Thank you NetGalley and Text Publishing for this book. All thoughts and opinions are mine.
Synopsis: Anne Bonny was eighteen when she ran away from her violent husband, James, into the arms of pirate captain Calico Jack Rackham. Now she’s ensconced aboard Jack’s ship Ranger, passing as a cabin boy and playing her ruthless part in a crew that is raining down mayhem and murder on the ships of the Caribbean. But James Bonny is willing to pay to get his ‘property’ back. And pirate-hunter Captain Barnet is happy to take his money. The Ranger’s a fast ship: Anne might just be able to outrun Barnet. But can she outrun the consequences of her relationship with Calico Jack? (Amazon)
Anne Bonny is considered “one of the most famous female pirates of all time”, which in and of itself, would have been scandalous even in that group. While I've heard her name mentioned a couple of times, and seen her featured in TV shows like Black Sails, I didn't know a lot about her life. Readers may take historical fiction in different ways, but for me it opens a door through which I want to learn more about a time, place, or people once I've finished the novel.
Though taken with a grain of salt—because as Meg Caddy states in the Author's Note at the end of the book, “when it comes to Anne Bonny and her lads there is some difficulty sorting the historical from the fiction.”--Devil's Ballast was a pleasure to read. Not only is it an adventure ride from the moment that you start to read with Bonny on the deck of her Calico Jack's the Ranger about to take over the Kingston, but you can't help yourself from liking Bonny. She's sassy, she's whip-smart, she's got a mouth that won't shut up and gets her into more trouble than she knows what to do with sometimes. But she's also a woman who has suffered a lot of physical and mental affront in her past and is trying to build a new life for herself.
She's impossible to root against; the woman had tenacious strength, and I doubt that she would've been much different in reality considering that she managed to survive eighty-five years on this Earth. I imagine that that wasn't an easy feat for a person who partook in the lifestyle of a pirate.
Is the story of Devil's Ballast a romanticized version of piracy? I would say so. You're on the side of these hooligans from start to finish. At least I now I was! I'm well aware that they committed terrible acts of violence in their time, and there was a valid reason why those against them worked so hard to get rid of their kind. But as this novel stands, the characters are a delight. Bonny aside, I was so glad to see “Martin” Read featured and play such a strong—and crucial—role in the plot. His scene with Bonny below-decks on the schooner en route to Nassau, letting the vulnerability slip free on himself, was one of the best. In the midst of all the fast-paced action, the moments of strong emotion were all the more appreciated.
Despite knowing a thing or two on how history truly wrote itself, the ending to the novel was incredibly satisfying. I've never been one to root for the “good guys” all the time. It depends on the story, and it depends on the roles being played out. And in times like these, with a story such as the one written on these pages, that pays off. If there's one complaint that I have is that the book ended too quickly. For all the struggle that Bonny went through, for all the times that she had to fight tooth and nail through sweat and blood and tears, she made it worth the read. This woman was a badass in her time, and this here novel is a little treasure for fans of one such as her.