Publisher: Black Spot Books
Mystery, Myth & Magic Meet in an Epic Adventure of Two Women Lost at Sea—
and the Secret that Binds Them Together
AN ORPHAN DISGUISED AS A PIRATE SETS SAIL FOR A MYSTICAL ISLAND IN HOPES OF UNRAVELING THE MYSTERIES OF HER PAST
The year is 1716—the Golden Age of Pirates. An orphan who sleeps in the dusty kitchens of a quayside brothel, Merrin Smith is desperate to unravel the secrets of her past and find the truth about the events that brought her to the Caribbean island of Isla Perla as a child. Disguised as a sailor, and with the help of her longtime friend Claudette, Merrin joins the crew of the pirate ship Riptide, helmed by the notorious Captain Erik Winters. Tenacious and rumored a madman, Winters is known as much for his ruthlessness as for his connection to the enigmatic and beautiful proprietress of the Goodnight Mermaid, Evangeline Dahl, who vanished from Isla Perla two summers before.
At sunset the Riptide sails for the mythical island of Bracile, a place hidden between air and sea and that exists only for a moment every two years, and which has never returned any man who has sailed for its shores. The journey will be perilous and long, and it will take Merrin far away from the only home she’s ever known. Because she can read, Merrin will serve as the Captain’s apprentice, deciphering old texts for clues to the island’s whereabouts as the ship sails through haunted, frozen waters and into the very heart of the ocean. As she struggles to navigate the rough, seafaring life aboard a pirate ship, Merrin must keep her identity hidden from the scrupulous gaze of not only Captain Winters, but also Mister Brandon Dunn, the ship’s surly, legend-spouting quartermaster, and Tom Birch, the charming boatswain Merrin can’t help but feel drawn to.
As the Riptide makes its way to Bracile, Merrin begins to suspect that the men she has worked so hard to deceive may in fact be more connected to her than she would have imagined, and that perhaps her own past might have more to do with the Dunn’s legends and myths than she ever could have guessed.
In The Isle of Gold [Black Spot Books, October 9, 2018] Merrin Smith must face perilous waters, cursed sea goddesses, and the embodiments of some of the ocean’s most terrifying legends as she not only struggles to survive her journey, but to find the answers to the mysteries of her past.
A story where history meets fantasy, The Isle of Gold is an epic, emotional adventure of two women—one desperate to save herself, and the other determined to be rescued—and the secret which binds them together.
“For as long as men have sailed the ocean, they have told stories about the sea,” says Jane. “It’s a place of mystery, myth, and magic—and this makes The Isle of Gold a perfect setting for an epic adventure that is not only a tale of historical fiction, but of the very evolution of a woman’s spirit as she seeks to find herself in a world of unpredictability and uncertainty.”
“There is an old saying that ‘the cure for anything is saltwater—tears, sweat, or the sea.’ In The Isle of Gold, Merrin’s journey requires all three.”
I received a copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
The first aspect of this book that stood out to me was the prose. Isle of Gold has a beautifully rich and descriptive prose that gives both the setting and tone of the book so much life. We get lush descriptions of appearances and settings, especially of the ship and her crew through for the majority of the story. Through the writing, we get a very good sense of how Merrin feels at all times, especially because this is a very introspective novel.
Due to that, however, I found the pacing a little slow for my tastes. The story itself is rather short and simple, but pages and pages are filled simply with descriptions of how the boat was run and what each character was doing. For a large portion of the book after Merrin joins the crew and the Riptide sets sail, the story becomes a simple slice-of-life story about life on a pirate ship. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, I did wish that for a book about pirates, there would be a little more action going on. For a time, I thought Merrin’s identity would play a factor into this, but the crew seemed to accept her pretty readily and there wasn’t much conflict there. In general, until the last 40%, there wasn’t a lot of action.
I thought the characters in this book were incredibly fleshed out and realistic. While we don’t always get a lot of backstory to each character, we learn a lot about their personalities and behavior. Merrin is an orphan who’s ended up where she, with no idea of her past, and inexplicably pulled toward the sea. The two men she befriends, Dunn and Tom, are interesting people who both clearly have fascinating backstories that they’re not quite willing to share. I loved the relationship between Evangeline Dahl and Captain Winters have. They this push and pull relationship that I couldn’t quite describe as romance but more a dance between two people accustomed to wielding power and not quite willing to relinquish it. Merrin describes them in such a way that keeps me fascinated with them and I wish they had more screentime.
Finally, while I don’t read many books about sailing nor know much about sailing, the way running a pirate ship was described in this book was incredibly in-depth and, though I can’t say for certain, the author seems to have done her research. I learned about the quality of the food eaten would get worse and worse as the trip goes longer, when and how you should mop a deck and more. In general, I felt like after reading this, I could confidently work on a ship and not get yelled at.
Overall, I rate this book a 4/5. I found this book enjoyable, if slow in pacing and plot. If you’re interested in pirates, heavy prose, and books with realistic descriptions of sailing, this book is definitely for you.
/r/Fantasy Bingo 2018 Squares:
- Novel Featuring a Non-Western Setting
- Self Published Novel
- Novel Published in 2018
- Subgenre: Historical Fantasy/Alternate History
- Novel With Fewer than 2500 Goodreads Ratings