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Mad Kestrel
Misty Massey
Tor, 320 pages

Mad Kestrel
Misty Massey
Misty Massey was born and raised in Virginia, and moved to South Carolina at the age of twelve. She wrote short stories for years, even publishing a few in small press magazines, until she joined a writing critique group and tried her hand at writing novels. Mad Kestrel is her first novel.

Misty Massey Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Michael M Jones

Kestrel is a rarity: a woman aboard a pirate ship. Moreover, she's the quartermaster, answering only to her captain, a dashing fellow by the name of Artemus Binns, who's the closest thing she has ever had to a father figure. She works twice as hard as any man to command the proper measure of respect, but the effort's paid off, granting her power and authority, and the freedom she can only find at sea. For only surrounded by water, where magic is ineffective, is she safe from the mysterious Danisoba, who tend to steal away people like her -- people with magical talents. Like the wind she commands, Kestrel just wants to be free to live her own life.

Things take a turn for the worse when Captain Binns meets up with Philip McAvery, a roguish fellow captain whom Kestrel instinctively, immediately distrusts. And when Binns is arrested after making a dubious deal with McAvery, Kestrel is convinced of the latter's betrayal, and she swears revenge. But she has been entrusted by Binns with a vital mission: to deliver his logbook to the king himself. However, Kestrel would rather rescue her captain before he hangs or is sent away for good, and have him deliver his own damned logbook. To that end, she rallies her crew, commandeers McAvery's former ship, and sets sail on a voyage full of action, adventure, intrigue, daring rescues, bold plans, narrow escapes, treachery, mutiny, and magic. Before she's done, she'll understand just how deep a mess she's in, how Binns and McAvery and Kestrel herself all tie together, and what the cost of freedom really is. But will she be forced to reveal her deepest, darkest secrets, and will she place her trust in the right people? One wrong move, and it's a fate worse than death for Kestrel.

Mad Kestrel is a thoroughly enjoyable piratical fantasy, a rousing adventure that starts strong and doesn't let up until the end. It has got plenty of action, both on the high seas and on dry land, fully engaging all the senses without dragging the reader through too much dreary detail. Misty Massey's got a skill for capturing the imagination as she spins this high-spirited tale of a feisty pirate woman and her occasional nemesis/unwanted partner-in-crime. I have to say that Kestrel herself made the book for me, she's a heroine whom you can't help but cheer for, a strong and stubborn woman who boldly goes where she wants, and damned be those who'd get in her way. The chemistry and interactions between her and McAvery make for good reading, as they challenge each other on multiple levels, never quite growing complacent in the other's company. One can admire Kestrel for her strength of convictions and her general resourcefulness, as she herds her crew like a gang of unruly cats, through one adventure after another.

I loved Mad Kestrel, and was genuinely disappointed when it was finished, and I hope Massey's got more on the way soon, as I believe she has created an intriguing world full of potential and ripe for further exploration. And of course, Kestrel's far too interesting a character to have just the one adventure. This is the sort of book I'd happily suggest to anyone who liked Pirates of the Caribbean, Tanith Lee's Piratica, L. A. Meyer's Jacky Faber series, or any of the other fine pirate-flavored tales out there.

Copyright © 2008 Michael M Jones

Michael M Jones enjoys an addiction to books, for which he's glad there is no cure. He lives with his very patient wife (who doesn't complain about books taking over the house... much), eight cats, and a large plaster penguin that once tasted blood and enjoyed it. A prophecy states that when Michael finishes reading everything on his list, he'll finally die. He aims to be immortal.

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