“The pirate crew of the Lady Luck lives by many rules, but chief among them is this: they do not allow men on board.
That’s a rule that quartermaster Grace Porter is willing to break when a shipwrecked young nobleman offers her information of an omniscient map, stolen from his warship by an enemy vessel. Until now, the map was only the stuff of legend… but with its help, Grace may finally be able to hunt down the Mordgris, the sea monsters who stole her mother away from her.
Unfortunately, some members of her crew have other plans…
To find the map and face the Mordgris, Grace will have to confront her past, put the Luck between warring nations, and uncover treachery aboard the ship. And ultimately, her revenge and the destruction of the Mordgris will come at a hefty price: the betrayal of her crew.
Grace promised them they wouldn’t regret this.
She just isn’t sure that she won’t.”
Over Raging Tides is one of my assigned SPFBO novels that I was super excited to read (I mean, just look at that cover, for a start!) I have always loved pirate stories – The Liveship Traders by Robin Hobb is one of my favorite trilogies ever, and I loved Treasure Island as a kid. This novel has all the trappings of a great pirate story – a ship inhabited exclusively by lady pirates, a protagonist haunted by her past, creepy sea monsters, a hunt for an elusive mythical treasure map, betrayal and treachery… the list goes on.
Gracie is a driven, single-minded protagonist preoccupied with the kidnapping (and possible death) of her mother at the hands of the Mordgris, unsettling sea monsters who can take on the appearance of their victims. She is Quartermaster of the Lady Luck, and has developed a close relationship with Captain Ilene, who acts as a stand-in mother figure – both are heavily invested in discovering the location of an enchanted treasure map. Ilene (and her fellow pirates) because of the incredible treasures the map is said to locate; Gracie, to track down the Mordgris and destroy them all. When they come across a wrecked war ship and two survivors clinging to the flotsam, it seems that they may have found a path to the mythical map that has eluded them for so long. There’s just one problem – the survivors are men, and men are forbidden on the Lady Luck. They are brought on board at Grace’s command, but this leads to all kinds of conflict and open revolt amongst the crew. Not to mention the fireworks between Grace and the haughty lordling she has rescued. Fun stuff.
Over Raging Tides is a fast-paced adventure with a solid structure and some excellent ideas. I enjoyed the diverse and sympathetic cast, the asides regarding the laws of the Lady Luck, and the general plot. However, it had some issues that diminished my enjoyment and reduced the novel to merely quite good where it could have been great. First and foremost was a lack of development. Gracie is the only character who receives a decent amount of character development, and this is a real shame because the entire cast had bags of potential. I think one reason for this is the first person PoV – we’re placed inside Grace’s head, giving us some insight as to what she’s thinking and why. I think the novel would have benefited enormously from a Multi-PoV approach with Leo, Ilene and Celia, which would have rounded things out a great deal. This is also true of the worldbuilding – some details are mentioned in passing, but we’re not given a whole lot to work with. For me one of the great pleasures of a pirate novel is in the descriptive prose – the smoky, seedy taverns, chaotic towns, wind billowing in sails, lungfuls of salt air, vivid background characters. All of this could have used some work, and I’d have preferred a longer book (ORT is 239 pages) that included more of this type of detail.
Overall I think Over Raging Tides is a somewhat sparse novel but with great potential, and Ellision is clearly a talented writer. This is an enjoyable YA adventure that would make a great introduction to nautical/pirate fantasy for younger readers (around mid-teens would be most appropriate, due to some occasional swearing and coy sex references). Hopefully future entries will develop the world and characters further, as the concept is fabulous.
Score: 5.8/10 (3 Stars)
Bingo Squares 2018
- Reviewed on r/Fantasy
- Published in 2018
- Fewer than 2500 GR Ratings