by Edward Chupack
I’m not sure why I didn’t like this book more.
I love pirate stories (I mean, I LOVE them. I am writing a pirate story that is most of the way through its second book now. I dress as a pirate every Halloween, and talk like a pirate every Septembarrrr 19th, which is International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Some of my favorite authors, my favorite books, are pirate stories.). I love villains, especially when they are the protagonist. I love riddles and puzzles and the very idea of treasure maps. So I should have loved this book: which is about Long John Silver, who is a villain of the first order, a pirate, and the protagonist; and he also spends most of the book talking about riddles that point the way to buried treasure. When he’s not talking about killing people, that is, which he does quite a lot.
But I didn’t love this book.
Part of it is that I am not a serious fan of Treasure Island, the story that spawned Long John himself; I have read it once, in the last couple of years, but never as a kid, when the story really could have captured my imagination. Thus the references in this book didn’t really have much of an impact on me. I recognized some, missed others, and didn’t really care about any of them. Part of it is that the author makes a strange choice to have the entire story be a flashback, which is fine – but Long John is flashing back on his life from his current situation, which is imprisoned in the Captain’s cabin on his own ship, which has been taken from him, and he is being held until he gives up the location of his treasure. It was a letdown that Long John starts off the book having lost. There are some great moments when Silver makes fun of the cabin boy who is constantly bringing him food, which Silver refuses, presuming it is poisoned; and the life he flashes back on was fascinating and supremely piratey; but I hated that he was getting weaker and weaker, starving to death and suffering from a fever the whole time.
I was also disturbed that I couldn’t solve the riddles that led the way to the treasure. There are many hints dropped, and eventually the secret is revealed – or at least, one of them is – but not everything is explained, and I couldn’t get the clues by myself. There’s this one image that is reprinted at least six or seven times, which is supposed to be this fascinating clue that unlocks the secret path to the big treasure: but the whole time, other than the small details that Silver explains, which were pretty apparent from looking at the thing, I got nothing from it. And it is also true that the big treasure was not terribly interesting to me, even though it has some historical accuracy, which is great; but I kind of didn’t care about this one.
Overall, I think it was a good book, and well-written; I think it was just a little off the mark for me. I think someone else who loves pirates – especially someone with a particular love for Robert Louis Stevenson – would really enjoy this one. Though I will note that the Goodreads reviews of this book say that the connection between this book and Treasure Island is tenuous at best, and a shallow marketing scheme at worst, so maybe that wasn’t the problem; maybe it really just isn’t that good a story. I’m going to recommend giving this one a miss. Try Jeffrey Farnol: now that man could write a pirate story!