I will say frankly, I really wanted to like this. Terrible pirates, persecuted destinies, adults and treasures. In fact, it was a great setup for a super pirate pirate book. But I just didn’t make it. Thanks to Fierce Reads for giving me a copy of this book.
1826 The sun is entering the golden age of piracy, and the legendary dragon fleet, the scourge of the South China Sea, is gone. Her ruthless leader, a woman known only as the “Dragon’s Head,” is now just a story of how Xiang grew up all his life. She desperately wants to prove her worth, especially to her mother, a clever entrepreneur who never seems to have enough time for Xiang. Her father is also just a story dead in the sea before Xiango was born. Her only memory of him is the pendant she always wears, a simple but plain gold piece of jewelry.
But the true nature of the pendant is revealed when a mysterious girl named Anh steals it, only to return it to Xiang in exchange for help decoding the small map scroll hidden inside. The revelation that Xian’s father sailed with a fleet of dragons and hid this secret changes everything. Rumor has it that the legendary Dragon leader had his last treasure – the plunder of a thousand ports – it was just a myth, a fool’s journey for decades.
Xiang is convinced that this map can discover the narrated treasure. Spectacular adventure excitement, she joins Anh and her variegated crew in pursuit of the island. But the girls soon realize that the sea — especially those that sail it — is far more dangerous than legends have led them to believe.
In many ways, this book has everything I’m looking for in a really good history of pirates. It features adventures to mysterious lands, pirates with strange personalities, a bit of romance and lots of adulthood and the understanding that your parents aren’t always superheroes. It contains everything and even the buried treasure that can be found with an encrypted map that only a handful of people could actually understand. It could have been a phenomenal story, but I think I came out of this book really wanting more.
Much of the history looked like the historical history of YA, not the historical history of pirates. The focus was on Xiang, her life, her upbringing, the people around her, and her mysterious father. She wears a pendant that she was told was a sign of his father before he passed, but that’s almost all she knew about him. The beginning shares her protected life. She lives in a super small village with her caretakers and her mentor. The only research she knows is what she traveled around the city and in the books she read.
Then one day she asks her mother to take her to Canton to see what the whole world looks like. While there, she meets Anhu, who steals her pendant and reveals to her that the pendant actually had something hidden; treasure map to one of the most famous pirates buried treasures.
In a desperate attempt to make Xiang’s mother proud of her (and avoid marriage proposals that her mother is constantly pushing for), Xiang sets off with Anh and her family’s boat to sail into a world of exploration, adventurous adventure, and learn more about the treasure map she found.
From that moment on, history has so many twists and turns. The drama in Xiango’s life is so unreal and with each new surprise it drew me to learn more. I wish I could talk about them here, but maybe I’ll give too much. But be prepared to know how much the Xiango family kept away from her.
I also really liked the characters in this book. The entire crew of Captain Hoa’s ship were interesting characters, so I’d love to have more time to learn about them. I wanted to learn so much about each character and how they make up this beautiful family. The relationship between Xiang and Anho also deepens as they get to know each other. Xiang learns to fight, works hard and learns a lot about her past, which has been hidden from her. Honestly, I was very surprised by all the reports revealed.
The pace of this story was a bit unusual. At first it was a slow pace that I enjoyed. I felt like I was empathizing with a serious big story with lots of adventure and action, but then the second half of the book seemed rushed, with less focus on treasure and more on drama. I think if I had started the book a little differently, I would have liked it more than I would have.
All in all, it was a fun adventure story, full of a lot of learning, surprises and pirate action. While it wasn’t my favorite, I know a lot of people will really enjoy it.