Publisher: Hachette, 2005
Sub-genre: Swords and sorcery, YA
Rating: 3 1/2 pints of blood
I'm pretty sure just about anyone on the planet could take one glance at this book and figure out why I picked it up. Dude, it's called Vampirates. As in vampires. And pirates. And if there were any more awesome in that one word, I think my head might explode. Avast, me hearties, and gimme yer blood!
The cover image is actually depicting a scene from the book, although I'm very disappointed to note there aren't any vampire pirates in this particular part, in spite of the creepy and creeped out expressions on their faces. (Yeah, buckle in. I'm going to abuse the words "vampire," "pirate," and "vampirate" as though I'm getting money in the bank each time I type 'em out.) I'm thinking that the chick pulling water-logged dude out of the ocean doesn't seem to be doing him any favours, considering the angle the boat she's on is tilted. Also maybe it's just me, but doesn't it look a little small to be a pirate ship?
I categorized this as "swords and sorcery," mostly because I wasn't entirely sure where else to put it. It's a pirate adventure story with a hint of what might be magic (but isn't resolved by the end). And also vampires. Many buckles are swashed, though, so we definitely have at least the "swords" part of the subgenre covered.
Connor and Grace are twins, the only children of the lighthouse keeper in Crescent Moon Bay. Their world is shattered one day when their father dies, leaving the fourteen-year-olds alone and penniless in the world. The orphanage is ready to take them in, although a childless, materialistic couple is also trying to force them to create a "new family." Desperate, Connor and Grace take their father's boat (now property of the bank) and escape to the ocean. They aren't sure where they're headed, just that it must be better than their options back home.
Almost as soon as they get on the water, though, a storm starts up, and their small boat capsizes. Connor, a natural athlete, makes his way to the water's surface and begins searching for his sister. He sees a mysterious ship, dark, with wings for sails, but before he can catch their attention, he's grabbed from behind by another ship. The mysterious winged ship disappears from his view, and the pirates who rescued him tell him they didn't see any girl in the water; his sister is gone.
Grace wakes up on a strange ship, not quite sure what happened. She's confined to a small cabin with the enigmatic pirate Lorcan, who tells her she can't leave for her own protection. She asks about her brother, but Lorcan knows nothing about a boy having been found in the water.
Connor and Grace both adjust to their respective ships. Connor learns how to become a pirate, and shows an affinity for swordfighting. The captain is from the old school of piracy, though, and the ways of the seas are slowly changing, providing some tension amongst the crew. Grace slowly figures out the mystery of the ship she's in and the danger Lorcan keeps warning her about: the crew members are vampirates, limited to feasting once a week on the "donors" aboard the ship. Some of the vampirates resent the limitations given to them, wanting to take blood more often, and although the captain has stated Grace is not to be a donor, Lorcan has his hands full in trying to keep the inquisitive young woman out of the hands of some of the vampire crew. And of course there's much time spent on each one believing the other is alive and wanting to be reunited but not knowing where or how to manage something like that.
So what do I think? Well, first I want to know why more people are not writing about vampire pirates. Come on, that's a brilliant premise. Vampires? Hugely popular right now. Pirates? Hugely popular right now. Vampirates? CHA-CHING.
Actually, I expected this to be a whole lot cheesier than it turned out being. It was a lot of fun, but not in the "you gotta laugh at it to love it" sort of way. More in the "can't stop reading because cool pirate stuff and also cool vampire stuff and non-stop action and vampirates rule!" sort of way. The story ends on a cliffhanger, and I have to admit I've already reserved a copy of the second book at my library.
Connor and Grace are fairly typical of the "young hero" mould. She's the intelligent and far too curious for her own good specimen, and he's the naturally gifted fighter with an extra helping of sensitivity. Some of the secondary characters stood out a little more: both captains were creative, and I really liked Lorcan, Grace's seventeen-year-old vampirate bodyguard.
Should you pick up this first Vampirate book, be prepared to dig up the other two as well. There's just enough going on, plot-wise, that while the main conflict is resolved, there are enough threads left open from the various subplots that if you're anything at all like me, it'll drive you nuts until you get your hand son the next installment. This would be a particularly good choice for any young reluctant readers. There's lots of action, and do I need to go over the part where vampires + pirates = awesome, or can I just assume we've all got the jist of it now?