When a talented writer creates an entertaining story, the result is a worthwhile book, one that will linger long in the minds and imaginations of its readers. The components are all here when we look at this month’s CSFF feature, Blaggard’s Moon. George Bryan Polivka is unquestionably a talented author. And the prequel to the Trophy Chase Trilogy is an entertaining story. I can only hope, for their sakes, that readers will discover this gem.
By the way, lest I forget, I encourage you to read Brandon Barr’s two-part interview with Mr. Polivka, here and here. Brandon asked some outstanding questions, and as a result, you’ll learn a lot about who Bryan Polivka is, not just who his favorite authors are (though that comes out, too).
The Story. Blaggard’s Moon is a unique book because it is actually three stories. In the opening, pirate Smith Delaney, who readers of the Trophy Chase Trilogy will know, is sitting on a post with piranha swimming below. Through his musings, the reader learns that he’s been abandoned there as punishment for some unknown deed. Throughout most of the book, Delaney is remembering his life, particularly his decision to become a pirate. But in the remembering, he recalls a period of time when the storyteller on board, Ham Drumbone, related to his pirate shipmates the tale of Jenta Stillmithers and the Hell’s Gatemen. The majority of the book is Jenta’s story—one of hope and sacrifice and redemption and love and fear and grief and conviction.
Yes, there are battles, though not related in the blow-by-blow style most common today. Still, there are sword fights and gun battles and ship-to-ship assaults. There is blood on the deck and in the water. There are bodies on the pier and skeletons on the ocean floor. This is definitely a pirates’ story. But at the center is Jenta.
Strengths. If you’ve read my previous posts, you already can tell that this is a book I’m excited about. The packaging is terrific—Harvest House did a wonderful job with the cover, the paper, the interior art.
The writing is terrific. Perhaps because of the non-linear structure of the story, it has a somewhat literary feel. Certainly there is a wonderful rhythm to the writing, and the descriptions are vivid and evocative.
The characters win the day, though. In my opinion, Mr. Polivka is masterful in developing believable, authentic characters. It is their authenticity that make them memorable and engaging, in my opinion. I’ll have more to say about that in my post at Speculative Faith.
While the characters make the reader care, the story keeps the reader turning pages. It is amazing that Delaney didn’t leave his post for 330 pages, but the tension and suspense of his story line consistently grew.
Ultimately, Blaggard’s Moon is important because it carries a timeless message. Rachel Starr Thomson perhaps said it best in her review:
Yet beneath all of that [the entertaining qualities] is a lament for a world gone wrong, for a world where good people can suffer while evil men prosper. It’s the lament of Ecclesiastes and Job and some of the Psalms, and like them it asks us to find hope in the goodness of God while never asking us to pretend that hope negates the sadness.
I’d add one more thing. It asks us to be willing to make the choice for good, for God, knowing that we may suffer for it.
Weaknesses. For someone wanting faster action, this book may seem slow. Clearly, this is intended to be a book that readers remember, not one they will forget amid multiple ho-hum battles. While a movie version might capitalize on the fight scenes—and certainly there are places aplenty for special effects—the book is a deeper story. Readers who want one chase scene after another, separated by a bit of steamy romance, will be disappointed.
For me, the main hurtle was the decision to read another pirate story, but I touched on that subject Monday. The other issue was that about the time I became interested in Delaney’s situation, the story switched to the flashback of Ham telling Jenta’s story. And about the time I really started caring what was going on with Jenta, the story switched back to Delaney. Eventually I came to care about both equally and felt satisfied in either place of the story. So these aren’t weaknesses, really. More how I reacted to the story.
Recommendation. I feel confident that Blaggard’s Moon is destined to win Mr. Polivka another Christy Award nomination. (For those who may not remember, the third book in the Trophy Chase Trilogy, The Battle for Vast Dominion, has been nominated this year.) Readers should not think of this book as “just a pirate story.” It is more, and readers of fantasy, of historical, romance, suspense, or literary fiction will find a satisfying novel. I recommend Blaggard’s Moon as a must read. Those who enjoy a faster-paced story will find enough here to keep them entertained, and they may be surprised by how a deeper tale affects them.