On the Account

Written by Helen Hollick
Review by Mary Chapple

From the mists of Exmoor to the bustle of Bristol in the early 18th century, this fifth instalment of the Sea Witch Voyages sweeps you along into a swashbuckling adventure-fantasy. Captain Jesamiah Acorne is acquitted of smuggling, but maybe he would have been better off staying in jail – especially once murders start happening. He is coerced into finding a valuable casket and a missing boy, and then his wife is kidnapped by Barbary pirates: a lot happens in this adventure.

Some readers may not like the fantasy elements, but this is a sailor’s yarn of a tale where make-believe sits well alongside reality. I liked the new characters Hollick introduces; Maha’dun the Night-Walker, in particular, brings a dry sense of humour and is an excellent foil for Captain Acorne. I assumed he would be a vampire-type creature, but Hollick assures us he is not, although she does not reveal exactly what he is. (Hollick does like to keep her readers guessing!)

Does it matter that this is the fifth in the series? Does the story stand alone without reading books one to four? As Hollick has the ability to impart just enough backstory, I think it does, but I strongly suggest starting with Voyage One (Sea Witch) because this is such a good adventure series. One very slight criticism is that there is not a lot of nautical content in On the Account, but what there is instead is exceedingly exciting, and anyway, with a protagonist like Jesamiah, does it matter whether he is on land or at sea?

Very highly recommended.