Sea Witch

Written by Helen Hollick
Review by Fiona Lowe

I really wanted to read Helen Hollick’s latest book; an historical fantasy involving pirates and a white witch served up with lashings of adventure seemed too good to miss. I’d seen Pirates of the Caribbean and loved it. Is there anyone who doesn’t love Jack Sparrow?

Unfortunately I did not finish the book feeling quite as enthusiastic as I did when I started. Somehow the admittedly appealing ingredients did not quite make the totally satisfying read I would have expected.

First the good bits. There is lots of action. Things move pretty rapidly in this book. In the blink of an eye it seemed Captain Jesamiah Acorne was involved in all kinds of mayhem, hair-raising scrapes and fights to the death, not of all the action taking place on the high seas either; Captain Acorne’s adventures often spill over onto land! Then there’s the heroine. She is certainly interesting. A fifteen-year-old white witch with a talent for midwifery and healing is not your usual brand of heroine. I rather liked her.

The devil, I think, lies in the detail. Jesamiah Acorne is no Jack Sparrow. He is realistically drawn. Yes. He does all the terrible things you’d expect a pirate to do, but, for me at any rate, he lacks the essential charm and likeability that makes the bad bits worth reading about. And I have to confess I very quickly got tired with Jesamiah’s liking for whores! A realistic trait, yes, but not likeable. And it is absolutely not likeable when your hero admits to the rape of a virgin! A pirate-like deed, yes, but not heroic.

However if you don’t mind your hero having rather large faults, and you like thundering action and plenty of it, then this outing is worth trying.