Book Review: Steel – Carrie Vaughn


Release Date: March 2011
Publisher: Harper Teen
Pages: 291.
Find It On: Goodreads. Amazon.


A swashbuckling tale of revenge, romance and pirates from the author of the Kitty Norville series!

Teenager Jill is on holiday with her family in the Bahamas. She’s fed up because she lost her last fencing tournament. Not wishing to participate on family activities she takes a wander along the beach, only to discover a broken piece of rapier buried in the sand. Jill keeps the shard and somehow transports her back to a time of pirates and magic. Coerced into joining the crew of the Diana, Jill must figure out how to survive amongst a bunch of pirates, as well as find a way back home.

I love pirate stories, there’s something about them that’s always so fascinating. As a child I read Treasure Island and Celia Rees’ Pirates! over and over. This is a great pirate story – a coming of age tale, about a young girl looking for her place in the world. On the outset, Jill is not the most likeable heroine,she’s a moody teenager and tends to spend her time complaining. This is slightly off-putting, but none the less I still rooted for her and she becomes much more likeable she learns her place among the crew and fights for her survival, she becomes a very strong protagonist, one who actually fights for her crew mates.

Carrie Vaughn provides an incredible amount of detail about the world of sailing and I really enjoyed that aspect. Jill learning how the sails and things work, having to scrub the deck and work as part of the crew are really interesting aspects of the novel. I would have liked more detail on the magical aspects of the story, the time travel and the magic sword felt a little unexplained.

Steel has everything you could ask for in a young adult novel. It has a strong heroine, plenty of fighting and danger, and a touch of romance – which I’ve not really mentioned, but is ever-present. It’s quite a short story, and so I felt I didn’t get very much time to connect with the characters – at under three hundred pages, I would have loved more information about the other crew members, such as Abe – the quartermaster who was previously a slave, or Jenks – the first mate who is marooned. I really loved the captain of the Diana, pirate Queen Marjory Cooper and would absolutely love to know her back story. She’s a great character, a fearless lady pirate, and probably my favourite in the story.  Despite it being a short book, it’s a highly enjoyable story, it’s fun and interesting, and while it’s not completely historically accurate, it gives a great insight into 18th century pirates in the Caribbean.

Looking for something similar? Try: Dark Mirror or Warped. 

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4 thoughts on “Book Review: Steel – Carrie Vaughn

  • Peter

    Wow, also a great review. 🙂 You write really interesting. Many bloggers are ofte ‘me, me, me’, instead of helping the reader to get an impression of what book it is in a journalistic way, and I think you do that.

    I havn’t read that many pirate stories, and I’m kind of ashame that I havn’t read Treassure Island, I should buy it or loan it at the library. But well, I have reviewed a lot of pirate storie for kids here in Denmark. The get rather superficial and aren’t very well written, and Danish authors almost never write fantasy/fiction for older teens, only dull contemporaries, so to me it sound very interesting that this is a YA, because I’ve never read a YA pirate story. Maybe a bit embarrasing to admit thay I like Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow – a lot, so I’m a bit afraid to compare the pirate books with the ‘Pirates of C’-movies.

    But this was very interesting to me. Thanks for the review.

    I really like, that you don’t make them longer. You write really well, so experience say, that you could easily write a review that was two or three times the length of this one, but you don’t. I feels like you rewrite your reviews and keep them short an precise, and that’s a really good thing for the readers. Me 🙂

    Best wishes Peter

    • thebibliophilechronicles1

      Thank you so much for your kind comments! It’s always nice to get feedback and suggestions! 🙂

      I love pirate stories! They’re so full of action and adventure. Treasure Island is great, a book I haven’t read in a long time, I must revisit it at some point. I absolutely love Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow, such a fabulous character.

      I try not to make my reviews too long, I know people don’t want to read pages and pages, thank you so much for reading!