The Terror of the Southlands by Caroline Carlson is the second book in the Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates series, which is exactly as cute and funny as the name implies ;-). There aren’t really big spoilers for the first book, Magic Marks the Spot, below, but there are a couple of small ones arguably so proceed with however much caution you want. The Terror of the Southlands continues Hilary’s adventuring with her friendly gargoyle as she pursues her dream of being a pirate, including more amusing newspaper articles, letters, and illustrations!
Note: I received an advanced copy of The Terror of the Southlands from the publisher. Some things may have changed in the final version.
The Terror of the Southlands by Caroline Carlson (The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates #2)
Published by HarperCollins on Sept. 9th, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, MG
Page Length: 256 pages
How I got my copy: Edelweiss
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Hilary Westfield is a pirate. In fact, she’s the Terror of the Southlands! She’s daring, brave, fearless, and . . . in a rut. Maybe she hasn’t found any treasure lately. And maybe she isn’t fighting off as many scallywags as she’d like. But does that mean she and her loyal crew (including a magical gargoyle) deserve to be kicked out of the ranks of the Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates?
There is only one thing to do—find a daring mission worthy of her fearless reputation. With the help of first mate Charlie, finishing-school friend Claire, and the self-proclaimed intrepid gargoyle, Hilary sets sail on a swashbuckling expedition that may or may not involve a kidnapped Enchantress, bumbling inspectors, a mysterious group called the Mutineers, and—the most terrifying thing of all—a High Society ball.
- The Terror of the Southlands delivers on what most adults reading middle grade are looking for: light-hearted adventure that doesn’t mind getting a bit goofy. The rules of the land in The Terror of the Southlands probably aren’t historically accurate, but are reminiscent of the rules I would have come up with in a game of pretend such as how to be a good pirate and how queens and magic are properly handled. I enjoy the intersection of rules that make fun of more serious fantasy while still being internally consistent and posing a challenge to the characters.
- That light-hearted fun in Terror of the Southlands also includes a lot of tongue-in-cheek humor about how a Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates would likely conduct itself (there are annual picnics and a newsletter) with plenty of wit to go along with the silliness. I especially love Hilary’s friend the gargoyle’s ideas for dealing with many of their problems since they are often punny >.>.
- Since the main character in The Terror of the Southlands is a young girl who wants to be a pirate, there are obviously plenty of opportunities for a great message about girls being able to be whatever they want and that being okay. I like that it isn’t a complete one-eighty from praising only femininity to praising only “tom-boyishness” though. Hilary has a friend who is attending preparatory school and a governess who enjoys books instead of sword-fighting and they are both wonderful and sympathetic characters who can contribute their own skills to Hilary’s adventures.
- The real take home message from The Terror of the Southlands though is the strong friendships that Hilary develops and relies on during her adventuring. Also the demonstration that boys and girls can be friends! *gasp*
- Finally, The Terror of the Southlands does a fairly good job of not completely cutting out adults from Hilary’s adventures in that she has two adult characters on her pirate crew though they don’t spend a whole lot of time nearby in The Terror of the Southlands, but she also is in contact with her mother and father and interacts with them to figure things out. I’d like to see a little bit more involvement of the adults on Hilary’s crew in future adventures, but I’m hopeful ;-).
- The plot of The Terror of the Southlands is a bit slow since Hilary makes very little headway for most of the book. I loved the clip of the first book and couldn’t help being disappointed when things felt stagnant.
- I have to advise against reading The Terror of the Southlands on an e-reader because there are handwritten letters and articles that were way too small for me to read on my eARC. I read the first book as a physical copy and found it much more enjoyable.
- I can’t help but feel that The Terror of the Southlands just wasn’t as funny and joyful as Magic Marks the Spot. I was laughing out loud while reading book one and found myself mostly just shrugging this time around.
- A main criticism of book one and a general struggle for middle grade books is balancing the lighter tone with some kind of tension to keep readers engaged and The Terror of the Southlands still lacked that sense of danger. Given there are battles and swords and canons, you’d think someone should at least break a bone or something, but it is always clear that Hilary and her friends are never in danger often through random good luck.
If you enjoyed Magic Marks the Spot for the characters and adventure, you should definitely check out (a physical copy of) The Terror of the Southlands! If you weren’t completely sold on book one, you might not have any strong reason to continue the series since The Terror of the Southlands wasn’t quite as good. I’m very interested to see where book three goes however based on a certain development near the end of The Terror of the Southlands >.>.
Have you read this one? What did you think? Are you excited for it if you haven’t gotten to it yet?
The Terror of the Southlands by Caroline Carlson
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