Friday, February 13, 2009

Book Review: Black Ship: A Novel of Crosspointe by Diana Pharaoh Francis

Product Description Thorn is a member of the Pilot’s Guild—those who possess the magical ability to navigate Crosspointe’s deadly seas. When a malevolent master within the Guild bans him from the sea, it seems his life is over. Then he is kidnapped and forced to serve aboard the rogue ship Eidolon—pitch black from bow to stern—and Thorn finds himself battling a mad captain, a mutinous crew, and the terrifying magic of the sea. But there is a saboteur on board, trying to make sure the Eidolon never arrives safely in port. Thorn begins to realize his kidnapping may have been no mere chance— and that the cargo the black ship carries may seal his doom… I mentioned in a previous post that the allergy medication my doctor has had me on has left me somewhat scattered and unable to focus on books very well these days. The Black Ship is one of the very few books that was able to cut through the haze of the medication and hold my interest for any length of time. I attribute this to the fact that I can personally connect to Diana Pharaoh Francis' writing because her characters make sense to me. "The Black Ship" is the follow up to the first book in the Crosspointe Series, The Cipher, though the story follows a whole new set of characters only returning to the original cast occasionally. Sylbrac is a member of the Pilot's Guild. Pilots are the navigators for the ships that sail the incredibly dangerous seas of Crosspointe. From the magical substance known as Sylveth that can transform anything living thing it touches into deadly spawn to the sea monsters known as Koreions, a Pilot is the only person with a strong enough connection to the sea-- a magical connection-- who can safely lead a ship through the treacherous waters. But Sylbrac isn't well liked within the Pilot's Guild. His prickly demeanor, which masks a fierce honesty, alienates him from his peers. After being betrayed by another member of the guild Sylbrac is banned from sailing on a registered ship and then kidnapped and forced to serve on an unregistered ship-- known as "The Black Ship" due to it's unmarked, pitch black paint job-- on an illegal mission with an angry, mutinous crew and an unstable captain. Then, Lucy Trenton, an incredibly powerful magician introduced in "The Cipher" appears and dangles answers to unknown questions about Sylbrac's brother to cement his cooperation. After his betrayal Sylbrac leaves his old identity behind and takes the name Thorn as he tries to make sense of the situation that has been thrust upon him. Not knowing the cargo the ship is carrying, Thorn still tries to forge a bond with his captain and crew but a saboteur on board the ship undermines all of his best efforts and puts Thorn and the crew in even more danger. Facing "pyrates," tidal waves and sea monsters in addition to trying to complete their journey, the crew of The Black Ship is tested throughout their mysterious mission. I'm not sure why, but I love stories that are set at sea. There's something about the setting of a ship, the enforced intimacy and cooperation, that I find intriguing. But not every author can make it credible. I read Mad Kestrel by Misty Massey last year but never reviewed it because, while it's not a bad book, I couldn't fully buy into it. But Francis manages to draw me into the story and engage with the characters. She's not afraid to allow her characters to go through some grueling times but the situations always make sense. One of my biggest complaints with modern fiction is the tendency to throw in action just to keep the characters busy but Francis keeps the story moving forward with purpose and you want to know what happens next. But the best thing about Fracis' Crosspointe series has to be the magical system; a highly original, yet believable creation. Sylveth is a substance that is the primary source of magic. It washes up in silvery skeins from the sea and can either mutate a living creature into a monster commonly known as spawn or it can grant certain abilities. Magicars can also harvest the substance to use in crafting spells or creating items like the compasses the Pilots use to enhance their ability to feel the dangers and moods of the sea. Francis is steadily becoming one of my preferred authors. Her books feature characters with depth and motivation that evolve throughout the story. I have enjoyed both "The Cipher" and "The Black Ship," and I'm looking forward to see how she continues the story of Crosspointe in her next book, The Turning Tide, due out this May. For more info on "The Black Ship," be sure to check out SciFi Guy's excellent review HERE

1 comment:

Missy S said...

If you enjoy her Crosspointe series, you seriously should take a look at her Path series. That's how I found her. I love Reisel. It was almost a shame when the trilogy ended, but like you said, she does it in a way that makes so much sense you really can't complain. I'm a huge fan of hears. Lovely review!