________________ CM . . . . Volume VIII Number 4 . . . . October 19, 2001

cover The Buccaneers.

Iain Lawrence.
New York, NY: Delacorte Press (Distributed in Canada by Random House of Canada), 2001.
244 pp., cloth, $23.95.
ISBN 0-385-32736-6.

Subject Headings:
Seafaring life-Fiction.
Caribbean Area-Fiction.

Grades 6 and up / Ages 11 and up.

Review by Joan Marshall.

**** /4

A companion to The Wreckers and The Smugglers, this gripping tale of bloody, ruthless pirates, sea battles and "nerves of steel" sailing will hold readers spellbound, forgetting to breathe as they gulp down one adventure after another. Seventeen-year-old John Spencer's first sea voyage across the Atlantic to the West Indies in the good ship Dragon is shaken by the sight of a fit man rowing a boat 1000 miles from any shore. The rower, Horn, has been banished from English captain-turned-pirate Bartholomew Grace's ship. As John delivers his cargo and turns back to England, Grace's ship, the Apostle, emerges from the fog to destroy the Dragon. With Horn's help, John overcomes this attack, the sickness of the crew, the weather and a bent sextant, but only escapes wrecking the Dragon on the Tombstones when a local man rows out to help.

     The plot rushes forward like the waves of the ocean. John is beleaguered on all sides by illness and treachery and weather. At the same time, Horn's knowledge and steadfastness and Dasher's loyalty and courage sustain him and give him the determination to continue. John develops from a naive lad who can't be bothered to learn how to use the sextant, to a fearless captain who can deliver a ship and its cargo to safety.

     The Buccaneers glories in rollicking, rhythmic sailing language and descriptions of the sea that must come from Lawrence's personal sailing experience.

"I let her run, and watched that big, black schooner close the distance. I saw her bowsprit reaching forward, the thin slab of her reefed topsail slashing madly side to side. I saw the ragged men riding on the yard, the foam boiling round the hull. Her bowsprit pierced the seas, rose again, rose and fell as she swiftly overtook us."

     Lawrence's descriptions of people are astoundingly vivid:

"Above them, at the helm, stood Bartholomew Grace. There was no one else it could be.

Tall, strong, elegant-looking, he wore a gold-trimmed coat and a gold-trimmed hat with a crimson plume in its crown. He steered with one hand, looking ahead, and the wide brim of his hat fluttered round his face.

Then he turned toward us. Gliding past, he turned his head. He took his hand from the wheel and swept off his hat, stooping into a courtly bow. One knee bent, his black hair tumbling in tangled ringlets, he saluted us as our ships sailed on and parted. And when he lifted his face, it seemed at first as though he had no face. It was featureless, pale, just a mouth and a pair of dark eyes, and I remembered what Horn had told me. Burned by molten tar."

     The map of the West Indies clarifies the Dragon's travels, and the "Author's Note" at the end of the book enlarges on the research and stories behind this stunning novel. Both adolescent boys and girls (adults, too!) will be drawn in to The Buccaneers and will be unable to put it down.

Highly Recommended.

Joan Marshall is the teacher-librarian at Fort Richmond Collegiate in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364