The Jupiter Pirates, Book 2: Curse of the Iris

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
The Jupiter Pirates, Book 2: Curse of the Iris Book Poster Image
Fun space-pirate sequel adds complexity.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Get out your map of the solar system and zero in on the asteroid belt, the dwarf planets, Jupiter's moons, Saturn's moons and rings, and beyond. These privateers get around. Spaceship terminology also is discussed -- much of it overlapping with maritime terms ("amidships" and "belowdecks," for example) and some of it not ("atmosphere scrubber"). There's a pretty complete glossary in the "aft" of the book and a layout of the ship in the "fore." The life of these privateers will make readers think about what would be needed for whole populations to survive out in space and why a simple pet parrot in a rich man's home seems so miraculous.

Positive Messages

Themes of teamwork, the importance of family, and loyalty remain from the first book. And there's still that thin line between what's pirate-style stealing and what's not: Here they not only raid ships but try to cheat others out of their legal share of treasure until Tycho's conscience kicks in. A religious man helps him decide to do what's right by telling him, "One of the truest measures of a person is how they treat those over whom they have the advantage." 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Teen siblings Tycho, Yana, and Carlo are still competing to impress mom, the ship's captain, so they can become the next captain. While Tycho has little confidence in his flying skills, he is the deepest thinker of the group and often wants to do what's right -- but at the same time, he does keep a pretty big secret from his family. Yana is very bright and a bit hot-headed, and Carlo, the best flyer, is a bit arrogant. Still, they're brave and work together well.

Violence

Descriptions of Tycho and his family finding one crashed and one inoperative floating ship with the dead still strapped to seats. A couple of battles on ships using guns and missiles lead to casualties, some belowdecks on Tycho's family's ship. There also are a few ships lost. A man dies from alcoholism. A near-drowning in darkness. Guns are pulled and a few punches are thrown; some pirates are proud of jail time during shore leave. Talk of past lost ships in big battles and possible murders of distant family.  

Sex

Quick mention of consorts and concubines.

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Talk of Grandpa at the bars getting drunk before he gets in a fight and ends up in jail. He also smokes cheroot. A homeless alcoholic figures prominently in the plot; Tycho, Carlo, and Yana find him nearly passed out at a bar.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Jupiter Pirates, Book 2: Curse of the Iris is the second in a series about a trio of smart siblings in the rough Hashoone family business of space piracy, or "privateering," as they prefer (there's much talk about the shady legality of it). Kids will learn a bit about the moons of Jupiter and Saturn while they think about what they'd need to survive in space. Expect some space battles a la Star Wars with missiles fired and ships lost. The Hashoones also find two ships with crews long dead, still strapped to their seats. On land, a man dies of alcoholism, and others have fistfights and draw guns.  

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What's the story?

It's no wonder the crew of the Hashoone family ship is a bit jumpy. In short order they found two ships with long-dead crews still strapped to their seats. Even worse, there's not much treasure to pirate: a few basic supplies, a mysterious transmission box, and a bank card for the Bank of Ceres. Still worse: The dreaded pirate Mox shows up, guns blazing, threatening to take what little they found before they make a hasty retreat. It's hard to understand why Mox is even interested in their meager loot until they get to Ceres to cash in their card. Not only are the card and the transmission box linked to finding a huge treasure, that huge treasure is claimed by ancestors of the Hashoones and other pirate families -- including Mox's.

Is it any good?

CURSE OF THE IRIS is at its best when it sticks to its main plot -- treasure hunting -- and when it sticks to its main characters -- the three Hashoone kids: Tycho, Yana, and Carlo. It's fun to see how banks work on a dwarf planet (with the added humor of the same ridiculously slow lines and inept tellers) and how one clue leads to another to point them to riches. Three talented teen siblings vying for their mother's captain's chair add some good tension and character depth to the story. 

Then there are the myriad subplots and characters. There are so many names floating through space they're hard to keep track of. And the Jupiter-Saturn conflict adds some fun battle scenes but little else to Book 2 -- perhaps it's the main conflict in Book 3. Then there are the secret meetings Tycho has with the government; as the most conscientious of the pirating bunch, it's hard to see Tycho making that choice. Still, fans of space stories will find lots to enjoy here.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what it would be like if space piracy was your family business. Who would be the captain? Who would pilot the ship? Who would handle communications? Who would set the coordinates and break codes? And which grandparent can you picture with cyborg parts and a gun for a hand?

  • Do you read any other books about space travel? If so, which ones are your favorites? Will you keep reading this series?

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  • What does Tycho want to do with some of the treasure that the rest of the family doesn't? Is that what you'd do?

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