Book Review: Seafire, Natalie C. Parker
Young Adult Fiction: Seafire, Natalie C. Parker
Seafire is the young adult adventure I want my granddaughters to read when they get older. Natalie C. Parker has put together a tale of rebellion on the high seas that features as tough a heroine as you may ever meet in Caledonia Styx, captain of the Seafire, a ship with an all female crew. This first book of a planned YA trilogy starts with fire and fury and keeps building to a conclusion that would do Hollywood proud.
Caledonia Styx is only fourteen when she and her best friend, Pisces, go on a supply run to a small island. While there, Caledonia is attacked by a “Bullet,” a sailor/soldier of the despot Aric Athair. She is stabbed and grievously wounded. Their ship, captained by Caledonia’s mother, is taken and the entire crew killed.
Caledonia and Pisces manage to salvage the remnants of the ship and escape. They rebuild her and rename her the Mors Navis, and recruit a crew of all girls and women to fight Aric Athair. Several years later, their fights are inflicting minimal damage on the despot’s fleet. Enough to get his attention and ignite his wrath, but not nearly enough to do any real damage. Then, a battle goes a bit sideways. Pisces is captured, but as the Mors Navis turns to flee, a tow rope goes taut. Pisces is on the other end of it, free, but she is not alone. A young man has helped her escape, but insists on fleeing with her. And suddenly Caledonia must face some difficult choices. Can she trust a male, a bullet, after the betrayal that cost her family? Is the information he gives accurate and actionable? Dare she put her crew and her ship into the danger that acting on his information would mean?
Seafire is a fun and exciting adventure on the high seas. The world Parker builds is a future dystopian world where some technologies have survived, some have advanced, and others have been lost. Thus the ships are a mixture of old and speculative technologies that lets Parker’s characters frolic in some wild seas. In some ways this is an old story, but with new flourishes. At one point Caledonia is asked whether she is a pirate queen. She laughs and replies, No. She’s a rebel. She and her band of merry women are Robin Hoods on the waves, robbing from the rich (though they are poor enough themselves they don’t give much away) and seeking to frustrate the rule of cruel Aric and break his tyrannical grip. Having a bunch of girls and young women who can steer the ship and swing the swords just adds to the fun.
The girls and women of the Seafire are wonderfully described. Parker does not pretend that the average girl will have a physical advantage over the average boy, but she does not assume that those differences would matter much if circumstances can be tilted unexpectedly. The crew of the Seafire is well-conditioned, strong, and smart. They can hold their own in a fight, but they also use their intelligence and their skill and their teamwork to change the circumstances to their favor. They don’t mind being underestimated. In fact, they will use that. So you think you have us surrounded? We have hidden part of our crew, and you are the ones surrounded! You think you have disarmed me? You did not realize this object I hold is a remote detonator, and your problems have only just begun. These women will fight for their sisters. They will die for their sisters. But they will take a lot of others down with them before they die, and their love for each other will take them through every obstacle that they face.
Parker has created a terrific space for her characters to work with, and she has created some terrific characters to work in that space. I am looking forward to the sequels coming to this first book, and I am looking forward to my preschool granddaughters getting a few years older so they can appreciate the kickass women who crew the Seafire. My oldest granddaughter loves “feisty” heroines (“feisty” is her word). They don’t come any feistier than Caledonia Styx.