Book Cover
Title On Stranger Tides
Series ---
Author Tim Powers
Cover Art James Gurney
Publisher Subterranean Press - 2008
First Printing 1988
Category Fantasy
Warnings None

Main Characters

John Chandagnac, Beth, Davies, Hurwood, Friend, Blackbeard

Main Elements Spirits, pirates

"Join us," said the pirate captain Philip Davies, "wholly adopt our goals as your own, or be killed right now where you stand."

Puppeteer John Chandagnac, who was sailing to Jamaica to get revenge on the uncle who had stolen his father's inheritance, has no choice but to join the buccaneers who have taken him prisoner - and soon, known now as the pirate Jack Shandy, he finds himself learning to survive in a treacherous new world of cutlass-fights, sea-battles, and voodoo magic on sun-blinded tropical islands. The legendary Blackbeard is assembling a ruthless navy of pirates living and undead to voyage to the fabled Fountain of Youth, and Jack Shandy must use magic, swordsmanship, and even his puppeteer skills to free himself and the girl he as fallen in love with from Blackbeard's deadly supernatural domination.

I'll start with pointing out that neither ghosts nor pirates are my favorite genre. I picked this book up for a couple reasons, the first it was being read by a book club I'm a part of, second, I'd been wanting to read two other Powers books so thought it would be interesting to give the author a try.

I never really got into the story. The writing style involved a lot of run on sentences forcing me to slow down my reading so I could keep track of things. I also didn't really get attached to any of the characters, though there were definitely a lot of colourful and mysterious ones (and some with very interesting secrets), just not anyone I'd actually like to meet. I mean Blackbeard is a real world larger than life character who embodies what we all picture when we hear the word "pirate", but you can't claim you'd want him to move in next door!

I'm not terribly familiar with the historical time period but I heard Powers worked hard to make sure everything fits into the actual events. I'm also not terribly familiar with nautical terms thus when the "jib broke free and the spar got loose and so-and-so got stabbed through the chest by the saddle" I just couldn't picture it. But at no time did I feel it wasn't authentic to the time period.

So I was kind of left with the plot which is basically John, being forced into the life of a pirate (and apparently enjoying it so much that he gave up a chance to get out in a way that I felt was maybe a bit contrived? Though maybe not, after all he didn't have much to go back to and he was making friends amongst these roving bucanneers. And hey, we're talking about staying in the Caribbean drinking rum on the beach watching the flamigos fly by, verus being in some cramped office in foggy London working as an accountant). Other than that, John spends his time trying to rescue Beth from her deranged father, with the occasional jump to another character's point of view...though in one case doing the one thing I really dislike, viewing the world through the point of view of a truly evil character (Friend), it's just so icky and two dimensional it's eye-rollingly absurd. Usually a mistake made by self-edited, self-published amateurs.

But much as it wasn't really my kind of book it wasn't boring, and there were some very intense and interesting scenes. Particularly the voyage through the swamp to find the Fountain of Youth. Those muttering fungus heads were creepy, setting the atmosphere perfectly. And of course the voodoo magic that brings this novel solidly into the fantasy realm, with boccors and loas and other creatures hovering on the edges of our conciousness. I wouldn't call the book horror but at times it can come close to giving a reader nightmares.

In conclusion, I didn't feel I wasted my time reading this book, it had it's worthy bits, but I also wouldn't have felt that I had missed something important if I hadn't read it. After all, I borrowed this book from the library (very glad I didn't pay for it!) which means it took me away from reading my own massive pile of books I actually own.

Posted: March 2018


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