“The Kestrel” by F. K. Sewell

“The Kestrel” is a historical novel based on the conflicts between the Royal Navy and the pirates (and between the pirates themselves) in the Eastern Atlantic in the early 1700s. The hero is the son of a pirate captain who was hanged four years before this story starts. Alex tires of life in the slums on land and signs on with another pirate ship, persuading two of his friends to join him. The conflict is boosted by the fact that one of the friends is a girl he is sweet on, and the other lad is much more her friend than his, if you catch my drift.
So we have multiple layers of conflict based on the romantic interest, the chance of her being caught, the chance of being killed in battle and the chance of the ship being sunk or captured. And in the background, Alex’s struggle to come to grips with his problematic relationship with his parents and their eventual loss.
This is a great novel for a section of the Young Adult crowd: 14 years but not much older. The violence is too gory and the language too salty for younger readers – it is about pirates, after all – but the romance is handled tastefully.
The main reason that I suggest this book for younger readers is that there is a rather large suspension-of-disbelief gap in the plotline. While immature readers are willing to accept the ease with which these youngsters fit into the pirate milieu, those more cynical about the way the world works would find it harder to accept.
What does work is the way in which the characters and their relationships develop, including those of the three youngsters, and also Alex’s affinity for the Captain and the First Mate. I found the battle scenes tense and full of action, and the amount of sailing jargon appropriate to the age group.
I must mention that, although the manuscript I was given is a final edition, it is still in need of editing and tightening up. Small inconsistencies abound, such as giving all the Inns in Madeira English names. I cannot fully recommend a work that does not come up to minimum standards. Again, the YA market is going to be less concerned about this, so you can accept my comment with that in mind.
A fine action-adventure story for a narrow age range.
3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

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