Saturday, February 15, 2014

Sometimes Sword Fights Aren't Enough: Isle of Swords

Premise: Two groups of pirates hunt for the same vast treasure. One of them is infamously ruthless, the other strangely honorable. Between them lies a teenage boy washed up on an island with no memory, and monk with a treasure map tattooed on his back.

Title and Author: Isle of Swords by Wayne Thomas Batson
Length: 341 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series or Stand Alone: Book 1 of 2
Content Appropriate For: Grades 6-8
Format: Paperback on my home bookshelf

Three adjectives that describe this book: predictable, disappointing, gritty

This is a true pirate novel - with swashbuckling sword fights, cannon fire, and treasure-seeking. When I picked it up a while ago, I was hoping for an exciting adventure. At times, Isle of Swords paid off. The battle scenes were pretty terrific, but the stuff in between was less than wonderful.

The writing was a bit too clunky for me, "The stairs made an empty sound, as if there was an empty space below them." That's right - the word empty was used twice in one sentence. Blah. In addition, the plot was too predictable and the characters were rather flat. It ended up being a real struggle to finish the last 100 pages.

I'm still not sure how to feel about the Christian aspect of this book. I didn't realize that it's marketed as a Christian novel until I came across two references to God in the first 100 pages and looked it up. I was nervous about continuing, because I didn't want to read a book with an agenda.

Luckily, the author did a fairly good job of keeping the Christian elements historically accurate. Christianity was an important element of Caribbean exploration and colonization. However, one description of a church and another of the pirate's treasure were too forced for me. As though the author realized he had gone more than 50 pages without mentioning God, so he had to fit it in somehow.

On the positive side (in my opinion), the protagonists started out as atheists and stayed that way throughout so there was no overt evangelism to get in the way of the murdering and torture that make pirates fun to read.

Overall, I can't recommend Isle of Swords. Even though it was a great premise, the book was too predictable, with clunky writing, and some weird religious overtones.
2 stars

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