Book: The unbinding of Mary Reade
Author: Miriam McNamara
Pages: 336 (kindle e-book)
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Publication: 19th June, 2018
There’s no place for a girl in Mary’s world. Not in the home of her mum, desperately drunk and poor. Not in the household of her wealthy granny, where no girl can be named an heir. And certainly not in the arms of Nat, her childhood love who never knew her for who she was. As a sailor aboard a Caribbean merchant ship, Mary’s livelihood—and her safety—depends on her ability to disguise her gender.
At least, that’s what she thinks is true. But then pirates attack the ship, and in the midst of the gang of cutthroats, Mary spots something she never could have imagined: a girl pirate.
The sight of a girl standing unafraid upon the deck, gun and sword in hand, changes everything. In a split-second decision, Mary turns her gun on her own captain, earning herself the chance to join the account and become a pirate alongside Calico Jack and Anne Bonny.
For the first time, Mary has a shot at freedom. But imagining living as her true self is easier, it seems, than actually doing it. And when Mary finds herself falling for the captain’s mistress, she risks everything—her childhood love, her place among the crew, and even her life.
I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you.
To be honest, I don’t even know where to start.
Probably why I really wanted to read this book. I mean, female pirates? f/f romance? Based on historical events? Basically history fanfiction? Hell yes, sign me up for that.
Sounds awesome, right? That’s what I thought. Unfortunately, it turned out to be not that awesome. This sounded so interesting and good and don’t get me wrong, the thought behind it actually is pretty cool. I just did not like what was made with this idea. It just felt… unfinished.
First off, I needed ages to get into this book. The reader gets thrown right into the story and I was constantly confused about what was going on. There are so few explanations. For anything. There is only a bit of world building, just the tiniest bit. The majority of the book is set in the Carribean in 1719 but we don’t get to see much of it. Yeah, there’s the sea and some beaches and of course Nassau. But what else is there? Are there other animals except for fish and tortoises? Are there plants in those jungles? How does the society work, other than men are powerful and own their wives? What does this society mean to the characters who have to live in it?
I just have so many questions. True, since it is historical, I could just go ahead and read everything up, but that is not really how reading a novel works, is it?
If there is only so much worldbuilding, what does the book focus on? The characters? Not so much.
We have our main character, Mary. She has disguised herself as a boy (Mark) for most of her life. It was easier for her that way, though she fell in love with her best friend who did not know she was a girl. We do not know much about Mary’s thoughts. Because somehow she always talks and never thinks much. The actions she takes in certain situations are discribed in two sentences, probably a half sentence of thought. And that’s it. I can’t really put her character into words, mostly because she is very indecisive and never really sticks with an opinion. She says one thing, then the complete opposite 5 sentences later. And what made her change her mind? I have no idea. I really can not tell you, sorry.
Well yes, there are throwbacks to two years earlier when she was still poor and living in London with her mum and/or her Granny. But this really only explains why she disguises herself as a boy and how she came to be where she is now.
You see, that was the protagonist. You can guess how well we get to know other characters. There’s Anne, of course. The piratess Mary falls in love with. Or not. Or does she? Anne appears to be strong and independent, what she wants most is her freedom. But then she makes herself dependent on men, on the other hand. And then she suddenly gets all angry and weird and back to nice and flirty. I just can’t tell what is going on inside her.
And Nat? Childhood best friend/love of Mary’s? He likes her or has a crush on her, he defends her, but only so that is is barely enough. He makes advances, but then he draws back. He does what everyone his age and profession does, he’s not even having a character really. Nat is just doing what people tell him to do and I spent most of the book wanting to punch him in the face.
What is said about Calico Jack, famous pirate captain? He likes women, breaks promises (or not?) and gets angry very easily. And that is what I can tell you about the leader of the crew.
That said, I can’t say I enjoyed the writing style much. Everything was just too short, any details were amiss. It just seemed very unfinished and off. And some of the words the characters were using feel to modern to be used in 1719.
To sum it up, the idea is brilliant. How it turned out, not so much. Unfortunately. I really tried to enjoy this, but I just did not. Though it had bi (?) pirates. The book read like it was nowhere near finished.
*Note: the cover image and synopsis are taken from Goodreads