirate series, though the backstory is easy to pick up. It’s clear the author knows a great deal about the Great Age of Sail, but is subtle enough not to overwhelm the average reader with technical jargon. Hector is an intelligent and likeable hero and the settings, whether on shipboard or on land, are vividly evoked. There are many twists to the plot to keep the reader engaged, though there is more depth to the treatment of the historical background and the underlying themes of the book than in the traditional swashbuckler. An interesting historical note at the end shows just how closely Severin has managed to stick to known historical facts while plausibly weaving in his fictitious characters. Recommended to anyone who enjoys seafaring adventures set in exotic places.