Magic Marks the Spot: The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates, Book 1

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
Magic Marks the Spot: The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Rollicking, magical tale of girl who joins pirate crew.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Occasional references to classic pirate literature, such as Treasure Island. Map-reading and problem-solving skills come into play.

Positive Messages

Strong messages about bravery, loyalty, kindness, a spirit of adventure, and a sense of humor.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The intrepid Hilary, who refuses to accept limitations on her dreams and shows great determination in pursuing them, is an impressive, engaging heroine. Like Hilary, her fellow pirates, as well as her school roommate Claire, sometimes make foolish decisions, but learn from their mistakes and often come to the rescue in unlikely ways. Hilary's governess is a clever heroine.

Violence & Scariness

There's a lot of talk about killing enemies, feeding them to sea monsters, etc., but very little actual harm comes to anyone, despite sword battles and the like. In one scene, Hilary fells her opponent by throwing a can of beets at his head. In the past, one of the adult characters killed the parents of one of the kids -- they were pirates and he sank their ship.

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Magic Marks the Spot, first volume of The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates series, is for the most part a rollicking, lighthearted adventure, with a very appealing tween girl, would-be pirate Hilary Westfield, as its lead character. Piracy here is mostly about the quest for treasure (especially magic objects), loyalty to one's friends, and a general aversion to authority figures. In contrast to many, more boy-oriented pirate tales, there's little here in the way of gore or grossout. While there's much talk of killing foes and feeding them to sea monsters, even epic sword fights seem to end with little injury to anyone; sailors tossed overboard simply swim back to their own ship. Still, there are darker elements: The parents of one kid died when their boat was sunk by the father of another, and a character must deal with the fact that her father's an actual villain. Many characters show an unexpected side, for good and ill.

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What's the story?

In the kingdom of Augusta, young Hilary Westfield longs to be a pirate. But despite her seafaring skills, THE VERY NEARLY HONORABLE LEAGUE OF PIRATES refuses to allow her into the academy, because girls can't be pirates. Making matters worse, her father, the admiral, hates pirates and is determined to pack Hilary off to Miss Pimm's finishing school so she can be a proper young lady in high society. Undeterred, she soon joins up with a ragtag pirate crew in search of the lost treasure of The Enchantress, who centuries earlier gathered up most of the magic in the kingdom and hid it away; now they've found a mysterious map, and MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT.

Is it any good?

First-time author Caroline Carlson has a lively, humorous style that moves the story along quickly, the narrative often punctuated by letters and other documents exchanged by the characters. Amusing illustrations by Dave Phillips add to the fun. While the overall tone is light, some issues have a heavier side, such as the death of parents; the discovery that someone you love is not who they seem to be. Some of the best moments come as Hilary discovers some of the downsides to pirate life, such as being cold, wet, and seasick a lot.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why pirates are such a popular subject for stories. Do you have any favorite pirates?

  • What turns out to surprise Hilary about pirate life? How does she discover the side of it she doesn't love?

  • Do you know any adults who behave like any of the characters here? What character do they remind you of, and why? Do you like them, or prefer to avoid them?

Book details

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