by L. A. Meyer
Book Five in the Bloody Jack Adventures.
Review contains spoilers for earlier books in the series.
Arrested for crimes against the British crown, Jacky Faber’s in trouble once again. But the slippery young lady manages to escape her captors and hightails for the American West, where she’ll be safe. Relatively. True, the British are unlikely to nab her but there are plenty of sailors, scallywags, raiders, slavers, traders, trappers, thieves and whores who wouldn’t hesitate to turn her in. As Jacky sails down the great rivers of America on a boat swiped from Mike Fink, her fiancé Jaimy teams up with the vengeful Fink in an attempt to catch up with his wandering sweetheart.
Jacky has a special talent for gathering interesting people to her side, and her sojourn in the American wilderness is no exception. After her encounter with the notorious Mike Fink, Jacky surrounds herself with her trusty valet Higgins, a card shark, a preacher with a penchant for staging revivals, and some trusty Native Americans. With them she transforms her boat into a show boat complete with morality plays and bottles of snake oil for sale; Jacky’s never been one to aim for respectability, but her antics make for fun reading.
A nice twist to the book is that this time, the reader is treated to the thoughts of Jaimy as he follows behind Jacky. Don’t get me wrong, I love Jacky’s narration, but it’s nice to get a break from her and see what’s happening in other parts of the story. For the first time, Jaimy is given a taste of the insanity that seems attracted to Jacky like a magnet, causing him to question whether his love for her is enough to make the madness bearable. Both he and Jacky also struggle with faithfulness (Jacky’s always had a rather flexible definition of where the boundary between friend and lover lies, though her heart has always belonged to Jaimy) and the impact their actions have on the relationship provide much of the emotional punch of the novel.
Jacky’s adventures have always been a bit extreme, but here they more or less cross the line into cartoonland. Every step seems to be informed by amazing coincidence and stupendous good fortune for her. Her ability to pick up new talents is astonishing, and the sheer number of men constantly seeking to deflower her defies belief. I enjoy the story, of course, but I recognize that even by the standards of mythic American tall tales, she’s pushing the limits as far as she can.
Still, it’s a rousing adventure and I can’t wait to see what happens next. Carry on, Jacky Faber!
4 out of 5 stars
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Peeking into the archives...today in:
2013: Winter Book Clearing Giveaway
2012: Out of Oz (Wicked Years #4) by Gregory Maguire
2011: Borders: The End of an Era
2010: News: The Top 10 Unreliable Narrators
2009: The Dot and the Line by Norton Juster