The Terror of the Southlands: The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates, Book 2

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
The Terror of the Southlands: The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates, Book 2 Book Poster Image
Girl battles scallywags, ball gowns in fast-paced sequel.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

The action takes place in an alternative, magic-enhanced world, but along the way young readers will pick up bits of knowledge about the seafaring era as well as the occasional vocabulary word such as "reticule." The situations of some of the characters -- such as fishmonger's daughter Claire, who longs to be accepted in High Society, and Hilary, who can't wait to ditch her ball gown for her pirate clothes -- offer an opportunity to contemplate the social constraints and class boundaries in bygone eras and to consider how things may or may not have changed.

Positive Messages

As the gargoyle puts it, "I don't think being fearsome is a good way to keep your friends." There's much emphasis on loyalty, bravery, thinking for yourself -- and thinking on your feet when things change suddenly. Do the right and honorable thing, even when doing wrong has many rewards. Also, be a good leader.

Positive Role Models & Representations

It's true that lying is an important skill for a pirate, but Hilary and her friends practice the skill for a good cause, mainly to deceive villains. Frequently confronted with situations where they're ordered to do something and must decide whether to obey, they develop much resourcefulness and critical-thinking skills as they try to do the right thing. Many adult characters are treacherous villains, but others, such as Hilary's somewhat estranged mother and some good-hearted pirates, have a way of coming to the rescue when things get scary.

Violence & Scariness

Flying cannonballs and other hazards come up frequently, but, although there's much talk of running people through with swords and blasting villains to smithereens, little actual harm results. Hilary imagines punching an annoying girl in the nose but doesn't do it; she does "accidentally" stomp on the foot of someone who insults her. Various characters are kidnapped, imprisoned, or both, and one prisoner's captors seem to be starving her to death. In the past, the father of one character was responsible for the deaths of another character's parents.

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Terror of the Southlands, the latest installment in Caroline Carlson's Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates series, continues the adventures of intrepid (and honorable) young pirate Hilary Westfield. As in Magic Marks the Spot, Hilary and her unlikely band are appealing, brave, and often funny, and, although there's much piratical talk of running people through with swords, somehow it never seems to happen. Along the way, there are many positive messages about friendship, loyalty, and the way someone's strangest quirks can really save the day. Sensitive kids may wonder about the fact that Hilary's father is in a dungeon for his villainous behavior in Book 1, and Hilary says many times that she hopes he stays there; in the distant past, another character's pirate parents died when Hilary's father sank their ship.

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What's the story?

It's true: Young Hilary Westfield  (aka THE TERROR OF THE SOUTHLANDS) is now a member of the Very Honorable League of Pirates. But there's still some grumbling about the League's first female member, and she's soon ordered to prove herself with faraway adventures. Almost immediately, though, her plans change, because Miss Pimm, finishing-school headmistress and the Enchantress, has disappeared. Hilary thinks it's perfectly piratical to help a friend in need, but soon she and her crew (her friends Charlie, Claire, and a self-important gargoyle) are battling buccaneers and scallywags and facing terrible dangers, from flying cannonballs to a High Society ball. 

Is it any good?

As in Magic Marks the Spot, author Caroline Carlson delivers a fast-moving, mostly lighthearted romp of a pirate adventure, with a few positive life lessons and quite a few laughs for good measure. Independent-minded tween girls will find it especially easy to relate to the young Terror's troubles ("Poor Mother," Hilary muses. "I believe she would have been much happier with a daughter who could actually stand to wear a dress for more than half a minute").  

Carlson punctuates the narrative with newspaper stories, ransom notes, pirate missives, chapters from the gargoyle's memoirs, and lots of "arrr"s, offering plenty of opportunities for read-aloud drama.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why pirate stories have been so popular for many generations. What pirate stories do you like best?

  • Hilary has to work hard to prove herself to a lot of people who think girls shouldn't be pirates. Have you ever had people tell you you couldn't do something because you were a girl or a boy? How did it turn out? What did you do?

  • Do you think you'd like a life of adventure on the high seas, or would you rather stay close to home? If you went off on an adventure, whom would you bring along?

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