Friday, February 15, 2013

Isle of Swords/Isle of Fire (Isle of Swords #1 & 2) by Wayne Thomas Batson

A young lad awakens on an island, alone and brutally injured, with no memory of his past.  Captain Declan Ross searched for riches that will free him and his headstrong daughter, Anne, from the piracy business forever . . . Bartholomew Thorne, an infamously ruthless pirate, seeks to destroy Ross and any who stand in his way of the legendary treasure hidden by a mysterious order of monks. With these intriguing characters and many more, Wayne Thomas Batson weaves a spell-binding adventure filled with high-seas drama where battles rage, storms brew, a long-dormant volcano awakens, and a sea creature slithers in the deep as pirates race for a cliff-top fortress.

Released: September 11th 2007           Pages:344
Publisher: Thomas Nelson Publishers Source: received as gift

Isle of Swords and its sequel, Isle of Fire, are separate books, but I'll be reviewing them together because reasons.  It works because I have pretty much the same feelings about both of them.  Just so you know, this review contains minorish spoilers (though I hesitate to call them spoilers because the reveals are completely predictable and I had it all figured out right away).

A few years back, I read this author's The Door Within and the rest of the trilogy.  I remember enjoying it, so I wanted to give this a try.  And anyway, Christian pirates?  I wanted to see how that would work. 

Ultimately, the not-really-but-kind-of Christian pirates annoyed me much less than the fully Christian characters of Other Books I Will Not Name.  I like how the author showed that being Christian isn't about being perfect all the time.  Christians make mistakes, too, and Batson doesn't shy away from that. 

I still have some problems with the series, though.  One major one is its lack of originality. 

Similarities between Isle of Swords and the Pirates of the Caribbean movies:
1. Young man is the son of a notorious pirate and is rescued by a girl
2. Spirited girl hangs out with pirates all the time
3. Young man and girl get married
4. "Good" pirates vs. "bad" pirates
5. British officers are generally idiots unless they come in handy
6. Drawn-out sea battles in which many things blow up
7. Said sea battles often involve "good pirates" fighting both the British Navy and the "bad pirates" at the same time
8. Crew members with deformities, included a messed-up eye (and the messed-up eye guy is basically comic relief)
9. Crew with no regard whatsoever for their personal safety
10. MILL WHEELS.  (somebody correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure there was at least a minor escapade in Isle of Swords/Fire involving a mill wheel)
11. There's some sort of awesome treasure on a sketchy magical island
12. The Big Bad Pirate is out to get...everybody
13. Borderline magical things happen
14. Monkeys play a role
15. The girl's dad is overprotective
16. Pirates set ships and towns and everything else on fire
17. Storms at sea during the most dramatic moments
18. Sea monsters

Now, granted, it is hard to write a pirate book without inadvertently borrowing some stuff from Pirates.  And some of this stuff almost has to be in a pirate book, anyway.  What good is a high-seas adventure without a massive storm during the final battle, and a sea monster?  Still, some of these overlaps can't be merely coincidence. 

Even without the shameless copying similarities to Pirates, the plot was highly predictable.  I figured out who Cat's father was as soon as Cat showed up.  Dolphin's parentage was no surprise, either (and why is there a random lady named Dolphin?).  The plot's twists and turns weren't unexpected, and some of them felt a bit cheap.  For example, they had the map all along, except Cat had never opened his bag?  Why would he have not said, "Hey, I've got this weird bag around my neck.  I have amnesia, so it might be a good idea to examine not only the bag's contents, but the bag itself"?

It was tough to connect to the characters.  Cat was likable enough, but I wish the author would have gone farther with his father-son conflict (especially since I love stories where a "good guy" has a villain father).  Anne could have been likable, but she actually bothered me because she had exactly the same traits as Antoinette (the names are even similar) from the author's other series.  Thorne and the Merchant were evil just for the sake of being evil, and that also annoyed me.  (This, actually, is the difference between having villains that amass herd of adoring fangirls and are stylish and actually cool and disturbingly lovable *coughLokicough*  are well-written, and villains that are just bland.)

Overall, this book is essentially a Christian, PG-rated Pirates of the Caribbean without some of the cool and interesting stuff that happens in PotC, but with monks that blow things up.  It was predictable and I struggled to connect to the characters.  Still, it was a rather fun, swashbuckling adventure.  Three stars. 



 
Similar Books: It has pirates, like Steel.  We've already talked about the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.  Also, this series has a similar structure (and basically the same characters with different names) as Batson's other series, The Door Within.
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3 comments:

  1. Pirates of the Caribbean wasn't the first pirate story ever. And actually they "stole" much of their characters, plot, general feeling, etc. from multiple and already classic stories and legends.
    Like you said, a pirate book is going to naturally show similarities to other pirate stories. But the similarities aren't strictly to P.O.T.C.--they are mostly drawn from what I mentioned previously: old stories/legends/tales.
    Also, remember, this is a KIDS' book. And, for a children's novel, it is well done, exciting, fun, and I can actually get my 14 year old nephew to finally read and ENJOY a real book!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Pirates of the Caribbean wasn't the first pirate story ever. And actually they "stole" much of their characters, plot, general feeling, etc. from multiple and already classic stories and legends.
    Like you said, a pirate book is going to naturally show similarities to other pirate stories. But the similarities aren't strictly to P.O.T.C.--they are mostly drawn from what I mentioned previously: old stories/legends/tales.
    Also, remember, this is a KIDS' book. And, for a children's novel, it is well done, exciting, fun, and I can actually get my 14 year old nephew to finally read and ENJOY a real book!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I understand that PotC wasn't the first pirate story, and it won't be the last. I based all my comparisons off it since I was much more familiar with it than other classic stories, and I didn't want to assume that I knew enough to be able to write about it.

      There's nothing that says a kids' or YA book doesn't have to have the same quality as an adult book. It's just like any other genre--there's well-written YA, and poorly done YA, and everything in between. Adult books work the same way. I don't cut books any slack just because they are YA. Kids and teenagers are just as capable of recognizing good writing as adults. As C.S. Lewis once wrote, "No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally – and often far more – worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond."

      Delete

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